What Not to do in Your Paris Study Abroad: Advice by French People for Foreign Students

It’s always best to get cultural insights from natives. How often do I say that here, honestly?! But, just in case you thought I was being silly I found this great YouTube video with 2 charming, college-aged French girls who give you the tips and advice you need about French culture. The video starts out in English but quickly goes into French for the remainder of the video. There are English subtitles. I must admit that I had trouble understanding these women, especially the one on the left. They spoke fast and would interrupt each other while speaking to elaborate more on the other one’s comments so it was hard to catch what they were saying. The main girl in the video, Emy, has blue hair which I was super shocked about as the punk look with crazy colored hair and skulls aren’t very French. Emy where were you when I was in Paris?! Now that my rant is over. Enjoy this super informative video on French culture as seen through the eyes of French people.



The Politics of Talking Politics in French

 (This is where French laws are made. Photo by: www.axellelemaire.eu)

It’s election season here in the USA which means that the airwaves are buzzing with political talk. No matter what news outlet you tune into, you’ll hear disparaging remarks about the opposing party and its views. I came across an interesting article yesterday in The New York Times by David Brooks titled Why Partyism is Wrong. It’s an intriguing article that sheds some great cultural insight on how Americans view and talk politics. Most Americans know that unless your friends have the same political beliefs as you, it’s best to not discuss them to avoid major arguments. In the USA, I have my 3 no-no subjects that I refuse to talk about with friends, co-workers and many members of my family. Those hot button topics to be avoided at all costs are politics, race and religion. In the USA loved ones can quickly turn against each other just for having a different view point. In my family alone, politics had to be a banned at family get togethers because things would get so vulgar and argumentative.

 Congress+Debates+Emergency+Supplemental+Spending+8xUVkUeP7Jgl(A typical conversation in American congress. Photo  by: www.zimbio.com)

Coming from this highly polar, politicized culture, I was shocked the first time I was around French people discussing politics- the topic the French love to discuss most. There was no yelling, no cursing, no name calling, no fist pounding on the table. It was just people expressing their different beliefs. No one left the conversation in ill spirits and having less respect for the other person. Now, this doesn’t mean that French disagreements can’t get heated. If your family was one of the rare ones that could discuss politics in a calm manner than you may be shocked by some French mannerisms when discussing politics. Check out this video by Comme Une Française on the ins and outs of French disagreements. Anyhoo, compared to Americans, the French know how to have a healthy discussion on politics that is refreshing and friendlier.


(This is more like it- talking politics French style. www.shutterstock.com)

Since you’ve been following French news at least 6 months prior to going abroad, you’ll be able to jump into these political debates. The neat thing is in France, college aged students also get in the spirit of political debates. It’s not just a parent or grandparent thing. This is a great opportunity to partake in a favorite French pastime- talking politics- while improving your French and learning more about the culture.



Going Home for the Holidays When You’re Studying Abroad in Paris

(photo by: notadamandsteve.com)

Late October means the semester’s halfway over and the start of the holiday season. For study abroad students this is a bitter sweet time with a big decision that needs to be made: Do I go home for the holidays or stay abroad?

At this point in the study abroad experience, you’re just getting into the groove of things. You’re familiar with the host city; more comfortable taking the metro; know how to find your classes at the host university; and are picking up more cultural and linguistic nuances. But it’s also a time when you’re longing for familiarity and loved ones. The decision to go home for the holidays is a tough one that is really going to depend upon the student’s personality, the experience they’re having and the length of the program. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of going home for the holidays when you’re studying abroad.

 family-celebrating-christmas-with-pets(Who doesn’t want to see their loved ones for the holidays?www.sheknows.com)

Going home when your study abroad is 1 semester

Pros: After all the newness that you’ve adapted to over the past month, it’s great to see a familiar face. Reconnecting with loved ones is a great way to curb homesickness. It’s also a great way to celebrate American holidays- you won’t be celebrating them in France so this is your only chance.

Cons: As France doesn’t have the same holidays as the USA, your college breaks will be different. No Thanksgiving means no November break to go home and visit family. If you go home in December in time for Christmas, you’ll miss experiencing the host country’s winter holidays which means you’ll be missing out on some great memories.

 Thanksgiving-PostKids-MotherFunny-Cbias-Shop(This is the only way you’ll get Pumpkin Pie abroad. theguavaliciouslife.com)

Going home when your study abroad is 2 semesters or more

Pros: Reconnecting with your native culture and loved ones is a great way to curb homesickness and rejuvenate your spirits. It’s also a great way to celebrate American holidays- you won’t be celebrating them in France so this is your only chance.

Cons: If you’re having a difficult time abroad or find that your homesickness is stronger than you thought it would be, it can be tough to return to the host country after going home for the holidays. I know that had I returned home for Christmas after my 1st semester in Paris, I wouldn’t have wanted to come back. Staying in Paris and having my dad come see me was a great way to discover how the French celebrate Christmas and New Years. My staying in the host country for the holidays was a way to bring me closer to France. I recommend every student who’s studying abroad for 2 semesters or more to evaluate your experience. If you’re having an overall positive time abroad -picking up the language, learning the ins and outs of the culture, thinking of the host city as your home- than I think you’re ok to come back home for the holidays. If you’re having a bit of a tougher time, ask a loved one(s) to come to you. If they’re not able to visit you, try taking a trip out of the host city or country to give you a break. If a trip isn’t do-able, try getting an invite to a holiday event from a fellow program go-er, classmate, your host family or even program director.


(One way to celebrate the holidays- travel! www.hngn.com)

As the semester starts winding down you’ll have to think about rédactions and finals but you also need to think about your holiday plans. Don’t think about what your family wants- think about the decision that is best for you based upon your current experience and study abroad length. It’s never too early to make holiday plans so start today!

Mixed race college student

Are you the right type of person for studying abroad in Paris?

 (photo by: soucyagency.com)

One of my favorite internet pastimes is reading study abroad blogs. Although the posts are often well written, I’m also often disappointed. What’s uncertain to me is if I’m disappointed in other students’ happy and picture perfect (literally) study abroads or if I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to have that when I was in Paris. A particular post on tumblr was especially emotionally rousing for me yesterday. It started out with a student admitting that she finds herself crying ever since she returned from her study abroad a few months ago. Intrigued, I read on. This student then explains that she is having great difficulty re-adapting to her American life and loved ones because she can’t stop thinking about her host country. After that post, I read at least 20 other similar posts for varying countries and stay lengths. The consensus among the study abroad blogs on tumblr is that students were happy in their study abroad; so happy that they were depressed to come home!
leave(photo by: www.movoto.com)

I then started thinking (always a dangerous thing) that maybe it is just me. Maybe it is just Andrea who had a really bad first semester abroad; whose dreams weren’t able to be fulfilled like these other students’; who had an overall negative experience with my host family; who had trouble assimilating and being accepted into French culture; who didn’t understand a word that was being said in my French university classroom; whose French level was so below par she couldn’t adequately express herself; who had to re-learn everything; who had to change for this experience; who wished to be with the person I loved instead of spending 10 months at 6,000 miles away; who wished a different life in Paris than what I was living; who longed to make a friend but didn’t know how. Reading these happy go-getter blogs made me feel alone exactly how I felt when I was in Paris. I fail to understand why my dreams couldn’t come true but other students’ have. Maybe I wasn’t dreaming the right dreams or maybe I wasn’t the right type of person for studying abroad in Paris.

i am not ideal

(photo by: www.demotivation.us)

I recognize that I’m not the majority of study abroad students but I may be just like you- the introvert type who wants to challenge his/herself and experience life but who is also scared to do just that. For us, studying abroad is not just an opportunity; it is the Olympic games of mental and emotional strength, flexibility, adaptability. We may not be the ideal candidates for studying abroad but we will benefit most and take away more from this experience than anyone else. Why? Because we have to push ourselves more; have to challenge ourselves more; have to battle with ourselves everyday to immerse into this experience. We aren’t going to be the type of student who easily adapts into the host culture or who will embrace Paris so much that we’ll forget our roots. In that sense we are not ideal for studying abroad. You will not have the picture perfect study abroad experience. But just because we aren’t the ideal type of person to study abroad doesn’t mean that we’re not the right type of person. So what makes the right type of person? Any student who will gain career and life skills from this experience. As an introvert you will benefit from this experience personally far long after you’ve studied abroad. A study abroad for us is not just a time to live abroad; it’s a time to sow the seeds for our future selves. So go ahead and sign up for that Paris study abroad- you are the right type of person!