This probably wasn't the best year to do an OE.
Seeing how the past 12 months have unravelled, that really goes without saying. But just like the year itself, hindsight is always 20:20.
When I arrived in Paris at the start of March, no one knew a pandemic was less than six feet away from sweeping the globe. Fast-forward several months, and round-the-clock window gazing is back on the agenda.
We're now four weeks into the reconfinement. If it's quiet now, it was even more so in the hours leading up to lockdown.
As I left the office that late October evening, I placed my work commute justificatif in my pocket and ventured out on to the quiet streets. Sodium lamps bathed the city in orange, offering a warm respite from the darkness all around.
As I made my way towards the Villiers métro station, I saw a couple carrying an exercise bike. On a wall, a makeshift sign read "I breathe therefore I am". Whatever its intended message, it begged the question: where else but in France could you find allusions to Descartes in graffiti?
I crossed a bridge over a railway line. Behind me, the Sacré Cœur, the gleaming basilica on the hill, grew smaller and more distant.
Out of nowhere, blue lights began flickering on restaurant window panels. An ambulance hurried past, its siren growing loud, then faint.
Down a side alley, a pile of blankets concealed a rough sleeper. Nearby, a woman was counting the till of an ice cream parlour. It was a scene straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, but with sorbet in the place of liquor.
Until recently, the area was alive with the sounds of patrons chatting away on the street-facing terraces. Now, that ambience had all but vanished.
Though this area had no passersby in sight, the roads were a traffic controller's worst nightmare. There were so many cars stuck in neutral, pedestrian crossings had been made redundant.
Everyone, it seemed, was seeking exile in the provinces, and who could blame them? Covid-19 caseloads had grown so high, any hopes of mentally processing the numbers had ended long before daylight saving time did so.
And then the terrorist attacks occurred.
A few weeks before lockdown resumed, two people were stabbed near Charlie Hebdo's former headquarters.
The day before the attempted murders took place, I had been walking down an adjacent boulevard known more for vintage camera stores than acts of terror. Had I bought 35mm film a day later, things might have turned out differently.
A few days later, a school teacher was beheaded for showing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammed during a class on freedom of expression. Though it took place outside of Paris, the horror was no less close to home.
Days before the first lockdown began, I had given a presentation about New Zealand at a school in the suburbs where a friend teaches English. There I preached the wonders of Marmite, pavlova and bungee cords from a faraway land the French colonial empire never conquered.
In that friendly school environment, it was unimaginable that teachers' lives could be at stake.
Then a few days after that attack, three people were murdered in Nice. As was the case with the Christchurch mosque shootings, I saw the grim headlines at work.
The new lockdown began the very next day.
Given the deluge of negative news, you might expect everyone to be a nervous wreck. Yet surprisingly enough, most people seem pretty composed in public. Of course, light blue fabric may mask clenched jaws; but even then, I see far fewer anxious glances today than I did back in March.
There are more confused looks, however.
If mask-over-mouth chats can be tough for locals, they're an Enigma machine for second language speakers. French has never been the easiest language to grasp, but it can be mission inaudible in these muffled times, with masks stopping you catching more than just Covid.
It's strange to think that once lockdown has lifted, I will have spent a quarter of my visa in quarantine.
But, despite the gaps in my gap year, I don't regret coming to Paris. I'm extremely lucky to have found a job amidst the worst recession since World War II, and it's humbling to have been afforded the privilege of living in this incredible country, pandemic aside.
As I take a walk in the park that sits within my allotted square kilometre, I see leaves falling to the ground. Through my Covid-crazed eyes, each one is a memorial to a victim of Covid.
But this season of falling leaves won't last forever.
• William Sidnam is a New Zealand advertising creative based in Paris.