Study Abroad: Adventures In Paris

I always knew I wanted to study abroad in Paris since I was 13. I remember sitting in my sixth grade classroom, checking off the box choosing French as my language course over Spanish. Everyone told me it was the less practical language to learn, but I’m sitting here at my desk in a Parisian apartment, typing this just about 8 years later.

My first few weeks in Paris have been stressful, but stressful in the most enjoyable way possible. I felt homesick the second day I was in Paris, but who wouldn’t feel stressful  under the effects of lack of sleep, the time difference, and a new language? I’ve learned a lot about some of the differences between life in Paris and life in Waltham and here are just a few for those of you interested in studying abroad in Paris!

Transportation:  Paris has a great public transportation system in that everything is super close to a metro stop. Unfortunately, there have been frequent disturbances with public transportation during my short stay here including suspicious packages and occasional accidents. This morning, I stood at the train station with my French to English dictionary trying to figure out what the person on the speaker was saying. (Hint: “colis suspect” means a suspicious package which means that the trains are delayed or halted).

Education system:  French universities are not as organized as American universities. At Brandeis we choose our classes a whole semester in advance, but in France, the times and rooms of classes can change even just the day before the class begins! I checked my email before I went to bed, which was extremely lucky for me since I found out that my 10:30 AM class had changed to an 8:30 AM class. Another important thing to note is that the idea of a major is a very American concept. French students have to choose what they’re going to specialize in and stick to that field unlike American students who have a few semesters to try out different majors.

Food:  The most magical part about Paris is all the amazing food available. Fresh baguettes are never really more than a euro. All the French pastries here are perfect and worth the few euros they are. My favorite food item here is definitely the nutella crêpe, but note that not all crêpe stands are created equal. Make sure that it’s actually made in front of you so you get to enjoy a warm, freshly made crêpe! If you’re looking for more fancy food, eating out here is expensive, but totally worth it. My program has treated us to very nice three course meals before, so depending on your program, you might be able to try gourmet food without feeling anxious about the check.

Weather:  Paris is much, much warmer than Waltham. I brought my down jacket, thinking I would need it for at least January and February but I haven’t worn it once. It hasn’t snowed since I’ve arrived in Paris, which is very different from how it’s been in Waltham. Skip packing your warm down jacket as it’s just become extra room in my suitcase and pack a good rain jacket instead.

Shopping:  Shopping here is great! There are lots of different places to shop depending on your budget. Le Marais has a lot of friperies (second-hand clothing stores) and vintage finds. St. Germain is also a great place for shopping with all sorts of price ranges. Of course if you’re looking to really spend money, there are always the famous shopping streets like Rue St. Honoré. P.S. Longchamp bags are actually cheaper in Paris! That is, if the exchange rate is working in your favor.

Budgeting:  The worst part about Paris is that it’s an expensive city. I’ve tried to stay pretty frugal, but it’s difficult to stay frugal especially when the little things add up. I made mistakes by buying lunch on campus a few times instead of making sandwiches at home. It’s great if you can save money, but I see studying abroad in Paris as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I don’t mind spending a little more on trips to concerts, musicals, restaurants, and travels.

Traveling:  It’s true that traveling within Europe is less costly, but it’s in no way cheap. Traveling costs add up quickly when you’re planning on visiting a lot of different cities. A few of my friends have bought plane tickets to London for about 50 euros, while I bought a train ticket for 70 euros. Booking tickets early is a good way to find better prices, and I’m already looking at places to go for my April break!

If you’re thinking about studying abroad in Paris, go for it! Brandeis is affiliated with a lot of programs for study abroad in France, including programs outside of Paris. My program is called Academic Programs Abroad Paris and I’m so happy that I chose this program over the other one I was considering. The only difficulty I’ve faced with my study abroad is the language barrier, but I decided to come to Paris so that I could push my boundaries and immerse myself to become more fluent in French. Bonne chance and I hope you choose Paris!