Tag Archives: american student in paris blog

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/


Read in French today to improve your language skills of tomorrow

(Do you think Amélie was reading in English? photo by: www.soundonsight.org)

There are many ways to challenge and flex your French muscles at all different times of the day. At the end of a long day, I enjoy reading. My sister got me hooked on the Eragon book so after I read the first one in English, she bought me the remaining books in the series in French as a gift (I know I have the most awesome sister in the world- that is not sarcastic by the way!). Before I go to bed, I read my French book, it’s L’aîné or the 2nd installment in this series. The other night in bed, the beautiful man lying next to me stared at me while reading as he often does trying to determine if I’m really reading or sleeping with a book still in my hand- something I do quite often. Fun fact- I get very upset if he tries to take said book from me while I’m sleeping- I just know he is going to lose my page! Anyhoo, with the turn of a page he was thoroughly convinced that I was indeed awake and asked me how I can read in French. At first I didn’t understand the question. What was he asking me exactly? He then elaborated by asking if I read the text in French and then translate it into English or if I simply read it and understand it in French? What about words that I don’t know in French- does the story get interrupted for me so that I have to go into English to think about it or look it up?

In the moment, I muttered something about being super awesome and understanding the French text without translating it so that I could continue reading (What can I say? I was at a really good part). But after that, I couldn’t stop thinking about his inquiry. The next night of reading this book, I really started to observe how I processed the information from the story. How did I know that the chapter was about a battle? How did I understand that a witch on the good guy’s side snuck over enemy lines to poison some of the water supply for the enemy soldiers? How was I understanding the words I was reading which are in a language different from my native tongue?

images(Bilingual part of the brain. Photo by: www.nytimes.com)

The only conclusion I could come up with is that I am using a developed French part of my brain. It truly is a fascinating process that you can look forward to if you don’t already have it. When I read a French sentence, my brain pronounces it in French and then immediately applies a meaning to it and often an image. But I cannot deny that immediately after that there is a small part of me that puts it into English for a brief second. I’m not sure why that happens. Is it a 2nd opinion to make sure that I understood well? A natural reflex that every bilingual person does? All I know is that I can pick up a French text and read it and then tell someone in English what I just read. Things do get a little tricky when it comes to a word/expression I don’t know.

When I first started reading this book, I would circle every word/expression I didn’t know and look it up later. It was good because there was a lot of the story that I was missing. However, mid-way through (I’m at the end now), I stopped doing it. Why? 2 reasons- First, I don’t do this in English and I believe in being the same in both languages; Second- Using context clues is a better way to increase your vocab.

dictionaries(I don’t use them in English so why use them in French? Photo by: www.etiole.com)


Reading in French is a great way to challenge, grow and keep up your French skills. What are you reading in French?


Can introverts study abroad?

(photo by: best-thoughts-sms.blogspot.com)

Sure can and you know one who did –me! My name is Andrea and I’m a loud, proud introvert. Now just like anything in life, introverts come in all different flavors. There isn’t a one size fits all example of an introvert. The most basic and relatable definition of an introvert is someone who pulls their energy from within and not from others. As a result, many introverts (including myself) prefer to be alone (or with a small group of people) than in big crowds as we find them to be overwhelming. When you think of someone who is dreaming of studying abroad, you may not think of someone who prefers to be alone. But that is where you would be wrong. Many introverts are dreamers and although we are uncomfortable in big or new social settings, we desire that one day we may find one that doesn’t bother us. For me, I felt that opportunity was studying abroad.

Preparing to pack up my life to go 6,000 miles away from everyone I loved and everything I ever knew, I dreamed the biggest dreams. I was going to get discovered and become a top (albeit, short) fashion model- that surely would have me interacting with lots of people in all kinds of social settings; I was then going to be named the Face of France and get to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy; and of course despite little practicing of French outside of the classroom, I was going to be awesome in French, so awesome that I would randomly engage in deep philosophical debates with native French speakers- anytime, anywhere. I’m hoping you see the extreme far-fetchedness of these introvert fantasies. I always believed that my introvertedness was not a personality trait in me, but rather I wasn’t in the right place.


(photo by: www.hypeorlando.com)

When I arrived in Paris, it became quickly apparent that these things were not going to happen. It was then that I realized that it was not the place that needed changing, it was me. Now there is nothing wrong in being an introvert and in fact, many of its qualities may make the study abroad experience easier since you’re used to doing things alone. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as an introvert going abroad:

  • As introverts, we are not eager to leave our comfort zone and prefer being alone. If you don’t put yourself in new social situations, it can be difficult to better your foreign language abilities due to not getting enough practice.
  • The whole point of studying abroad is to experience a new culture and group of people. If you are spending most of your time alone, you’re defeating the whole purpose of studying abroad.
  • For introverts, sometimes it’s easier to just be alone with our thoughts when we’re frustrated, sad, upset, lonely, missing home. Being alone is the worst thing to do when you have these feelings as they will only intensify in solitude.
  • The fact that you signed up to study abroad shows that you are not as introvert as you think and that when you challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone, you can do anything.
  • Don’t expect people to make conversation / friends with you first, especially the French. French culture is more reserved than and not as open as American culture. If you wait for French students to come up to you first, you’ll never make first contact.
  • Have an introvert coach. Ask someone who always gives you the spark you need to get things done to send you weekly “reminders” via text / SM / email to talk to fellow students, join clubs on campus, go out, and discover the culture and people who traveled to be with and experience.



(Don’t change these wonderful introvert qualities. Photo by: Nancy Dooren)

If you let your introvert qualities shine while you are abroad, you can face many hardships. I know because that’s what I did. I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone as much as I should have and held firmly to my introvert ways. Introverts can study abroad but it is harder for us than our extrovert friends. Don’t let this discourage you. In fact, you would benefit from learning a thing or 2 from them. You don’t have to get rid of your introvert ways to study abroad, but you will need to challenge them to make the most of this experience.


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.