Tag Archives: study abroad regrets

race

Talking About Race in French

(Photo by: memespp.com)

It’s true that a new year does bring a new start. January was a really big turning moment for me when I was studying abroad. It was when I really started to get comfortable, and might I say, excel, in French. It was in January that I noticed my conversations with Tatie no longer had 5 minute pauses in between each sentence, during which I would fervently look up words in the dictionary that we kept next to the table. This was the time when I was finally able to hold a somewhat adult conversation that showcased how I did have a higher intellect than a 5 year old. The January that I spent in Paris was also the time that the American primary presidential elections were taking place. From January to March, all the major French news channels were covering what was happening on the other side of the Atlantic. Who was running? Who did the Americans think had a chance of becoming the next Chef d’état? It was during this coverage that the world first came across Barack Obama.

 President_Barack_Obama(President Obama. Photo by en.wikipedia.org)

The French heavily covered this relatively unknown senator from Illinois, particularly his family history. Since my French was at a more advanced level at this point, I was able to answer some of Tatie’s many questions on the American political system. But one night, she had a question that was very difficult to answer for linguistic and cultural reasons. She asked me about race. The French reporters were pulling their information about the presidential candidates mostly from the American news stories. So they kept translating that Barack Obama would be the first black president if he won. But, then they would show a story about his childhood and photos of him and his white mother. After a few nights of watching these news stories, Tatie turned to me and asked why Americans refer to Mr. Obama as black when he clearly had a white mother. It was a valid question. From the eyes of a French person, this person is not of one race, but of two.

mom

(One of the photos that started this whole new conversation topic. Photo by www.metabunk.org)

I thought back to all my French lessons in college but not one of them covered race. How do you explain the social construct of race and its context in American history in French? With no real knowledge of what expressions or vocabulary to use, I trudged through what would be the next forty minutes of explaining the one drop rule. For those of you that are a little rusty, the one drop rule was a discriminatory law that denied rights to people who weren’t 100% Caucasian. Essentially, if you had one drop of any other race’s blood than Caucasian in your body, you were no longer white and could be denied freedom, the right to vote, property, jobs, etc… The far cultural reach of the one drop rule appears to be why Americans do not use the term bi-racial. Instead, bi-racial individuals are culturally coerced to choose one race over another. But how do you explain than in a 2nd language? Just as I was getting comfortable with this new, advanced French, here I was back at the beginning again. Tatie had other questions now that her curiosity was piqued. I did my best to answer them, but I can assure you that I didn’t do well. It’s not something that any French class covers and I’m positive that I wasn’t accurately or even adequately expressing myself and the subject at hand.

man-quote(When you’re feeling stuck in a conversation. Photo by www.pimsleurapproach.com)

My time among the French, I can tell you that they like to discuss race. Or maybe more accurately, they like to discuss Americans’ view of race. In some ways, French views are very different, in some ways they’re the same and in some ways they’re worse (by American standards). France has had a different history with race than the USA which is why you’ll find French people are interested in discussing it with an American. And with some of the current news stories, I’m positive it will come up in conversation. I know in the USA that most people feel uncomfortable discussing race but it most likely will come up at some point in a conversation. Since French textbooks aren’t going to cover race anytime soon, you’ll need to do your own research. Start by reading recent American news stories on French news sources such as Le Parisien or Le Monde. This will give you a glimpse into vocabulary and expressions. If you want to go the extra mile, look on Amazon France for books on American history. Download the Kindle app to your smart phone and you can get it on your phone for a read whenever you have a few minutes. To get you started, here’s some key words for a discussion on race in French:

La race – race

Le racisme – racism (I’m not sure why race is feminine but racism is masculine.)

L’esclavage (masc) – slavery

L’esclave (neutral) – slave

Un noir/ une noire- a black man/woman

Un amérindien / une amérindienne – a Native American man / woman

Un chinois/ une chinoise – a Chinese man / woman

Other notes

The word “bi-racial” doesn’t exist in French. A word that is more commonly used is métis (masc) / métisse (fem), meaning mix.

 Cheerios MeMe Biracial Commercial(A beautiful bi-racial little girl. Photo by minnesotamiranda.com)

Another thing that has appeared in recent French language use is the word un black. This used to describe a black male, typically American. I’m not sure why it’s used but I think it’s strange. I’ve never used and you don’t have to either. If you want to talk about someone who is from Mexico/ Central America or other parts of Latin America, do not use the term hispanique which refers to someone from Spain. Just describe where they are from (ex: mexicain/mexicaine or vénézuélien/enne).

The French love to discuss the news and this is a topic that has been a key point in recent US news stories. Knowing a few key words as well as the fact that you may be asked to speak on this delicate topic as a delegate for your country are ways to prepare yourself for this conversation. Remember, you never have to talk about anything that you aren’t comfortable with but at least now you can recognize when you may want to leave the room.

Bonne chance!

-Andrea

  
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!
-Andrea

  
Dating-Etiquette

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!

 

 

 

 

  
super-woman

How Andrea Got Her Groove Back and What This Means for Twenty in Paris

(photo by: sheownsit.com)

I’m a very private person. I’m not sure if it stems from me being an introvert and not needing to spend time with others for energy or if it stems from growing up in an isolated house not near any children. Anyhoo, because I strongly believe in a personal life, social media never appealed to me. What got me into it? Writing Twenty in Paris! Social media is a great way to connect with people and students and even programs passionate about study abroad and Paris, however, I’m not keen on letting everyone know what I had for dinner. Recently, I wrote about having a difficult time with motivation.I’m happy to tell you that issue has resolved itself. It meant taking some time doing other interests like photography, sight seeing local towns outside of Dallas, riding my bike in the beautiful Texas summer nights, and reading. Getting my motivation back meant also taking a look at what I’ve been doing with Twenty in Paris for the past few months, especially in regards to social media. I wanted to let you know that I am downsizing the Twenty in Paris social media presence with the goal of increasing my interaction on it as well as bettering it- don’t worry, you won’t be seeing tweets on my every action. So what does this mean exactly? It means that the only places you’ll find Twenty in Paris on the internet are twitter, tumblr, Google Plus and YouTube as well as twentyinparis.net of course! I was never a big FB fan (I don’t even have a personal account there!) so it was an easy choice to get rid of it. Twitter will be my main area where I plan to share updates on Paris, France, study abroad and articles in 140 characters or less. Google + will be more article focused whereas tumblr will be more image focused. I’m also going to be redesigning the Twenty in Paris website and need your feedback to make sure that it meets all of your needs and expectations for the ultimate Paris study abroad resource.  More info to come in a separate post.