11 Halloweeny Things to Do When You’re Studying Abroad in Paris

For many Americans, October is a time to fill our homes with ghoulishly, boo-tiful decorations, eat seasonal treats like pumpkin pie, and enjoy the refreshing crispness of autumn weather with hay rides, corn mazes and pumpkin patch picking to celebrate Halloween not just on 10/31 but all month long. However, the French do not celebrate Halloween. There was an attempt to bring it to France in the past 10-15 years but it just didn’t take off. You have to understand that knocking on strangers’ doors and asking them to give you free stuff just isn’t French- it breaks just about every rule in their formal culture. But don’t be down! Just because the French don’t celebrate it doesn’t mean that Paris isn’t a great city for Halloweeners. Let’s take a look at some of the creepy, festive things you can find in Paris to celebrate Halloween.

1- The Catacombs: Nothing says ghoulish or Halloween like real live human skulls and bones. The catacombs is a large tunnel system underneath the streets of Paris that is composed of human bones. The catacombs was la Conseil d’état’s solution to the infection/public health problems in les Halles area caused by 1000 years of rotting corpses in the cimetière des Innocents in the late 18th century. The idea to dig up all the bones in the Innocents cemetery and move them was not an easy decision but a necessary one. Ever since its completion in 1788, it has been a site of fascination and curiosities for Parisians and other visitors. Address: 1 place Denfert-Rochereau; Métro: Denfert-Rochereau

catacombs(image by freshpatrol.com)

2- Cemeteries: It’s true that the French can make anything beautiful and some of Paris’ most beautiful gardens/parks are the final resting places of famous names. These Parisian cemeteries showcase impressive craftsmanship with intricately detailed grave stones. A stroll through any Parisian cemetery is a perfect way to celebrate the macabre-ness of Halloween as well as enjoy the beauty of mortality. Check out these cimetières in Paris: Auteuil, Batingnolles, Belleville, Bercy, Charonne, Gentilly, Grenelle, La Villette, Montmartre, Montparnasse, Montrouge, Panthéon, Passy, Père-LaChaise, Picpus, Saint-Denis, Sainte- Mande, Saint-Vincent, Vaugirard. Visit this site for complete maps and histories of Paris Cemeteries http://www.pariscemeteries.com/

3-  Les égouts de Paris: When you think of Halloween fun, a tour of a city sewer system may not come to mind but the Parisian sewer tour fits the bill as a dark, dingy, creepy place. You don’t need to have people dressed up as goblins to scare you here! Just a peek down the never-ending, vast, pitch black tunnels which are thankfully roped off show you that there is more to this sewer system than sanitation. The extension of the sewers into the system it is today started in 1854. But it got its popularity with the Parisians at the World Fair in 1867 which led to tours of the system starting in 1892. One of my favorite tidbits about the Paris sewers is that many people would hide in them during WWII because the German soldiers didn’t want to go in them. After a tour at les égouts, it’s easy to understand why the Germans were so afraid of them and what makes it a great stop on your Paris scare fest tour. Address: Place de la résistance, in front of 93 quai d’Orsay; Métro: pont d’Alma

Musee_des_Egouts_de_Paris_FRA_003(image by commons.wikimedia.org)

4- Le Louvre: This world-class museum is home to many beautiful, classic works of art but if you spend enough time in it, you’ll find some ghoulish, odd pieces that you wouldn’t think the Louvre would have. Address: Heart of Paris- right along the Seine; Métro: Palais-Royal. Here’s some of my favoriteslouvre 2

louvre1(photos by Andrea)

5- Musée de l’assistance publique- hôpitaux de Paris: A common theme in many American Halloween themed events/haunted houses are hospitals. This museum makes the list as hospitals have a long history of experimentation on patients and doing really barbaric, scary and horrifying procedures. At this museum, you’ll see exhibits on testimonies of hospital life, historic representations of the body and illnesses, and a collection of old school medical instruments to name a few. If the thought of a deranged surgeon or a permanent hospital stay make your blood curdle, you can get your Halloween kicks at this museum. Address: 47 quai de la Tournelle; Metro: Maubert-Mutualité

6-  Musée Medecine: Similar to the Musée des hôpitaux, this medicine museum covers the often nasty and gritty way the field of medicine made advancements. From amputation blades of the 17th century to Egyptian scalpels to the actual lancet that was used for an operation on Louis XIV to the bag which held the medical instruments used for Napolean’s autopsy, this museum is more on the focus of the grim ways medicine grew throughout the centuries. As someone, who is deathly afraid of surgery, this walk down ancient medical instrument lane is a Halloween scare that would haunt me in my dreams. Address: 12 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine; Metro: Odéon

medecine(photo by www.offi.fr)

7-  La Conciergerie: Probably the most famous French prison, the Conciergerie held many criminals but its most famous ones were during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. It’s all here- grime, crime, beheadings and all nasty pre-regulation penal stuff. Address: You can’t miss it- it’s right along the Seine. Métro: Châtelet  or Saint-Michel

8-  Musée de la poupée: Dolls. Are. Creepy. Ever since I read R.L. Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy series as a child, I never looked at dolls made in the image of people the same (stuffed animals are still A-OK). This museum makes Andrea’s Halloween list of creepy places to visit in Paris. Just imagine all those blank stares watching you as you move through the exhibits… the thought of it sends chills down my spine and it may for you too! Address: Impasse Berthaud, 22 rue Beauberg; Métro: Rambuteau

musee-poupees-sorties-parents(photo by: www.stephyprod.com)

9-  Musée de la magie et de la curiosité: This museum is certainly the most mild but when it comes to early 19th century objects, it’s usually a sure bet that there’s something bizarre or kooky lying around. With a concentration on les boites de <<physique amusante>> for children and strange magic contraptions like carnival mirrors, this museum may be less magic and more curious. Address: 11 rue Saint-Paul; Métro: Saint-Paul

10-  Notre Dame: You may not find a hunchback working the bells but there are many other Gothic inspired architecture at Paris’ most famous cathedral that capture the frightful nature of Halloween. Start your visit early enough and you can climb the rickety old bell tower steps to reach the top of the cathedral for not only great views of Paris but to also get crazy close to a gargoyle! On your way out of the church, make sure you stop to admire the intricately carved scene of judgment day in the front entrance arches. Who isn’t unsettled by eternal damnation? Address: On the Seine, near the Louvre; Métro: Saint- Michel-Notre –Dame

NotreDameEntrance(photo by: www.ukstudentlife.com)

11-   Musée Grevin: Mme Tussauds is the quintessential French wax maker…whose museum you won’t find in France. The famous wax maker was exiled from France when she made mocking sculptures in the image of some unhappy politicians who sent her packing, never to come back and banning her wax creations. So instead of visiting a Mme Tussauds’s this Halloween season in Paris, you can visit Musée Grévin- the next best thing. Address: 10 boulevard Montmartre; Métro: Rue Montmartre/ Grands Boulevards

Paris may not celebrate Halloween but it has lots of ways to get your macabre on. Profitez – en bien! And in the rare chance you get invited to a French Halloween party, check out this article on costume shops in Paris http://pretemoiparis.com/2014/10/halloween-costume-emergency-in-paris/


Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Running My Way Through Paris

(all photos by Alexa)

Saturday afternoon, I crawled into the back car of metro line 11, covered in pieces of turf and dried sweat mixed with dirt. It’s an earthy perfume with notes of track and field. I wear it with pride. Weirdly, no one wanted to sit next to me.

As I flicked green rubber from the pores on my leg, my phone pinged. Joachim, captain of the footing (that is, running) team at Sciences Po had just sent out the logistical info for the next day’s race. It would be the third Sunday race in a row for me.

My first race in Paris was a small 6-kilometer thing at the Jardin du Luxembourg. My second race, the very next weekend, was a 10-kilometer race, Odyssea, at the Château de Vincennes. I signed up because my host family had tacked the flyer onto the front door. I’m easily intrigued. My money went to the Institut Gustave Roussy for breast cancer research, which was fine by me.


My latest race in Paris, yesterday, was a chaotic, muddy, lovely trail through the Parc de Saint-Cloud — the Run & Bike Solidaire. You ran with a partner. Basically, at any given moment, one of you had to be running while the other biked. The trick was sticking together through the mass of tires and legs and switching without falling down a hill of rocks. Ten kilometers later, I’ll take a pair of sneakers over a mountain bike any day.


I may complain about waking up at an ungodly hour to do sprints on the opposite side of the city, but in reality, running is a part of me. I seriously can’t help it. Sometimes, I wake up and run without realizing that it’s Monday and the team is running along the Seine at 7 p.m. (Sometimes, I run twice in one day just to see my friends, but that’s a secret.)

Joining clubs in Paris is the best way to make friends. I might even argue that it’s the only way. It’s almost like it happens by force, at first, like with family, because you see these people week after week in all their physically exhausted glory, and over time it softens into these really sweet, delicious feelings. Kinda like fromage, non?


But seriously.

I joined the photography club too, but it doesn’t compare to the running club. (Well, technically there are two running clubs: track and field and cross-country.) The photo club has held exactly one meeting so far. I’m not sure what’s going on there, which is too bad because we were going to start a Humans of Sciences Po page on Facebook. It would’ve been a cool exercise in photojournalism. I miss interviewing strangers “for science”.

The running team, by contrast, is the bomb. We pay a small fee to the Association Sportive in the beginning of the year, then we’re officially in. The group runs along the Seine on Mondays and at Parc Montsouris on Wednesdays in the evening, and yes, it’s as beautiful as it sounds. On Saturday mornings, we head to the Bois de Boulogne hippodrome, which is an arena that was once used for horse-racing but now houses a track and some forested trails near a lake. If I remember to look, I can see the Eiffel Tower. Would I ever run sprints alone? Nope. Have I done it because my friends were doing it? Yup. That’s my favorite kind of peer pressure.


The ultimate reason to join a sports team, though, is the love. I’ve never felt more motivated to just “allez, allez, allez!” when I really feel like collapsing into a puddle of skin and bones. Plus, everyone’s completely accepting of skill levels. And language skills.


I’m not the only American on the team. This is Sciences Po, after all. We’ve also got runners from Brazil, Germany, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Italy, etc. Some of them can speak French pretty well, though, so it’s an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. Example A: we went out with the team last weekend for unlimited beers and pizzas (yes, really). I sat between a running alumnus, a first-year student, and a Brazilian girl. The conversation was in fast-paced French, sprinkled with slang I’d never heard. I tried my best, I swear. There’s just a point where it all goes over my head and I’m sitting there with a stupid smile on, waiting for a phrase I understand.

I have room for improvement in more ways than one. It’s cool. I have a year.


Though, if you do decide to pick an extra-curricular that burns as many calories as you gain back in friendships, remember that French supermarkets are closed on Sundays. Do your pre-race grocery shopping like a smart Parisian runner.

P.S. Joachim told me that the French don’t try to be the best at anything, even in a race. Mysteriously, he and his partner finished first in yesterday’s race and won a ski trip. Hm.




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.


Why Introverts are Better Suited to Studying Abroad in Paris

Andrea’s note: I’m sorry that there hasn’t been a post in like forever. A welcome home surprise from my internet provider was no working internet for 5 days!

(photo by: www.shedexpedition.com)

Being an introvert study abroad student can come with its own set of challenges but did you know that it also gives you a great advantage for this experience? As I scour the internet reading study abroad blogs, I’m consistently disappointed with the typical party study abroad experience. You know the ones I’m talking about- where the student is only hanging out with other American students and they’re going on a gastro/drinking tour of Paris without immersing into the French culture and language. These students aren’t really on a study abroad; they’re on an extended vacation that requires them to go to a classroom a few times a week and take a test once in while between having fun. Thankfully, this is not the typical introvert experience overseas. Here’s why introverts are better suited to the Paris study abroad experience.

1-      Self reflection and experience evaluation: There are 2 main reasons we study abroad. First, it’s a chance to improve our French skills and learn about French culture hands- on through immersion and interacting with natives. Second, it’s a way for us to challenge ourselves and grow up. Students who go abroad to party and have fun aren’t benefiting from this unique opportunity of immersion and personal growth. For introvert study abroad students, your time in Paris will not be spent bar hopping but rather figuring out the immersion experience and your new life abroad. As natural observers of human behaviors, introverts are more likely to reflect on this experience- what you’ve learned, what you didn’t learn, what new things you didn’t know to expect, and what all this change means – to help you attain that personal growth that your fellow good time seeking students won’t gain.

Me(photo by: herquotes.com)

2-      Appreciation and understanding of the affects and importance of solitude and independence. Part of the personal growth aspect of this experience is understanding the affect and importance of solitude and independence. In college, we still depend upon our parents and friends to help us out emotionally and financially. As you finish college and move out of Mom and Dad’s house, you’ll find that solitude and independence go together like a horse and carriage- you can’t have one without the other. This doesn’t mean to say that you won’t have a romantic partner or see your family or have friends- it just means that decisions are now made by you and that you have to do certain things alone. Learning this lesson during your study abroad is great way to sow the seeds for future, grown-up you.

as-an-introvert_gp_2260285(Comedy legend and fellow introvert George Carlin gets it right. Photo by: glitzandgrammar.co.za)

3-      Sight see Paris alone: Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to go sightseeing with a buddy and I highly recommend you to do so. However, it’s great to discover Paris on your own, too. When I first arrived in the City of Light, I was overwhelmed and didn’t want to explore Paris alone. As I got more comfortable with the city, I enjoyed visiting new streets and areas by myself. It made me feel like I discovered a hidden secret that only the natives knew and it was really exciting. Paris truly is a beautiful city but sometimes it’s hard to appreciate that beauty when you’re with someone else, talking and hanging out. Exploring alone allows you to soak up the beauty, atmosphere and experience of the most handsome city on Earth instead of just being in it.

4-      Have more time to focus on school: Just because introverts like to stay in doesn’t mean that we are all Dean’s List students but it does mean that we have an upper hand on our party animal classmates. Since night life activities don’t distract us, introverts have no excuse as to why we didn’t have time to study for that test or read (and sometimes even re-read) Baudelaire’s Mme Bovary for that up-coming rédaction.

5-      A better understanding of the challenge. Studying abroad is a challenge. Everyone repeat after me “Studying abroad is a challenge”. If it’s not, you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the larger than life difficulties that I had because you’re doing your cultural and linguistic preparations (hint, hint); but any expat can tell you that a new life abroad is never easy even with all the preparations in the world. You’re the type of introvert who has big dreams but keeps them to yourself; you desire change but are afraid and intimidated on making new things happen; you understand there is a challenge not only in expat life, no matter how temporary, but you understand the challenge of constant new social situations where you don’t know what’s going on due to cultural and linguistic barriers. The challenge of immersion can be particularly tricky for you but at least you know it’s coming.

Famous-characters-Troll-face-Challenge-accepted-140949(photo by: darrenwcarter.com)

You already knew that being an introvert was awesome and I’m glad that you know now what advantages you have for your upcoming Paris study abroad experience. Bonne chance!


bookAre 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 of the Office

(photo by: www.rekalltech.com)

Bonjour à tous,

I’m traveling this week and going to be away from my computer for 4 days. My next post is a really fun one that I know you’ll love but it’s not quite ready but will be for Monday October 6th. I’ll also be quiet on the twitter front but will try to hop on when I  can.

à bientôt – Andrea