There was no greater satisfaction than arriving to my host house after a long day of studying art in the Louvre, Pompidou, or Musée d’Orsay during my summer 2016 study abroad trip. On this particular Tuesday, that was not the case.

Taking the RER E, an intercity train, could be a nightmare, especially when my classes were in central Paris, and I lived outside of the city. Most days abroad, I had no problems with public transportation, besides the occasional urine odor. However, on this fateful ride, I looked up from my Paris train pocket map (would not have survived the summer without it) to see my stop — and the next three after — pass my window.

As I nervously looked around at the other passengers in their cushy train seats, I noticed that I seemed to be the only one conflicted about this odd nonstop train.

Photo by Caridad Dominguez

Where was I heading and how long would I be gone for? Would I ever find my way back?

These were the questions that plagued me as my train sped ahead to who-knows-where.

When the train stopped, it was stuck behind an abandoned, graffitied train on an abandoned railroad an hour away from my host house. The train would not move… for two hours.

It turned out the conductor was as clueless about our detour as I was.

The conductor mumbled in incredibly difficult-to-understand-French that it would take another two hours before we could get back on our way. At this point, the doors to the train were open. I looked out and saw the middle of nowhere, and a small brick town in the distant.

I noticed people started jumping from the tracks, and at this point, I felt like I had nothing to lose, so naturally I hopped off the train too. Clueless to where I was, I walked in the direction everyone was shuffling to.

A kind lady answered me when I questioned her in my best attempt at not sounding panicked in French. She explained the train took a wrong turn and we were walking to the nearest city, 10 minutes away by foot.

Photo by Caridad Dominguez

I called my host family, and was glad to hear their bewilderment; I was not the only one who thought this was crazy.

For the rest of my summer trip, I was cautious on the monstrous, metal metro and remained alert for every train trip. This little piece of nightmare was nothing but a kink in a wonderful experience, and it was incredible to be a part of.

I will forever hold dear this bizarre story, as it was the turning point in my stay. It was when I was no longer a tourist, but a halfway Parisian.