So I am about a month into my job here and Paris and I haven’t explained what exactly it is that I am doing. I am here for a two month internship for an incredibly talented professor of comparative genocide studies. During my time here I am working on some projects with him, as well as getting his advice about my own research. So far it has been a wonderfully rewarding experience.
I spend my days from 9 to 6 working on different projects relating to genocide. This entails doing lit reviews, writing comparisons about different works, researching primary sources, fact checking, etc. So far my readings have focused on Rwanda and Cambodia. At work I have had two pretty important realizations so far. First, this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life. Second, it cannot be all that I do with my life.
I mean that in a few different ways. I love the research, but for me it would not be enough. I need to be out in the field, on the ground, and working with non-profits so I feel like I am actually contributing the the current state of things. I may be too much of a people person to be an academic. The other meaning is that full time genocide work is exhausting. During the course of the day I read and write about some of the darkest periods in the last century of history. Times when people were murdered for inalienable aspects of self. If I want to keep doing this work, I need to have other things going on.
Lucky for me, when I am not in the office I off exploring somewhere in Paris. Its a worn out cliche, but theres not quite like this city in the summer. I absolutely love it. Theres beautiful architecture, an endless amount of pastries, and plenty of interesting people to meet. This summer, unlike my last time in Paris, I have managed to make quite a few friends, most of whom are also interested in history/political science/conflict. This means many of my post work conversations actually fall on the subject of conflict.
This lead me yet another thought. Its not necessarily that I need a break from discussing what I am passionate about, what I need is a little face-to-face time with humanity. In the solitude of academia it is easy to forget the good. When I am around people, even discussing these sorts of things, I am reminded that people are kind. These nightly conversations over wine are the sort of break I need. Its not the polarization of studying genocide and then going to rave (which would be a little jarring). Instead my distractions are a little more human and little more subtle.
On my way home from the office I can either walk or take the metro, depending on the weather. If I walk, I cut through Luxembourg Gardens, which is my favorite park in Paris. I’ll usually stop and get an ice cream for the walk. On the trip home I often find myself thinking how incredibly lucky I am. This work is hard, this work is challenging, and it is often devastating, but I am in one of my favorite cities in the world where I am relentlessly pursuing what I care about.