Courtyard of the Louvre showing glass pyramid

The Ties That Bind

Jaxon Williams-Bellamy CC'21

It’s not just in America where the strongest ties that bind are formed by our values.

When I applied to Columbia, I did so with the Art Humanities and Music Humanities Abroad program in mind. It had been a dream of mine to go to Paris and the idea of spending six weeks in the Ville Lumière while taking curated tours of her most storied museums and best hidden treasures was almost too much excitement to bear. But, while I loved Paris even more than I thought imaginable, I found that I truly fell in love with France.

As I studied French art and music, I was inundated with French history and culture. Through which I saw a nation that took defiant pride in her unshakable values, a nation built on the ideals of republicanism, liberty, and solidarity, a nation not much different than my own. Before I arrived in Paris, everyone kept warning me to expect a culture shock. But I never felt it. Instead, I felt a familiarity with France born out of the fact that we shared a common set of core values. With that foundation, I dove into the culture of Paris; I spent many afternoons sitting in cafes, people-watching, I learned to make a full meal out of just bread, cheese, and wine, and I took great joy in cheering Les Bleus onto their second FIFA world championship.

As I headed home, I kept thinking about a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan about American immigration: “You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.” But, anyone “can come to America to live and become an American.” And perhaps the Gipper is right, but in my experience, it’s not just in America where the strongest ties that bind are formed by our values.