6 Signs Your French is Good

by Andrea Bouchaud on September 19, 2014


(Photo by: www.thegoodlifefrance.com – one of my favorite French for Anglophone expats sites!)

I’m a firm believer that studying abroad for a semester or even 2 doesn’t make you fluent in French but it sure can improve your French skills by leaps and bounds. Just in case you’re not sure if your French has gotten better, here’s 6 telltale signs that you are rockin’ it in the foreign language department:

1) You mix up spellings: When you find yourself writing the French version of adresse when you’re trying to write address in English, you know you’ve achieved a higher level of French. Why? If you’re making spelling errors like this it means that you have developed a French speaking part of the brain which you’ve been using pretty regularly. Woohoo!

2) You say “euh” instead of “um”: English speakers interject “um” in a conversation for many reasons. However, when you replace “um” with the French “euh” instead, it really shows how much of French culture and linguistics you’ve adopted.

3) You forget the word in English but remember it in French even though it’s a common English word you use all the time: This is probably the biggest clue that your French has improved tenfold. When your brain is using the French side more often from growing and learning each day, common English words and expression get replaced by the more often used French words. It’s not like you were speaking English anymore anyway :p

how do you say(photo by: forums.denden.co.uk)

4) You dream in French: It’s true that if you can dream in another language that you’ve reached some level of fluency. It may not happen all the time but when you do it, you’ll know you’re well on your way to true fluency.

frenchie(Ok so it’s not exactly the same but who knows what language French bulldogs dream in. Photo by: bulldog-haven.com)

5) You don’t know the expression or word you’re looking for so you describe it: We’ve previously discussed the pros and cons of using Franglais (a combination of the French and English language). As a new full time French speaker, you may find yourself relying on Franglais when you don’t know a word but a hint you’re getting more comfortable in French is when you explain the things you don’t know how to say instead of using Franglais. Novice speakers will be more comfortable speaking less French, hence why they use more Franglais. But a sign you’re getting better at and becoming more comfortable with speaking French is finding ways to talk more such as describing things you don’t know.

6) French speakers understand you when you speak: French speakers really appreciate when you make any attempt to speak French but their appreciation doesn’t always equal comprehension. Way off pronunciation and lack of vocab can limit a French person’s understanding of what you’re trying to say. When you’re French classmates visibly understand what you’re saying without having to think about it or infer, you know you’ve reached the better French jackpot.

If you have experienced any or all of these things- Congrats! Your French skills have dramatically improved. But like any skill, if you don’t keep it up you can lose it. For tips on how to maintain your newly improved French skills check out Twenty in Paris on Amazon (available for your e-reader and smart phone).



20 things You Won’t Miss About Being 20

by Andrea Bouchaud on September 17, 2014


(photo by: www.ign.com)

A few posts ago, we discovered 20 reasons why it’s great to be 20 years old. Although 20 is something of a golden age, there are perks to getting older. Here’s 20 reasons why it’s great to no longer be 20 years old:

1- You can be 100% independent: This is it! The moment we wait our whole lives for- you are captain of your own ship, ruler of your roost or whatever expression you prefer. Point is- you direct your own life and you now live by your own rules. No more Mom and Dad telling you how to run your life and you having to comply. You decide what’s best for you as well as support yourself financially 100%.

moving(On your own- photo by: www.proprofs.com)

2- You’re no longer a broke college student: You have money- woohoo! You can afford to buy better food than Ramen Noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner every night; no longer have to live in a crappy apartment and can buy your mom a Mother’s Day gift without Dad having to sign your name to a present he bought her. Or is that last one a disadvantage?

3- Traveling for vacation: If you’re like me, you worked through your college breaks. So now is the time to travel for vacation- don’t stay home or work more hours. Life’s memories are formed by experiences, not by staying home or working.

4- Having a nice apartment: Andrea’s college apartment looked like this- mattress on the floor in the living room, a broken futon in the bedroom, 1 closet with the door on crooked and a squirrel living in the roof. It did the job but after college and working a few months with my full time job, I can say my living quarters dramatically improved and so will yours. Real life tip- don’t live beyond your means. You don’t have to rent the penthouse suite to improve your living situation.

5-Taking care of yourself becomes a priority: You realize that all those ramen noodles and college cafeteria food can catch up with you. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Go to the gym, join a running group or any sport/activity that interests you and eat well – it will pay off in the long run and make you feel better overall.

6- Goodbye teenage angst!: My teenage years up until my early twenties were spent listening to the likes of Marilyn Manson and NIN scream and shout about the pains of teenage angst. I can tell you that being angry just for the hell of being angry isn’t enlightening or even fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff- the only person it’s hurting is you and that goes against your new adult mantra of taking care of yourself doesn’t it?

7- Confidence and self assuredness: Although most of us are adventurous at 20, we often lack confidence and self assuredness. Why? Because we haven’t had experience in many things such as dealing with landlords, bosses, or having only ourselves to depend on in any given situation. With experience comes confidence and the ability to not let someone pressure you into something you don’t understand or want.

8-Knowing how to accomplish goals: When you’re 20 years old and rosy eyed, you don’t often realize how to accomplish goals. You might think “I want to be a singer!” but lack the know-how on the next steps you need to take to start making this dream a reality. Remember that experience and confidence thing? That really comes into play here as experience will guide you in accomplishing your goals (whilst not being used) and not just dreams.

9-Self reflection and Inner peace: With teenage angst gone, you need to fill that void in your soul and mind. Don’t put something negative back in- this is where inner peace should go. That doesn’t mean that you have to become a Buddhist and meditate for hours a day (kudos if you do!). It just means that you are a more calm and peaceful person who isn’t looking for negativity. With inner peace comes self reflection and realizing that it does take 2 to tango in every argument and that you aren’t as innocent as you think in those interactions. Being able to recognize and own up to past mistakes will help you be a better person.

joga(photo by: mydeepmeditation.com)

10- Getting more things done: Prioritization is truly a learned skill. Although you do practice this to a degree in college (ex: you do what term paper is due first), it’s something that you won’t really do until you’re working full time. When you only have 2 days off a week, you learn how to maximize that time to get more things done as you’re too busy with work during the week.

11- Increased credit card limit: In the USA, being able to buy big things revolves around credit. If you want to finance a new car or house you’ll need credit. I remember at 18 getting my first credit card with a limit of $1,000 and being so excited. Now, I have over a $10,000 credit card limit which will really help me to establish credit for that possibly soon 1st home purchase. The only downside to increased credit limits is increased responsibility. Many adults suffer from credit card debt which is easily avoidable.

12- Having a serious relationship: You’re out of college, lived on your own for a bit and want to find that special someone. Remember being selfish at 20 and discovering what your needs and wants are? That time helps you to determine who is an ideal mate for you (remember there is no such thing as a perfect mate). A serious relationship after college is a lot different than one during college now that you know your values, your wishes and pet peeves. Serious relationships are better at this stage as you’re not just dating any schmuck that comes your way but they can also be more heart breaking if you were thinking of marriage and your mate wasn’t.

13- Stop being a renter: Renting an apartment is great- if something breaks down, all you have to do is make a phone call at no extra cost to you. However, you also are just throwing money away. No bank is going to lend hundreds of thousands of dollars to a 20 year old with no credit to buy a house. But 27 years old with established credit and a good job? A much better chance of being able to end the renting game and own your own home.

14- Bye bye miss, hello ma’am!: For guys, you’re always sir but for ladies we start out as miss with the goal of ending at ma’am. Being called miss is not derogatory but it is a way of someone verbally recognizing your youth. Sometimes this is a compliment and sometimes it’s not. However, once you’re in your mid-twenties and have gained that experience and confidence, you’ll find more and more people address you as ma’am. This is the societal recognition that you are officially a grown up- woohoo!

15- It’s ok to stay in: Unless you’re an introvert like me, you spent your college years going out most weekends; staying in was for old folks. But as your priorities change from instant gratification via dancing the night away with sweaty strangers to saving for that dream vacation or house, you realize that it’s ok to stay in, at least once and a while.

16-Cheaper car insurance rates: Every driver under 25 can tell you the woes of having to pay sky high premiums for car insurance. Once you hit the big 2-5 you are considered a less risky driver and the premiums drop dramatically. This is a huge savings that your wallet will definitely notice. Andrea’s tip- use this extra cash to pay down your student loan.

17- No longer selfish: Remember at 20 how it was ok to be selfish? You knew that wouldn’t last forever and it doesn’t. Now that you know what’s best for you and better know yourself, you can be selfless in your relationships and really show your loved ones how much they mean to you. You’ll also find that for a serious romantic relationship to work and sustain, this is a key factor.

18-Invincabilty is gone: Raise your hand if you’ve ever pulled any crazy stunts or experimentation when you were in high school or a freshman in college-mine are both raised and so should yours! Being in our teens and early 20s gives us a feeling of invincibility- our bodies are at their prime, our determination is high and nothing can stop you. Only it can. My invincibility dreams went out the window when I worked for a car insurance company at 22 and had to listen to car accident descriptions every. single.day. I learned real quick that no matter what shape you’re in or how young you are, you can get hurt and it’s good to always practice safety first- you can stay alive longer and healthier that way.

invincible(photo by:dorkshelf.com)

19- You’re choosier about relationships (friends and romantic): Do you remember dating someone because they were cool or cute even though you had nothing in common? When we first start dating, we often choose mates based on superficial benefits like the crowd they hang with, the clothes they wear or the car they drive. Same goes for friends. As you get a little older, you realize that hanging out with drama queen Betty wasn’t fun and your friendship with her didn’t enrich your life. You only get 1 life so don’t waste time on people who aren’t worth it. Be choosier about friends and romance and you’ll be happier for it.

20- The future is less scary: Ok so the future is always a little scary because it’s the unknown but it’s not that bad. I remember my 2nd- 4th year of college being terrified of what life after graduation would be like- Would I get a job? What will I do for a living? Will I be able to support myself 100% and move out of my parent’s house? All of these were unknowns but you figure it out. Sometimes you take 1 direction and realize it’s not what you want and then you can try another one. The future is not rigid- it can be as flexible as you want. Just remember you have nothing to fear but fear itself!



How to Pack for Studying Abroad- The Final Video

by Andrea Bouchaud on September 16, 2014

It’s here, it’s here! The final installment of the How to Pack for Studying Abroad series. Join me in this final video as we go over packing tips and more.




Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: I See Love, I See France

by Alexa Wybraniec on September 15, 2014


(All photos by Alexa)

“Work hard. Work hard. But, don’t work too hard. You’re in Paris, and you don’t want to look back and remember this classroom. Have fun.”

This was the parting advice of my methodology professor, who was tasked with teaching us — the international students — how to deliver an exposé at Sciences Po.

“Welcome week” is over. In fact, I’ve been here for almost a month. My grandmother maintains that everyone is settled in at a new school by Halloween. By then, you know your way around, who your friends are, and how to manage classes. This year, though, my favorite spooky holiday will come and go, as Labor Day and September 11 did, unnoticed by the French eye. Yet, I don’t miss New Jersey in general. The food famously sucks, the people are eternally in a rush, etc. I much prefer the life I’ve made for myself (or invaded upon) here.

I wake up with the sun, jog in the park. I fall in temporary-love on the metro. These two elements are the only fragments of routine I’ve got.


There was a party on a boat a few weeks ago, but I left early — in favor of a private tour of the most beautiful city in the world, courtesy of a local with a motorcycle. He showed me the shimmering Tour Eiffel, endless Champs-Élysées, and looming Cathédrale Notre Dame. I felt this tunnel-vision, like my eyes were incredulous, like these things can’t exist in such proximity. He beeped and waved at some strangers, who emphatically raised their glasses in our direction. Life is but perpetual disbelief.


I forgot the French word for “hangover” as one erupted inside me. Anyway, next day, I tagged along with some Brazilian friends for a bite to eat and for the view at the top of the Centre Georges Pompidou. They sometimes switch to Spanguese (Spanish-Portuguese), and smile more than most people I know.

Being here is a big step for my mental health. The Parisian attitude toward food, for example, is centered around quality and appreciation. At the open air market in my quartier, Marché Place des Fêtes, I watched a shopkeeper throw around a raw chicken, chopping off its head and talons, gutting and firing it. And it’s true that a meal is a big deal. No one eats on the metro, portions aren’t monstrous, and it’s really weird to ask for a doggy-bag. No one obsesses over their weight, goes to the gym, or artificially tans. This is especially weird to me, coming from New Jersey. I’ve been walking everywhere, running in all the parks, and eating authentic foods (yes, even white bread, full-fat cheeses, and chocolate!). And I’ve never felt better.


I had an impromptu picnic on the Seine, surrounded by people from the Netherlands, Germany, Lebanon, India, and Canada. I got drunk on a boat with strangers, or friends. My host family invited me to have lunch — veal with prunes, tied in a sort of flower-like shape and served tagine-style, mashed potatoes, and warm bread and cheese. I even made a French friend while jogging. Running is a humanizing activity. It gives me a chance to observe and blend in for an hour or so. (My goal is to run in every park in Paris. So far: La Seine, Jardin des Plantes, Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc de Sceaux, Bois de Boulogne, and, of course, good ol’ Buttes-Chaumont).


I marveled at Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec in Musée d’Orsay. I downed a fiery shot on Rue Saint-Maur. I drank wine and ate cheese at Place des Vosges. I navigated the Noctilien. I went to a French doctor, where I had to do 20 squats and didn’t need insurance. I read Plato and Baudelaire. I drank mint tea at the Grande Mosquée. I bought Saint-Nectaire and Bleu de Sévérac from my local fromagerie. I joined the Sciences Po track and field team, and the photo club. I took 800 photos. I turned off my flashlight in the Catacombs and I stood in pitch-black silence.

Socializing can take it all out of me, though. One day last week, I put on my lobster sweater to remind me of home (slash Nora) and went for a stroll through Buttes-Chaumont. It’s nice to live so far away from the heart of the city, because I’m not a city-girl at heart. For one of the first times in my life, I was walking alone in a foreign continent, content. Me, myself, and my camera. Eavesdropping on everything. If I can do this (and love every movement, or at least find substance in experiences), what can’t I do? The world’s all mine.



Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa is majoring in Journalism and Media Studies and minoring in French at Rutgers University. She is studying abroad at L'Institut d'études politiques de Paris, also known as Sciences Po, for her third year of college (2014-2015). Check back every other Monday for a new post by Alexa. You can connect with her via Twitter.