(all photos by Dinara- featured photo is Opéra in Paris)
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” These are famous words by Ernest Hemingway and they are so true for the writer and anyone else who has been lucky to visit this breathtaking city. I visited Paris last summer for a language school. So, I want to share some practical tips if you want to make your dream true and learn French in France, feel the magic of Paris and the stylish life. It is also a little story of our trip.
1. Keep dreaming. I started learning French in September. The beauty of the language, magnificent images, texts you read… Then I came up with the idea that I could go to Paris and hear not only the authentic language, but also be a part of the lifestyle, the culture. I even forgot about this dream but by summer and it felt like a miracle when I got the chance. As Walt Disney said “Many of the things that seem impossible now will become realities tomorrow.”
2. Do everything yourself. When I started searching for a language school, I turned to education consultancies. They calculated that two weeks in France would cost me around $1,800 just for the school. So, you can imagine, why it sounded to me almost impossible first. I started googling, e-mailing and comparing the prices. Then, I found a school for just 80€ a week.
3. Visa and flights. This was the most complicated part for me, but I hope I was an exception. If you are going to Paris to study and you need a visa, the best way is to apply for student visa. But most of the schools do not provide visa support unless you buy a course longer than three months. If this is not a case you can always apply for tourist visa, follow the instructions on the French Embassy’s web page and cross your fingers.
4. Language school. I was lucky to get enrolled into the Campus Langue, which has two buildings. One in La Défense and another one in the 19ème district. It seemed so far away, the 19ème one, but with the metro made it all very easy. The school is very welcoming, enrollment was super easy and we started our first class 20 minutes after enrollment. The best thing about learning French in France is that you have most diverse students and you can make friends and listen to the languages in all the accents.
5. Make friends. The more you talk to new people, the more confident you become in practicing French. I’ve been talking to my classmates, people on the street, serviceman in restaurants and shops. And also if you make friends with Parisians, the city will open totally different sides for you. I’ve been lucky to stay with locals and on weekends have perfect Parisian guides.
6. Be polite. In France people in customer service are easily offended. Make sure you say Merci, Excusez-moi and other polite phrases as much as possible. It was so embarrassing when a lady in supermarket pointed at me when I forgot to even say Bonjour before asking the way out, I was truly lost, though.
7. One place a day. I came to Paris with my friend and luckily we had the same interests and same pace. Some people say that you can walk around Paris in one day. But if you do so, you will not feel the real taste of this city. We decided to visit one area per day. That’s how we watched a concert next to Notre Dame, the parade in Champs-Élysées, sunset from Sacré Cœur, flowers in Jardin de Luxembourg, fountains in Versailles… You feel yourself somehow become a part of this city; a Parisian when you can afford to spend a whole day in one area, enjoying the spirit of it in an idle way.
(view of Paris from Sacré Coeur)
8. New experience. We also had a habit of trying new things every day. After classes we usually shared classical French la formule lunches, trying out all the dishes we’ve been learning about at school: Foie Gras de Canard, Cassoulet, Escargots, Ratatouille, Tartines, Crème Brûlée, Mousse ou Chocolat.
9. Do shopping. Shopping in Paris is a dream. My universal tip for shopping anywhere is: don’t miss the chance to buy something when you first see it. Often we thing that we might come back to that street or that shop and buy it later, but it never happens. So, the best way is to buy when you feel a sparkle. My favorite place for shopping was Seine riverbank so far and around Hôtel de Ville.
10. Take back memories. Travel around. Going to the countryside is always inspiring and gives a totally different angle to the country. France has so many beautiful provinces to discover. This time we visited Mont Saint Michel and a few resorts in Bretagne, including the one called Dinard, which sounds so alike with my name. And if you find trains too expensive, we discovered the Covoiturage web pages so handy to share a car with locals.