Undergrads in Paris for WIP

By Stephanie Nam, W’13

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A whirlwind tour of Paris allows students to explore luxury retailing, meet new friends and come to grips with the travails of travel. 

The City of Lights, romance, croissants, luxury … many images come to mind when thinking about one of the most visited cities in the world. Needless to say, my expectations for the city were extremely high.

After arriving the day after final exams in May for a Wharton International Program (WIP), we immediately visited the Eiffel Tower. I was half-asleep, feeling a bit nauseous and not thinking very clearly. That’s when it hit me: This grey metal structure reminiscent of a busy anthill with thousands of people shoving one other—this was the real thing, the instantly-recognizable landmark. This was no longer the plastic-looking copy I had seen hundreds of times in Las Vegas, my hometown. I was in Paris.

What do 29 million tourists in one city look like? What does it feel like to be a part of one tour among hundreds in Versailles? How about taking up an entire floor in a small, French restaurant? How does that feel? Now, I know.

With just four days to see all of Paris as part of our short international business course, there wasn’t much time to visit four attractions per day or to recover from two sleepless days. The high expectations I came with to the WIP, coupled with the reality of the experience, led to disappointment. (I hope you recognize this concept of disconfirmation from our Introduction to Marketing class.) Paris ended up being my least favorite of all the cities I visited this past summer. Looking back, though, I feel that I was perhaps biased by my expectations and by the unexpectedly bad weather in Paris, and now I realize that I do miss the availability of crepes and the twinkling of the Eiffel Tower on the Seine.

Originally published September 27, 2013.

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