(photo via blog.frenchtouch-travel.com: This is the Buttes-Chaumont, a park right down the street from my future-temporary-home.)
Remember that time I was homeless in France? Yeah, me too. That was scary. So before that became an Actual Problem, I devoted two weeks to solving it. I love the internet.
Here’s what I did:
1. Messaged/emailed/texted anyone French. (This didn’t work out so well because I only know two French people personally.) I started conversations with, “Do you know anyone in Paris?” My roommate, who is from Lyon, actually has a friend from the city. But, it’s sort of like trying to find a place in Manhattan. It’s hard no matter where you’re from.
2. Talked about Paris 24/7. I was so surprised when not just one, but TWO of my professors had connections in France. Unfortunately, neither of them panned out. But the point is, there’s no harm in asking. My friends were great resources, too. Because studying abroad has become the norm and Europe is the starter kit, people would say, “Oh, my sister studied in Italy and stayed with a host family!” or “My friend just got back from MICEFA in Paris, I’ll text her right now!” or “I took a trip to France while I was studying in Germany!” etc. Everyone’s always eager to help out, share stories, and spread knowledge. The study abroad community is oddly tight-knit for being so spread out.
3. Posted on Reddit. The front page of the internet, right? I’m not so sure, but I do know that Reddit has great potential for intelligent conversation and niche topics. When the two collide, it can be a beautiful thing. My post in /r/Paris attracted young French people, which was exactly what I wanted. It was discouraging to hear that my budget (400eu/mois)was laughable to some, but I persisted. I knew that I had to sacrifice space for my coveted city. One fellow foreigner told me that she had good luck with Science Po’s logements website, so I spent an entire day typing out extremely polite emails to French tenants. About half of them replied. I found this amazing, because I felt so grown-up and responsible. (Although I learned that I really need to work on my French if I want to be conversational.) One of the apartments actually had a view of the Eiffel Tower…
4. Posted on Facebook. Well, I just posted a link to my “PSA: I’m homeless!” journal entry that I wrote a few weeks ago for Twenty in Paris. I’m not sure that this helped at all. Again, no harm in trying.
5. Posted on Tumblr. This was probably the least helpful thing.
6. Took advantage of secret Facebook groups. Somehow, I managed to weasel my way into not just one, but TWO private groups for housing in Paris. (One group is specifically designed to help out Sciences Po exchange students.) I realized that scrolling down my newsfeed wasn’t going to cut it. Everyone else was commenting before me. How dare they, I thought. I resigned myself to spending at least one hour per day refreshing the page. That way, I’d be first. The prices were always too high, though, and I never got far in negotiating.
7. Took advantage of my program director, Dr. Healey. This is how I ended up finding a homestay option in the 19th arrondissement for 300eu/mois. She sent out an email to all of the Rutgers students that will be studying at Sciences Po in the fall. In the email, she outlined the amazing opportunity, explaining that two students lived there this past semester. The family is interested in housing two new students who would like to participate in French family life while being respectful and quiet tenants. They also have a 20-year-old son.
I can’t stress enough how my speed has earned me brownie points with the French. Polite, properly formatted emails delivered in a timely manner have made a difference, I think. (Also, checking my school email account. That’s big. I honestly don’t think many people do it, which is crazy to me, because how are you supposed to know anything?? You have that account for a reason, people.)
Anyway, I hope I get some photos soon. There’s a park nearby, which is cool. I’m ridiculously excited. I’m speed-reading the French guidebooks I got for Christmas. Everything’s moving really quickly.