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french revolution

My battle with My Comfort Zone

(ok so Lady Liberty wasn’t rushing in and there weren’t hundreds of French soldiers but it’s still a battle. Photo by www.tiki-toki.com)

There is nothing more intimate and personal than our comfort zone. It is a place where we feel safe, where we are safe. It is a place that, as its name suggests, makes us feel comfortable. It is a constant in the ever changing variable that is life. Despite its comfy-ness and safety, I’m always recommending you to leave it when you’re preparing for your study abroad. Since studying abroad is all about doing everything in a different way, it only makes sense to get uncomfortable by leaving your comfort zone so that you can become comfortable with constant change once you arrive abroad. I can tell you from personal experience that if you go abroad not expecting to change, it can be quite jarring to realize that you’re going to have to do it whether you want to or not. So it’s better to be at ease with changing by leaving your comfort zone. But it’s not just for studying abroad. I didn’t realize it when I was in college but once you leave your comfort zone, you find out there is a whole new arena for opportunity and experiences. When I was in college, I was Queen Bee of the Comfort Zone. I only ever rarely left and when I did “leave” it, I was never completely out as there was always a toe still in the line. Studying abroad not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, it brutally forced me out. For that I am grateful as it gave me the courage and determination I needed to do other things and branch out in life. But that doesn’t mean that I live outside of the comfort zone; rather, it means that I have adjusted my comfort zone parameters.

Leg_restraint01_2003-06-02(Restraint so good…sometimes. But it’s best to not be in them in the first place. Photo by en.wikipedia.org)

I got a reality check on my comfort zone boundaries over the weekend at a post Christmas bash. It was a pleasant enough soirée chez le chef of my better half. Maybe it was due to hunger or a drop in estrogen due to my impending regles but what I can tell you is that when I saw a new face, I ran away. And since I only knew a few people there, I was running away most of the evening. Sometimes, someone would stop me to say hi and introduce themselves. I returned the introduction, smiled and then scadoodled away. I was completely overwhelmed. The boss’ house was a decent sized home but it felt awfully cramped with 70 people in it. Everywhere I looked there was an unfamiliar face. I had plenty of opportunity to strike up new conversations but I didn’t. I was out of my comfort zone and I wanted nothing more than to be back in it. This party was the perfect opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and I didn’t take it. The entire time at the party, I wished that I wasn’t letting myself be restrained by my old friend CZ (that’s the comfort zone).  But I didn’t go with the right attitude to this party. I didn’t go with an inquisitive and open mind; I went with an empty stomach and fatigue. Leaving your comfort zone is great practice not only for studying abroad, but for life. You never know what opportunities can come your way. That’s why it’s best to be prepared to put yourself out there, way outside of the comfort zone, at any time, anywhere, by practicing. Practice makes perfect and if you’re always doing something new than you can never truly be comfortable. And that is when you find true success.

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Bonne chance!


Is Technology a Study Abroad Student’s Friend or Foe?

(photo by spongebob.wikia.com)

Every American student under 30 can tell you that technology is the key to social interaction and information. In the United States, email and websites are the norm when it comes to intra-collegiate information exchange and communication. So it’s no surprise that studying abroad has hopped on the technology band wagon, too. On November 3rd, I participated in a lively and engaging twitter chat #ISACHAT about the pros of technology in a study abroad. We were able to come up with many ways technology has enriched studying abroad for the better such as:

  • Ease and speed of finding out information
  • Cost effective for communicating with family
  • Connects students with other students, resources and program advisers much faster
  • Helps students discover hobbies like writing and photography and allows them to share these hobbies with the world


With pros like that, how can there be any cons? In a recent article/interview by Vermont Public Radio Educators Worry Technology Hampers Study Abroad Experience, multiple educators speak their minds on the negative effects technology has had on the study abroad experience. Some of the disadvantages they’ve observed first hand are:


  • Deepens homesickness
  • Makes students more anxious while waiting for an immediate response back from loved ones via email or text
  • Lessens communication between students and others as can simply text instead of talking on phone or sometimes in person
  • Distracts students from the experience part of a study abroad as too busy with social media/ taking pictures to really immerse into the host culture
  • As spending so much time on social media/ connecting with family, students aren’t able to really improve their foreign language skills as the majority of their interactions are in their native tongue
  • Because of ease and speed with which students can connect with their parents, students are missing out on the growing up aspect as they’re calling their parents for assistance instead of figuring it out on their own


cell(photo by: mashable.com)


When we compare the 2 lists, it looks as though there are more cons to technology and its impact on a study abroad than advantages. This can be the case if you don’t consciously unplug on a weekly if not daily basis at home and while abroad. It’s great to be connected but it’s important to be alone and to be with others sans devices. Our generation has completely adopted technology and social media to the extent that it overruns our lives instead of adding to it. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity- don’t waste it behind a screen. Go and experience the new culture, the new language and leave that phone/ laptop behind more often to avoid a technologically driven study abroad.


Networking 101: An Essential Tool for College & Study Abroad Students

(photo by: jeln.org)

College students have a lot of juggling to do. There are classes to attend, hundreds of pages to be read at any given moment in time, projects, research papers and exams, as well as figuring out what the heck you’re going to eat for your next meal, and figuring out a study abroad to name a few. But what if I were to tell you that there’s another important component of the collegiate juggling act, too? One that’s equally important, yet often gets overlooked. It’s called networking. (And no, just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ve got that one covered.)

It unlikely future employers are going to come to you; you’ll have to go looking for them. According to a report from ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are found through networking. (http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/80-of-today-s-jobs-are-landed-through-networking) Two good reasons why it makes sense to start growing relationships now, so that they’re established once you graduate and transition to the working world. This is just one more advantage of studying abroad.  You’ll have the opportunity to network abroad as well.

Let’s take a look at the following tips for getting started.     

Network with other students in your major and/or areas of interest. It may seem obvious, but for many students this is challenging in and of itself. Maybe you find it difficult just to break out of the comfort of your routine with classes and studying, or maybe you have a small circle of friends you spend most of your free time with. Try to introduce yourself to others outside your circle. Strike up conversation with fellow classmates- both native speakers and those in your program. Chances are you’ll have a lot to talk about if you’re studying the same thing. Stay connected to one another after classes end. Share information and resources.

Visit the Career Services Center at your home and host university. The Career Services Center is a valuable resource for all students. Learn how to build a better resume, practice your interviewing skills, and research job opportunities both abroad and at home. It’s also a great place to find out about networking opportunities in which students and alumni connect, on campus recruiting events, and job fairs. Take advantage of all of the services available to make helpful contacts.    

map(photo by: www.ttuhsc.edu)

Participate in campus activities and organizations. Find out what activities and organizations your host university has before you decide which one(s) are right for you. Join the student chapter of the professional organization in your field if there is one. The more involved you are, the more people you’ll meet and connect with, and more you can grow your network. It’ll help you break of your bubble, improve your skills, and maybe even develop new ones- all of which are potential resume builders in the very least. To read more about getting involved on campus visit http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/twice-the-college-advice/2011/09/13/5-reasons-for-getting-involved-in-college-and-how-to-go-about-it.

­­Set up a LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is designed for professional networking, but it also allows students with limited professional experience to highlight their academic successes and achievements as well as strengthen their existing network. On LinkedIn, users can conduct research on companies they may be interested in working for, join groups related to their areas of study and participate in group discussions, keep up on relevant industry information, and connect with recruiters.

LinkedInAudit(photo by: www.forbes.com)

Build upon the experience you have. Have you done any volunteer work? A work-study? Do you have a part-time job or have you had a summer job? A paid or unpaid internship?   Do you have a good relationship with your supervisor? Connect, stay in touch, and don’t be shy about asking for recommendations for your LinkedIn profile. Look at each of these experiences as an opportunity to build your network.

Reach out to established professionals in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, or to ask what the advantages and disadvantages to a particular career are. Networking while you’re still in college has a big advantage; there’s no pressure on the person you’re reaching out to since you aren’t looking for employment just yet. Not sure where to begin? Start with alumni. They’ll be glad to offer career assistance.

Don’t overlook your parents’ (and host parents’) friends, and your friends’ parents as potential connections. Like alumni, this is another subculture of people who genuinely want to see you succeed. They have decades’ worth of experience, which also means they’re probably well connected. And you never know who they might be able to put you in touch with.


(photo by: www.huffingtonpost.com)

Talent, ambition and a solid education are all essential for career success, but it’s clear you also have to know people. There are a lot of great opportunities that you’ll hear about only because of who you know. So be proactive. Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back. If you find someone doesn’t want to connect, don’t worry. Just move on. The added bonus is that in no time, you’ll be building your confidence, too.


Julie Kemeklis

Julie Kemeklis is a freelance writer and language teacher from West Windsor, NJ who writes on a range of topics including travel & culture, and family & parenting. She studied abroad in Costa Rica as an undergraduate student, and received her MA from the University of Georgia’s Department of Romance Languages with a concentration in Spanish literature.


New Reason to Sign Up for the Best Studying Abroad in Paris Newsletter

(The newsletter tells you all about this place. Photo by Andrea)

Twenty in Paris newsletter subscribers are in for a treat! Starting this month, every Twenty in Paris newsletter subscriber will receive a free PDF with detailed tips, advice and more on a particular aspect of the Paris study abroad experience. The goal of this PDF is to provide more coverage in a shorter read to answer your questions about your up-coming Paris study abroad. Who doesn’t love that!

Book Icon(PDF Guidebooks rule! photo by: www.creagdhu.net)

Not a newsletter subscriber? No worry! You’ll be able to find these PDFs on Amazon for $0.99 as a quick Kindle (or e-reader or Smartphone) read. I’ll announce when a new one is up. If you’re on the fence about subscribing to the Twenty in Paris newsletter, here are 10 reasons why you should join today!

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  • It’s free!!
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  • Highlight of the month’s posts in case you missed them
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  • Fun, quick tips on French language and study abroad experience
  • First look at the newest guest bloggers
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what-are-you-waiting-for1(photo by: 1x2topodds.blogspot.com)