Two Cents: Paris syndrome and pedestals

Ashley Ye

More stories from Ashley Ye


Graphic by Kisha Yan

The concept of a “dream school” often lends itself to unrealistic expectations.

Paris syndrome: a condition of extreme emotional distress some tourists, particularly Japanese travelers, experience when they visit Paris, France for the first time; when they realize Paris does not match its unrealistically perfect media portrayal, they break down. 

Though it is very rare—less than 20 cases per year—and definitely an extreme,  it reflects a more common phenomenon: romanticization.

Romanticization refers to the idealization of people, experiences, time periods or anything that can be glamorized. Though it may not be immediately apparent, it can be seen in many aspects of our society, ranging from celebrity crushes to dream schools.

Though romanticization stems from admiration, it tends to create tunnel vision: creating a skewed perception and unrealistic expectations, which can lead to mild disappointment at best or derealization at worst. Consequently, I urge you to be more conscious of hints of romanticization in your life.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on things I have romanticized in the past: places, people, conditions. But my most prominent example would be with RM’s IB Program.

In seventh grade, I became obsessed with IB. I spent the majority of my free time researching everything I could about the program, stalking IB meme pages and daydreaming about my life would be like as an IB student. I convinced myself that if I joined RM’s IB program, my life would be perfect.

But, when I arrived at RM, I quickly learned it wasn’t what I expected: the workload I romanticized was actually exhausting, and the comprehensive curriculum I anticipated was stiffened by layers of red tape. Though RM was definitely an upgrade from middle school, I did not reach the paradise I thought I would.

I eventually realized the main reason for my disappointment was that I associated IB with an idealized version of myself and expected IB to magically transform me into her. I can’t depend on something else to make me happy: I have to do it myself. 

In the end, I’m incredibly grateful for this experience—the people I met, the memories I made but most importantly, the lessons I’ve learned. With college soon approaching, I remind myself to stay cognizant.

Romanticization isn’t inherently toxic, but self-awareness is crucial; after all, you don’t want to experience a paradigm shift in Paris.