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  • Theodore Kanjo, Open Dreams Scholar

From Paris with love

From the blistering wind in Honfleur to the beautiful Claude Monet’s garden, there I felt a chill on my body with goose pimples growing on my skin like acne and my stomach aching in a beautiful way like it was filled with butterflies which were eating up “NOs” and replacing them with “YESes”. What was this feeling, I wondered before? Oh! I know now, it is… would you not want to know now, read to the end and you will find out.

Let’s go back to genesis; I spent one month in Paris. Now, how and why did I go there? First, how did I go there? Through the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at Sciences Po for the Summer School Program. Why did I go there? Well, I did not truly appreciate the diversity, riches and love that the French Language possessed until I was in its birth place. It is automatically assumed that anyone from Cameroon has a good mastery of both the English and French Languages. Every time I tell someone that I was from Cameroon, they immediately go, “Bonjour…, so you speak French?". "That is so cool, Theo". "Teach me”. Oh! Boy, I did not know an aorta of French so I was inclined to kill the fun in the conversation by making excuses like, Cameroon is bilingual and I am from the English part where the majority of the population has no grasp of the French language. It was not a lie, but ingenuity. I wanted to learn French from where it originated, so I saw an opportunity and I went for it as I never give a blind eye to an opportunity.

So why did I really go to Paris? Come on, it is Paris, better yet “Paname, la ville d’amour”, if my French is correct. So I went to find love which I did and yes, the one you are thinking about. The love everyone has for Paris, that is it, unless you had something else in mind.

My first day was filled with usual awkwardness and a sense of turmoil that comes with being in a new place. I was overwhelmed with many rules to follow, things to do that I had no clue of where to start and some accessories I had to get while there, which I had not a clue of where to get them either. I have never been in a place with so many rules, but I think it is these rules that govern and enhance growth in France. I was fortunate to have friends who showed me around and helped me understand those rules better as they helped my transition into the French culture as seamlessly as they could. The greatest part about my stay in Paris was getting lost and finding myself again. I found myself in a unusual labyrinth where I knew I would not get lost because I had access to GPS, but yet I still got lost and eventually found my way.

Sciences Po was amazing, but what made it spectacular was the fact that I visited iconic places in and out of Paris, shared in the French culture and met great people, hence enhancing my diversity. Getting a visa was not easy, but I was able to get it due to the constant communication with the MCF Team that held my hand all the way. I was enrolled in the French track and took transformative leadership as an elective. I personally enjoyed the MCF’s transformative leadership class as it gave me an opportunity to connect with the other scholars and learn from them while mutually sharing our experiences and perspectives in different topics. The best part was working in groups to identify problems as far as their root causes, designing solutions to those problems and scaling them. Each group was able to do this and we brought out groundbreaking ideas that we are looking forward to implementing. It was an intensive one month, with six hours of classes every weekday-three in the morning and three in the Afternoon. I still had time to do other activities as the sun sets very late in France, mostly at about 10:30PM. I had a few hours to tour the city. Call me primitive, but it was unusual for me as I was used to sunset at 6PM. I took part in the Paris Bike Tour, Macaron cooking class, went Normandy and visited the Giverny and saw the Claude Monet Museum with his wonderful work of arts and other painters, visited his garden and it was breathtaking with so many varieties of flower. These are all the activities that were organized by the summer school team and each has a long and love story attached to it.

My experiences at Sciences Po can be summed up in one sentence, “so many amazing things to do is so less time”. I kept desiring to borrow time from somewhere to relive the experience. It was an experience that needed replication. Who believes that altering the space-time continuum is possible? I do now, and I am working closely with my collaborators from the MCF Team to build a time machine so as to relive Paris again. Or what other way can I go there? If you have answers, please help!!!

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