Tag Archives: paris study abroad

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!


How to Find Your Way Home Your First Few Weeks Abroad

Do you remember your first few days on campus? Did you ever get lost or confused as to where that English 101 class was before you were able to commit it to memory? Learning a new place is always hard the first few times until you get used it but how about learning a new city? It may seem like a daunting task but you do catch on after a while. There are tricks you can use to help you learn your way not only around Paris (or any other host city) but also how to find your new home abroad.

Paris is a great city because it has so many well known sites sprinkled throughout. For me, I had the pleasure of living in a supreme location. I was right down the street from the Louvre on the other side of the Seine River. I quickly discovered that if I could find the Louvre or the Seine, I could find my way home. It also doesn’t hurt that everyone knows where the Louvre is. It’s true that I did find myself in a funk only after 3 days in Paris but I did walk around my district, especially the area around the Seine for at least 1 hour every day. It was on these hourly walks that I familiarized myself with the surrounding area so that I would know how to get home.

You should do the same – and don’t just limit yourself to the streets around the main site. Make sure to explore every street in your district. Take your Paris Plan (a small, pocket sized map of Paris that breaks down every district into every street; these should be bought in Paris at any tobacco shop or newspaper stand) and explore! The goal is that you can enter into your district from any street/ any direction and be able to find your home without using a map or asking for help. Do you know in advance the address of your host family, dorm or apartment? If so, start looking up that district now and identifying your closest major monument to be your marker.


world map

Traveling and Relationships

(All this image is missing is a few loved ones. Photo by: www.ulixis.com)

There are many kinds of relationships that are important to us for our overall mental health, and they all become even more important when we travel abroad because our mental health is pushed to the limit in new ways. Relationships can help keep you well-founded when you otherwise feel like you’re drowning in an unfamiliar world.

The most important relationships when going abroad for a long stay are the ones you’re “leaving behind” at home. Your family and your friends have been there for you during your “normal” at-home life, they know you well, and they are the people the most likely to stick by your side. No matter how many cool new people you meet abroad, your relationships back home will be your anchor, especially because people you meet abroad tend to keep moving around themselves.

Relationships(friendships are an important relationship. Photo by: www.vipinramdas.com)

I admit that I’m not the best at cultivating relationships with people back home because I get so caught up with where I am. But it’s important to remember that those people are doing exciting things, too. I have probably made more meaningful connections with my best friend back home while being abroad than ever before because of how it has made us open up. The physical or abstract things that cheer me up the most are usually movies that remind me of people back home and care packages my mother sends, so that goes to show that people can touch you in indirect ways and are therefore still with you and important to you.

However, there have undoubtedly been times when new friends here have lent a helping hand or given me some advice that has helped me in huge ways. Most of the people I meet don’t stay in one place for long, so they have learned some invaluable lessons that they then pass on to me. Of course, that also means that I have to somehow get used to constantly making new friends that I will inevitably “lose” within months or a year because I happen to be the one staying in one place, but it’s always worth it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have my friends back from a previous year, but then I meet someone new that teaches me something amazing and I realize what a blessing it was to have had those old friends at all. Even if they keep moving away, each new friend is priceless.

The hardest relationships to navigate are probably the romantic ones. It’s pretty challenging to date when abroad because you feel pulled between worlds and starting a relationship can feel like settling down when you may not want to. It definitely doesn’t work to try to keep a long-distance relationship with someone back home- both Andrea and I can attest to that. But I have met so many young girls in this area each year that prove over and over how important it is to not jump into something with just any guy, either. A relationship with someone of another nationality while abroad can seem so dreamy, but people are people, and people can hurt. Meaningful relationships have to be sought out with care, no matter where you live or for how long. Don’t let that cute accent fool you, because you may end up realizing that there was nothing behind that tantalizing facade. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t date at all; it simply means that you should keep your guard up until trust is earned.


(romance abroad- photo by: www.hercampus.com)

Even if I love the city I live in and have lots of exciting new experiences here that I would never have had back home, my friends and family are what keep me happy. No beautiful architecture, breathtaking mountains, or fun beach moments will make your heart happy if you’re not keeping a close eye on your relationships. They are a blessing that keep me going each day, especially in times of homesickness.
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” ~Frederick Buechner


Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.


Talking with native speakers is the best way to learn French

(The lunch or dinner table is a great place to converse with native speakers. Photo by: www.somethingtosnackon.com)

Monday through Friday, I have the best French lesson on the planet- I eat lunch with native French speakers. I learn more in 1 hour with them than I have in any classroom. Just the other day, I found out about the aggressive French redneck- this was something that was never taught in any level French class that I’ve ever taken. Le rouge gorge or literally the Red throat (ok it’s not redneck exactly but it’s pretty close!) is a small little bird native to Europe and is quite territorial, hence, it’s aggressive nature.


(He might not look like much but keep out of this little guy’s way!)


(photo by: my.englishclub.com)

The French nature lesson didn’t stop there. I also found out that une cigale is not a grasshopper but rather a cicada. All this time I thought that the hard working ant was being bothered by a lazy grasshopper who liked to make music and not a cicada (this is a reference from the famous French fable La cigale et la formi).

I cannot stress enough that the best way to really learn a foreign language is to speak with native speakers. This does not mean to say that speaking with native speakers should completely replace taking classes- unless you are able to speak with someone everyday for at least 1 hour and even then, I still recommend taking classes. Studying abroad is a great way to really take your foreign language skills to the next level and beyond as well as help you immerse into the host culture as you’ll be put in the situation to interact with native speakers. Countries like France love their language and that’s why it’s really important to beef up your language skills. Most of your language lessons occur outside the classroom and not in it – so dive in and talk with a native!

Are you getting ready to pack for your up-coming study abroad? Watch this video on how to pack your checked bag- this video is for both gentlemen and ladies. Stay tuned for the 3rd installment of the How to Pack for Studying Abroad Series which covers beauty essentials.