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I Like College but Love Study Abroad

(This is the closet thing I could find to someone saying I LOVE college. Photo by: www.communicatingideas.com)

On Twitter yesterday, I came across a university study abroad office tweet that said “What do you LOVE about #studyabroad?” with love written just like that in capital letters. Now as a former study abroad student whose sole mission is to debunk this romantic, perfection fantasy of studying abroad, this really flipped my noodle. That tweet got me thinking that maybe at 5 o’clock in the morning without any breakfast yet I may be a little cranky and overreacting. So I looked at a few universities’ general Twitter accounts to see if I could find something familiar. Guess what? I couldn’t find one that said “What do you LOVE about #college?”. So why was my proverbial noodle flipped?

Because I was once sold on this dream that studying abroad somehow transcends normal life and is a picture perfect experience and this university was trying to sell it to unsuspecting students. If you’re new to the Twenty in Paris blog/ books, I was super disappointed how the Paris study abroad experience was not magical but rather filled with real life ups and downs heightened by cultural differences and language ineptitude. Anyhoo, here is a university whose study abroad professionals are promoting a myth when they know better! Studying abroad is a more challenging version, not an easier one, of college. It tests you in ways that college in your home country has never challenged you before. Now this does not mean to say that studying abroad is not a rewarding experience whose benefits, I feel, far outweigh the challenge. Just simply means that like going to college in your home country, it is complex with the added bonus of a foreign school system, country, language, and living arrangement all while being away from your loved ones. Sounds easy enough, right?

So why isn’t college marketed this way? How come colleges aren’t tweeting about how much you’ll LOVE their university? Why is that you’ll like college but love study abroad? When I was in high school, I knew that college was not easy- that there are things like papers (lots of them), mid-terms and finals, presentations, internships, staying up late, crazy tuition costs, high student loans, etc… Was I or other high school students deterred from going to college? Nooooo. And why? I believe it is because we knew that the hard work that is college will give us a better edge with employers to get a job one day. We were provided a realistic picture of college but also advised of its benefits and determined that the pros outweighed the cons.

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(Example of study abroad marketing- doubt you’ll see the whole experience covered. Photo by: passport.gwu.edu)

So why don’t we do this with studying abroad? I started thinking that maybe college is not portrayed as this dream experience because many of us know at least 1 person, often in our family, who went and told us all about it so no one would buy that college is a perfect dream experience. But how many of you know someone who studied abroad? I was the first and only person in my family/friends and the same may be true for many students. So in that respect, it’s easier to sell the study abroad dream because who is going to refute it?

Studying abroad is like an adventure- personal/spiritual as well as cultural. If you budget correctly, you can travel around the host country and to neighboring countries; you can see historical sites, world class museums; expand your palette and improve your linguistic skills; and discover who you are. It is with studying abroad where you will really find out what are your strengths and weaknesses; what you can and cannot do (you’ll be surprised at how much you can do); how you have to be self-reliant and independent. These are all wonderful things but to disregard their accompanying challenging aspects will only be a disservice to you.

Don’t get me wrong- your university study abroad office is doing a great job and they are there for you as they want you to succeed. But I put each student and study abroad advisor up to this test- every time study abroad is mentioned, count how many times the idea / romantic notion of study abroad is hinted at or out-right said versus how many times the challenging aspects and how to deal with them abroad is mentioned. If you hear/ observe that the trials of living and studying abroad are not being discussed, bring them up! The only way to know how to prepare for them is to identify the challenges and talk about how to get past them. And then maybe, just maybe, you’ll like studying abroad just like you like college.

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Have you only been told about all the great things you are going to do abroad but aren’t quite buying? Are you someone who is looking for the truth? Answer all of your questions about what the experience of living and going to college abroad to avoid any surprises with book The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored. Looking for something more technical like exactly how many and which documents do you need to get your French visa? Check out Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris.

  
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Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: A New Year, A New Life

By: Alexa Wybraniec

I ran twelve miles this morning.

When I’m running, I think up little mantras and repeat them inside my head. Today I thought, “Resolutions can happen whenever I want.”

I decided to change my life last spring, right in the thick of 2013. Running twelve miles this morning was absolutely not affiliated with January 1, 2014. The first time I finished a twelve-miler (a week ago) I signed up for a half marathon and spent the rest of the day confused. I thought, “I don’t know anything, it’s not possible for me to run twelve miles, I can’t do that. But I did it, so nothing makes sense, and I don’t know anything for sure anymore.”

I still think that, and it’s kinda nice. Applying that mindset to my future in Paris is the most liberating feeling on earth.

My lifestyle change has proved efficient. I earned my straight As this semester, and now I’m taking a winter class online. When summer rolls around, I’ll pick up a summer class. These are the small sacrifices I need to make in order to study abroad and graduate on time because core requirements cannot be fulfilled abroad. It’s not so bad, really, because I genuinely love learning new things. I’ve clearly got a handle on how to do the whole college thing in the States, but will that hold up in France?

I need to start thinking about, well, everything. I had a relaxing break, full of gift-giving, hikes and Chipotle trips, but having class everyday grounded me mentally. The new year, while insignificant, inevitably inspires forward-thinking.

My favorite presents received over break include:

- Victoria Trott’s “Paris City Guide”
- Aurelia D’Andrea’s “Living Abroad in France”
- a 2014 Parisian calendar
- luggage tags
- RFID-blocking neck pouch
- detachable silk bra pocket
- cold, hard cash (to be transformed into Euros ASAP)

The neck pouch claims its  “special blocking material prevents high tech identity thieves from downloading and stealing personal information stored on micro chips in your passport and credit cards.” I don’t know any high tech identity thieves but hey, now I have somewhere to store my passport, keys, cash, and whatever else I may be wary about toting around in a foreign city. The bra pocket seems to be the better option for a less “hey-look-at-me-I’m-a-tourist” ensemble.

I’ve started paging through the travel guides, and just when I thought I couldn’t be more excited, here I am. I can already see myself reading some sections within the next few days (“Social Climate,” “History,” “Food”), which sections I’ll reference over the next few months (“Preparing to Leave,” “What to Bring,” “Sample Itineraries”) and the sections I’ll pour over in my bedroom once I get there (“French Phrasebook,” “Travel and Transportation,” “Daily Life”).

I’ve been talking to a lot of people (pretty much anyone I come in contact with/anyone who will listen) about studying abroad. Absolutely everyone over the age of 50 is simply dazzled by my plans. Better yet, almost everyone over the age of 50 is more traveled than I am. I’ve had some great conversations over break so far, with so many family gatherings and that general amicable feeling of the holiday season.

Some of the best advice that stuck with me, while not the most original, went something like, “If I could do it all over again, I’d have traveled the world while I had the chance. Now, I’ve got a wife, kids, and a mortgage to pay.” This is exactly my thought process when I wake up in the morning. I turned twenty recently, and I’d rather not waste the potentially best years of my life. I’m in my best condition, both physically and mentally, right now.

I like to tell people that I’m moving to Paris next year. Now, I get to say I’m moving to Paris THIS year. Let the life-changing begin!

About the author:

Alexa Wybraniec is a journalism major at Rutgers University. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at Sciences- Po for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via Twitter.

  
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A French Christmas for All

By: Andrea Bouchaud

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Paris this Christmas or just want to have a French styled Christmas, check out the following links from some of the best Paris bloggers in 2013 to help you have a true, French Christmas.

Joyeux Noel!
-Gift Shopping with the French
-Ultimate Guide to French Christmas Food Shopping
-Ulimate Guide to French Christmas Gift Shopping
-A Guy’s Guide to Christmas Shopping in Paris
-French Christmas Food
-How to Wish Merry Christmas in French
-Comme Une Française Guide on French Christmas Gifts

-Comme Une Française Guide to French Christmas Dinner phrases
Another fun idea that I didn’t have a link for: Make your own Buche de Noel (A traditional French Christmas ‘log cake’). Look up recipes online and for tutorial videos on Youtube if no local French bakery near you. I got this idea from Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz from Dallas’ own French Affaires (www.frenchaffaires.com) newsletter.

Here’s what a Twenty in Paris Christmas looks like:

Twenty in Paris Christmas

Cdlt- Andrea

  
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Gifts to ask for Christmas When Going to Study Abroad

By: Andrea Bouchaud

(photo by: www.hdwallpaperstop.com)

Christmas is a great time to ask for practical gifts that will help you travel and live abroad easier. Maximize this holiday to help you better prepare for this upcoming experience by asking for gifts that will help you abroad. Let’s take a look at gifts to ask for from Santa if you’re studying abroad in the spring semester.

  • New, Sturdy Luggage and Luggage Tags. Studying abroad entails lots of traveling. Make sure that your items are secure and protected in a new, sturdy suitcase that can also expand (for souvenirs and new clothes you’ll buy abroad). In addition to new luggage, don’t forget about luggage tags. You want to make sure that you can easily identify your suitcase or get it back in case of a mix-up at the airport.
  • Passport Necklace to keep all important documents. When studying abroad, your going to need to bring important, personal documents with you such as a passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and credit cards. The safest place for these documents is on your person at all times, under your shirt. Europe is famous for pick pocketing which makes wallets and purses not very safe for holding important information. Safeguard your most valuable information by asking for a passport necklace to wear.
  • Adapter for Cell Phone and Lap top chargers. Each country has a different electrical current system than the United States. If you plan on bringing your American cell phone and lap top than an adapter will be needed to charge these items abroad. It’s important that the electrical adapter is bought in the United States as they are not easily found abroad.
  • E-book Twenty in Paris by: Andrea Bouchaud. You’re excited and ready to study abroad but how much do you know about the actual experience that lies ahead? Andrea Bouchaud is a former student who studied abroad for a year in Paris. In this book, she details the transition process and college experience abroad by showing students her mistakes and how to avoid them for the most successful and stress free experience. Be better prepared for the study abroad experience by purchasing this e-book on Amazon at http://amzn.to/GStCJM.
  • Reusable Grocery Bags. While living abroad, you’ll do your own grocery shopping. Many countries are shying away from using plastic bags at the grocery store. Be prepared for food shopping at the same time as being eco-friendly and ask for reusable grocery bags. Also come in handy for other purchases and carting laundry to the Laundromat.
  • Rain Boots and Umbrella. Are you studying abroad in Europe or Asia? If so, you’ll need rain boots and an umbrella. These continents are prone to rain and being unprepared for heavy rains can really dampen the experience. Stay dry and be prepared for the wet weather abroad by requesting rain boots and an umbrella.
  • Expandable Hamper and Hangers. No matter what living arrangement you chose for studying abroad, it will not come with hampers and hangers. Having an expandable hamper and hangers in advance saves you the hassle of having to buy these items your first few days abroad. In addition, you will also save space by having the expandable hamper and will be able to make yourself at home quicker by hanging your clothes up in the closet.

These are some general gift ideas that are practical for every student and every country but if you have something in particular that will help you while studying abroad, don’t forget to add that item to the list too.  Just make sure that your family gets this list as soon as possible. Joyeux noel et bonne chance!