Tag Archives: introvert abroad


Study Abroad in Paris: Dating Etiquette 101

(photo by activekiddies.co.uk)

As many students get ready to study abroad, they start thinking about the new experiences they’ll have such as sight-seeing, travelling, and meeting new people, particularly a romantic interest. I’ve found quite a few forums where students ask what it’s like to date in France and if Paris is gay-friendly. These questions raise an interesting concern about dating expectations abroad that we’ll tackle here today so let’s take a look!

Why do we study abroad?

future(Answer: To gain skills for our career. Photo by: www.rickbillings.com)

All of these questions on dating while studying abroad in France made me realize that some students are forgetting the reason why we study abroad. Ask yourself this: did you go to online forums with dating questions if your university is in a different state than the one you grew up in? You probably didn’t. And why not? Because you chose the school based on its academic programs. A study abroad should be exactly the same. You should study abroad to further your academic studies and gain skill sets for your career; not to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right. Romance abroad should be a bonus, not a goal.

Love during a study abroad

love(Photo byegoround.ru)

Although I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t plan on having un petit copain/ une petite copine during your study abroad, it’s good to be prepared and familiar with French culture through its dating customs and expectations. You’re right to be curious about dating in France; it’s different than dating in the USA. How you can find out these differences is by learning more about the culture through your weekly language exchanges and reading French articles about dating. These native sources should answer all of your questions about French romance and will also give you more insight into French culture. To develop a romantic relationship during your study abroad, you must be hanging out with the natives all the time. Here’s one tip I can give you about French dating- it’s super slow. The French like to get to know each other petit à petit and don’t share much personal information in the beginning of a budding romance.

If you find yourself getting involved with a French person, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Don’t let this romance distract you from your studies (the main reason you’re in France)
  • Don’t speak English in your relationship. Use this unique opportunity to really understand and better your French language skills.
  • Think about the final outcome. A romance during a study abroad is founded in temporary conditions. It’s ok to tomber amoureux but remember that you have to return to your homeland in 10 months or less so don’t be super attached. I feel weird encouraging you to have feelings but to keep them in check at the same time but that’s what you should do. What I can tell you from personal experience is that having a long distance relationship with someone in another country is extremely difficult and stressful to maintain. Have your fling, be prepared to end it for your return back home and keep some great memories. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of marriage or maintaining this romance once you return home.
  • Respect your host family/ roommates rules. So you’ve found love during your study abroad and you’re gaga over him/her. Unless, you’re renting an apartment by yourself, you’ll want to respect your host family/roommates rules on bringing guests over, especially if your guest is staying the night.

Now that we’ve gone over some rules of etiquette for romantic relationships abroad, let’s check out rules of etiquette, health and safety for physical relationships.

Sex and Sexual Orientation During Your Study Abroad

signs(Photo by www.livingstylish.com)

Sex and sexual orientation are 2 different things that I’m going to tackle separately. First, let’s talk about sex. It’s important to remember that every time you have sex, even with protection (condom and birth control), there is always a risk for pregnancy and contracting an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). Protection and testing are not 100% fool proof or a guarantee that you will not get an STI or pregnant; merely, they can significantly lower the risks when used consistently and properly. I never got the point of a random hook-up. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would risk their health (and safety!) for a non-guaranteed 20 minutes of pleasure with a complete stranger. I’d much rather stay home and me débrouiller for a guaranteed good and safe time for as long as I want. Anyhoo, if random hook-ups are your thing, you need to follow these basic rules of etiquette and safety. These tips also work for anywhere in the world at anytime during your life.

  • NEVER under any circumstances bring your date home for the evening to your host family’s house; I don’t care how close you are to the host family; I don’t care how accepting they are; I don’t care if they walk around in their underwear around you. You are NEVER to bring your evening romp to their home- EVER. This is inappropriate, weird and disrespectful.
  • If you’re staying with roommates of the same age, make sure that you talk in advance about the rules for bringing dates home. Some people may be uncomfortable with a stranger staying the night in their home or eating that left over baguette they didn’t pay for in the morning before they leave.
  • Go with your gut feeling. If you’re on a date and you’re feeling uncomfortable, leave immediately.
  • NEVER go home/ to a hotel with someone that you just met a few hours ago. You should always try to get to know the person a little bit before hooking-up. It’s not a guarantee of safety but it’s better than not knowing them at all and gives you time to get STI tested.
  • Always keep condoms or préservatifs with you. This goes for men and women of any sexual orientation. ALWAYS use protection against STIs.
  • Ladies, if you’re into the opposite gender you need to use a form of birth control in addition to condoms. No exceptions!

Now that we’ve gone over common sex health and safety tips. Let’s tackle sexuality abroad. It’s important to remember that no place is really “anyone friendly”. When you combine millions of people with different religious beliefs, criminal and general backgrounds, political views, sexual orientation, age, gender, and overall values you can’t ever be guaranteed that any place is truly gay friendly; punk friendly; female friendly; black friendly, so on and so on.  I guess you could consider France a gay friendly place as it legalized gay marriage a few years ago with no signs of it being overturned anytime soon. We could also assume that Paris is fairly gay friendly as the previous mayor was openly gay. However, just because the host city and country have accepting attitudes doesn’t mean that your host family feels the same way. This is a concern expressed by some students. They wonder if their host family will be accepting of their sexual orientation. There is no way to guarantee this and no reason why you should be declaring your sexual orientation to your host family. No matter what flavor you are, you need to keep this on the down-low with your host family. Remember, they are not your real family and do not have to accept you. Even studying abroad in France, I don’t recommend you to flaunt your sexuality or sexual orientation. Be discreet in your hook ups and think of your overall safety.

Dating during a study abroad can be exciting and a great way to really immerse into the local culture. However, it does come with its own set of responsibilities and distractions. Bonne chance!






The Many Faces of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is an emotional journey. You’ll have great days, bad days and everything in between. Here’s a look at some of my favorite study abroad faces. Do you have a study abroad face that you want to share? Tweet it to me @twentyinparis with hashtag #studyabroadface



many faces

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10 Ways Studying Abroad Prepares You for Real Life

(photo by: enteradulthood.com)

Studying abroad is not just a one-time thing you did in college. It’s an experience that will impact your entire life- personal and professional.

1) There is more than 1 way to do something. This may sound like common sense but ask yourself if you tend to do things (daily activities, studying, solving a problem…) the same way all the time. You most likely do- it’s natural to stick to what you know. However, studying abroad is a game changer where you learn that there is more than 1 way to do the same thing…for example boiling water for a pasta dinner. In the USA, we heat a pot of cold water on the stove for what seems like an eternity until it boils and then add in the pasta. In France, they use a bouilloire électrique (an electric kettle) to boil the water. It takes less than a few minutes, then they throw it in the pot on the stove and add the pasta and voilà! pasta in less than 10 minutes. Same delicious meal, two different ways. But it’s not just personal life that will see the benefits- you’re career will too. Knowing how to do things multiple ways will also help you in the work place. In this ever expanding global market, your ability to solve problems / do things differently will help to set you apart from your colleagues as well help you understand and work better with customers / colleagues of various cultures.

2)  There is an art to communication. Studying abroad often means learning a new language (including cultural lingo for other Anglophone countries). You’ll have many situations where someone doesn’t understand you and vice versa. These experiences force you to master the art of communication. And I’m not just talking about hand signals. Speaking a second language makes you to learn how to say something a few ways in trying to find the one that works. This skill of being able to communicate the same thing different ways will be useful in both your personal and professional interactions, especially with people who aren’t native to your culture or language. You’ll amaze everyone with your skills on being to effectively express yourself to anyone.

3) Discover what it means to R-e-s-p-e-c-t and appreciate those different from you. Often we gravitate towards people who are similar to us because it makes us feel a sense of belonging. But when living abroad, you’ll be the different one. Your ability to respect and appreciate the host culture will help you to adapt and learn about it- it’s also the right thing to do! Living amongst people who are different from your native culture is a great way to learn tolerance and acceptance of others. This trait will benefit you personally as well as professionally (remember that global market and workplace).

4) Find out how to be independent.Living in Paris was the first time that I was truly on my own. My family was no longer a short train ride away. For many of you, studying abroad is where you will first truly learn about independence. Sometimes the lessons learned aren’t always so noticeable but you are definitely paving the way for a parent-free (in terms of finances and living situation) life post college. It’s during this experience that you really learn how to handle that noisy neighbor; how you can’t buy that really cute shirt even though you want it so bad because your budget doesn’t allow for it this month; and how to handle a bad day alone without letting it consume you. Adulthood- here you come!

5) Budgets are key to financial health. Budgets are not fun. Period. But they are an important factor to having a healthy financial future (and present). Studying abroad is all about little income and big sight-see lists. If you don’t have your finances in order, you can quickly find yourself low on funds from weekly museum visits. A budget does not take the place of proper planning but it keeps it in check to make sure that you are doing everything you need and want to without going broke. Master this and you’ll be set for life.

6) There is more to life than work. I know, I know- that’s not very American of me but living abroad taught me that.But don’t spend your entire life working – it’s important to stop and smell the roses. Remember, no one looks back at their life and regales the great things they did at work; they think of all the great things they did in their spare time. So don’t forget to forge those memories!

7)  History is not the same everywhere. History should be based on fact but often a country’s opinion of itself gets in the way. It’s interesting to see how the same events are told slightly different depending upon where you are. For example, in the US, we’re not really taught why France and the USA didn’t get along well after WWII. In France, they claim that America wanted to govern France to help rebuild it after the war but the French refused this “offer”. This is probably why I failed my 20th century history classes in Paris- I didn’t recognize the material! Just be prepared to be shocked and don’t try to battle it out with everyone who recounts their version of events.

8) Life is beautiful. If you listen to enough newsfeeds, you’ll be convinced that life stinks and the whole human race is doomed (I know that I get that way sometimes :p). Living in another country and experiencing another culture hands-on at 20 years old is an amazing opportunity. Waking up in a different place and growing to appreciate the new way of life really is a beautiful experience. Remember, even with all its curve balls, life is still beautiful.

9) Traveling is awesome. Even if you don’t get to travel much while abroad, the fact that you’re abroad means you traveled. There is a whole world out there. Have you ever heard someone say “If you stay in one place long enough, the world will come to you”? I’ve heard it before and all I can say is…that is class-A malarkey. Traveling is awesome because it creates a bond between you and others. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that we’re really all the same, just in different environments.

10) Get to really know yourself. Studying abroad is not only the journey of learning a different culture; it’s also the journey of learning about you. Your time abroad will teach you more things about yourself that you never knew before. You’ll find your weaknesses, your strengths, and that your personality is not set in stone. Sometimes these changes are seen during your time abroad and sometimes they surface a few years later. Just remember that the playing field of studying abroad is a way to sow the seeds to a better you.