Tag Archives: study abroad + I don’t like my host family

Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: Haute Cuisine

All photos by Alexa

I take a picture of (almost) every meal I eat so that I always have leftovers. And a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?


Ale’s new apartment has this little round table that looks pretty nondescript when my laptop and elbows are resting on it. But, once we decorate it with a bright tablecloth, a fresh baguette, and grilled chicken with roasted peppers and onions, it looks like something straight out of a little bistro in the heart of Paris.


When I get home from a run, the first thing I do is go to the Monoprix. It’s the best place for cheap but quality food when you don’t have time or patience for the market. One of my easy go-to meals is a salad with red peppers and Italian olive oil, a whole-grain mini-baguette, and fresh berries.


After the pool, midday, Chez Ale is situated perfectly for some sun rays. It was too cold to sit outside, but some red wine and the heat of the stove kept the place warmer than the average Parisian cafe. Special of the day: garlic and olive-oil drizzled over asparagus and grilled chicken with a tradition (which is like a baguette, but crunchier). I swear I eat meats other than chicken.


I came home from class one Tuesday afternoon to find a bunch of strawberries drying in the kitchen sink. I stole just a few (dozen) before heading out again. Happy spring!


This is one of my fancier salads because nuts. Pear and walnuts and olive oil and bread, does it get any better than that?

Thanks for dining with me and have a nice Monday. :-)


Alexa Wybraniec

Alexa studies journalism, media and French at Rutgers University. She is abroad at Sciences Po for her third year of college. Check back every other Monday for a new post and connect on Twitter.


Navigating the Rocky Waters of my Kiwi Study Abroad

(featured photo by www.aspiringguides.com; All post photos by Justine)

“Oh my god—what is Magnolia Bakery like?”

“New York in the winter seems so fabulous. All those fur coats!”

“Wait, you said you’re from New Jersey? Do you know anybody in the mob?”

These were the questions I faced on my second day of school in Auckland, New Zealand, thousands of miles away from New Jersey. They may have been the same questions as my first day, only I couldn’t quite understand the accents just yet, comprehending requests to state my name and directions on where to sit in my classrooms.

I had recently moved from an uncertain life in Jersey to an even more unknown chapter in New Zealand. Back in the US, I had just started my sophomore year in a new school, only to be told in December that my mom wanted to go on an adventure and take my younger sister and I to New Zealand, where she had family. Leaving our father, I found myself a few months later in February unpacking my single suitcase in a new apartment, new city, new country, new time zone.

Looking back on it now as a recent college grad, I could have—and should have—handled the move differently. I mean, who would have been unhappy if they woke up to this view at their grandparents’ house?


..or to walk up these steps every morning and be taught by Oxford-educated instructors?


…or to know that this scene, free of any magical Instagram filter, would only take a quick hop on the freeway?


But those condensed two years in New Zealand—I was deemed bright enough to skip a year and spent my junior and senior years there—were probably the darkest years of my life. Part of it was due to personal struggles in not being strong enough to handle such a move. Since my dad was back in America, I had to be the one my mom relied upon around the house, be it gardening, making sure our utilities were taken care of, or keeping track of our finances. However, one reason for my unhappiness in the Land of the Long White Cloud is because I expected too much.

Now, even though I had visited NZ as a tourist visiting family, a visitor’s experience of life in a country abroad (although they share your common language!) is still drastically different than calling it home. As an American teenager, I had simply waltzed through my school doors on my first day expecting people to like me and to want to get to know me. I’d expected that things people would be “like Americans, but different”—straight-shooters who were warm and open.

What I found instead was a society where people were friendly, but reserved. In fact, I had a teacher later tell me, after I had confided in her that I felt like I wasn’t making close friendships (something that everybody wants in high school, am I right?), that Kiwis were people who kept their inner feelings and even personality traits a secret, even to their oldest friends of decades. After a semester at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, I found this very similar to the British way of life as well.

And in hindsight, the slightly disappointing experience I had could have been completely circumvented if I had come through those arrival gates at Auckland Airport with an open mind, free of expectations. I should also have done more research instead of assuming everything would work itself out seamlessly. To my credit, some of the discomfort I encountered was due to college preparation stress: my classmates were coasting on their assignments, aiming to attend the local Auckland University, or if they were really ambitious, maybe overseas at an Australian institution. I had the additional obstacle course of navigating a new curriculum in addition to taking the SATs overseas with zero outside help like tutoring.

Most importantly, I should have enjoyed the great moments that did eventually happen. I am incredibly, deeply grateful to my parents for the opportunity of such a life experience. Once college actually rolled around, I felt infinitely more prepared than all the other freshmen, knowing that I now had the strength and grit to face whatever was coming my way. Because of college, we all ended up moving back to the US, but fortunately as a permanent resident, I have the freedom of returning to NZ whenever I like.

Thanks to this episode in my life, it pointed out what my career aspirations could be like. This international experience opened my eyes to the importance of communications and public relations that could resonate with a variety of markets. As such, it led to my interest and subsequent internships at places like the Senate and even Al Roker Entertainment, helping develop reality shows. This drive to succeed and attention to fostering relationships has awoken my interest in pursuing a career in PR, consulting, or possibly even diplomacy–it’s true, the struggle you’re in today develops the strength you need for tomorrow.


Justine Yu

Justine is a recent graduate of Rutgers University looking to get started in the public relations, diplomacy, or entertainment industry. If you don't want to keep up with the Kardashians, you can join her journey in navigating the post-graduate world at justineyu.com.


6 Signs Your French is Good

(Photo by: www.thegoodlifefrance.com – one of my favorite French for Anglophone expats sites!)

I’m a firm believer that studying abroad for a semester or even 2 doesn’t make you fluent in French but it sure can improve your French skills by leaps and bounds. Just in case you’re not sure if your French has gotten better, here’s 6 telltale signs that you are rockin’ it in the foreign language department:

1) You mix up spellings: When you find yourself writing the French version of adresse when you’re trying to write address in English, you know you’ve achieved a higher level of French. Why? If you’re making spelling errors like this it means that you have developed a French speaking part of the brain which you’ve been using pretty regularly. Woohoo!

2) You say “euh” instead of “um”: English speakers interject “um” in a conversation for many reasons. However, when you replace “um” with the French “euh” instead, it really shows how much of French culture and linguistics you’ve adopted.

3) You forget the word in English but remember it in French even though it’s a common English word you use all the time: This is probably the biggest clue that your French has improved tenfold. When your brain is using the French side more often from growing and learning each day, common English words and expressions get replaced by the more often used French words. It’s not like you were speaking English anymore anyway :p

how do you say(photo by: forums.denden.co.uk)

4) You dream in French: It’s true that if you can dream in another language that you’ve reached some level of fluency. It may not happen all the time but when you do it, you’ll know you’re well on your way to true fluency.

frenchie(Ok so it’s not exactly the same but who knows what language French bulldogs dream in. Photo by: bulldog-haven.com)

5) You don’t know the expression or word you’re looking for so you describe it: We’ve previously discussed the pros and cons of using Franglais (a combination of the French and English language). As a new full time French speaker, you may find yourself relying on Franglais when you don’t know a word but a hint you’re getting more comfortable in French is when you explain the things you don’t know how to say instead of using Franglais. Novice speakers will be more comfortable speaking less French, hence why they use more Franglais. But a sign you’re getting better at and becoming more comfortable with speaking French is finding ways to talk more such as describing things you don’t know.

6) French speakers understand you when you speak: French speakers really appreciate when you make any attempt to speak French but their appreciation doesn’t always equal comprehension. Way off pronunciation and lack of vocab can limit a French person’s understanding of what you’re trying to say. When your French classmates visibly understand what you’re saying without having to think about it or infer, you know you’ve reached the better French jackpot.

If you have experienced any or all of these things- Congrats! Your French skills have dramatically improved. But like any skill, if you don’t keep it up you can lose it. For tips on how to maintain your newly improved French skills check out Twenty in Paris on Amazon (available for your e-reader and smart phone).


How to Pack for Studying Abroad Part II: The Checked Bag

It’s here, it’s here! The 2nd installment of the 4 part video series on How to Pack for Studying Abroad. Today we cover how many suitcases you should bring for your up-coming study abroad (it’s less than you think) and exactly what to pack (and how much of it). Did you watch Part I about what to pack in your carry-on? If not, check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ4GUw52cdU.





Was this video helpful? Let me know by leaving me a comment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8qq6KoUvBM and don’t forget to subscribe to the Twenty in Paris YouTube Channel to know when Part III – Beauty Essentials for Studying Abroad is released.