Gifts to ask for Christmas When Going to Study Abroad

By: Andrea Bouchaud

(photo by: www.hdwallpaperstop.com)

Christmas is a great time to ask for practical gifts that will help you travel and live abroad easier. Maximize this holiday to help you better prepare for this upcoming experience by asking for gifts that will help you abroad. Let’s take a look at gifts to ask for from Santa if you’re studying abroad in the spring semester.

  • New, Sturdy Luggage and Luggage Tags. Studying abroad entails lots of traveling. Make sure that your items are secure and protected in a new, sturdy suitcase that can also expand (for souvenirs and new clothes you’ll buy abroad). In addition to new luggage, don’t forget about luggage tags. You want to make sure that you can easily identify your suitcase or get it back in case of a mix-up at the airport.
  • Passport Necklace to keep all important documents. When studying abroad, your going to need to bring important, personal documents with you such as a passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and credit cards. The safest place for these documents is on your person at all times, under your shirt. Europe is famous for pick pocketing which makes wallets and purses not very safe for holding important information. Safeguard your most valuable information by asking for a passport necklace to wear.
  • Adapter for Cell Phone and Lap top chargers. Each country has a different electrical current system than the United States. If you plan on bringing your American cell phone and lap top than an adapter will be needed to charge these items abroad. It’s important that the electrical adapter is bought in the United States as they are not easily found abroad.
  • E-book Twenty in Paris by: Andrea Bouchaud. You’re excited and ready to study abroad but how much do you know about the actual experience that lies ahead? Andrea Bouchaud is a former student who studied abroad for a year in Paris. In this book, she details the transition process and college experience abroad by showing students her mistakes and how to avoid them for the most successful and stress free experience. Be better prepared for the study abroad experience by purchasing this e-book on Amazon at http://amzn.to/GStCJM.
  • Reusable Grocery Bags. While living abroad, you’ll do your own grocery shopping. Many countries are shying away from using plastic bags at the grocery store. Be prepared for food shopping at the same time as being eco-friendly and ask for reusable grocery bags. Also come in handy for other purchases and carting laundry to the Laundromat.
  • Rain Boots and Umbrella. Are you studying abroad in Europe or Asia? If so, you’ll need rain boots and an umbrella. These continents are prone to rain and being unprepared for heavy rains can really dampen the experience. Stay dry and be prepared for the wet weather abroad by requesting rain boots and an umbrella.
  • Expandable Hamper and Hangers. No matter what living arrangement you chose for studying abroad, it will not come with hampers and hangers. Having an expandable hamper and hangers in advance saves you the hassle of having to buy these items your first few days abroad. In addition, you will also save space by having the expandable hamper and will be able to make yourself at home quicker by hanging your clothes up in the closet.

These are some general gift ideas that are practical for every student and every country but if you have something in particular that will help you while studying abroad, don’t forget to add that item to the list too.  Just make sure that your family gets this list as soon as possible. Joyeux noel et bonne chance!





Paris Pride

By: Andrea Bouchaud

No, I’m not talking about pride for a sport team. I’m talking about the pride that Parisians have of their city. Being in Paris (especially in the spring), it’s easy to see why they are. Its beauty; its abundance of parks and gardens; its world class museums; its great food – these are some of the things that make Paris, well.. Paris.

Ask any expat or student who studied abroad and they can tell you that Parisians know their city very well. Sometimes a little too well. How do they know this? Because we have asked native Parisians for help navigating the city, figuring out why certain events are happening, ideas for new places to go, things to see, how to avoid long lines and everything else there is to learn about Paris and they always more than happy to answer our questions.

When I was in Paris, I had the unique opportunity to live with my grandfather’s sister whom I called Tatie. She knew everything and everyone in Paris.  Tatie would talk for hours about Paris. She had lived there all of her life with just a brief stint in the country during WWII. The love she had for Paris was obvious every time she talked about it. And it wasn’t just Tatie either. I would get the same reaction from other Parisians to whom I asked for help or more information on the city. Once in a while, they wouldn’t know the answer to a question. When this would happen, the Parisian helping me would do a feverent search on the internet or in old books (which every Parisian seems to have) to find the answer. The search for the answer at that point wasn’t just to help me but to also quench their thirst for more knowledge of the place they call home.

I preach all the time about preparing for your time abroad by reading up on the culture, the city, the language, the news, etc. But sometimes the internet and books cannot substitute the knowledge amassed over a life time and passed down from one generation to the next which is what you will find in most Parisians. The pride of living in the most beautiful city on Earth is a privilege and every Parisian knows it. When living and studying abroad in Paris, be sure to witness first hand Paris pride by interacting with the Parisians and asking them about their city. You will find their love and admiration for this amazing city infectious.


5 Things I Regret About Studying Abroad

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Experience is the best teacher and studying abroad is no exception. Let’s take a look at 5 mistakes that I regret about studying abroad (but that you don’t have to!).

1)      I went to the French consulate unprepared and with an attitude. I started the visa process early but overlooked a few key things like having regulation passport photos; my bank account didn’t have enough money in it; and I had no copies of the letter of financial guarantee. At the consulate office, I started to have an attitude with the staff as I just wanted to get my visa and didn’t want to hear that I was unprepared. Thankfully, I was able to resolve the issues and get my visa later that day.

   What I would have done differently: Have someone else take a look at your documents with the visa check list (your program should send you one or use the one in Chapter 3 in Twenty in Paris) and count that you have 10 copies of each document. A second pair of eyes can pick up any discrepancies. Remember it’s easier to resolve all issues at home than it is on visa day at the consulate office. Also, please take your patience pills. When dealing with any bureaucracy, you need to keep your cool and be respectful. This will go a long way, I assure you.


2)      I did not fully prepare for the immersion into a foreign language and culture. Foreign language classes in the United States are not intense enough to prepare American college students for taking classes at the university level, expressing complex thoughts on topics like history, politics and current events or how to fit into daily life. Not being fully prepared for the immersion into a foreign language and culture made for a tough transition. My inability to accurately express myself and understand the daily culture led me into a disappointed funk for my first few months in Paris.

What I would have done differently: Seek out language classes and practice sessions with native speakers via cultural centers and mylanguageexchange.com. This is a great way to hone your language skills as well as learn about the culture from first person perspective. Following the news and current events of the host country (it’s a plus to read it in the host language) will help to give you an accurate picture of the current values and issues of the host country which in turn will help prepare you for life abroad.


3) I was not open to change during the transition process. The transition to a new language, a new culture and a new college experience is full of changes. Everything you have ever known is different. In order to transition smoothly and with little stress, you need to be open to change. Instead of riding out the wave of changes during the transition, I was bucking it like a wild bronco at a rodeo. Desperate for some familiarity, I clung to my culture and my ways of doing things like a life line. This resistance cost me 4 months of immersion experience and enjoyment of being in Paris.

What I would have done differently: Studying abroad is a time of change for you. It’s natural to crave familiarity and to feel overwhelmed with all the changes going on at the same time. I should have pushed myself to find 1 thing that I like about Paris each day. Establishing a new like each day helps you to connect to the study abroad experiencenin a positive way. In turn, this helps you combat the down days during the transition knowing (and doing!) the things that you bring you happiness abroad.


4) I was afraid to make a mistake when speaking a foreign language.  When I realized that my French skills were not as good as I thought they were, I became afraid to speak. Every time I spoke French, I was making mistakes and sounded like a three old child instead of a 20 year old woman who had studied French for 8 years. In addition, I also was not adequately expressing my thoughts and needs in the foreign language.

What I would have done differently: Stop caring. I know that sounds odd but that’s the attitude you need to have when speaking a foreign language. Make a mistake, learn from it and move on. It’s not the end of the world if you used the wrong verb conjugation with the wrong subject. It can get frustrating when you’re not understood but try a different approach and see if that works. Language mistakes are inevitable and it’s useless to fight them. The expression “when at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” really comes into focus for speaking a foreign language.


5) I did not befriend French students. Making friends in a new school is always tough. When you go to a new college where you’re from a different culture, speak a different language, and dress differently it can seem especially hard to make friends. I was so convinced that the French students didn’t like me or wouldn’t like me that I never made any attempts to make friends or to fit in. I would go to class and go home. Not the way to charm the locals.

What I would have done differently: First, I would have toned down my look. If you have a very strong look/personality, you don’t have to change who you are but you need to adjust your look to not offend or put off anyone. After toning down my look, I would’ve said hi to at least 1 student in class for every class and ask if I could join them for lunch. Looking back, I’m sure the French students were just as nervous to meet me as I was to meet them. They might not have known how to befriend an American student and probably would have appreciated me making the first step. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Studying abroad is a time of change. Sometimes change can be scary but you need to embrace it for your time abroad in order to have a more enjoyable experience as well as a smoother transition. All I ask is to learn from my mistakes.


Paris 101

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Paris is a unique town. Getting to know it before you go study abroad will help you to acclimate to it faster and better.  Let’s look at some quick facts to know about Paris to better help you prepare for the experience of living in Paris.

-A pharmacy is always recognizable by the green cross sign outside. A tobacco shop is always recognizable by the red diamond shaped sign outside.

- France has both a president and a prime minister. The president is the ultimate head of the country and runs the country for five years. This is a decrease from the previous 7 year term.

- When going to museums and sites around the city, be sure to bring your French college ID card and ask for the tarif jeune which is a lower priced ticket for people aged 14-26. If you really enjoy going to museums those admission tickets can add-up quickly and these tarif jeunes can help out financially.

-Parisian apartments are not legally mandated to have fire escapes. Do not be surprised if the housing arrangement in which you are residing in Paris does not have a fire escape.

-If you decide to drive in France remember that the price of gas is by litre not gallon and that four litres equal one gallon. For example if gas is 1,30 euro this means that it costs one euro and thirty cents per litre which is 5,20 euro a gallon. Remember that in speaking le gaz refers to natural gas and l’essence refers to gasoline.

- Remember that Europe has a different electrical system than America. If you are bringing American electrical appliances, be sure to buy an adapter in the United States prior to your departure.

-The French quotation mark goes as follows <<       >>; they do not use ”      ”

-French notebooks use graph paper instead of college ruled paper.

-To write time in France, use an ‘h’ where you would normally place a colon. 7:30 in America is 7 h 30 in France. In addition, there must be a space between the numbers and the “h”.

-France and Europe uses military time which counts up to twenty-four hours, not using two sets of counting to twelve. It can be confusing to see a digital clock that reads 17:00 but just remember to subtract 12 (17:00 would be 5:00 pm American time system). The am/pm system is not used in France as the military time indicates whether it is morning or evening through the continued count of the hours. Also note that even though military time uses the twenty-four hour counting system, midnight is not counted as 24 but rather as 0. Although military time is used, it is acceptable to use the American system of counting two sets of twelve. In this case, you must indicate the time of day. For example, quatre heure de l’après-midi means four o’clock in the afternoon.

- Street signs are located on the side of buildings and not on posts- this actually goes for all of Europe.

- The date goes before the month in Europe. 3/4 is not March 4th but rather April 3rd.

- When writing the month or day of the week, use lower case. They are not capitalized in French.

- The French use commas were we use decimal points. Example $4.25 would be 4, 25 euro. For bigger numbers they use spaces. Example $17,500 would be 17 500 euro.

- Paris is composed of twenty districts. The first few districts start at the river and spiral its way out from the center of Paris. Each district has its own mayor and then those twenty mayors vote for the overall mayor of Paris. In total, there are twenty-one mayors that run the city of Paris. When written, the word district in French “arrondissement” is abbreviated by an ‘e’ (example: 6e means the sixth district or sixième arrondissement).

-The river Seine is the river that divides Paris into two but not in half. The right bank or la rive droite is the bigger bank and is the ‘northern’ part of the city if you are looking at a map. The left bank or la rive gauche is the smaller of the two and is generally more rich and chic. Each district on the left bank touches the Seine river at some point. Remember that the districts near the major sites and the river tend to be the richer districts.

-Paris is city code #75. All Parisian zip codes start with 75 and the last 2 numbers represent which district you are in. For example, when I lived in Paris I lived in the sixth district. My zip code was 75006.

- The best advice I was ever given to surviving in Paris goes as follows: When walking down the street in Paris you must look up to admire and enjoy the beautiful scenery and architecture but you also need to look down to avoid stepping in dog doo-doo. The Parisians are fond of dogs and you will see many in Paris. France has the same rules about dog walking that the United States does in regards to picking up your dog’s waste. Unfortunately, there are always those individuals who do not think that their dogs should go to the bathroom in a designated spot or that they need to pick up their dog’s waste. These are the individuals whose dog’s fecal matter you will encounter on the (narrow) sidewalk- so be on the lookout!

These fun facts do not replace the additional research you must do on your soon to be new home but are a great start to get you ready for the journey and experience that awaits you in the City of Light.