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How to dress the part when studying abroad

(all photos courtesy of Andrea; Mireille is Andrea’s mannequin)

*** Top photo is a no- no; If you wear a large and in charge hat like this in Europe to go to the grocery store or class, you’ll just get curious looks instead of compliments***

Spending time abroad, you’ll find yourself going through a style evolution. You’ll start to incorporate some elements of the host country into your wardrobe. If you study abroad in Europe, you’ll see that scarves and hats are a popular clothing accessory for both men and women. It’s easy to see why they are. They can be functional (i.e. keep you warm when it’s cold) as well as fashionable (i.e. be perfect accessory to your outfit). But most importantly, dressing like the locals will help you to immerse into the study abroad experience by embracing the culture. Clothes are not merely a means to keep warm and protect the body; they also express the values, beliefs, and culture of a group of people (and that is not limited to nationality). Our physical presentation can tell people what kind of music we like, what religion we belong to, as well as what country we come from. A great way to immerse yourself into the culture before you leave to go study abroad is to start dressing like the people in the host country.

In this post, we’ll cover Europe as it is where I studied abroad as well as is a popular destination for many American students. Mireille le mannequin models for us some perfect examples of how to dress like a European.

How to dress like a European (slideshow)

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Andrea illustrates how not to dress like a European

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So what are you waiting for? Open the door to study abroad success by starting to dress like the locals.

  
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My Summer Abroad

(All photos courtesy of Chelsea; featured photo is Palma de Mallorca- Spain)

When the last day of my first year abroad came to an end and I walked out the door on the final day, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I was free! ….And then the weight came back a bit when I realized I forgot my phone there, haha! But in any case, the summer of 2013 was before me, and I enjoyed every second.

Firstly, let me explain the plans I had made for the following year (the school year of 2013-14). When I came to the area, it was with the conviction that I would become fluent in French, which proved much more difficult than I realized. So, for several months, I searched for ways to stay and work on my French. I ended up applying and getting accepted to a French program for foreigners at the University of Geneva, which would give me a diploma and take one and a half years to complete. I also set up a job with a new family actually located in Geneva (as opposed to my location across the border in France the first year), though I didn’t put a lot of effort into the search, which I would come to regret later.

My first three days of vacation were spent house sitting for some friends up the hill, who had a sweet senile dog, a kitchen full of food, and a pool. What more could a girl ask for during her first free days? I attempted to tan, which didn’t work, but it was amazing nonetheless. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relaxed.

Adventure #2 was to take a one week vacation with my Brazilian bestie on the island of Mallorca. The trip was full of cheap food and booze, an endless beach, free floaties to borrow, and hot European men. Seriously the best way to spend time with a girlfriend, especially one as gorgeous as her since there was not one hot guy who failed to look her way. I think Mallorca is a required destination for the young and single.

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(Mallorca beach Brazil)

The next stop was home! Oh, how it’s good to be home when you live so far away! The time spent is never enough, but the memories are always sweet. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to, but I got the boost I needed to soon return to Europe. I only had one more little trip left before returning to Geneva, and that trip would be my last breath of fresh air for awhile.

My last summer adventure was to Ireland, specifically Dublin and Galway. I went with no plan other than to spend the first two days in Dublin with a friend. I got to explore both cities fairly well and decided I definitely have to return, both for Galway again and to see the rest of Ireland. Everything was magically beautiful, excepting only the dirty streets of Dublin. I really felt like I was in a fairy tale, being well supplied with amazing scenery, kind people and good food. I would love to spend an entire summer or semester there.

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(From top to bottom: the Mini Cliffs of Moher , A “Grandma’s” teashop in Galway, Dunguaire Castle -Ireland)

Finally, it was time to return to Geneva and start my new job right away. Not only that, but I also had to study for my French entrance exam and mentally prepare for proper schooling again. The schooling has definitely progressed better than my jobs, but that’s for the next post  ;)

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(Powerscourt Gardens and Castle – Ireland)

  

Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.

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Does your home country make a difference in the study abroad experience?

(It took a long time to look Euro. photo by: unknown tourist)

Studying abroad is a unique experience in a college student’s life. Although every student’s experience is an individual one, there are common core experiences…or are there? Recently, I met up with a Brazilian colleague who showed me that your experience abroad is impacted by your personality as well as your home country. Before speaking with him, I never thought about my being American as a critical factor in the tough transition I had to the French culture and language. But after our conversation, I realized that your home country does heavily impact your ability to adapt to life abroad (as well as your personality, of course). Let’s take a quick look at how 2 different home countries created two different reactions to life abroad.

Home Country – Brazil

***Ricardo describes Brazil in the late 70s / early 80s when he was a teen as being a militaristic police state. Schooling was extremely rigorous, bordering on totalitarian regime. Going to school was not a place of encouraged learning; it was a place of dictated lessons and chores. During high school, Ricardo’s parents moved the family to Paris in search of a better life and work. His first few months were a little tough as he had never really studied French before and didn’t know what to expect of French culture. However, after a few months when his language started to improve, Ricardo enjoyed the comparatively easy going French culture. He attributes this short and fairly positive transition into the French culture to his home country. In comparison to Brazil, France was a paradise. The culture and school system were lax and easy to adapt to. For him, this was an accepting culture that allowed him to be who he was instead of suppressing him. He and his family lived in Paris for 6 years until they decided to give Brazil a 2nd chance with its newer and improved government. Overall, he describes his time in France as a positive one.

 

Home Country – USA

Growing up and going to college in America, I was used to an informal and interactive classroom environment. In France, the classroom is a rigid environment in which students do not interact, they listen. But the differences in culture and experience abroad didn’t stop there. In the United States, we have a tendency to be overtly politically correct and bend over backwards to accommodate all different types of people (illegal or legal). We are quick to defend any group of people by placing the title of bigot on any person who does not accept and glorify the differences amongst our people. This acceptance and love of different people is not shared by our French friends. They have a very single view of whom and what is French. Anyone who looks, acts, or speaks differently than them is a foreigner and an unwelcome one at that. For me, transitioning to France was so tough because it was an unwelcoming culture with a completely different work ethic and school system. What they viewed as championing for more rights, I viewed as lazy and demanding; what they viewed as being discerning, I viewed as unwelcoming. What I viewed as a good French speaking day for me, they viewed as just another foreigner who can barely speak French. Once I got accustomed to French culture, improved my language skills and changed who I was to fit in with the French, I had a great time in Paris.

Over the past few years, I have spoken with students who have also had a tough time adjusting during studying abroad. And it wasn’t just in France either. This would support Ricardo’s theory that the home culture can predispose students to a certain experience abroad.

You can’t change what country you were born in and who would want to? So what can you do to counteract the home country affects on your study abroad experience? Research, prepare and accept! Research the host culture by talking to natives via a language exchange (mylanguageexchange.com) and following the news at least 6 months in advance. Prepare your linguistic skills by practicing with a native and taking classes at a local cultural club of the host country in your town. Also prepare yourself mentally and physically (aka clothes and overall look) to fit in. Accept the host country for what it is. Go abroad with an open and non judgmental attitude. If you follow these 3 steps, you are well on your way to reversing the effects of your home country on your study abroad experience. Bonne chance!

***Name changed to protect the innocent

  
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Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Prioritizing Paris

(photo courtesy of Alexa)

After a wonderfully exhausting hike through Duke Farms this afternoon, I sat down with my mom and talked her through the next steps of the study abroad application. I think I scared her.

This “Program Application Page (Post-Decision)” is daunting, to say the least. There are material submissions: two course equivalency forms, a physician’s medical information form and a second-phase application packet. The course equivalency forms must be approved by the Journalism and Media Studies department and the French department at Rutgers, because that’s my major and minor, respectively. I need to access the SciencesPo website, find old syllabi for classes “that sound like they might be relevant,” and jot down their titles on a piece of paper. Then, the heads of each department will initial, signing off on the classes. This is the only way I’ll get credit that counts toward my Journalism major and French minor. The physician’s medical information form should be completed “within a month” of acceptance according to the study abroad website, but Lauren encouraged me to finish that within the next two weeks. Well, it’s already been a week. Thankfully, my mother is a nurse and can probably swing something soon. As for the second-phase application packet, I am still waiting for “an email from the SciencesPo International Office … containing details on the online application procedure.” I do know, though, that once I receive the email, I’ll need to physically submit the following to the Center for Global Education office at Rutgers: a copy of the identification page of my passport, a CV (that’s the resume-ish document) and one passport-sized photo. This also needs to be done two weeks after my initial acceptance.

I’ve been enrolled in a “Health and Safety Orientation” class online. The Center for Global Education mandates this for all study abroaders. The information is outlined in nine units:

1. Be informed

2. Taking care of your health

3. Personal safety

4. Travel safety

5. Drugs and alcohol

6. Contextualizing culture

7. Gender and LGBTQ identity

8. Responding to emergencies

9. Wrap up

After I teach myself each unit, I am required to take a quiz to document my competency in the outlined area. I must score 100% on each unit assessment in order to complete the class. Each unit takes about half an hour to complete. I need to finish the class before May 3.

There’s also a portion of the Program Application Page called Study Abroad Housing Information. This page requests the housing name, address, phone number and email address. But, I will be housed temporarily on the SciencesPo campus for the first ten days of classes. After that, I’ll be on my own. Apartment hunting will be an adventure in and of itself. I’m not sure what to write for that part of the application.

After taking a closer look at the page labeled Financial Planning Worksheet, my mom basically told me to rethink everything. Housing will be ridiculously expensive in France, about double what she assumed it would be. Extra expenses in general, per year, will probably add up to over $10,000 on top of my tuition. This may not be feasible. At least, not in the way I thought it was. My mom wondered aloud if studying abroad at a different school might require less work. I hadn’t seriously thought about that until now.

So, not only do I have a lot to do, I have a very short time frame to do it in, and I may be reconsidering the length of my stay. I have a lot to think about, as usual. I’m not sure if I’m writing this for anyone’s sake or sanity but my own.

This is only about a quarter of what the application entails. More next week, after I’ve hopefully gotten some of the big chunks out of the way. Prioritizing, commence.

  

Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa studies journalism, media and French at Rutgers University. She is abroad at Sciences Po for her third year of college. Check back every other Monday for a new post and connect on Twitter.