By Klarize Medenilla
Cal Poly Pomona student Andrea Micodin had always wanted to enroll in a study abroad program, and this quarter she fulfilled that wish.
The third-year marketing management student is currently in an international marketing strategies program that is based in Spain but allows students to go on excursions all over Europe. Micodin said, via email, that she has been to Romania, Italy, Slovenia, Morocco, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and, most recently, France.
Micodin said that the Paris excursion was a major reason why she chose this particular program.
“Although I had visited Paris before, ever since I left in 2010, I dreamed of one day going back,” said Micodin.
Nov. 13 was the first day of her highly anticipated weekend in Paris.
It was also a day that will be remembered as a tragedy for Parisians. Micodin was not directly involved in any of the six terrorist attacks that occurred that night, but she recalls the time following the attacks as a constant “state of panic.”
But, for Micodin, the day began normally. There were 139 students that arrived in Paris that Friday morning. After checking into the hotel, Micodin explored the city along with five friends.
One of the first stops was on the Rue de Charonne at lunchtime, but when they arrived, the creperie they wanted to visit was closed, and they left with the intention to come back during dinnertime.
But the group members decided not to head back to the Rue de Charonne that night, a decision that could have drastically altered their lives as one of the six attacks occurred on that street.
After a long day of taking in the Parisian culture, they opted for a restaurant in Paris’ sixth District at about 8:30 p.m.
“As I was enjoying one of the best meals of my life, with some great friends in a city I’ve dreamed about returning to from the second I had left it [in 2010], I turned to my friend and said ‘If we end up visiting the Eiffel Tower after dinner, I don’t think there could be a more perfect day,'” said Micodin.
But they did not get to visit the Eiffel Tower that evening. About an hour later, everything changed.
At 9:30 p.m., Micodin received a text message from a family member about a bomb detonating during a soccer match at the Stade de France, the location of the first attack. The whole restaurant was abuzz with the news, and minutes later, they heard about the attacks in the restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall, which was a quarter mile from their hotel.
The night quickly escalated into a panic as Micodin was trying to contact the rest of her peers, who were scattered around the city.
Heading back to the hotel seemed impossible given that it was a quarter of a mile away from the Bataclan concert hall.
They received phone calls and messages from parents and program coordinators telling them to find a safe spot in the city, but this proved to be difficult as many cabs and Uber cars were not in service; there seemed to be no way to get back to the hotel.
They stayed in the restaurant for protection until 11 p.m. when it closed and its owners told everyone to leave. Micodin and her friends found themselves stranded in the middle of Paris under siege, 40 minutes from their hotel with little phone battery and limited data.
Uncertainty gripped the group as it tried to develop a course of action in a city experiencing panic. Micodin said the group tried to find a nearby hotel room for the night but were unsuccessful as all hotels in the area were full.
“I’ve never felt such a sense of fear, with no solution in sight,” said Micodin. “What had been our perfect weekend getaway, quickly turned into my greatest nightmare.”
Finally at 1:15 a.m., after about two hours of being stranded in the city, the group members eventually found two taxicabs that were willing to take them to their hotel.
Micodin remembers the scene going back to her hotel as “an image that will forever be engraved” in her mind. Sirens blared throughout the city, and the area near their hotel looked like “a war zone.” Hundreds of armed soldiers and military tanks as far as the eye could see blocked many of the roads in the area.
The next day, Micodin was able to see more of the city, but it was a “gloomy” day as the emotions of the previous night lingered throughout the city, she said.
Sunday was her last day in Paris, but Micodin made sure to stop by Notre Dame to say a prayer and “mourn all the lives lost” before heading back to Barcelona.
Following the attacks, Kraig Walkup, study abroad and exchange coordinator at CPP’s International Center, remained in contact with Micodin to make sure she was okay and to offer support following her harrowing experience.
“I know this is a very big experience for her, and I’m sure she’ll remember that night for the rest of her life,” said Walkup.
Walkup expects some cancellations on upcoming study abroad trips as both parents and students are concerned for students’ safety.
Micodin returns home in the middle of December and is looking forward to catching up with her friends and family.
Despite that distressful night in Paris, Micodin looks back on her experience with optimism. She also considers herself very lucky because every decision she made that day directly affected the trajectory of her night. She added that she plans on returning to Paris, as she never had a chance to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower that weekend like she planned.
“My reality is [that] I could have gone back to eat dinner on that street and maybe walked around right after dinner,” said Micodin. “Instead, I went to lunch on that street. Instead, I chose to walk around a different area.”
“If there is one thing I choose to take from my experience it is [to not] be afraid and that, truly, anything can happen at any moment [and] at any time ” always when you least expect it. Life is random, it’s short, and it’s sweet, but I choose to live every moment of it.”
Courtesy of Andrea Micodin
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