It is amazing what one sees when they step out of the confines of Paris and travel north to the countryside. The air is clear, and clouds are so robust and prominent; the birds chirp melodies that cause feelings of elation, and the lifestyle is so different that it reminds me that there is a whole other world outside of the one I had become accustomed to.
Before I made my way to Normandy, I did know of the tragedies and the victories that had happened there. Yet the moment you step into the museums, onto the beaches and inside the cemeteries, it all becomes real. A movie plays within your head and the magnitude hits, creating an unforgettable feeling. Being able to stand on the beaches where so many young men lost their lives for their countries and for a cause greater than all, sent shivers up my spine as my eyes welled with tears. As a nineteen year old myself, I tried to place myself in the shoes of those brave men. I imagined being sent to fight in a war overseas with the prospect of seeing horrors one cannot possibly begin to describe, all while trying to cope with the fact that about half the men, including myself could be killed and never make it home.
It was very interesting to be able to see the impact the D-Day Landings had on those who lived in Normandy and for France as a whole. The film that was shown in the museum we attended really broadened the scope and brought a more human element in contrast to the images I had seen before. The footage showed the people of Normandy after they had been liberated by the allied forces. Their faces were illuminated with joy and cheeks wet with tears as their hopes and prayers had finally been answered. The contrast of the scene was remarkable: a celebration of victory amongst the ruins of their town brought by years of bombardment. It was reminiscent of a phoenix rising from the ashes; ready to begin a new life despite the previous scene that seemed to be nothing more than ash and rubble without any signs of growth.
The visit to the American Cemetery and Memorial was one of the most humbling experiences I have had. The rows of graves served as a reminder of the price paid for freedom and the ultimate sacrifice of the men who put their lives on the line for the success of their country and cause. I don’t think I can effectively convey the amount of respect I felt towards those who left their homes and everything familiar, to place themselves in the line of danger nor can I begin to sort through the overwhelming emotions that flooded over me. There, I had moments of reflection that I truly believe altered my overall perspective on life as I knew it. It is evident that reflection on the past is necessary for progression and success in our futures. It is an insight into compassion and service as well as a form of liberation from the notion that “history repeats itself.” Because if one has an understanding of history and the events that transpired, then a duty falls upon them to take that knowledge and utilize it in the best way possible for improvements in our world. That is what I gained from this experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I did.
Learn about your options to study abroad in Paris, like Karina, in addition to study abroad destinations around the world with AIFS.