Study Abroad in Paris: Dating Etiquette 101

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As many students get ready to study abroad, they start thinking about the new experiences they’ll have such as sight-seeing, travelling, and meeting new people, particularly a romantic interest. I’ve found quite a few forums where students ask what it’s like to date in France and if Paris is gay-friendly. These questions raise an interesting concern about dating expectations abroad that we’ll tackle here today so let’s take a look!

Why do we study abroad?

future(Answer: To gain skills for our career. Photo by:

All of these questions on dating while studying abroad in France made me realize that some students are forgetting the reason why we study abroad. Ask yourself this: did you go to online forums with dating questions if your university is in a different state than the one you grew up in? You probably didn’t. And why not? Because you chose the school based on its academic programs. A study abroad should be exactly the same. You should study abroad to further your academic studies and gain skill sets for your career; not to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right. Romance abroad should be a bonus, not a goal.

Love during a study abroad


Although I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t plan on having un petit copain/ une petite copine during your study abroad, it’s good to be prepared and familiar with French culture through its dating customs and expectations. You’re right to be curious about dating in France; it’s different than dating in the USA. How you can find out these differences is by learning more about the culture through your weekly language exchanges and reading French articles about dating. These native sources should answer all of your questions about French romance and will also give you more insight into French culture. To develop a romantic relationship during your study abroad, you must be hanging out with the natives all the time. Here’s one tip I can give you about French dating- it’s super slow. The French like to get to know each other petit à petit and don’t share much personal information in the beginning of a budding romance.

If you find yourself getting involved with a French person, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Don’t let this romance distract you from your studies (the main reason you’re in France)
  • Don’t speak English in your relationship. Use this unique opportunity to really understand and better your French language skills.
  • Think about the final outcome. A romance during a study abroad is founded in temporary conditions. It’s ok to tomber amoureux but remember that you have to return to your homeland in 10 months or less so don’t be super attached. I feel weird encouraging you to have feelings but to keep them in check at the same time but that’s what you should do. What I can tell you from personal experience is that having a long distance relationship with someone in another country is extremely difficult and stressful to maintain. Have your fling, be prepared to end it for your return back home and keep some great memories. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of marriage or maintaining this romance once you return home.
  • Respect your host family/ roommates rules. So you’ve found love during your study abroad and you’re gaga over him/her. Unless, you’re renting an apartment by yourself, you’ll want to respect your host family/roommates rules on bringing guests over, especially if your guest is staying the night.

Now that we’ve gone over some rules of etiquette for romantic relationships abroad, let’s check out rules of etiquette, health and safety for physical relationships.

Sex and Sexual Orientation During Your Study Abroad

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Sex and sexual orientation are 2 different things that I’m going to tackle separately. First, let’s talk about sex. It’s important to remember that every time you have sex, even with protection (condom and birth control), there is always a risk for pregnancy and contracting an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). Protection and testing are not 100% fool proof or a guarantee that you will not get an STI or pregnant; merely, they can significantly lower the risks when used consistently and properly. I never got the point of a random hook-up. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would risk their health (and safety!) for a non-guaranteed 20 minutes of pleasure with a complete stranger. I’d much rather stay home and me débrouiller for a guaranteed good and safe time for as long as I want. Anyhoo, if random hook-ups are your thing, you need to follow these basic rules of etiquette and safety. These tips also work for anywhere in the world at anytime during your life.

  • NEVER under any circumstances bring your date home for the evening to your host family’s house; I don’t care how close you are to the host family; I don’t care how accepting they are; I don’t care if they walk around in their underwear around you. You are NEVER to bring your evening romp to their home- EVER. This is inappropriate, weird and disrespectful.
  • If you’re staying with roommates of the same age, make sure that you talk in advance about the rules for bringing dates home. Some people may be uncomfortable with a stranger staying the night in their home or eating that left over baguette they didn’t pay for in the morning before they leave.
  • Go with your gut feeling. If you’re on a date and you’re feeling uncomfortable, leave immediately.
  • NEVER go home/ to a hotel with someone that you just met a few hours ago. You should always try to get to know the person a little bit before hooking-up. It’s not a guarantee of safety but it’s better than not knowing them at all and gives you time to get STI tested.
  • Always keep condoms or préservatifs with you. This goes for men and women of any sexual orientation. ALWAYS use protection against STIs.
  • Ladies, if you’re into the opposite gender you need to use a form of birth control in addition to condoms. No exceptions!

Now that we’ve gone over common sex health and safety tips. Let’s tackle sexuality abroad. It’s important to remember that no place is really “anyone friendly”. When you combine millions of people with different religious beliefs, criminal and general backgrounds, political views, sexual orientation, age, gender, and overall values you can’t ever be guaranteed that any place is truly gay friendly; punk friendly; female friendly; black friendly, so on and so on.  I guess you could consider France a gay friendly place as it legalized gay marriage a few years ago with no signs of it being overturned anytime soon. We could also assume that Paris is fairly gay friendly as the previous mayor was openly gay. However, just because the host city and country have accepting attitudes doesn’t mean that your host family feels the same way. This is a concern expressed by some students. They wonder if their host family will be accepting of their sexual orientation. There is no way to guarantee this and no reason why you should be declaring your sexual orientation to your host family. No matter what flavor you are, you need to keep this on the down-low with your host family. Remember, they are not your real family and do not have to accept you. Even studying abroad in France, I don’t recommend you to flaunt your sexuality or sexual orientation. Be discreet in your hook ups and think of your overall safety.

Dating during a study abroad can be exciting and a great way to really immerse into the local culture. However, it does come with its own set of responsibilities and distractions. Bonne chance!






Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: On Shin Splints, Quicksand, and Staying Put

There is something to be said for drastically altering your life.

I’m talking about my shin splints, and the fact that I haven’t been able to go for my usual seven-mile run lately. At first, like any runner, I was devastated. I went through the stages of grief in a single day. I even cried a little bit in public.

Then I woke up one day, wasn’t tired, and found out that there is a world outside of running. Lo and behold, Paris is so much more beautiful when I’m not limping out of a metro car. (I actually had to sit down a few times because the jerking motions became near-excruciating. I never sit down. There are people who need those seats and I think it’s rude to steal them.)

I walk now. I walk for more than an hour every day to get to school. I walk from my hood down the hill that is Belleville (inhaling straight boulangerie-fumes), across and along the Seine (covertly posting for camera-toting tourists), all the way to the most expensive part of Paris (feeling sweaty and underdressed and happy).


My shin splints taught me to slow down. Paris doesn’t rush. Where was I trying to go, so fast like that?

The phrase “burnt out” is not limited in its application to pot-smokers.

I went to the outdoor market at Place des Fêtes yesterday morning. I hadn’t been there in weeks because of various footraces and footing practices. As I struggled through mouthing out the French words for avocado and apple, I realized that my French hadn’t improved all that much since the last time I’d been in that queue.


It’s almost December. I frowned inside. I should be fluent.


I think my problem is incredibly high standards, or something.


In other news and to completely switch the subject on you, dear reader, let’s talk about my second trip outside of Paris (the first being Giverny).


I went to Mont-Saint-Michel on Saturday. When you’re twenty, you don’t really think twice about an eight-hour round-trip bus ride as long as it’s free and so are you. Thanks to MICEFA, which is (from my understanding) a program that works with various U.S. universities to enroll their students in various Parisian universities, and thanks to the fact that Rutgers is a university partner, I didn’t have to pay. Even though I’m not in the MICEFA program. Sweet deal, eh?


I reconvened with a bunch of the MICEFA-Rutgers students and met a bunch of MICEFA-other-university students.

The day began with a four-hour bus ride that required me to wake up at a groggy 5:30 a.m. But the ride was beautiful. We drove through the countryside that seems to be the entirety of France, outside of Paris, as the sun rose. We got to the island around noon, had lunch, and walked freely for two and a half hours. Then, a patient French lady handed out audio-tour guides to each of us, which was very nice of her because I think we were more than forty. The abbey was gorgeous. So much bigger than I thought. We walked around in there for an hour. I found the prayer book and added my surname to the endless list of international surnames. We fed the impatient seagulls and sunk our feet into the medieval quicksand. There were a bunch of guys in wetsuits wading around in the deeper parts. Apparently, quicksand-wading is très chic. (There is probably a name for quicksand-wading. Someone should tell me what it is, because I’d like to try.)


The thing nobody tells you about studying abroad is that it’s exhausting. The day was great, but the four-hour bus ride back was an achy, boring sleepfest, broken up only through games. My favorite was a lateral thinking puzzle, narrated by a Russian girl. It goes like this: “A man enters a restaurant, orders duck, eats one bite, and kills himself.” It took four of us and almost half an hour to get the answer.


Some of my friends are leaving in a month and it’s really unbelievable. I’m trying not to think about how I might never see them again. I’m thinking of going to the Olympics in Rio next year as a graduation gift, or something, because I have friends in Brazil and I need to see their faces! I miss them already.


But I’m so glad that I wake up here everyday. I’m so glad it’s not over. It feels like it just started.



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.


A Perfect French Work Email

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Sending an email in French is not only a linguistic exercise, it’s a cultural one, too! Here’s an example of an email I sent to a French co-worker (and someone in a higher position, too!) that got a compliment from my colleague  as well as the desired outcome.

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 Bonjour Luc,

J’espère que vous allez bien. L’agenda au-dessous c’est celui dont vous avez créer en Excel. Je n’ai que le changer à Google Docs et ajouter les salles de réunion. Cet agenda est pour tout l’équipe de notre groupe. 

Si je comprends votre email, Marc est dispo mardi (21/10) matin après 11h (sélon l’agenda de Fabienne), mais il a le déjeuner et présentation de 12h à 15h. 

On peut changer ses réunions mardi matin au soir et nous pouvons animer l’autreportire reunion sans Marc si ça lui convient plus. Si vous voudriez rajouter une réunion à cet agenda, en peux la faire mardi l’après-midi de 15h30 à 18h.

Je voudrais vous prier de modifier l’agenda dessous comme c’est nécessaire.

In this email, my colleague and I are trying to create a meeting agenda. There’s some discussion about the main participant, Marc, and his schedule. At the end of the email, I ask Luc if he will make the changes he sees fit into the pre-created agenda. To give you some background, Luc and I were going back and forth about updating the agenda. We both had editing rights to the document so for me it made more sense for him to make the edits he wanted than to have me do it. He wasn’t clear in his emails so I was being a little forward in my asking for him to do it. With a little French politesse, I was able to resolve the issue and stay within French cultural norms.

A response: 4 Signs You Should Not Study Abroad by USA Today

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When the headline “4 Signs You Should Not Study Abroad” appeared on my laptop screen, I felt like the author was speaking directly to me. I know what the title read but in my mind I felt the author was really saying “Andrea, you shouldn’t have studied abroad and here are 4 reasons why not.” As the poster child for someone who wasn’t prepared to study abroad for a year, this article appeared to be directed at me. So, naturally I had to find out what Erika Cirino (that’s the article’s author) had to say about us undesirable candidates for studying abroad.

 Finger-Pointing(You should not be studying abroad according to this article.

The story starts just like this, “As you likely realize, studying abroad is a popular educational experience. Many colleges and universities offer an array of interesting overseas programs, and they encourage their students to take advantage at least once during the course of their academic careers.


You may wonder if you should study abroad, but before you begin packing your bags, check for the following four signs that may indicate an overseas experience is notfor you.”


I re-read that last sentence over and over, concentrating on the only word in bold in it- “not”. Ms. Cirino clearly wanted “you” to know what you should “not” be doing. Before continuing on with the story, I did a quick glance down to the bottom to see the author bio. I couldn’t find anywhere where Ms. Cirino studied abroad or how she has this specific knowledge on what types of students should and should not study abroad. But, trying to give the benefit of the doubt, I went back to reading the article. In 460 words, Ms. Cirino tells us why we (myself and students like me) should not study abroad. She breaks it down into 4 categories:

1- you easily become homesick

2-you dislike change and uncertainty

3-your funds are limited

4-your time is better spent elsewhere

I understand what Ms. Cirino is saying. However, she couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to her first 2 points. Per this article, I should not have studied in Paris for a year. Homesickness- check! Dislike for change and uncertainty- double check! In her article, Ms. Cirino is missing the fact that many American study abroad programs don’t prepare students for the cultural immersion process and the experience of being alone for the 1st time in their lives. Although Ms. Cirino makes excellent points, she is forgoing the reasons they exist and ways to prevent or handle them.

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If an introvert or loner student looking to gain skills and knowledge from a study abroad for their career came across this article, he or she may be dissuaded from studying abroad. The point of studying abroad is to gain professional skills and personal growth. Wouldn’t learning how to be away from your parents and adapt to change only help a student in their personal and professional life? I was absolutely floored that a writer for a college platform would actually encourage students to not take a once in a lifetime opportunity instead of preparing for it. According to Ms. Cirino’s article I should not have studied abroad. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have a job as a Paris study abroad expert; I wouldn’t have become the woman I am today; I wouldn’t be able to speak French; I wouldn’t know how to accept and not judge other cultures; and I wouldn’t know how to adapt to change. Staying home to avoid home sickness and change would have been extremely beneficial (sarcastic tone dripping in each word).

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I’m very happy that USA Today- College featured this article. It shows me how important my study abroad work is by talking about the mental and emotional preparations for study abroad students so that they aren’t discouraged from this experience; but, instead, are better prepared for it.