It’s always exciting to experience new things. That could mean landing a dream job, practicing an extreme sport, or even travelling.
Recently Dalli interrailed, using a train pass which covers practically all European trains, on a trip to France. The ticket was provided to him by the EU youth programme Erasmus. Through this experience, he has seen the difference in culture, the inclusivity, and the different lifestyle of people living there.
Erasmus+ is an opportunity which is open to all European tertiary education students. It allows them to take a semester or a year off from their current studies and travel to other countries across Europe. He had to opportunity to attend university in Paris, so he embarked on his journey there.
While Dalli was away from home he noticed many cultural differences. An example he brought up was the importance given to books. He explained how you’d find booksellers in many places —in the centre of the city, by the lake, practically anywhere you could think of. He also came across differences in coffee places. In Malta, we’re used to eating some sort of pastry or sweets alongside our coffee in contrast to Paris, where people would just order a small coffee and sit at smaller tables.
Dalli also noticed cultural differences in the Parisian passages couverts (covered passages). These passages are walkways, each with its own mini culture, found between buildings. Passage Brady is one such walkway which consists of cultural food, souvenirs, clothing, and many more traditional items. Galerie Vivienne, Passage Du Grand-Cerf, and Passage des Panoramas are just a few examples of the many passages found in Paris. It is a must to visit these extraordinary places.
Minorities and activists constantly apply pressure for change in Paris. There you will find many posters promoting movements such as those for equal rights and gender equality. Strikes and riots are sometimes organised as a means for groups to achieve their aims. Benjamin said that if the first strike wouldn’t work then activists would strike more often. Such strikes and riots would end up affecting the metro system, making it harder for people to travel.
In December, the strikes also affected student examinations. These had to be taken online due to the travel disruptions.
Protests often accompany strikes. Benjamin recalls the protests from the Gilet Jaunes (yellow vests) and Extinction Rebellion movements. The former protests were against government corruption while the latter were about climate change. The French movements and strikes are very distinct from those in Malta.
When questioned about the benefits of travelling, Benjamin made it a point to mention that experiences like these make you independent and open your mind to more cultures. Upon concluding the interview, he added that when taking an opportunity like this it is vital to experience different things and visit as many places as possible.