Tag Archives: experience

The Many Places of Paris: Spring Break Edition

This post is dedicated to college students everywhere who are on spring break

Do you think that the only place to see Paris and the Eiffel Tower is in France? It’s not! This bronzed beauty can be found all over the world, sometimes even in your own back yard. For the spring breakers this year who didn’t get the awesome Twenty in Paris reader discount at WSA Europe (which is not too late btw)- to travel to Paris for spring break, you may not have to go far to get a little Paris wherever you are.

The many Eiffel Towers of the World range in height from 10ft (3 m) to its exact height of 1,102ft (336m); most serve as either decoration in a park or a communication tower on top of a building (photos courtesy of http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/replicas-eiffel-tower_n_3721294.html)

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The United States may have a love-hate relationship from time to time with our French brethen but we sure do love Paris! Here is a list of all the American states that are proud to call Paris a part of their state.


 So if you find yourself in: Harbin, China; Minato Tokyp, Japan; Las Vegas, NV- USA; Nagoya, Japan; Ismaning, Bavaria- Germany; Berlin, Germany; Shenzhen, China; Hangzhou, China; Mason, Ohio; Doswell, Virgina; Lyon, France; Guatemala City, Guatemala; Prague, Czech Republic; Gomex Palacio Durango , Mexico; Slobozia, Romania; Praizh, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia; London, England- UK; Sydney, Australia; Fayetteville, North Carolina -USA; Copenhagen, Denmark; Varna, Bulgaria; Torrejon, Spain; Lake Buena Vista, FL- USA; Paris, Texas- USA; Paris, Tennessee- USA;  Messinia, Greece; Atlanta, Georgia; Brussels; Rajasthan, India; Brisbane, Australia; Montmartre Saskatchewan; Austin, Texas- USA; Uman, Ukraine; Paris, Michigan- USA; Baku, Azerbaijan- celebrate your spring break in Paris, no matter what part of the world you’re in

As always please fun and safe spring break. Check back next week for a pre-release giveaway of up-coming study abroad book The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored with WSA.









Au secours! An American Student’s Scary Visit to Notre Dame

(photos courtesy of Andrea)

Andrea’s Introduction: Historian. Lecturer. Study Abroad Director. American. Parisian. Ellen Hampton is the ultimate embodiment of an American living in Paris. Her passion for all things French can be seen in her 3 books. Her newest book, Playground for Misunderstanding, centers on an American student’s time in Paris. I really enjoyed this scene you are about to read as it focuses on Nick, the main  character, visiting the famous Notre Dame. Although I didn’t have his exact experience when I went, I could easily see this being true for an American student.

This is an excerpt from the novel, Playground for Misunderstanding, a scene where Nick, an American exchange student from New York, goes to Notre Dame cathedral. Nick had promised his mother he would visit Notre Dame, and it seemed as good an afternoon as any. It was cold, but it wasn’t raining. The crowd of visitors was thinning in the square in front of the cathedral, and when Nick stopped to look at the façade he was set upon by two young African men hawking postcards, keychains, and plastic Esmeraldas.


He shook them off and stepped into the gloom of high Gothic, with its incumbent musk of warm wax and cold stone. He did not particularly believe in God and did not like churches; they made him feel like a pretender, an outsider, someone who had wandered into the wrong office. As far as he was concerned, religion was a tribal matter, and if asked, he would say he belonged to the caste of Catholic deserters. For Nick, the high holidays were about food, gifts and family, rather than birth, death and redemption. But he had to pay homage to Notre Dame. For an American Catholic, even a deserter, it was a pilgrimage. There was no other European cathedral that held its cult status. It even had its own musical.


(photo of entrance to Notre Dame)

Nick turned off his cell phone, assumed a pious expression and started down a side aisle. He tried to peer into the chapels but in front of each there was a group of tourists, firing away at the altars and statuary with flash cameras. He wandered on, craning his neck to see the stained glass high above, and bumped into a couple taking pictures of a window 30 meters up with their cell phones. No one was looking at anything, they were

simply recording. Nick bristled. Did they think, like primitives, that they would possess what they photographed? He listened to the present dull shuffle of tourist feet, amplified and intensified by the arched and vaulted ceiling whose past genius had been aimed at songs of praise and words of prayer, and thought suddenly: I gotta get out of here. He dodged around the strollers and student groups and obese retirees and popped out onto the square. The shock of cold air felt good. He saw a sign for the tower entrance and followed it around the corner. The line to get in was just a few people long; it was the end of the day’s visits. Nick joined it and the guard closed the gate behind him.

He climbed the spiral staircase to the tower, its stone steps dipped in the center with the footsteps of the millions that had preceded him, and at the top, felt his heart pounding in time with the distant pim-pan of a police siren, his pulse echoing the muffled roar of city traffic below. He watched the dim and hazy sun crawling low across the northern horizon toward the west, where the mirrored glass towers of the business district rose like the Emerald City across the smoky plain. Notre Dame rode the river like a ship of state, its flying buttresses in full sail, its rose compass set for eternity. Nick stood at the helm, alone.

He thought about Anne-Sophie, and his thoughts became tangled with need and desire. He wanted to know who he was, and what it meant to be him, and he didn’t think he could find that out by himself. He had only questions, and he felt instinctively that she had some answers. He felt that with her, he could become the person he wanted to be. But he had clearly disappointed her, maybe he wasn’t up to her speed. He felt as if he were stuck in some chrysalis state and only by walking by her side could he break the bonds of adolescence.


(photo of the flying buttresses of Notre Dame)

He had to get her back. He patted the head of the gargoyle on his left and whispered in its smooth stone ear: “What should I do?” It was cold and getting dark; he started down the staircase. Half the way down, the lights went out. He stopped, and then continued on slowly, feeling his way along the stone wall in the dark. At the bottom, the door was closed and locked. Nick banged on it and shouted. No response. He kept pounding, outraged fury leapfrogging irrational fear at the looming spectre of a night locked in Quasimodo’s tower. Finally he heard a voice, a rattle of keys, and the door opened. A security guard opened the door and stared at him.

“What are you doing there?! The tower is closed. You have no right to be inside!” the man barked. “Get out of there!” Nick yelled back. “You locked me in there! You didn’t even bother to check if everyone was gone!”“It is not my responsibility. It is your obligation to leave when the tower closes. Now go!”Nick walked across the square, shaking with cold and anger, but eminently relieved  that he was out. “So fucking typical,” he muttered. “They lock me in, and it’s somehow my fault.” He headed towards the nearest café and a badly needed cup of hot chocolate.



Ellen Hampton

Ellen Hampton is a writer, historian, lecturer at Sciences Po and resident director for the CUNY New York-Paris Exchange Program. She has been watching American students take to Paris comme des canards dans l'eau for many years, and she thanks them all for sharing their adventures for this novel. Please visit ellenhamptonbooks.com, or look for Playground for Misunderstanding on amazon.com or smashwords.com, in e-format only.


Studying Abroad Can Open the Door to Your Heritage

(photo by: magazine.enlightennext.org)

Studying abroad is a great opportunity for academic and personal growth. But did you know it is also a great way to discover your heritage? I am the granddaughter of a Frenchman who gave up his language and culture to become American. Growing up, it was always difficult to believe that Grandpop was French because, well, he didn’t do anything French! Whenever I saw my grandfather he spoke English; ate American food; celebrated American holidays; and acted like everyone else I knew who was American. For years I thought being French meant having a last name that no one could spell or pronounce. It wasn’t until I began French foreign language studies in high school which continued into college that I only began to merely understand what it meant to be of French heritage. After years of learning about France’s impact on the world in terms of science, history and philosophy, I decided to get some hands -on knowledge and find out what it really means to be French by studying abroad.

In an earlier post (Why Paris was not the ideal host city for me), I mentioned that I had a unique opportunity to not only discover France hands-on but to actually interact with family. This was an amazing excursion into my grandfather’s past; to meet all the people he left behind to start his new life in America over half a century ago. I found out things about my grandfather and my family history that I never would have known had I not studied abroad. If you are able to study abroad in a country where you have long, lost relatives or from where your family originated (even if many centuries ago), I highly recommend it. It will give you an insight into your heritage and maybe into you / your family that you would not have had if not for studying abroad.


Eleanor’s Paris Adventures: Le commencement

1st post from new guest blogger, Eleanor Harte (photo by: frenchforfoodies.com)

“You’ve been accepted! Welcome to the program. We can’t wait to see you in January.”

The email, sent in October, was the final piece of the puzzle: I would be studying in Paris in Spring 2014. I immediately updated my Facebook status, started a countdown until the day I left, and researched things to do in Paris. I couldn’t wait. My dream was on its way to becoming a reality. I can’t remember the first time I heard about studying abroad, but I’ve known I wanted to do it since high school. My parents grew up in Europe, which gave me both travel experience to visit family and the blessing of dual citizenship and a European Union passport. I took French in high school and even though I didn’t have very good teachers, I did have the desire to learn the language. I’ve taken two semesters of college French as well, but even after all that time I still am not particularly confident in my language skills. That’s why I briefly flirted with the idea of studying in a different city: London, maybe, or Galway. Somewhere where I wouldn’t have to worry about basic communication skills, or my lack of them. But then I remembered why I wanted to study abroad in the first place: I was seeking a new culture, new places to discover, a new world to understand. Sure, London would be great and Galway would’ve been amazing, but I wouldn’t be getting an entirely new cultural experience. And ultimately, that was what I wanted. So I decided to lean into the fear and applied to study in Paris. Now there are just a few short days until I leave, and I still can’t wait. I am incredibly excited, but also very busy. My acceptance letter, which I thought was the last piece of the puzzle, turned out to be the first: I’ve had flight tickets to purchase, housing decisions to make, packing lists to write, and even more. I’ve had an empty suitcase sitting on my bedroom floor for a week, waiting to fill it until I’m sure exactly what I should bring. I’ve researched typical Parisian weather, what kind of clothing is in fashion, and what I can expect when I arrive. I’ve talked to my bank about my travel plans, downloaded free calling apps to my phone, and photocopied my passport. It seems that all that’s left for me to do is stop putting it off and actually pack. I think one of the reasons I haven’t started packing yet is because I’m nervous. I also haven’t fully processed that I am leaving in a handful of days.

I have never been to Paris, and even though I’ve read up on the 20 arrondissements and the fun places to hang out, I am at a complete loss for what to expect. When I get off that plane, I’ll be arriving in my new city for the first time. I’ve traveled internationally by myself, but never have I been to a city where I know absolutely no one. It’s kind of a terrifying prospect, especially when I consider that I haven’t studied French in two years, but I remain confident that my French language skills will improve over time. I’m going to be in Paris for five months, and after the initial shock of being there wears off, I know it’s going to be worth it. I’ve never spoken to someone who didn’t love their study abroad experience, and that’s how I know that this is going to be the greatest adventure of all.

So here’s to 2014: the year of adventure, of leaning into the fear, and of saying yes!

About the author:

Eleanor Harte is a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she’s studying Journalism and Political Science. She just arrived in Paris yesterday and will be taking Political Science classes through CEA and French classes at the Sorbonne. You can connect with Eleanor on twitter, Instagram  and at her website www.eleanorharte.com