5 Tips for Introverts Studying Abroad in Paris

(photo by:

1-      Don’t concentrate on the bigness of Paris or studying abroad. Before coming to Paris, I lived in Philadelphia for 2 years. I was accustomed to city life but was not used to being in a place that I didn’t know where anything was or anyone. I was extremely overwhelmed my first week in Paris and spent most of it indoors. What I should’ve done and what I recommend you to do is walk. Don’t care where to or how long. Just walk. When introverts are feeling overpowered in a new environment, it’s best to get your mind off all the newness. Walking is a great way to let your mind wind down thanks to the rapidly changing streets/sights, having to pay attention to cars and crossing the street, and having all the blood pumping through your body. The final location is not important; in fact, it’s probably best if you don’t have one. It will allow the city to guide you to discover some place new which will certainly take your mind off being overwhelmed and help you to make a new connection to the host city.


(le Louvre is just an example of how big Paris can be- photo by Andrea)

2-      Give yourself credit. If you’re like me, you’re your own worst critic. Even when I do something great, I don’t give myself props because I expect more of myself. This is good and bad. It’s good because it means that you are constantly pushing yourself to be a better you. It’s bad because you can get frustrated with thinking you never do anything good which is not true. You don’t have to be cocky but don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back for moving 6,000 miles away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known to a place where the culture and language are completely different. Just to be able to go through the registration process and get your French visa shows you have what it takes to make it through this experience.


(photo by

3-      Put up notes of encouragement in your room. I went through a lot of emotional changes after college. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if I didn’t have reminder notes that the world is not going to end because I am in emotional turmoil. My post-college apartment bedroom had notes on the wall right next to my bed where I would see them everyday telling me “leave yesterday in the past”, “holding onto anger is only hurting you” and my personal favorite “only a fool does the same thing twice and expects different results.” Had I thought of this during my time in Paris, my notes would’ve read “I have to change for this experience, not the French”, “Discover 1 new thing I like about Paris every day- no exception!” , “Vent to Mme (the program director) about the difficult time I’m having adapting to French culture- don’t keep it in!”, and “10 months goes fast- take every new opportunity no matter what Tatie will think”. Actually, I would’ve had many more notes than that but those ones are a good start. They don’t have to be anything fancy; a Post-It® note will do just fine. The key is that it needs to be in a place where you see it every day in your room. Don’t put it in your phone- it should be something physical that you write to better drive home the point. These are just some examples but you know you best- put whatever you need on the note to motivate you. If that doesn’t work, just message me and I’ll gladly help :)


(photo by:

4-      Go against your gut, introvert feeling. As introverts, we sometimes hold ourselves back in a new situation because it’s unfamiliar, we’re uncomfortable and we may start to feel overwhelmed. This is exactly the time to do something new! The only way we can grow as individuals is to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. You know what I’m talking about- like when you see that French student in class who recently cut her hair and you really like it, go up to her and say “Quelle belle coupe!” Maybe this will spark a conversation or at least a recommendation for a coiffeuse (hair stylist). Don’t just notice it privately and run out of class to go back home as usual. Or if you’re talking to someone and they mention something they do with friends, ask if you can come along. It may not be an out and out invite but sometimes inviting yourself is the way to go. This is probably one of the hardest things for introverts to do- to go against our gut, introvert feeling to keep things they way they are. It is tough. But you must push. Every time you have a thought like “I wonder where she got her hair cut” is an excellent opportunity to challenge your comfort zone. You can only gain from these pushes so go for it!

5-      It’s ok to revel in your introvertedness. These tips aren’t meant to change your introvertedness; rather, we’re challenging it. After studying abroad in Paris and grabbing every new opportunity, you’ll still be an introvert who prefers smaller company or alone time rather than going out in large crowds. But don’t challenge yourself out. If you’re feeling extra introverted one day, take that day to be alone and do a solo activity. It’s your mind’s way of saying it needs a break to process all the new things you’ve been doing. This is perfectly natural and a great way to give yourself credit for the challenges you’ve taken on and reflect on what you’ve learned or how you’ve grown from them. So go ahead, relax introvert and stay in- you deserve it!

introvertedness(photo by:


Are you an introvert who’s interested in studying abroad but previous talks with your folks haven’t gone so well? Find out how to approach this topic for a guaranteed successful conversation and gain your parents’ support for this experience with new mini guide book An Introvert’s Guide to Talking Study Abroad With Their Parents- out now!


Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Moving, Musing

(all photos by Alexa)

I do a lot of staring into space. I’m supposed to be reading the Bible right now, but that’s not my thing. My mind keeps skipping forward: to my mom and grandma’s visit in a few weeks, to a trip to Norway at the end of October, to winter break in Poland. C’est la vie.

I ran a six-kilometer race, my first one in France, through the Jardin du Luxembourg yesterday morning. Somehow, I managed to steal ahead of a bunch of runners and ended up in second place for my age category. (At least, I’m pretty sure. The French aren’t rushing to get the results on the website, or to do most anything, for that matter.) Regardless, it was a great time. Nervous starting-line jitters gave way to little conversations, en français, and the finish was an all-out sprint to the tune of “Allez, allez!”. I can’t wait until the Semi-Marathon in March, because I’m training with a great team. In fact, two of our strongest runners placed first and second overall. I’m not used to running with company, and I’m always surprised that other people my age run by choice. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have little picnics after our runs, sometimes, and I try to speak French but usually fail miserably. Everyone’s nice about it, though!


Since Sciences Po is such an international school (apparently half of the student body is made up of exchange students), I get to speak English way too often. Still, it’s cool to compare and contrast cultures: today, my fellow runners and I debated over what exactly “saucisson” is, whether the wine is better in France or in Italy, and what to call a sweater (my Scottish friend insists on “jumper”). I sipped my German beer and stretched in the sun. My medal blinded me when I looked down, so I looked up in favor of my favorite activity: people-watching. On a Sunday afternoon, every inch of the grass is covered in picnickers. Some families boast spreads of tagines, warm bread, cooked pork, fresh fromage, wine, wine, wine — you get the idea. Five-year-olds kicked around a soccer (ahem, foot) ball with striking agility. The athletically-inclined take advantage of the trails, while others just sit around and chain-smoke. Clearly, this is the way to spend a weekend.


My favorite things so far are the little ones. Like Mexi&Co., a small kitchen-slash-restaurant specializing in tex-mex cuisine at an affordable price. My burrito de pollo doused in hot sauce (finally) was the most satisfying meal I’ve had here so far. And the first burrito I’ve eaten with a fourchette and couteau! I may be in the food capital of the world, but a girl’s gotta eat. The falafel I get from the man in the marché en plein air dans mon quartier is a close second. Vegetarian Indian food wasn’t a bad choice this weekend, either. After a venture with curry and naan, we stumbled upon an Azerbaijan girl singing in her native tongue in a small square. We passed around a bottle of wine until well after the girl had stopped singing — until a policeman asked my friend for a light, then asked us to leave.


The big things are cool, too. Last weekend, my friends and I decided to take advantage of the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine. Annual since 1991 in more than 50 countries in Europe, it’s essentially one weekend during which government buildings, ones that are normally closed, are open to the public. You can culture yourself in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Serbia, Ukraine, and way more. But, the event originated in France in 1984. It’s a big deal in Paris, and a big day in general. It would be completely impossible to see all of the sites. There are probably hundreds of things to choose from. My friends and I leisurely decided to visit the coveted Palais de l’Élysée around 3 p.m. last Sunday, which was silly considering most people queue up before 8 a.m. It was closed. Not surprised. We moved on to the less-loved but still just as awesome Ministère des Affaires étrangères. I’m not sure I learned anything practical, but just as I was wondering if I was strong enough to lift the gold-encrusted bathtub, the security guards told me not to touch anything. Buzzkills.


School is school. I feel busy until I’m not busy anymore. The days feel longer and shorter.

My best friend just called me and it’s like I can smell home just hearing a familiar voice.

C’est la vie.



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.


Have Fun and Improve Your French Outside of the Classroom for Free!

(photo by:

Class is back in session and no American student wants to spend time working on boring French grammar exercises or those silly lessons that you’re never going to use when you go to France. Why not learn French by doing something that you’re already doing and that interests you? By the way, I’m not exempting you from doing your French class homework ! What I’m talking about is picking up more French which in turn betters your French, not through more work, but by hobbies you’re already doing. Let’s take a look a few ways to learn French in fun (and useful !) ways:

1- Sports: Are you a sports fanatic? Textbook French lessons don’t cover sports much and this is one topic that is extremely popular in France, especially when it’s game season. Football (remember that means soccer in French- it’s also commonly just called le foot; Football américain is the one with the pigskin and Superbowl), tennis, basket (this is basketball), Rugby, F1 motor racing, and swimming just to name a few. TV5Monde also covers US Sports! You can call up your American cable company to ask for rates on an international package- it’s usually less than $20 more a month or you can go watch it online. TV5Monde’s sport website also features articles on the games in French. Reading these sport articles or watching the narrated French games on TV5 monde will teach you French sports jargon and because it’s something you’re already interested in. Great way to keep current- download the TV5Monde app to your phone for all day access.

soccer(photo by:

2- Movies/ TV shows: Watching a movie is always a fun way (although not always the most reliable) to learn but did you know that it’s an accurate and engaging way to learn a foreign language? I’m not talking about watching French movies –I’m talking about watching the American shows and movies you’re already interested in but just dubbing them in French (this is easiest with DVDs than online streaming). Watching a French film would be most ideal but let’s be honest- you just have to be in the mood to watch it. I like to watch shows/movies dubbed in French that I’ve seen many times before. With doing it this way, the plot is not new and it’s easier for your brain to learn what they’re saying in French because you already the English version. I’m a big Trekkie so my go to American show with French dubbing is Star Trek: The Original Series. I know it real well and it covers a multitude of subjects like war, equality, love, geology, science and history. I actually watch it so much in French that it’s weird for me to watch it in English. Plus, I never would’ve picked up that téléporte-moi was French for “beam me up” had I not been already familiar with the show.

captain_kirk(photo by:

3-Read in French: And I don’t mean something from your French textbook! Reading a book for pleasure in French is another great way to be excited to learn and read French. It’s not boring and you’ll really increase your French skills through reading comprehension. But it’s not going to be a trip down easy street- this is quite difficult. Try circling or highlighting words you don’t know and look up them after you finish the chapter but use context clues as much as possible. I’m reading the Eragon series in French. I read the 1st one in English but the read the 2nd and now working on the 3rd in French. The first half of the 2nd book was really difficult for me as I wasn’t used to reading an actual book in a foreign language. I had to look up many words to grasp the story but then stopped as I started to get the hang of things and understand more. Going by context clues isn’t fool proof- there are many minute, descriptive details that I missed. But the good news is that I understand 95% of what I was reading and being in the groove of reading French from the 2nd book has made reading the 3rd book a breeze… now if I can only stay up long enough to read more than 2 sentences before passing out.



Is Eminem a Student of French Existentialism?

(photo by:

My 7am morning commute music is Eminem. As I drive to work in my compact, Japanese car through upper class sections of Dallas, slowing down for school zones and joggers, I listen to the King of Hip Hop spit about the living hell of Detroit ghettos and a bad relationship on an empty stomach to help me get ready to take on the monotonous day ahead of me. I always find it interesting that my stomach can’t handle food first thing in the morning but songs about the tough life with a heavy theme of misogyny go down quite smooth. A common theme of Eminem’s music is the ability to change your path if you want to bad enough. As the poster child of the rags to riches story, Eminem certainly knows a thing or two about commanding your own personal destiny. It also happens to be the same exact sentiment behind the philosophical branch of existentialism. The philosophy isn’t new but the movement in mid twentieth century France brought it back into the limelight as well as a few new interpretations by philosophers of the time. Listening to Em, I find myself wondering if he doesn’t have more in common with Jean-Paul Sartre, the prince of French existentialism, than he does with Lil’ Wayne his duet partner whose voice blares through my speakers. Maybe it’s the lack of food in my system or the result of listening to No Love at a higher decibel than normal. All I know is that I find some uncanny parallels between the Detroit rapper and the existentialism philosophy that makes me wonder: is Eminem a student of French Existentialism? Let’s take a deeper look!

What is Existentialism? It’s a branch of philosophy that believes each person is an individual who controls their own life with actions of their own free will. According to, existentialism is about finding the meaning of life through your personal choices and responsibility without the pressure and influence of laws, ethics, rules or traditions. It’s often closely thought of as an atheist view point of the world thanks to one of its most famous champions, Jean-Paul Sartre, who took existentialism into the realm of atheism. This is not 100% accurate but with its focal point on individuality outside of religious, cultural or societal pressures, it’s easy to see why Sartre’s Godless interpretation sticks.

Who is Eminem? If you were 10 or older in 2000, I shouldn’t have to explain the music and cultural phenomenon that is Eminem but just in case you need a refresher… Born Marshall Mathers, Eminem started in humble beginnings with a single mother who constantly moved him around until finally settling in Detroit. He was a quiet kid who enjoyed spending time alone writing and playing (perhaps the early signs of an introvert- I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s a part of the club ) who found out that school was not his forté – he failed the 9th grade three times before dropping out. Fast forward a few years, he’s working minimum wage, dead end jobs trying to support his baby daughter. The stress of a bad relationship, being a young, unwed father and having no future are a very grim reality. Marshall realizes that the only way his life is going to change is if he makes it happen. Combining his love of rap with his uncanny ability to write out of the ordinary rhymes took him out of 8 mile and into the CD players of every 10-30 year old in America.

What do Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre and Eminem have in common? They share a common belief that you can change your path in life; that it’s not predetermined by destiny or that your actions are pre-decided for you from religion, society or your culture. This is evident in multiple songs on each Eminem album but most notably in Lose Yourself. He could’ve stayed another Detroit welfare recipient barely making it but wasn’t satisfied with the lot life dealt him. In true existentialism style, Marshall Mathers changed the pre-established path set out for him by his mother, city and society by becoming the biggest selling artist of the early 2000s. His story is often portrayed as just rags to riches. Although it certainly is a rags to riches story, Eminem’s journey and determination to change this fate clearly show that he was influenced by a different way of thinking- my argument is that of existentialism. But Em doesn’t just share the core belief of existentialism philosophy; he also had an affinity for the earthly pleasures and experiences with no regards to morals or fidelity aka the rock star life just like Sartre.

images(Not exactly a face you’d think the girls love…but they did, many of them. Photo by:

Is Eminem a student of French Existentialism? He might not know of Jean Paul Sartre or this branch of philosophy or even how to say “thank you” in French but it seems that Em had more than just luck and talent on his side; he also believed that he was the commander of his destiny, not his poverty, and that kind of thinking is right in line with the teachings and theories of existentialism. So I say that yes, Eminem is a student of French existentialism- are you?


Reference for this article: