By: Andrea Bouchaud
Seven years ago, I had the privilege to spend a year in the most beautiful city on Earth. Paris is an amazing place and I always look fondly back on my time I spent there. However, it was not my first host city choice for studying abroad. When I first decided I wanted to study abroad in France for my junior year of college, I applied to my university’s program in Tours. Unfortunately, this program was canceled about 4 weeks into the registration process and I had to find another one. The next program I applied to was in Nice with the University of Maryland. I was well into the registration process for this program when I had a brilliant idea to contact long, lost family in Paris. My grandfather’s sister lived in Paris and I thought by living with her for the summer before the start of classes in the fall, I could get accustomed to speaking French daily. Upon hearing this idea, she offered me the opportunity to live in Paris rent free. As this newfound opportunity alleviated a huge financial strain, I had to cancel my enrollment in the Nice program and find a study abroad program in Paris. Although I have an immense love for the City of Light, it was not my first or even second choice as a host city in France. Why? Because I don’t have a “big” personality. I find that I get lost in the bigness of a situation and then don’t have a good time/ do my best. My first year of college, I went to Drexel University. Drexel is a big school and I was just one of thousands of students on campus. I felt overwhelmed at its size and impersonal nature. When I transferred to Rutgers for the rest of my college career, its small campus and intimate class settings appealed to me and I flourished beautifully there. Just like a too big college campus, big cities are also a little too much of everything: people, crime, pollution, things to do and see, money you have to spend to be able to live there. I’m more of a homebody and not a night life kind of gal so living in a major metropolitan area with all kinds of activities, all the time is lost on me. Don’t get me wrong. I still overall had a great time in Paris but I think that I would’ve succeeded differently and maybe sooner had I studied abroad in a smaller city. Paris was an ideal study abroad location because of my unique housing situation and it doesn’t hurt that it also has great schools. I still would recommend to study abroad in Paris to anyone (as long as it is the best choice for your major, of course) but would caution to find a program that also suits your personality. Looking back, Paris was not my ideal host city for study abroad but I’m still glad that I had the chance to live there.
By: Andrea Bouchaud
(photo by friend- this is me at Jardin de Luxembourg. This has nothing to do with New Years other than it is a fun photo that was taken in the spring semester during my year in Paris. Woohoo for big bows!)
That’s what New Year’s Day meant to me as a twenty year old American student in Paris who had a tough 1st semester. When the clock struck midnight on December 31st that year while I stood in a quiet Parisian street watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower flicker crazily while fireworks went off in the background, I made a promise to myself that the spring semester would be different for me than the fall semester. I promised myself that I would not make the same mistakes twice and would take and seek out every opportunity available in the great city of Paris. No more would I look down on the French culture when it wasn’t how I hoped it would be. My attitude changed for things like: Strikes- they became charming; The uncanny ability the French have to disagree with most things –it became an amusing conversation piece; The “work to live” mentality – became an exemplary way to structure a society and economy.
But it didn’t stop there. No more would I be afraid to speak. No more would I stay in the studio and sulk. No more would I be the person I was in the first semester. That spring semester in Paris truly was a difference for me. I became the positive changes I wanted to see. If you’re studying in France for an academic year, I hope that this New Year treats you well and is even better than your last semester. If this spring semester is your first semester abroad, I wish you best of luck. Don’t forget to make it everything you want it to be.
By: Andrea Bouchaud
(photo by: discoverwalks.com)
During winter break while I was studying abroad in Paris, my father came to visit me. I was so preoccupied with finishing the semester and getting things ready for his visit that I didn’t stop to think about how the Parisians ring in the New Year. Paris doesn’t have anything that resembles Times Square so I didn’t think that they would be doing anything special for New Years for me to investigate. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that the Parisians would celebrate New Years with the most famous structure in Paris- the Eiffel Tower. It was New Year’s Eve 2007 and my father and I finished having dinner with Tatie (his aunt with whom I was living) when we were talking about what we should do for midnight. Tatie told us to go to the Eiffel Tower as they always do something there for New Years. The only issue is that this conversation was at like 11pm so we didn’t have much time to get there. We quickly left her apartment and started walking towards the buttery, illuminated Eiffel Tower. Something you should know about Paris is that there isn’t always a straight route. I led us down a major street which had a direct view of the Eiffel Tower as my idea was to keep walking down that street until we got to it. The only problem was that there were a few squares in the middle of the walk which meant that the straight road to the Eiffel Tower wasn’t really a straight road after all. We had to make turns and after a while I lost sight of the Eiffel Tower. After minutes of walking around and turning in circles, we were able to find another street with a direct view of the tower. Unfortunately for us, when we found this new road, it was too late. My father and I stood in the middle of a quiet, cold Parisian street watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower light up in sporadic bursts while fireworks went off in the background. It was actually a really great way to bring in the New Year. Champ de Mars (that’s the name of the field upon which the Eiffel Tower sits) is super crowded and really cold. Seeing the same sights on that tiny street fostered a more intimate way to say hello to 2008. No matter where you find yourself this New Year’s Eve, please be safe, happy and healthy.
Happy New Year and Bonne Année!
By: Andrea Bouchaud
(photo by: libertycalling.net)
***Translation of photo: Liberty, Egality, Fraternity and Fiscal Invasion
Paris is about to become an even more expensive city in the next few weeks. It appears as though paying 19.6% VAT (value added tax) wasn’t high enough according to French officials. As of January 2014, the VAT will increase to 20% in all of France. I have not come across an official date this new VAT amount is going into effect. The VAT tax is a tax on the purchase price but is calculated prior to your purchase unlike a sales tax. What this means is that the price you see on the ticket is the price you pay at the register. If you don’t know already, French taxes are quite heavy and are on everything. I would not be surprised if this tax hike were to cause a strike. Sylvia Davis from French Entrée explores this new French tax along with others in her new blog post here.http://blog.frenchentree.com/2013/12/27/taxes-in-france-vat-increase-and-other-changes-coming-in-2014/
Another tax hike that is already causing strikes and dissidence amongst a small population in France is the passing of the 75% income tax on all high income earners. Anyone who is making 1€ million or more will have to give up 75% of their income to the French government. This means that if someone makes 1,000,000 € they have to pay 750,000 € in taxes and only get to take home 250,000 €. This bill which was first rejected in the courts about 1 year ago has been recently approved. France’s President François Hollande believes that taxing the ninny out of the wealthy that remain in France will help to reduce budgetary issues in France instead of actually putting a budget in place and maybe cutting a program or two (say, state paid child services and college- these can really go in my humble American opinion). If you’re going to be in France as a student than you have nothing to worry about but this is good information to know as I’m sure it will spark lots of debate and now you’ll have a heads up on this issue and can jump right into the conversation.
Bottom line is the French have an unhealthy obsession with taxes and they are making France a place that is getting harder and harder to live in. Studying abroad is probably the only way that you will ever be able to afford living in France. It is evident that making lots of money there won’t get you anywhere. So enjoy this time and be thankful that you are not a wealthy French person.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25541739 (BBC covers this issue)