Everyone knows that one college student who studied abroad, came back home, and could not stop talking about how much “it changed their life.” While this may be super cliché and even a bit cringy, I have no shame in admitting that spending half of the year studying in Paris and traveling around Europe absolutely changed my life for the better.
When I entered a new season in a new location across the world with new characters in my storyline, I did not realize just how much of my life was about to become an Emily in Paris reboot.
I was in a different country where everything from the language, culture, food, fashion, and everyday life was nothing like my life back home. So, in what ways did it change my life exactly?
#1 I changed my overconsumption habits.
My fashion in business class taught me so much about the fashion industry from haute couture to fast fashion and everything in between. I learned about the dark side of fast fashion and just how detrimental it really is to not only our environment, but the underpaid workers in the industry. It opened my eyes to how much overconsumption was a part of my life. From my spending habits to my fashion choices, I learned how much we over consume as Americans. While it was a harsh wake up call, I have been trying my best to consume much less in small ways of my everyday life and to be much more mindful about what I purchase and waste to try to better the environment.
#2 My diet has completely changed
Like any girl, I love carbs. However, I would avoid them before I went abroad. I went from eating salads and guac to eating pastries, baguettes, cheese, and a casual glass of wine every single day and I had no guilt whatsoever. While there were a few American foods I missed while I was gone like hot Cheetos, queso, and ranch, my diet coming back has consisted of bread with cheese and deli meats. I thought that going to Paris would make me gain so much weight especially because I hardly ate any fresh produce while I was over there but I actually ended up losing weight because of all of the walking I did. Which brings me to my next point.
#3 I now actually enjoy walking everywhere and taking public transportation.
I used to be the type of person that would literally drive to the store if it was across the street because although I hated driving, I hated walking even more. Going to Paris really did a number on me for this reason because it made me prefer walking over any other type of transportation. To be fair, the city was just beyond beautiful so it would be blasphemous opting out of a stroll. However, when it did come to getting around the city on wheels, the metro was my go-to. Monthly metro passes were so convenient and if you used the metro every day, you really got your money’s worth. It was also a quick and reliable way to get around. You didn’t have to focus on the crazy drivers on the road and the people watching aspect definitely made the commute more interesting. I also loved getting around on trains because it was a quick way to go to different cities and even countries. You could read your book or even take a nap before you got to your destination.
#4 My style is so much better…thank goodness
Before I left for Paris, all I wore were leggings, sweatpants, t shirts, and hoodies. If you caught me in jeans, that was huge. While I was picking out what clothes I would bring along with me, I was super excited yet a little nervous because Paris is literally known as one of the fashion capitals of the world so I knew my outfits had to be on point. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and so many more luxury fashion houses originated in Paris, so as you can imagine I felt like I had to dress to impress. Not only was I already forced to work with a limited wardrobe which consisted of what I could fit into my two suitcases, but I also could not afford to spend money on a completely new Parisienne wardrobe so stepping up my style seemed to be a fun challenge. In Paris, I learned what the word cheugy meant and oh boy, I was (and still am) a bit cheugy, but proud of it. As I mentioned earlier, I learned about the negatives of fast fashion and how being stylish does not mean that you have to update your wardrobe every single season. I did buy and splurge on a few classic, timeless, staple pieces along with some fun colorful pieces, but I also learned how to reuse and transform simple pieces into sophisticated outfits. I was reminded how much I love clothes and how fun it is to dress up each day.
#5 I am more educated about many things
I learned way more than I thought there was to know about food, fashion, art, and other small things. As you can imagine, French people love their bread, cheese, and wine, and they are very passionate about making each one. I learned what made each of these products so good. From the wineries and champagne vineyards we visited in France, I was able to learn about the processes behind crafting a bottle of wine and champagne along with how to taste them properly. The trips to art galleries and museums, taught me a lot about art and how to appreciate it along with literature. I even learned about the architecture behind different buildings across Europe and other random niche topics like ballet. Most importantly, I learned how to interact with people from other cultures and how different life is in other countries.
#6 I learned to appreciate the finer things in life and how to enjoy myself.
While the word “study” plays a huge role in studying abroad, it was definitely the last thing on my mind. My class schedule and course workload was so light, it honestly felt like I was taking a gap semester. On top of that, I genuinely enjoyed the few classes I took. I learned that life isn’t all about school or work and that it is okay to take a day off to go ski on the Swiss Alps or to go on a picnic if it’s beautiful out. There is also nothing wrong with drinking a mimosa on a Tuesday morning or traveling for fun during the week. I learned how to go about a day spontaneously without a plan in sight and how those usually ended up being the best days. I used to be the type of person that could not even fathom staying up past 10pm on a weeknight or not sticking to routine but I am much more comfortable and happy knowing that life is so much more exciting when you do something different every day, even if it is small.
#7 I made friends for life with people from all over the world!!!
I was beyond blessed to have been staying at a student hotel in Paris. Not only was it nice having your own room and bathroom, but I had the opportunity to meet international students and become friends with them. Yes, I of course became besties with the Americans in my program, but I also formed friendships with students from other countries across the globe. I became really close with three girls from three different countries and once I was done with my program, I stayed with these dear friends of mine when I went back to visit Paris. I still talk to the friends I made on this trip regularly and I cannot wait until our reunion in Paris.
Was the life I was living during my time abroad realistic? Probably not. Did I enjoy every moment of it regardless? Heck yes. Am I going to remember this forever? Absolutely.
I am beyond blessed to have had the chance to not only study abroad, but to do so during a pandemic. I really did not think this was ever going to happen after COVID-19. However, all the stars aligned and I was able to make my dream come true. Studying abroad is so much more than what it sounds like and I truly encourage everyone to consider doing it. There are many scholarships and options to finding the right program that fits you and what you want to gain out of this experience.