Tag Archives: study abroad mistakes

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.

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.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter   so that we can stay connected between posts.

Bonne chance!


New Reason to Sign Up for the Best Studying Abroad in Paris Newsletter

(The newsletter tells you all about this place. Photo by Andrea)

Twenty in Paris newsletter subscribers are in for a treat! Starting this month, every Twenty in Paris newsletter subscriber will receive a free PDF with detailed tips, advice and more on a particular aspect of the Paris study abroad experience. The goal of this PDF is to provide more coverage in a shorter read to answer your questions about your up-coming Paris study abroad. Who doesn’t love that!

Book Icon(PDF Guidebooks rule! photo by: www.creagdhu.net)

Not a newsletter subscriber? No worry! You’ll be able to find these PDFs on Amazon for $0.99 as a quick Kindle (or e-reader or Smartphone) read. I’ll announce when a new one is up. If you’re on the fence about subscribing to the Twenty in Paris newsletter, here are 10 reasons why you should join today!

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  • It’s free!!
  • Free PDFs that cover the study abroad topics you care about in a short but detailed read
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  • Highlight of the month’s posts in case you missed them
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  • First look at the newest guest bloggers
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So what are you waiting for? Just go to the right side bar and enter in your email address in the SUBSCRIBE box.

what-are-you-waiting-for1(photo by: 1x2topodds.blogspot.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).