Tag Archives: black girl study abroad paris


The Secret Your Study Abroad Program Doesn’t Want You to Know

(Don’t tell. Image by: lionarea86.deviantart.com)

There is a secret out there that your study abroad program doesn’t want you to know. They don’t want you to know because their marketing department tells them that it’s bad for business, that students won’t study abroad anymore if they knew the truth. So your study abroad program puts it under the rug and pretends it never happens, even though it does. What is this secret that study abroad programs don’t want you to know? It’s that studying abroad is not easy and some students have a really difficult (and sometimes even dangerous) time abroad.

Walk into most study abroad offices and what do you see? Posters and promotional material of students smiling and having fun near major sites without any signs of what life is like as an expat or as a student abroad. I have yet to come across a student holding a book, wearing a back pack or sitting in a classroom for study abroad promotional material. When students look at these images, what they’re seeing is studying abroad is a vacation for students. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Immersion into another culture is not easy and for some students it is extremely difficult. A friend told me recently of her niece’s bestie who is studying abroad and has had issues with safety and cultural immersion. The study abroad program is helping this student but this issue is being kept hush-hush for fear of other students finding out and possibly being deterred from going abroad. When I heard that I got so frustrated. I understand from a business perspective why you wouldn’t want to publicize this story but from an educator perspective, I’m positively baffled.

It’s true that every student is different; handles stress differently; handles new situations differently; prepares for this experience differently. But what is universal is that students depend on their study abroad office/program to provide them EVERYTHING they need to know about this experience. It is a disservice to future students when study abroad programs don’t use negative experiences as learning tools. If you have never left your hometown or state before, how can you possibly know how to be safe in a large foreign city, or how to work out a disagreement with your host family when you have cultural and linguistic barriers or know how to develop the tools to handle a bad day alone if no one ever coaches you?!


In Andrea’s dream world, every study abroad program/office would provide coaching/training to students before they study abroad. This would include: hands on cultural immersion training for each specific country, linguistic boot camp, coaching on how to adjust and maintain emotional stability when everything around you is different, how to make friends abroad, coaching on the university system abroad, and encourage students to read study abroad books- not travel books- but ones specifically focused on study abroad. Knowing about things first hand doesn’t take away the experience of studying abroad– it just makes it easier by providing the proper tools and knowledge to make the most of this amazing opportunity.



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?


Twenty in Paris Approved Study Abroad Blogs

I have come across some great student study abroad blogs these past few weeks that are honest, funny, and show the whole study abroad picture; not just the dream parts. These blogs are great resources for students who are looking to live or study abroad. I am happy to give the official Twenty in Paris seal of approval. Enjoy!


Blog name: Parole Passport

URL: http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/

Who: Chelsea Fairless

What: Chelsea Fairless is an American student who first was an au pair in France, then  Switzerland and is now studying at a university in Geneva. Her detailed accounts of au pair family life shed an important light on the difficulties that can arise when living with a native family due to generation gap, cultural difference and language barrier. She shows the au pair experience like never before as well as the good life in Geneva. I am also happy to say that she is a weekly blogger on the Twenty in Paris website.


Blog: Tammy Does Paris

URL: http://tammydoesparis.wordpress.com/posts/

Who: Tammy Olobo

What: Tammy Olobo is a black British student who is currently studying in Paris at the Sorbonne. She beautifully details the roller coaster ride it has been for her to immerse into French culture as an Anglophone as well as be accepted as she does not fit the definition of French due to her beautiful dark skin and the difficulties she has encountered in internships due to this. Refreshing, witty and relatable, this blog is a must read for any student interested in going to France, especially students who are non-Caucasian.




Blog: The Second Page

URL: http://www.eleanorharte.com/

Who: Eleanor Harte

What: Eleanor Harte is an American student studying abroad in Paris at the Sorbonne. She should look familiar- she has guest posted for Twenty in Paris. Eleanor shares her story on moving in with a host family, getting used to Paris and speaking French full time. A delightful read for any student interested in studying abroad.




Blog: Discover Spain

URL: http://discoverspain.tumblr.com/

Who: Filipina

What: Filipina is an American student from the Philippines who is studying abroad in Spain. I came across the post in the website photo above and knew that I had to feature this blog. This blog is a great read for any student interested in Spain and general study abroad.


I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do. They really open the door on the study abroad experience and how non-linear it is.

Bon weekend à tous and forget to enter in the WSA Europe – Twenty in Paris pre-release book giveaway of The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored! Check out more details here http://www.wsaeurope.com/blog/paris-book-giveaway