Today’s guest columnist is Claire Le Clech.
I am Claire Le Clech, a French law student from Paris who spent two months in Birmingham for an internship with a Judge-Judge Patricia Stephens at the Domestic Relations Court-and I want to share with you a little bit about my experience.
First of all, I have to admit that before coming, I never heard of Birmingham, Alabama. I came here because I had a great professional opportunity.
So, the first days after arriving, I was lost, wondering what I was doing in this unknown city that is far away from my friends and family. But at the end, I can assure you that I had a wonderful journey, and I didn’t want to leave Birmingham.
Birmingham deserves to be better known.
During my stay, as a foreigner, I noticed some little differences between my home country and the U.S so I made a small list to share with my family, that I am going to share with you today.
First, I was surprised by the importance of the car. My father always told to me “the U.S is the country of the car” and after spending two months in Birmingham, I can tell that he was right (he always is…).
Everything is made for the car. There are pick-up lines everywhere (even at the pharmacy or to withdraw some cash at the bank) and I was surprised by the amount of parking spaces available, even downtown. Living close to Paris, I can assure you that it’s completely different. It is almost impossible to park. Each time I take my car in France, I have to think in advance where I am going to park, and sometimes I just take public transportation because I know it’s going to be impossible to park.
To continue with the car… the gas price. The gas is really cheaper in the U.S. To fill the tank of the car I was using during my stay, I had to pay approximately $45. In France, for the same type of car, filling the tank cost me a little bit more than $100. So, when I heard an advertisement on the radio saying that you find the gas prices too expensive, I was a little confused…
Then, the air conditioning. When I looked up at the weather in Birmingham before coming, I was a little scared to suffer from the heat, but I didn’t because you have air conditioning everywhere. In the North of France where I am from, the air conditioning is not really popular. Most of our buildings are not made for it, so we just suffer and try to survive with fans.
And the ice. You put ice everywhere and all your fridges are producing ice. At the beginning I was not really used to putting ice in every drink but now you converted me!
Finally, last but not least, the people. Moving from your home country to another country alone can be a little overwhelming at the beginning. And it was for me. But the kindness of Birminghamians made it so much easier. People here are so much more outgoing, and really want to make you feel welcomed. I met incredible people, willing to help at any occasion.
I had an amazing supervisor who provided me anything I needed for my stay (a car, a place to stay…) and I met a wonderful couple who organized dinners every Monday at their home for welcoming international students. I found that these behaviors were really typical of the southern people: always caring.
I think we, the French people, should learn from that.
On the other hand, I think Americans can learn from France, and Europe in general, on different aspects (yes I had another part of my list about differences not really in favor of the U.S).
Sometimes your lifestyle is too fast. I felt that Americans didn’t really take time to enjoy things and tend to schedule everything. Quit scheduling, relax and let you live with the flow! (That’s an advice from a French girl who can easily spend four hours at the table… Maybe it’s me that needs to go faster).
Then, even if America is the country of the car, I think some progress can be made regarding public transportation. Not having a car in Birmingham makes everything more complicated.
Overall, I wanted to thank you Birmingham. Thank you to every Birminghamians, I was lucky enough to meet, and every other Birminghamians and Alabamian, for welcoming me into your state for two months. It has been an incredible experience on the professional and personal level that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Greetings from France.
Claire Le Clech is a 24 years-old French trainee lawyer. She passed the French Bar exam in 2022 and is doing internships for almost two years before being able to practice, as required by the French system. Because she wants to specialize in international family law, she realized a two months internship in Birmingham with an American Judge specializing in divorces.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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