New Year’s Eve: Paris Edition

By: Andrea Bouchaud

(photo by:

During winter break while I was studying abroad in Paris, my father came to visit me. I was so preoccupied with finishing the semester and getting things ready for his visit that I didn’t stop to think about how the Parisians ring in the New Year. Paris doesn’t have anything that resembles Times Square so I didn’t think that they would be doing anything special for New Years for me to investigate. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that the Parisians would celebrate New Years with the most famous structure in Paris- the Eiffel Tower. It was New Year’s Eve 2007 and my father and I finished having dinner with Tatie (his aunt with whom I was living) when we were talking about what we should do for midnight. Tatie told us to go to the Eiffel Tower as they always do something there for New Years. The only issue is that this conversation was at like 11pm so we didn’t have much time to get there. We quickly left her apartment and started walking towards the buttery, illuminated Eiffel Tower. Something you should know about Paris is that there isn’t always a straight route. I led us down a major street which had a direct view of the Eiffel Tower as my idea was to keep walking down that street until we got to it. The only problem was that there were a few squares in the middle of the walk which meant that the straight road to the Eiffel Tower wasn’t really a straight road after all. We had to make turns and after a while I lost sight of the Eiffel Tower. After minutes of walking around and turning in circles, we were able to find another street with a direct view of the tower. Unfortunately for us, when we found this new road, it was too late. My father and I stood in the middle of a quiet, cold Parisian street watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower light up in sporadic bursts while fireworks went off in the background. It was actually a really great way to bring in the New Year. Champ de Mars (that’s the name of the field upon which the Eiffel Tower sits) is super crowded and really cold. Seeing the same sights on that tiny street fostered a more intimate way  to say hello to 2008. No matter where you find yourself this New Year’s Eve, please be safe, happy and healthy.

Happy New Year and Bonne Année!


A Taxing Story of French Taxes

By: Andrea Bouchaud

(photo by:

***Translation of photo: Liberty, Egality, Fraternity and Fiscal Invasion

Paris is about to become an even more expensive city in the next few weeks. It appears as though paying 19.6% VAT (value added tax) wasn’t high enough according to French officials. As of January 2014, the VAT will increase to 20% in all of France. I have not come across an official date this new VAT amount is going into effect. The VAT tax is a tax on the purchase price but is calculated prior to your purchase unlike a sales tax. What this means is that the price you see on the ticket is the price you pay at the register. If you don’t know already, French taxes are quite heavy and are on everything. I would not be surprised if this tax hike were to cause a strike. Sylvia Davis from French Entrée explores this new French tax along with others in her new blog post here.

Another tax hike that is already causing strikes and dissidence amongst a small population in France is the passing of the 75% income tax on all high income earners. Anyone who is making 1€ million or more will have to give up 75% of their income to the French government. This means that if someone makes 1,000,000 € they have to pay 750,000 € in taxes and only get to take home 250,000 €. This bill which was first rejected in the courts about 1 year ago has been recently approved. France’s President François Hollande believes that taxing the ninny out of the wealthy that remain in France will help to reduce budgetary issues in France instead of actually putting a budget in place and maybe cutting a program or two (say, state paid child services and college- these can really go in my humble American opinion). If you’re going to be in France as a student than you have nothing to worry about but this is good information to know as I’m sure it will spark lots of debate and now you’ll have a heads up on this issue and can jump right into the conversation.

Bottom line is the French have an unhealthy obsession with taxes and they are making France a place that is getting harder and harder to live in. Studying abroad is probably the only way that you will ever be able to afford living in France. It is evident that making lots of money there won’t get you anywhere. So enjoy this time and be thankful that you are not a wealthy French person. (BBC covers this issue)


A French Christmas for All

By: Andrea Bouchaud

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Paris this Christmas or just want to have a French styled Christmas, check out the following links from some of the best Paris bloggers in 2013 to help you have a true, French Christmas.

Joyeux Noel!
-Gift Shopping with the French
-Ultimate Guide to French Christmas Food Shopping
-Ulimate Guide to French Christmas Gift Shopping
-A Guy’s Guide to Christmas Shopping in Paris
-French Christmas Food
-How to Wish Merry Christmas in French
-Comme Une Française Guide on French Christmas Gifts

-Comme Une Française Guide to French Christmas Dinner phrases
Another fun idea that I didn’t have a link for: Make your own Buche de Noel (A traditional French Christmas ‘log cake’). Look up recipes online and for tutorial videos on Youtube if no local French bakery near you. I got this idea from Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz from Dallas’ own French Affaires ( newsletter.

Here’s what a Twenty in Paris Christmas looks like:

Twenty in Paris Christmas

Cdlt- Andrea


Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: The Dean Visit

By: Alexa Wybraniec

I can’t believe it’s 70 degrees and Christmas in two days! Anyway, I kept another study abroad prep appointment- go me! I go to Rutgers at the New Brunswick campus in NJ, where everything is made up and credits don’t matter (because if you aren’t fulfilling your core requirements, you’re truly wasting your time). I don’t have an academic adviser because I’m in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and I suppose there are just too many of us. At freshman orientation, the happy-go-lucky orientation leaders comforted us into thinking that “you’re never far away from friendly, knowledgeable advice from an academic dean or staff member!”

That’s partly true but what I’ve learned in my first year and a half of college is that life is about networking. You need to make real, human connections with your peers and professors. Rutgers encourages SAS students to make an appointment with a dean every semester to ensure that you’re not going to get screwed with a graduation setback or something. I actually scheduled my dean advising appointment for the same day as my French final exam. My head was filled with the differences between le passé composé, l’imparfait, et le plus-que-parfait when I met with Dean Anderson. It was nothing like my meeting with Lauren from last week, to say the least.

The deans are helpful but are straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense types of people. They are mostly there to tell you if you’re finishing your core requirements in a timely manner – they’re not experts on your individual areas of study. I was seated in the opposite corner of the room, so I couldn’t see what was on her computer screen. I spent about thirty seconds describing my plans to study abroad in Paris when she immediately informed me of something I completely overlooked. I never officially declared French as my minor!

To study abroad in Paris, students are not required to major or minor in French. In fact, it’s not even a requirement to take classes in French for SciencesPo, the school at which I’ll be studying. For my first semester at SciencesPo, I’ve decided to take my course-load in English with a mandatory French grammar course to keep up on learning the language. I don’t feel ready to take on culture shock AND language shock just yet. Hopefully by the spring semester, I’ll be better acclimated to France and ready to challenge myself in French.

Even though a French minor isn’t a requirement to study in Paris and the classes I’ll be taking may not help me toward graduating as a Journalism student, studying abroad has always been at the top of my to-do list. I knew I’d get an amazing opportunity to live in Europe at a price I’ll never see again in my life. Plus, there’s no better way to learn a language than immersion. I felt it when I stayed in Morocco for a week, and I felt it again in Montreal. There’s an inexplicable desire to speak French, to somehow communicate smoothly and slyly with natives, when you’re surrounded by what you so desperately want to understand. No classroom has ever made me feel the buzz that I had in my head when I was walking through Rabat’s medina. No language professor has ever prepared me to haggle for a Moroccan teapot.

For the rest of the visit, Dean Anderson spoke in a rush. In one breath, she informed me that I could easily declare my minor on one of the computers in the first-floor office. After calculating my courses and credits, she told me that I’d been “expeditious” in my choices and only had three more requirements to fulfill in the SAS Core. She informed me, as Lauren had, that she could not help me discern whether my SciencesPo credits would count toward my major/minor or not.

She did, however, tell me about the “Study Abroad Proposal Form” which I will need to take to each individual department for review. In my case, that means making appointments with the Journalism and French departments. Thankfully, I have a contact for the French department, courtesy of Lauren. Basically, I’ll need to create a theoretical schedule based on the SciencesPo courses offered per semester, and then ask the departments to count those credits toward my major/minor.

She concluded by telling me, to all of my joy and excitement, that yes, I will be able to graduate on time in 2016 as long as I continue to take winter and summer courses that count toward the rest of my core requirements. I also still need to make appointments with those departments which I’ll totally do. Oh, and now I’m officially minoring in French. Bam.

About the author:

Alexa Wybraniec is a journalism major at Rutgers University. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at Sciences- Po for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via her Facebook Page.