Jessica Horsham: France As Text (2019)

Photo by Elaine Morales (CC by 4.0)

Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and entering her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special.

She is currently completing the 2019 France Study Abroad as taught by John W. Bailly and these are her “France As Texts.”

Paris as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

J’existe. I exist. By Jessica Horsham of FIU on the Champ de Mars on 3 July 2019.

Paris, France simply does not exist, one does not simply exist in Paris, France. Despite being the world’s third most visited city with over 17.4 million visitors each year, they never seem to truly be able to emerge themselves in its culture or connect with the people. People come to Paris to free themselves yet only get surrounded in the same guided paths as the other tourists around them. In a city rich with history and art from nearly 2000 years ago, people seem to step over it constantly. Everywhere in Paris tells its story of how it got here. One can travel from a university that was established in 1925, where some buildings are a tell-tale sign of its date and travel over a system that stretches more than 100 miles circling above and below the city to only ever land at the same three spots. Despite, the century of history in one pivotal square across from Louvre that held some of the most cathartic decisions to change the entire world or the now distinguished public green park that stretches for miles surrounding an iconic building, one cannot equate the tourist paths to nothing, as the stops along their general paths were unprecedented or found anywhere else in this world. However, many will lose themselves in this façade of Paris and simply drift though. This is not enough, it is not enough to simply exist in this city; Paris calls on you to engage with its people, the buildings, and its parks, it is all beautifully crafted to foster these interactions—bonjour does take you very far. Those who dare to be bold, adventurous, and different will only find that Paris offers plenty to those who are even willing to dip their toes in it. Shrouded in its vastness of beauty lies a city with dark secrets and a history ready to be uncovered.

Versailles as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

A Letter to the People by Jessica Horsham of FIU in the Château de Versailles on 7 July 2019.

Fictionally written through the hands of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.

To my evermore loyal subjects,

As we begin the trillion-dollar expenditure of the new royal home, there have been grievances expressed and some of you may be skeptical of the necessity of this palace. Allow your king as appointed by the one, true God, to ease your worries and suspicions; you are all allowed to speak with me one on one, following proper paperwork and approval, and are allowed to enter for multiple occasions. Thereby, this palace does not belong to one person nor one family, it belongs to France.

This palace is simply not a place for the nobles to indulge, Versailles will place France as a leading power in the world. This palace will attract foreign dignitaries from all over the world and I will be able to negotiate treaties on your behalf with all corners of the world to help place France in stability and prosperity. Versailles will intimidate and frighten our enemies, as it helps me to hold our nation together to remain the largest state in Europe throughout all of our time. For the next 400 years, Versailles will host over 10 million people each year and it will have attracted the most powerful people in the world, in addition to common folk who will admire France and look to it for inspiration. We must distinguish ourselves from our neighbors and Europe, it is time to truly create our own culture and identity; we must not continue to live in the shadows of Italy or England, the time for France is now and Versailles will be France.

Izieu as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

Remember Their Names by Jessica Horsham of FIU at Maison d’Izieu on July 12, 2019.

Arnold Hirsch, 18.

Tucked in behind the trees that envelope the refuge, like blankets protecting a child from the night’s monsters and cold air, the Maison D’Izieu welcomed dozens of children escaping the persecution and camps of the Nazis and the Vichy collaboration.

Theo Reiss, 17.

The orphanage first opened in April 1943 to provide children made orphans by the Holocaust or those whose lives were threatened, a safe place to escape from France to safe nations such as Switzerland or with the hope of being placed with a family who would be able to hide them.

Marcel Bulka, 14.

The orphanage had taken great care to establish itself as legitimate and went through the proper documentation and paperwork, prior to its opening. It was approved by the necessary government officials from the region.

Maurice Gerenstein, 14.

This refuge had taken in children from all over Europe who were escaping persecution, from Russia to France to Poland to even Austria; this home was simply for all children facing persecution or deportation.

Henri Goldberg, 14.

As testified by the children themselves in letters written to their families, each other, or their caretakers, this home was a place for them to grow and experience the childhood that they rightfully deserved.

Max Teitelbaum, 13.

While the children were not oblivious to the horrors occurring outside of their little village, for the time that they each spent there, they allowed themselves to embrace the feelings of happiness and safety. 

Otto Vertheimer, 13.

They attended school, celebrated Christmas, as not all children were practicing Jews, participated in their own plays, made up their own stories, rode bicycles, and simply played outside.

Jacques Benguigui, 13.

The children were free here, they were safe. They had fresh water and food supplied by the surrounding village, they were protected. While Sabine Zlatin would venture to find new routes and connections to relocate the children with guaranteed safety until the war was over, the camps were closed, and the killing of innocents had ended.

Raoul Bentitou, 13.

Many of the children also attended local schools in the village and everyone was aware of their presence, this was a legal orphanage in all of its means.

Max Balsam, 13.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, beginning the war on both fronts. 

Esther Benassayag, 13.

On September 3, 1943, Italy’s surrender to the Allied armies was announced.

Joseph Goldberg, 12.

On October 13, 1943, Italy declared war on Germany.

Mina Aronowicz, 12.

The Germans then reclaimed this “free” area of Italy and began to viciously hunt down all Jews throughout the province.

Jacqueline Luzgard, 12.

News of the raids began spreading and many of the orphanages began to relocate and move children out as soon as possible.

Paulette Mermelstein, 12.

Sabine Zlatin began to explore different routes to smuggle the children away into hiding and safety— she began her last exploratory route on April 3, 1944.

Suzanne Szulzklapper, 12.

The end of the war was near, soldiers were tired, the resistance continued to rise exponentially, and the Allies were closing in on the Germans.

Claude Reifmann-Levan, 11.

The Germans knew that they would not win.

Armand Teitelbaum, 11.

On April 6, 1944, only two months before D-Day, Klaus Barbie gave the order to arrest all of the people and children at Izieu.

Jean Ament, 11.

A convoy of Nazi troops arrived in the afternoon and detained all 44 children and seven of their caretakers were arrested and sent to Montluc.

Edmond Gamiel, 11.

Only one caretaker, Lea Feldblum, 27, survived.

Isidore Kargeman, 11.

42 of the children were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered in the gas chambers.

Elie Benassayag, 11.

Arnold, Theo, and Miron were sent to a labor camp in Estonia where they were shot to death soon after.

Jean Balsam, 11.

Sabine soon heard of what had occurred and upon arrival discovered her worst nightmare, the entire little village was abandoned.

Marthe Spiegel, 11.

These children were not resistance fighters. They were not soldiers; they were not fighting in the war on either side. Most were not even practicing Jews; they were only children.

Liliane Gerenstein, 11.

They believed that they were safe, they should have made it out alive. Liliane wrote a moving letter to God asking to bring back her parents, to protect them. She places their safety and their lives above her own; this is the innocence and purity that was within each of these children.

Jacob Benassayag, 10.

Their innocence, their rights to live, the right to their childhood was viciously and maliciously robbed from them.

Charles Weltner, 10.

In heartfelt messages to one another and to their caretakers, they express eternal gratefulness for their current state of happiness. They acknowledge that though they may not have much, they are content and full of life.

Gilles Sadovski, 9.

They wish one another happy birthday, profess the sweetest wishes for one another, there is not a trace of maliciousness in any one of them nor was it ever portrayed to any other person.

Max Leiner, 9.

They deserved to live, they deserved to have a full life.

Georges Halperm, 9.

How can the same God I have known all my life allow such a tragedy to occur?

Renathe Krochmal, 9.

A God who is just, fair, and righteous— one who “rewards the good and punish the evil.” How did He allow this to happen?

Mina Halaubrenner, 9.

How did He allow for an extra three children that day to arrive to their ultimate slaughter?

Santa Spiegel, 9.

Despite all of the glory He has bestowed upon us, this crime is of no contest.

Zygmund Springer, 8.

April 6, 1944, left many parents orphaned— alone in a world without their only children.

Richard Benguigui, 8.

Those left behind were then shoved into corners and silenced for years despite the screams of Sabine and those who aided the orphanage.

Marcel Mermelstein, 8.

How cruel is it that the ones that are supposed to be protected and saved above all else were the ones targeted by such hatred?

Samuel Adelsheimer, 7.

The names of the children were forgotten, only to be remembered by those whose families had survived, and by Sabine.

Liane Krochmal, 7.

However, during Klaus Barbie’s trials, in 1987, the children were an essential focus.

Emile Zuckerber, 6.

This heinous act was part of the tragedies that finally condemned Barbie and created the statute of crimes against humanity.

Jean Claude Benguigui, 6.

This proved that the actions taken by Klaus Barbie and those soldiers under him were solely for the sake of being at war.

Albert Bulka, 5.

This was a deliberate, vindictive attack targeted to erase a whole group of people.

Lucienne Friedler, 5.

A five year old could not have aided the resistance, fought in a war.

Claudine Halaubrenner, 5.

It was because of these 44 children that Klaus Barbie was finally convicted. Many of their parents devoted their lives to searching for him after the war. He was the one who gave the order to arrest and deport the children, the hearts of society.

Fritz Loebmann, 15.

The Nazis were all too close to success in erasing the humanity, the identity, and the presence of the Jewish people. Fritz is a testament to that. His name on the plaque, commemorating the children and adults that were stripped from the home and ultimately were murdered, was added much later. In all of the commotion, he had not been recorded as being present as he was not supposed to be at the home at that time. They had only discovered his presence much later.

Moise Reifmann, 64.

Hova Reifmann, 60.

Suzanne Reifmann, 38.

Lucie Feiger, 50.

Marie Friedler, 36.

Miron Zlatin, 40.

That was the legacy that the Nazis had strived to attain: no recollection of these innocent lives. They did not succeed, as such, it is our duty and our responsibility to carry the names of those who suffered from Izieu.

Lyon as Text

Photo by Victoria Atencio (CC by 4.0)

B-3692, Claude Bloch by Jessica Horsham in Lyon, France on July 10, 2019.

Monsieur Bloch: survivor, father, husband, gentleman, son, grandson, grandfather, inspiration, B-3692.

Upon seeing him for the first time, our hearts collectively ached for this gentle old man who was in such great shape that he was passing us on the stairs. Despite his great physical condition, this was not always the case for Bloch as we would soon come to find out.  has one of the most moving stories—he is a Holocaust survivor. Claude Bloch was only fifteen when he was arrested alongside his grandfather and mother in France, within the first few minutes of being held in the Gestapo headquarters, his grandfather was killed. The Nazis main mission was to exterminate this group of people, one Bloch never really was as neither he nor his family were practicing Jews, to erase all Jews from the Earth and from history. B-3692 was their first way of doing so, by giving them this number, as Bloch said, you exit the realm of humanity; without your humanity, what’s left of you? They treated them as if they were not people and, in these camps, the only true way to resist was to survive, to keep fighting every day for your breath—even at 100 pounds, Monsieur Bloch never gave this fight up. Throughout this time, Claude Bloch also lost his mother, who up until their last interaction was always protecting him, shoving him in the right direction even if he did not know what it meant at times. Despite surviving Auschwitz, Monsieur Bloch was thrown back into society with little to no help from the French people nor the government. Thankfully, he was reunited with his grandmother in the same home he had lived in, yet it was a lot emptier than what he had remembered. Though he was one of the few lucky enough to grow up and out of this era, find love, and start a family, the repercussions of his experiences followed him all throughout his life. Despite being urged to speak his testimony of his time, Bloch was silenced and forced to continue his life as if his deportation had been a vacation or trip away. He was initially refused reentry to the school he was wrongfully torn from, there was no one to help him through the relentless and repeating nightmares, no one had wanted to hear or know about any of his experiences. Unlike many of the survivors, Bloch did not attempt to move away, instead choosing to stay in Lyon even after his beloved grandmother had passed. Bloch had no option but to stay and work, move on with his life, as if these great crimes against humanity had never entirely touched him or been carried out directly against him. He was forced to continue onward. During my time with Bloch, it was ridiculous to imagine how he was silenced and forced to battle his demons alone, his tattoo never fading just like the scars on his heart from his losses and all that he witnessed during camp. At 15 or 16, you are not thinking about whether or not you are going to be called to your execution nor should you be, however, Bloch experienced this a handful of times—each list, each name casting more anxiety than the last. Justice for Bloch had not been served until decades later and Bloch acknowledged that his nightmares followed as well. How is it that even after all he has been through and seen throughout all of his life that he is yet again worried for the state of our future, that he is not optimistic about it? A man who should not have survived in those conditions, where everything was against him, yet he overcame, is not optimistic about our future. After liberation and generations of peace, love, and family, he is truly fearful for the future, how can this be? The current state of the world politics, oppression, racism, and segregation has succeeded into mimicking that of the past as Monsieur Bloch expressed. These conditions have only fostered great tragedies to occur and if we cannot learn from the past mistakes of our parents and their parents and those in our past, we will only arrive at the same inevitable destination. To resist is not enough to abstain from, that is not the only option nor is it the right one. The state of nonactive voters and those who simply choose not to participate in politics is no longer acceptable, this is how those who stood with the Nazis were able to gain power and silence others, silence is not resistance. We must use our voices and stay vigilant and loud, otherwise, we will have once again failed Claude Bloch and the other 6 million people who died because people remained silent.

Normandy as Text

Photo (1) by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0) & Photo (2) by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)

Ordinary Heroes by Jessica Horsham in the Normandy American Cemetery on July 23, 2019.

Colonel Ollie W. Reed and Lieutenant Ollie W. Reed Jr. are the only father-son couple to be laid to rest in this cemetery today and more importantly, Ollie Jr, otherwise known as Bud, was first to pass. These two are a true testament to the fact that ordinary people have the potential to live extraordinary lives, whether their time span on this earth was short or long, they made sure to leave their marks beyond the grave. Ollie Reed was born in Norton, Kansas on July 18, 1896; coming from humble beginnings, his father worked multiple jobs to keep the family stable and they lived on a peaceful ranch. Ollie and his childhood sweetheart, Mildred, met as young children who aspired to help their communities, country, and travel the world rather than fame and fortune. From he was only 16, Ollie made his impression as a kind, gentle man—always aiming to do the best for others with what he had. Naturally, Ollie excelled in physical sports and was a star football player, however, without any future in that career, he began exploring other opportunities. He was offered admission to West Point Military Academy, however, he refused admittance for Mildred, his soon to be wife. He knew that life as an army wife was extremely difficult and he did not wish to have her enter that life. While at Kansas State Agricultural College, the call to serve and help others continued to sing through his heart and he joined the ROTC and quickly advanced as a lieutenant, earning his company the best shooting percentage in only his second year—this was to be  a repeated occurrence in his life: promotions and records. He was soon entered into the Kansas National Guard and was deployed during the Mexican-American War, he quickly rose amongst the ranks and returned as a lieutenant. Despite his push against it initially, Ollie loved being a soldier and what it stood for and soon joined the First Officers’ Training Camp. Ollie was then sent around to multiple camps with his wife Mildred and on January 15, 1919, Ollie W. Reed, Jr., or Buddy, was born in Manchester Connecticut. After reassignment to yet another camp, Ollie, at Camp Dix in New Jersey, was deeply disheartened by the fact that he had not been fighting alongside the many injured soldiers he lived beside and returned home; many of whom he knew from other camps, schools, and trainings. Within two months, Ollie sailed to Germany as part of the army occupation following the war, Bud and Mildred were granted permission to follow in March of 1920. During their time living there, as Buddy grew into a toddler, he easily picked up the German language and was able to communicate with those in their occupied house. Buddy was incredibly smart and already began to follow in his father’s footsteps. After the 1918 armistice, many soldiers were fired or able to return home, Ollie remained and continued upwards. Upon returning from Germany the family was relocated once again and soon Mildred and Ollie welcomed their second boy into the world, Theodore Reed. Buddy and Ted were extremely close yet, also opposites; whereas Bud was phenomenal at football, Ted enjoyed horses and animals. Ollie then moved on to become a professor and instructor and Drexel Institute wherein he restructured their military program and helped it to achieve (and maintain their current scores), he was extremely stern with his students but truly cared for each of them—something he would always carry with him, they secretly called him “Uncle Ollie” behind his back. One thing that Ollie was extremely adamant about was communication—he said that once this breaks down, the attack will breakdown. Life on the road was a bit tough for Buddy as he tended to be rather shy and soon began to struggle socially as well as academically. At the prestigious Wentworth school, where his father taught, he struggled with the rigorous daily routine of being a transfer as well as an underclassmen, however, as Ollie knew as well, this was a direct path to West Point, the goal for both of them. Just like his father, Buddy was an amazing football player, which really helped him ease into his life at Wentworth. Upon getting accepted to West Point, Buddy eventually failed out after his first year, but dedicated that summer and year after to improving his math and French grades. However, similarly to his father, Buddy was driven to help people in the best way he knew how after watching his father do it all of his life. Upon graduation from West Point in 1942, Buddy married Laura Sloaman and had a baby boy Ollie III on January 28, 1944. By March 8, 1944, Bud received his deployment papers. Buddy knew that he was not going to make it home, he told his mother this. He did not know entirely where he was soon heading and was lucky enough to spend a few more moments with his family and the 91st Division before his final deployment. Ollie had longed to join the fight for freedom and see those who he trained and fought side by side survive and under him—he requested an overseas assignment, soon enough this was granted, and he was sent to London on May 19, 1944. Ollie was immediately driven to his new and last assignment as the commanding officer of the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. In Italy on July 5, 1944, Buddy and his Company F, under the 363rd Infantry Regiment were overwhelmed with harsh artillery and Lieutenant Reed ordered his men to take cover, unfortunately some took this as an order to run. As he was diving to help his panicked men to cover, he was shot in the neck and killed instantly. He, along with 5 others were reported as missing in action as they lay lifeless under whatever could be thrown over them to preserve their bodies. In France, once crossing the Channel Colonel Reed was instructed to lead his men to the critical crossroads of Saint Lo. As his men pushed forward, they were met with even more intense artillery that caused them to be pushed back or gain only a few yards and even break communication, his number one rule. Under his Captain Gerhardt, this operation cost more lives than those that were lost at Omaha. The 29th Infantry were outgunned and outpowered.

The Reed family embodies an entire generation wherein families were torn apart, children died before parents, and the world was left with a missing generation. On July 30th, troops, including Reed, arrived at Saint Lo. Of this total 11,000 casualties, 3, 706 of these were from the 29th Division.  However, communications were still knocked out along the front lines and he ordered Reed to inspect the line and get back. He was then mortally wounded by a German shell as they came under fire. Colonel Reed died on July 30th, he was the highest ranking officer of the 29th to die in action. America was stunned when the remaining Reeds, Mildred and Laura, received two telegrams within the span of 45 minutes indicating both deaths. Ollie W. Reed was 48, Ollie W. “Buddy” Reed Jr. was 25.

America reacted crazily to the deaths of the father and son who had died on the European battlefields. However, their story embodies this generation and time perfectly. Men as young as 18 years old plunged into the darkness of war, not all of them would make it out, and just like Bud, they knew this. Families knew this. It is not common for a child to die before a parent, yet this generation is defined by such painful losses. The perfect nuclear, beloved, and “American-grown” family was suddenly shattered, just like the Reeds. These families were able to reunite because of the sacrifices made by men and women such as the Reed men. It is only a shame that the way Bud and Ollie had come to reunite was right next to each other on their deathbeds. However, it is also a shame that Bud’s death engraving is inaccurate as well as the misinformation that has been found online and through articles. These men did not give up their all nor did Mildred experience their deaths daily as she gathered letters and documents to record themselves for such mistakes to occur. These men deserved better than these mistakes, these men were remarkable and should be remembered not just for their bravery or sacrifice but also for that gentle, kind Reed heart that was unique to both men. Bud’s story resembled that of a multitude of lost servicemen, left in the fields, with no records of where they were or most times who they were. In addition to this, it is remarkable how men with so little were willing to risk it all for freedom and for their country; it not longer mattered your religion or race, all that mattered were the people next to you and all those who you had never met but were your brother and sisters that you needed to defend. I found it difficult to not only write this but also to read this out loud, not because of a lack of information nor the nerves, I struggled because how does one humanize people who were real life heroes, larger than life? This was something Bud struggled with as well. Colonel Reed did not have to enter the war, he was well past his age and very respected, he could have avoided it all. But he did not, he requested it because he knew what it meant. Colonel Reed could have avoided the front lines, sent another in his place to relay the information, but he knew the importance of communication, of information, so he went out there on the front lines, and died for that, alongside his men, the same people he had been worried about all his life. That is beyond bravery and courage and all of the attributes we give to heroes. Their sacrifice and their support and defense of ordinary people of men and women like me, gives me hope. Though my sacrifice will not be as great or courageous as these two men, I too aspire to help my nation in the best way that I can—through reform, through the legal system, through justice, for equality, and for freedom. These same ideals that led countless men into war are the same ideals that motivate me to continue forward. That fervor or call to give your all to people is one that I too hear as it echoes over the decades. However, no greater sacrifice can be served in comparison to Bud and Ollie. They never stopped fighting for us, for the future.

Pere Lachaise as Text

Photo by Alexandra Gutierrez (CC by 4.0)
 

A Child Prodigy by Jessica Horsham in Père Lachaise Cemetery on July 26, 2019.

The muse of all music, Euterpe, wept when Frederic Francois Chopin died on October 17, 1849, the world of music was forever changed and broken by his absence. Surrounded by a bed of flowers lies Chopin’s grave, he carried the Romantic period of music on his frail shoulders with dignity and grace. Though his body lies in Paris, wherein he made most of his most famous pieces and reinvented the entire romantic period, his heart lies in Warsaw, Poland where he was born on March 1, 1810. His mother introduced him to music and by the age of 6, young Chopin was training under Wojciech Zywny, soon surpassing him in technique and creativity. At the age 7, it was clear that Chopin was a musical genius, he had already begun composing and producing music. Chopin was the first to specifically orient all of his pieces around his beloved piano, any compositions that included other instruments all centered around the piano. As the only boy of 3 girls, a lot of the pressure rested on Chopin to establish the family name and create a legacy, one that he surely surpassed. After a short stint in Vienna, Chopin moved to Paris, where he would make his home. In Paris, he befriended incredible artists of all sorts—from Eugiene Delacroix, Franz Liszt, and Vincenzo Bellini, all established French elite artists.

What separated Chopin from other composers and artists at the same was his ability to create a story in his compositions and utilize the free-flowing form and design of music in a way no one had seen before. Chopin, an extremely sensitive, introverted man, found his release and outlet through music and his compositions; all of his pieces are extremely emotional and personal to his life. Some of his most dramatic, brilliant works are inspired by his relationship with the writer, George Sand. Originally, there was some confusion on the gender of his lover because of the name; however, Sand was a woman that preferred to write under a man’s name so that people would not criticize her work because of her gender. She also would dress in men’s clothing simply because it was more comfortable. Chopin, while small in stature had always been attracted to people with larger than life personalities such as Sand and many of those in his inner circles. He was extremely critical of himself and many described him as sad, with Sand describing themselves as the “rich girl and a sickly prince” right before their breakup.

Despite having continuous issues with his health after contracting tuberculosis in the 1840s, he was committed to his compositions. In fact, it was during this time that he produced some of his most famous pieces such as the Ballades and Opp, 48-67. The Ballade is a genre that refers to the style of a literary ballad or poem using a one movement instrument, such as the piano, was one that Chopin invented. During his life, many of his “friends” attempted to replicate his works; Franz Liszt, one of France’s most esteemed composers once performed a piece that Chopin had composed, yet he added a ton of additions to make it “prettier.” Chopin was reportedly outraged – and rightfully so – being quoted with saying that piece can only be played the way it was meant to be or not at all. Chopin’s music and compositions will be marked in history forever, his complexity and creativity has changed the landscape of music and it will never be the same.

Despite Chopin being a household name in music, it is the pressure placed upon a child to succeed that has registered with me the most. As the only male child of a family of 3 girls, having parents who had worked extremely hard, the child prodigy carried the weight of establishing his family name almost entirely on his own. Despite his older sister and mother being involved with music, it was clear from early on that neither of them could compare to Chopin. Therefore, it all rested on him. While my family has never outright placed this weight upon my shoulders, my siblings and I have always been raised with that mentality. A goal to not only do the best that we can do, but also be the best at what we do; whether that be to achieve the best grades or to place first in competitions, it was always the same. This weight can be especially hard for a child to carry and is perhaps why Chopin preferred to keep to himself, choosing to let out his true feelings through his music. Though I am more of an extroverted person, I hold my feelings close to me and am not to discuss the stress or any pressures I am feeling. Part of those stresses is to succeed and do well for my family, both of my parents are extremely handworkers, like Chopin’s, yet they do expect more from me. At times I have struggled with the weight of this, school has not always been the easiest and though I know my family wants the best for me, it has been a point of frustration. As I am sure it too was for Chopin who, despite not wanting to perform live, continued to do so at a young age because it was what his parents wanted. Chopin, seemingly learned to overcome this struggle once he moved away and into the freedom of Paris. The struggle to be different and to distinguish himself from those around him, such as Mozart and other child prodigies at the time. To reinvent something, leave an impact, do something meaningful and new that hadn’t been done before so that he would not fade away into the shadows of the greats; to establish oneself amongst the greats is something we all aspire to do. Due to the technological revolution and the rapid, free flow of information, despite having it all on our fingertips, it is harder to stand out and establish something different in these times. These insecurities haunted Chopin throughout his life, rather than succumb to it or spew hate as many do when insecure about themselves, he created his outlet and fit it so that it was specific and personal to him. Similar to Chopin, this study abroad has been more than just a vacation or a class away from home, it has been transformative and freeing experience, and for that I thank you Paris, as the many greats that have found their home here have done before me.

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