Help Twenty in Paris Become the Best Paris Study Abroad Website

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Over the past few months, I have received some great feedback from many of you regarding the Twenty in Paris website. I haven’t forgotten about your recommendations, in fact, I really want to tailor this site to your expectations and needs. Your tips have really been a great start but to really make Twenty in Paris the best Paris study abroad site, I need to find out some more information from you. This is your chance to have hands-on input to really make this website what you want it to be so that it can best help you prepare for the amazing journey that is living and studying in Paris at the age of 20. So how can your opinion be heard? Fill out the 10 question survey below. You can complete the survey anonymously but readers who sign up for the Twenty in Paris newsletter on the survey (it’s the “Subscribe” box in the right hand side) will be entered in to win a chance for a free copy of Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris + the 2 decorative Paris papers below- a great way to dress up your dorm room for FREE!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.


***Decorative Papers are 27.5″ (Width) x 19.5″ (Height) – perfect for framing, using as a desk liner, a window shade decoration or even a lamp shade pattern.



Merci bcp!


10 Tips on How to Survive the French University Experience as an American Study Abroad Student

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Being a new student is always a little jarring until you know what to expect. Here’s 10 tips to help you survive all the differences you’ll come across in your French university experience.

1) Don’t get up in the middle of and Don’t eat during class: In the USA, we’re accustomed to a very laid back university atmosphere where we can get up during class, eat, check emails and pay attention when we want. It’s bad but easy to understand why students have that carte blanche when you factor in we privately pay tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to be there- the customer wins on this one. In France, college is publicly funded so there is a different mindset about student mannerisms in the classroom. 2 main things to avoid at a French university – getting up during class for any reason and eating during class. These 2 cultural no-no’s will make you stick out as well as garner a stern talking to from your prof.

forsale(Save it for la cantine! Photo by:

2) Bring a notebook, not laptop to class: There’s 2 main reasons- 1st is that there is scientific stuff to back up the fact that your brain learns more effectively when you write rather than type. Check out this article on it here If that alone is not convincing enough why you should bring a notebook and pen rather than your laptop, how about French students don’t use laptops to take notes. I’m not sure of the reason why but I know that you’ll stand out as the American in class if you bring your MacBook or tablet to class. Andrea’s advice- leave it at home for typing your assignments.

3) Your papers or rédactions will need to be typed: Even though taking notes on a laptop in a French university class is not the norm, it doesn’t mean that the French are in the Stone Age! French college students do type their rédactions or any assignment that is going to be handed into your prof. Not brave enough to use the school’s computer lab and type on a French keyboard? Why not make your American keyboard type French accents with ease with my favorite new software Easy Type French Accents?

4) Never Address your prof as “tu”- EVER!: As Anglophones I understand that our language doesn’t have a formal “you” tense like the romantic languages and it’s hard to get used to. However, before you go to France for your study abroad, you better have taken at least 1 semester of French and know when to use “tu” and “vous”. No matter if your French prof is young, never, ever, ever address him/her with “tu”! It will be seen as disrespectful and they will get frustrated.

5) Get unused to registering for class and finding out everything you need to know online: A lot could’ve changed since I was a student in Paris but the last I heard, the French don’t use the internet as their main way of communicating information/registering for class. As a foreign exchange student, you’ll register for your classes with your Parisian program director. If you’re able to register for your classes online via the French university’s intranet, please let me know via twitter @twentyinparis- I want to hear about it!

6) French notebooks are graph and not lined paper and you should bring some school supplies from home: Maybe it’s the French obsession with geometry (just take a look at their perfectly round shrubs for proof) or maybe it’s just a better way to keep their squiggly letters more in check; either way, French notebooks are graph paper and not lined. This is really fun and French so I recommend buying 1 graph lined notebook during your time in France. On the whole, I recommend bringing a few supplies (don’t go crazy!) like a handful of pens/pencils and 1-2 five subject notebooks with you from the US as they are better priced here than in France. Also, Europe doesn’t always sell these items year round so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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7) Introduce yourself to your professor after class on the very first day: After class on the first day, be sure to go up to your professor and let them know you’re a foreign exchange student from the USA. This will give them a heads up as well as let them know to go easy on you when grading papers/ assignments. It may also exempt you from any oral exams as your French prof understands American limitations when it comes to foreign language.

8) Never take notes in English- EVER! It’s natural to want to put things in your native language to understand better but you must resist! Take notes and read all assignments in French- do not do it in English. Why? Not only does translating your notes from French spoken by the prof into your notebook in English (or taking the notes in French and translating them at home) take up a lot of time, you’ll miss out on key information. Take the notes in French to the best of your ability- you’re French will be better for it. Still having a hard time understanding? Make a French friend in class!

9) You’ll never get a 20: It’s not that I don’t believe in you, it’s that the French university system has, in a way, set up the students for failure. There’s something called the Divine code- it’s a vignette about the French grading system which goes like this: 20 is reserved for God (or King in another version), 19 for professors. No one, I repeat, no one, gets a 20- ever. It’s not you, it’s them. Aim for 10-15 and you’ll be doing great.

20A(You’ll never see this number looking back at you but that doesn’t mean you failed either. Photo by:

10) Say hi to your classmates and ask to join them for lunch – they won’t come up to you first! French culture is very reserved. A French student will not go out of their way to say hi and make friends. Do not take this personally- it’s just a cultural difference. Guest blogger Eleanor Harte wrote a great article on how Americans are like peaches and the French like coconuts. Essentially what this means is that Americans are friendly on the surface but we’re not great at deep relationships whereas the French are standoffish on 1st contact but once you open them up, they’re really friendly and you’ll have a good friend.



Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Fairy Tale for Now

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I’ve been writing every day, hand-writing, so typing now feels really strange.

On my first day in Paris, I couldn’t stop saying “Oh my god” and “Nothing seems real” and “That’s so beautiful, wow”. On my ninth day in Paris, I’m still saying all that.

Do you know what it’s like to consume a city/culture/language through classes/photographs/videos and then, suddenly, you’re face-to-face with it, touching it, eating, living, and breathing it? It’s unreal. I wake up every morning and say to whoever will listen: We live here! Look at this! Look at that!

Day one, Thursday. I saw France for the first time from my window-seat on the airplane. It looks like some perfectly manicured dream-world from above, and it looks pretty similar, I’d find out, from the ground. Once (Tess and I) got to our hostel and met up with Daria, we dragged our suitcases up six flights of stairs. So, naturally, I ordered wine immediately. Dr. Healey arrived and introduced us to two Rutgers-turned-Sciences Po (graduate) students. Casually, we walked through the Louvre and across the Seine (via the stupid love-locks bridge), then enjoyed a traditional French dinner together. I tried moules for the first time, and had a bite of bœuf tartare. That’s raw meat, folks. It could have used a bit more spicy, but I still haven’t eaten anything here that wasn’t absolutely fantastic. (Excluding the shitty hostel breakfast.)

alexa111(France from the air. Photo by Alexa Wybraniec)

Day two, Friday. The first day of Sciences Po’s international welcome program was a lesson in fashion. I’m glad I brought a lot of plain stuff to wear, but damn, I have a sense of style to develop. The president delivered a speech and then Tiphaine, my group leader, divided up the room of hundreds of people. I played an ice-breaking game that involved running from shoe to shoe and sharing facts about ourselves, discovering I was in a room with human beings from all over the world (Norway, Brazil, England, Japan, Canada, China, and even Texas), understanding how completely rocked my life was about to become. It’s interesting though, how I’ve gotten to know these people over the course of the week, and how we’re all so diverse (in religion and language, for example) but we all basically want the same thing: to experience the world. After, back at the hostel, I met a bunch of boys from New Caledonia. I had no idea that a French-speaking island off of the coast of Australia existed, but I do now.

Day three, Saturday. Dr. Healey took us all out for coffee, which is always espresso and always expensive. Then she introduced us to Bastille’s outdoor market. It reminded me a lot of Morocco, and not only because a lot of African vendors work there. The smells and sounds wafted a little bit of the medina back to my nose. These markets are in most every arrondissement, and they’re the most efficient and inexpensive way to shop. After, Tess and I meandered over to Place de la République in our jet-lagged haze. We watched a demonstration come and go, shouting about something we couldn’t understand. Curse my horrific French. I think we sat there for nearly two hours before some people from other Sciences Po groups showed up. Our group leaders took us on a stroll down the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement, an area full of “graff” and locals, which was a nice change from the tourist-y vibes I’d been getting from the 1st arrondissement. The tour ended in a bar around sundown. Everyone had a beer, because that’s totally acceptable here. After, Daria and I decided that we wanted to go out. Her group leader suggested Café Oz, an Australian night-club not far from our hostel near the Louvre. It was a great suggestion, to say the absolute least. (My first Vélib’ experience may or may not have involved riding in the basket.)

Day four, Sunday. I met Audrey, another Rutgers-Sciences Po exchange student, in the hostel. I filled her in on what she’d missed from Friday’s welcome program. Then, I dragged my suitcases back down those glorious six flights of stairs, called a taxi, and emailed my host family to tell them I’d be arriving soon. The ride there was almost twenty minutes, so you get the idea of just how far northeast the 19th arrondissement is. That said, it’s beautiful. It feels much more like an authentic version of Paris, a little bit more residential and relaxed. Probably nobody will ever want to visit me up here, but that’s just fine by me. My host family is fantastic. I feel like I’ve found a surrogate grandmother in Dr. Healey and, now, a surrogate family in the Ferréols. They’re pleasant and patient with my child-like French capabilities, for which I’m forever grateful. My host mom made me a gâteau (!) with dried apricots; I can tell you right now that nobody else got a cake when they moved into their apartment. While I unpacked she made dinner, and it was wonderful and adorable and everything I’d ever wanted. I feel like I’ve been let in on the biggest secret. What have I always wondered more about than anything else? How other people live. And here I am, living like these other people I’ve always wanted to know. After a quick run through the Buttes-Chaumont (which is even more like a fairy-tale than I imagined), I fell asleep with the windows open.

alexa112(Paris. Photo by Alexa Wybraniec)

Day five, Monday. This morning was our first Sciences Po methodology lecture, where we learned how to write dissertations and present exposés according to strict parameters. Grades range from zero to 20, and I apparently shouldn’t freak out if I’m consistently getting 15s or even 10s. But I probably will freak out a little bit. I write in a notebook with a grid instead of lines. I still haven’t been lost in the metro. I discovered the cafeteria, where I can get a coffee for less than one euro. Things make me happy and nervous and excited! Each group has a small methodology class, and ours is great. Everyone is expected to give a 10-minute exposé, Sciences Po-style, this week. My topic is feminism in the 21st century (perfect). After, I metro’d my way back home to grab my raincoat, then back again to Sciences Po for a wine and cheese event. I talked to a girl from Italy and another girl from Illinois and I felt like royalty because my school was serving me alcohol in a plastic cup. I left to find my friend Alli, who I’d met on Friday at lunch, so that we could check out an apartment. The landlord ended up giving her the wrong key-pad number, though, so we ended up at the bar across from school. We tried cosmos and cognac for the first time (yum and yuck, respectively). I think we saw a rat scurry across the floor and I’m positive that we hung out with lesbians. Their 67-year-old male friend started stripping and that’s when I put down the wine and caught the very last metro car home.

Day six, Tuesday. My bedroom doesn’t have curtains. My host mom offered them, but I declined. Waking up with the sun is the nicest thing. I left a note asking if they’d teach me how and where to go shopping in the neighborhood before leaving, before they were awake. Life starts later in Paris. Yes it’s a city, and yes, everyone is sort of rushing around, but there’s a calmness underneath it all. The metro is all but empty before 8 a.m. Every time I see that Guimard-style metro sign, I smile. After another methodology lecture, I met Dr. Healey for a coffee with Daria and Audrey. We talked history and feminism, two very cool and important things. Then, my group had library orientation, and then I ran to Orange to get a SIM card for my phone, and then I ran back just in time for our small class. We discussed topics ranging from racism to sex-workers. I’m constantly surprised by how smart everyone is. It seems like they all know at least a little bit about any given topic. I really can’t wait for school to start, but what else is new? After, I went for a run in the rain through the Jardin du Luxembourg, and yes, it did feel like a movie. Nothing seems real. Fogged with lust for this city, trees like lamp-posts, cracking bones in crisp, cool air, pressure rising, clouds falling. I ate escargot and drank red wine with a French friend. My new world is kaleidoscopic.

Day seven, Wednesday. I ate a croissant and a brioche on a balcony that overlooks the 5th arrondissement. I felt like royalty, again. The slow morning gave way to another intelligent methodology class gave way to shopping with my host family! We went to the Franprix in Belleville, just a five-minute walk away from the apartment complex. We share groceries and food in the house, but it was nice to buy cereal and avocados. Food is great here, but I can’t eat duck every night. Also really interesting was the reusable shopping bag (on wheels) that everyone uses. The French are much more environmentally conscious than Americans. Unfortunately, my U.S. credit card wasn’t accepted there. After, we had dinner together again. I flush like crazy and stop speaking mid-sentence when I realize how stupid I sound, but I get a little bit more confident every day. I know it’s teaching me how to be wrong. They’re my biggest challenge and my best resource. I’ve been introduced to home-made pizza on little cracker-like things, rice pudding, and the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted. And then my host mom helped me do my laundry (which we hang up to dry) in a French washing machine! Have I mentioned that the showerhead is detachable? French life is adorable, may I keep it? I stayed in, connected to wi-fi, and wrote my first exposé. I affixed an awkward passport photo to my Navigo pass (that’s for the metro) and promptly passed out, eating cashews and feeling nuts.


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.