Tag Archives: working abroad


Travel Regret: A Response

(photos courtesy of Chelsea- featured photo is a view of Lac Leman in Geneva from the Cathedral)

I read R.C. O’Leary’s article on this blog last week and identified with it greatly, not because I didn’t take the opportunity to study abroad (obviously) but because I agree with him so much. However, I’d like to expand on his assertions

For one thing, even though study abroad while in college is a spectacular idea not used enough by students, there’s still no reason to panic if you’ve finished school and haven’t gone overseas yet. I started my time living abroad in the fall after college graduation and have remained abroad, so it’s definitely still possible. I think the point is not to study/travel abroad while you’re in college, but rather while you’re young, and preferably in your twenties

Why in your twenties? Lots of reasons. You’re learning about the world and developing your own opinions on big topics, you’re probably not married or have kids to “hold you back,” and you’re in the prime of your life- the perfect time to be discovering new drinks and social settings and ways to get yourself in ridiculous situations (yes, those times are absolutely necessary for twenty-somethings!). But I would mostly argue that it’s smart to go in your twenties because once you start to put things off a little bit, they tend to get put off forever. R.C. O’Leary is lucky that he got a second chance, but most people don’t if they let that opportunity slip. My parents never even left the country before my sister planned a few family vacations abroad when I was still a budding teenager. If they hadn’t had a child with such wanderlust, they never would have made it abroad, despite their desire to. In fact, traveling by myself to meet her abroad for two summers is part of what assured me that I would be fine in my official move to Europe.


(the view from my house here)

There are so many opportunities to go overseas. Be it saving up to just travel around for the summer, to take summer language courses by immersion, or to get a job somewhere. There are lots of companies looking year-round for interns for three month terms, so you could even do some city/country-hopping with internships if you planned well. And if you have any contacts abroad that could help or give advice, talk to them! You would be surprised at the opportunities available in lesser-known fields or corners of the world. Yes, it does take a lot of organization, but it’s possible, and you’ll never regret the work put into it

I was tempted to not make my initial move to France because of my on-and-off again boyfriend at the time of my departure, but I felt in my gut that if I didn’t go just because of that, I would hate myself forever. And while it was extremely hard to deal with that situation, I’m so glad I came abroad. Don’t give yourself any excuses to not form the change; it won’t make or break relationships or goals unless you let it. My cousin moved abroad to India for one year despite having a serious boyfriend, but that didn’t stop him from proposing when she returned! Lucky gal! I have learned and grown so much, but more than that, I have met truly amazing people that I’m ecstatically happy to have known. I’ve done amazing things and traveled to beautiful places, and I’m not done

So, take that chance. Make those phone calls. Research the opportunities available. Make it happen. Even if it’s only for three months, it will be one of the best decisions of your life. The chances to learn about other cultures and ideas are endless, and personal goals and achievements are yours for the taking. Just do it!



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.


A Story About A Boy

By Andrea Bouchaud

When I’m not conquering and changing the study abroad world for the better with the Twenty in Paris book, I work for a French company. For the past few months, a French student interned at our company. His name was ***Alain.  As one of the few native Anglophones who has Francophone capabilities in the office, I was asked to assist him on some American legal matters.

I was so excited at the prospect to learn about the process and legal hoops that foreign students go through to come to the United States because this is something I normally don’t have privy to as an American. Unfortunately, what I ended up discovering was not more information on things that foreign students experience when working/studying in the United States but rather how unprepared this particular foreign student was for working and living abroad.

Alain did not research the entire process for obtaining a work visa in the USA before his arrival. To work in the USA on a work visa requires the leg work back in the home country of obtaining the request to work letter from the foreign company, taking that to the American Embassy in your home country, getting the visa in your passport, come to the USA, get another document from the Department of Homeland Security at airport customs and then go to the local American Social Security Office. Doesn’t sound too hard to me, albeit detailed, but this student intern just didn’t know these steps in advance for some unknown reason and got things done really last minute. When I took him to the Social Security Office, he didn’t have the main document! We had to come back a second time and for a moment he thought he didn’t have another required document. Thankfully, he had it in his unorganized and hidden packet of papers stuffed in his backpack. Alain successfully obtained an American social security number which is needed to work and receive compensation in the USA. I still don’t understand why he didn’t have all the papers the first time, especially since I asked him if he had everything- he had said yes!

When I wasn’t helping him sort out American legal issues, I would try to tell him about Dallas and American life. I would always ask him if he visited downtown, saw the museums, did anything fun and the answer was always no. Dallas has an extremely small downtown. You could definitely visit it in 1 day or a weekend if you stretched it out. To help him know what there is to do in Dallas, I would send him emails with links to the Dallas sites. This boy did not research the main things to see before he left. Sight seeing and getting to know the host city is a very important part of living abroad. Don’t be a hermit and not explore! I understand it can be lonely but that is when you invite a friend from work/school or accept a native’s offer to go sight seeing which he always refused.

In addition to legal issues and Dallas life, I helped Alain with work issues. In one of these interactions, I asked him if the company provided him private, American health insurance. He didn’t know. I asked him what his plans were if he were injured and had to go to the hospital- who did he think would be paying that bill? Alain said he did not plan on going to the hospital. Now, no one goes abroad with the intent to get injured enough to have to go to the hospital but accidents do happen and it’s always good to be prepared. It was evident to me that he did not research American culture in advance by following the news as he would’ve known that we are a private health insurance based country where each citizen pays for his/her own health insurance and not the state. After dealing with all of this boy’s lack of preparedness, this comment truly was the top of the line. I was so offended that he came to this country unprepared for an accident when I did not do the same discourteousness to France.

The sole thing I learned was that Alain was unprepared for this experience. Preparation and research is critical anytime you go abroad be it for vacation or work/study. Learn from our friend and be prepared!

***Name changed to protect the innocent


Paris 101

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Paris is a unique town. Getting to know it before you go study abroad will help you to acclimate to it faster and better.  Let’s look at some quick facts to know about Paris to better help you prepare for the experience of living in Paris.

-A pharmacy is always recognizable by the green cross sign outside. A tobacco shop is always recognizable by the red diamond shaped sign outside.

- France has both a president and a prime minister. The president is the ultimate head of the country and runs the country for five years. This is a decrease from the previous 7 year term.

- When going to museums and sites around the city, be sure to bring your French college ID card and ask for the tarif jeune which is a lower priced ticket for people aged 14-26. If you really enjoy going to museums those admission tickets can add-up quickly and these tarif jeunes can help out financially.

-Parisian apartments are not legally mandated to have fire escapes. Do not be surprised if the housing arrangement in which you are residing in Paris does not have a fire escape.

-If you decide to drive in France remember that the price of gas is by litre not gallon and that four litres equal one gallon. For example if gas is 1,30 euro this means that it costs one euro and thirty cents per litre which is 5,20 euro a gallon. Remember that in speaking le gaz refers to natural gas and l’essence refers to gasoline.

- Remember that Europe has a different electrical system than America. If you are bringing American electrical appliances, be sure to buy an adapter in the United States prior to your departure.

-The French quotation mark goes as follows <<       >>; they do not use ”      ”

-French notebooks use graph paper instead of college ruled paper.

-To write time in France, use an ‘h’ where you would normally place a colon. 7:30 in America is 7 h 30 in France. In addition, there must be a space between the numbers and the “h”.

-France and Europe uses military time which counts up to twenty-four hours, not using two sets of counting to twelve. It can be confusing to see a digital clock that reads 17:00 but just remember to subtract 12 (17:00 would be 5:00 pm American time system). The am/pm system is not used in France as the military time indicates whether it is morning or evening through the continued count of the hours. Also note that even though military time uses the twenty-four hour counting system, midnight is not counted as 24 but rather as 0. Although military time is used, it is acceptable to use the American system of counting two sets of twelve. In this case, you must indicate the time of day. For example, quatre heure de l’après-midi means four o’clock in the afternoon.

- Street signs are located on the side of buildings and not on posts- this actually goes for all of Europe.

- The date goes before the month in Europe. 3/4 is not March 4th but rather April 3rd.

- When writing the month or day of the week, use lower case. They are not capitalized in French.

- The French use commas were we use decimal points. Example $4.25 would be 4, 25 euro. For bigger numbers they use spaces. Example $17,500 would be 17 500 euro.

- Paris is composed of twenty districts. The first few districts start at the river and spiral its way out from the center of Paris. Each district has its own mayor and then those twenty mayors vote for the overall mayor of Paris. In total, there are twenty-one mayors that run the city of Paris. When written, the word district in French “arrondissement” is abbreviated by an ‘e’ (example: 6e means the sixth district or sixième arrondissement).

-The river Seine is the river that divides Paris into two but not in half. The right bank or la rive droite is the bigger bank and is the ‘northern’ part of the city if you are looking at a map. The left bank or la rive gauche is the smaller of the two and is generally more rich and chic. Each district on the left bank touches the Seine river at some point. Remember that the districts near the major sites and the river tend to be the richer districts.

-Paris is city code #75. All Parisian zip codes start with 75 and the last 2 numbers represent which district you are in. For example, when I lived in Paris I lived in the sixth district. My zip code was 75006.

- The best advice I was ever given to surviving in Paris goes as follows: When walking down the street in Paris you must look up to admire and enjoy the beautiful scenery and architecture but you also need to look down to avoid stepping in dog doo-doo. The Parisians are fond of dogs and you will see many in Paris. France has the same rules about dog walking that the United States does in regards to picking up your dog’s waste. Unfortunately, there are always those individuals who do not think that their dogs should go to the bathroom in a designated spot or that they need to pick up their dog’s waste. These are the individuals whose dog’s fecal matter you will encounter on the (narrow) sidewalk- so be on the lookout!

These fun facts do not replace the additional research you must do on your soon to be new home but are a great start to get you ready for the journey and experience that awaits you in the City of Light.


5 Common French Language Mistakes to Avoid

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Speaking French while studying abroad in Paris is more than important; it’s critical. Your ability to speak French will take you very far in terms of academic, social and immersion success. In order to maximize your French speaking success, there are a couple of language blunders that you need to avoid. Follow me to Student Universe where I break down the top 5 Common French Language Mistakes to Avoid.