First Week Impressions

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Today marks a little over a week since I have been on English soil! My brain is only now beginning to settle and fully digest all the new information. I adore it here. The history, the people, and the scenic countryside are more amazing than I could have imagined.

My host institution, the University of East Anglia, is beautiful. The university was only established in 1963, so the buildings are all new and modernly designed. Placed outside of the city, nature is a large aspect of campus which is quite different than the city life of Philadelphia. Temple is beautiful in its own way, but the green space of UEA is simply breathtaking in comparison. Green matter is everywhere I look. Trees, fields, and even a lake contribute to the peaceful and open atmosphere. This morning I took a stroll along the broad (man-made lake pictured below) and just breathed in the fresh, English air.

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Every single day, multiple times a day, I stumble upon surprising differences.  The first recognizable difference was the language. Unlike the majority of study abroad students, I felt no need to worry about the language that would be used around me. Sharing a language eased my mind about coming here and being able to communicate effectively. I have not had any major problems with language or accents; however, there are little drops of English vernacular that have boggled my mind. I have discovered by trial and error that the word pants does not refer to uh, my pants. Your pants are your underwear! If you would want to talk about your pants you definitely need to use the word trousers. Other little, new words which have popped up include: knackered, posh, full stop, daft, smash, gutted, and cheers. Here is a little vocabulary list for anyone who is curious and more specifically for any Temple students studying abroad in the UK anytime soon!

knackered: exhausted, completely tired out

posh: upper class, classy as all get out

full stop: simply the end of the sentence, period

daft: stupid, idiotic, no sense being made

smash: instant mashed potatoes (I love this word!)

gutted: disappointed, letdown

cheers: seemingly all inclusive word that can mean thanks, no problem, or goodbye.

Another difference which I notice nearly every day is just how ancient the cities are compared to those in the United States. The closest city to campus is Norwich and it was established sometime between the 5th and 7th century. Spanning well over a thousand years, the history and architecture of this area is so rich! I undoubtedly had a ball wandering around the city. I was in complete awe of the buildings and I made sure to snap some pictures.

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Pictured above is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. It is one of two cathedrals in the city of Norwich and it is significantly the younger the one. This cathedral was only finished being built in 1910 whereas the other cathedral, the Norwich Cathedral, was completed in 1145.

Norwich Castle (below) was established during the 10th century as well.  Starting in 1067, the Normans cleared the land and finally in 1121 the castle was established.  While walking around the castle it was hard to believe the castle has stood there for nearly 900 years, up on that hill overlooking Norwich. It has watched Norwich grow and change for 900 years! I have to keep in mind sometimes that my home country is only officially 238 years old… more than three times younger than this castle.

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Now that I am settled in, I plan on writing and exploring as much as possible. This next week should be quite interesting because I have my first full week of all my modules (a.k.a. classes). University classes in the UK will be different from those at Temple, but that’s just another reason why I decided to come here. New perspectives and unique curriculum await me!

Voyage à… BRETAGNE!

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This past weekend, my fellow students and I took a break from the metros and pedestrians of Paris and headed west to Normandy and Brittany. Both regions are extremely interesting and play significant roles in different points of French history.

One of my favorite differences between France and America so far has been the contrasting (recorded) ages of the two countries. I love Philadelphia because of its historical significance on the American timeline, but compare it to any European city, and it looks like a child. Even though American and European cultures are alike in many ways, America’s documented history is so much more brief.

I learned a lot about different periods of French history through the places that we visited this past weekend. On Saturday, we travelled to Mont-Saint Michel, an island commune located in Normandy. It is basically a small island at the mouth of the Couesnon River with a large 11th century abbey built on top of it. Through a little bit of research, I learned that the structure was the inspiration for Minas Tirith from one of my favorite movie series, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Très chouette. Mont-Saint Michel has been used for many different purposes throughout history, but today it is mainly an attraction for tourists such as myself to visit.

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Mont-Saint-Michel, exterior view.

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A view from the abbey.

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Interior view

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Left: mon amie, Lexi, et moi.

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We spent the morning climbing up and down the many steps, taking lots of pictures and roaming around the little shops at the base of the structure before hopping back on our bus to head further west to Saint-Malo.

Saint-Malo is a port city in Brittany. When we arrived Saturday afternoon, we were greeted by French speaking woman with an Italian accent… At this point in my French comprehension abilities, I am still barely able to understand people who speak very slowly and clearly. Add in an Italian accent and an enthusiastic pace, and I was left to cling perilously on to about three words total in the one hour tour. I was able to find out a bit of what was going on, however, through Brent, the CIEE program director, who translated some of the tour into English. In 1944, Saint-Malo was almost completely destroyed by attacking U.S. forces in World War II. Less than a fourth of the buildings were left standing. The town has since then been restored, but we got to walk through an alley of some of the only buildings that survived the fire. It took from 1948-1960 to rebuild what was lost, and now the town is another huge tourist attraction.

After dinner that night, a group of us decided to go for a dip in the English Channel. It wasn’t too cold, and there was no one around, so we had fun running and laughing on the dark beach. The next morning, we walked to Grande Bé, a small island right off the coast with the remains of a fort where German soldiers occupied during World War II. It is also the site of the tomb of François-René de Chateaubriand, a Saint-Malo born writer and politician.

Needless to say, seeing rural France was wonderful and completely different than what I have experienced in Paris. I chose Paris as my study abroad destination because going to Temple had already taught me that living in a city is just as intellectually stimulating for me as my actual education is. However, stepping outside of the fast-paced city, if only for a weekend, proved to me that I don’t need three museums within walking distance of each other to learn something new.

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The English Channel

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Petit Bé

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Austin, Moi, et Saint Milo.

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Same Things, Different Place

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My second week in France has found me slightly more integrated into Parisian culture. For one, I am navigating the metro much easier now that I’ve taken it approximate 281 times. It’s the primary form of transportation for everyone, and it’s extremely efficient and pretty easy to navigate once you get the hang of it.

Second, I have made many new friends through my program (CIEE). I have come to realize that people who choose to study abroad are usually the adventurous type with very interesting backgrounds, and I’ve gotten acquainted with some wonderful people this past week.

I met up with one such person, Austin, Saturday night to have a picnic by the Canal Saint Martin. We met at the place de la République. Instead of attempting to paraphrase, I’ve copied and pasted the significance of place de la Republique from the bible of students young and old: Wikipedia-

“The location of the Place corresponds to the bastion of the gate of the Temple in the wall of Charles V (raised between 1356 and 1383). Decorated in 1811 with a fountain called the Château-d’Eau, designed by Pierre-Simon Girard, it took its current shape under the Second French Empire as part of Baron Hausmann’s city renovation scheme. Most of the theatres of boulevard du Temple were demolished for this project.”

Nowadays, République is a VERY central location with tons of shops and restaurants surrounding it and lots of Parisians lounging on benches or eating on curbs. That night, Austin and I discovered a large group of people salsa dancing in the square next to the statute. It’s a great place for people to gather.

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Place de la République

From there, we walked to the Canal Saint Martin, where we sat amidst true Parisian youths who were blasting french music, drinking beers and smoking cigarettes (we tried to blend in by taking swigs from a bottle of wine, but we somehow obviously stuck out as Americans because a young Arabian couple came up to us asking for directions in English).

Obviously, eating is a big part of my life in America, and something that has been a huge part of my French experience thus far. Meals in France, and food in general, is culturally completely different than it is in the U.S. But that is for another post. Let’s instead discuss the primary focal point of my French diet. Anyone who knows me already knows what my favorite food here is, but for those of you who don’t, it’s THE FREAKING BREAD. I eat baguettes daily; it’s a huge staple in Paris. So is wine. Lucky me.

Another thing that is regularly part of my life in the U.S. is yoga. It’s something that I’ve always been naturally pretty good at because of the flexibility that twelve years of gymnastics bestowed upon me. I was interested in finding a studio in Paris, so I did some poking around and found a class that was actually taught at the Jardin des Tuileries, the big garden that precedes the Louvre. The forecast was perfect, the price was right, and the metro stop happened to be on the line from my apartment (no transfers required). Can someone say lumières?

I invited my friend Lexi to the class. We ended up being a half hour late, but caught enough to feel totalement incroyable at the end. During the middle of a pose, I caught Lexi’s eye.

“Casual Eiffel Tower sighting,” she whispered, gesturing with her head (the only limb that was available) to the distant tower silhouetted against the twilight sky.

Friends. Food. Yoga. All things that are a part of my daily life in America, and now also in France. Even though I can still only speak small phrases of the language, I am feeling slightly less like a tourist a week and a half in. I’m hoping to feel more and more at home here in Paris in the coming weeks. À Bientôt!

 

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Post-yoga vibes.

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Arc de triomphe du Carrousel

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Paris’s newest yogis.

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Post class view of the Eiffel Tower.

Home is where the heart is

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Coming to Madrid, I expected diversity. I expected to find a good amount of students from the US. I expected to find people who spoke English. I expected to find a student body filled with students from countries all over Europe and the rest of the world but I was in no way prepared to find the group of individuals I had the pleasure of spending a very special night with last Thursday.

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On my first day at SLU Madrid, I met a man named Rodrigo who works at the Student Life office and is also in charge of organizing a one-month volunteer program every summer in Ethiopia, my home country. He instantly recognized that I was Ethiopian and told me a little about the program, which was comforting to hear on what felt like the first day of freshman year. September 11th, one of the saddest days in US history, is also Ethiopian New Years under the Gregorian calendar so this day is one filled with mixed feelings and heightened sensitivity as it is. That might have been the day I felt the most homesick since I came to Madrid as I received texts and pictures from my family and friends, but my day took a quick turn as soon as I ran into Rodrigo on campus. He mentioned that he was going to an Ethiopian restaurant, Nuria, with a group of 18 people who have participated in the Ethiopia program to celebrate New Years and invited me to tag along; I was almost sure I was hearing what I wanted to hear and not what he actually said.

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Restaurante Etiope Nuria is located in the center of Malasaña, a vibrant and multi-cultural part of Madrid. Madrid’s metro system is very simple, easy to navigate and relatively inexpensive so the restaurant was easily accessible on the metro. After repeating my story of how I lived in Ethiopia, moved to the US and now I am here in Madrid about 10 times as people were arriving one-by-one at the restaurant, I finally got to hear more about the program and what they do. In a nutshell, they spend a month in a small town called Zuway, where they teach English to local kids for about half the day and then spend the second half doing other organized activities with them like arts and crafts. Some of the students who participated on this trip were from SLU Madrid, while others were from other schools in Madrid, so I also got to learn about Spanish college systems as well and definitely got a taste of the local nightlife when we went to Karaoke after dinner as opposed to the typical nightlife designed for tourists.

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What amazed me the most was how strongly they felt about Ethiopia after spending just one or two months there. They had developed such a strong bond with the country and wanted to tell me more about their experience there and I wanted to listen. We also talked about ways in which I will be able to help them on their next expedition whether or not I will be able to physically be there. This is something that has been going on for 8 years now and will continue to grow so I have discovered a commitment that goes way beyond “just a fun semester in Spain.” I spent my New Years with a group of intellectual, diverse individuals appreciating each other’s cultures, conversing about the future and enjoying Ethiopian food made to perfection. There is no better feeling than being in the heart of Madrid, about 3,463 miles away from my first home and about 4,716 away from my second, and feeling completely at home! I am certainly one happy camper!

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Le Premier Goût de Paris

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It still has yet to hit me that I am in Paris, the city that I’ve heard about all my life. I think that it’s actually been less of a “hit” and more of a gradual realization as, every day, I see more and more of the culture and people of this remarkable place.

First off, for anyone who is wondering if Paris might be overrated or romanticized: IT’S NOT. It is every bit as magical a city as you would imagine it to be. Paris is, however, very different from the U.S. Even though it’s only been six full days since I’ve been here, I have already experienced just how different America and France are from each other.

The most blatant difference, and one that always comes with travel, is the 6 hour time difference in France. My body has yet to forgive me for watching New Girl on the plane instead of trying to sleep. This is something that I will adjust to (hopefully) soon so I’m not in need of an American-sized Starbucks every day.

Which brings me to, yes, the coffee. The coffees are so much smaller in France than they are in the United States. Luckily, Starbucks has found its way to Paris (with American-sized drinks, thank God) and in the mornings my ever-drooping eyes are desperately searching for the blessed green mermaid who has thus far kept me alive and well. I am hoping to wean myself off of this très cher habit soon.

One habit that I have had to break since I’ve been here is my tendency to smile at strangers. This is NOT something you do on the streets of Paris, and especially not on the metro. Apparently smiles are interpreted as an invitation to blow kisses, catcall, or proceed to taking the empty seat beside you. Non merci.

A couple other differences:

  • In order to open the doors on the metro to get on or off, there is a button you have to push! They are not automatic. It makes for a less than graceful exist the first few times around for those who aren’t used to it, but practice makes perfect.
  • Bathrooms make up two different rooms: the toilet is in one room and the shower and sink are in another. Simple concept: clean and dirty.
  • There are no hugs! The French greet each other with what is called la bise (pronounced “lah-beeze”). It is simply two little kisses, one for each cheek. Mwah, mwah.
  • There are literally outdoor cafes EVERYWHERE. Consider this a confirmation of the stereotyped Parisian sitting at a table on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette and drinking un petit café.
  • The doors all open inward instead of outward.
  • There is ZERO AIR CONDITIONING. Honestly. None. Oh mon Dieu. Instead, the French like to open their windows to get the old air out of the room.

These are but a few of the many cultural differences I have experienced. The last note I’d like to make is that Paris is truly a feast for the eyes. Every afternoon after class, we go out in groups and walk around on little excursions. I never know whether to look out at the little shops lining the streets, over at the gorgeous Parisians on their way to meet up with friends, or up and the architecture of apartments and buildings with intricate details and flowers in the windows. I rarely know where I’m going, but finding historic monuments, charming parks, and gorgeous buildings just seems to happen when walking the streets of Paris.  The photos below depict some of the places I have come across. On future outings, I promise to be more specific with my photo-taking (I’m still trying to keep the fact that I’m an obnoxious American tourist on the down-low), but for now, here is but a small taste of the perfection that is Paris.

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Paris has tons of little vintage shops.

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A casual side street.

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It’s nice to know that other people in Paris besides myself need a map.

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One of the many parks I’ve walked by.

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Paris has tons of outdoor markets.

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The Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louis. Again, there are loads of really old, really gorgeous churches everywhere.

T-Minus 7 Days: The Preparation and Thoughts Prior to a Year Abroad

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Hey everyone! My name is Jillian Roth and I am currently a junior at Temple University, but I will be spending the academic year abroad at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Adventuring and exploring course through my veins, so this next year will be the ultimate expedition for me. I’m originally from Reading, Pennsylvania but I am in love with Philadelphia. Switching from a large, fast-paced American city to a small, quiet British one will hold lots of surprises. I’m ready to share all of the exciting, vexing, and just plain weird experiences with you!

Pictured above is The University of East Anglia where I will be living the next nine months. Quite the opposite of Temple! (photo via scenicnorfolk.co.uk)

Pictured above is campus of The University of East Anglia where I will be living the next nine months.

Quite the opposite of Temple! (photo via scenicnorfolk.co.uk)

 

So…studying abroad. Teachers, peers, and family members all say it is the experience of a lifetime and if you get the opportunity—take it! My desire to study abroad was influenced by hearing others’ surreal stories of travelling to, living and studying in a foreign country. After speaking with a few people who have been to England and consulting my own knowledge on English culture, I concluded that Temple’s exchange program with the University of East Anglia, in Norwich, England, was the way to go. England holds a plethora of quirks, culture and history that I want to immerse myself in. Castles! Cricket! Tea! Sign me up!

Once I completed my application for the program, I would check my email an embarrassing amount of times each day waiting on the decision. Never will I forget the moment I found out I had been nominated to participate in this program. I had just settled down for an afternoon of studying in the Tuttleman Computer Lab. I checked my email out of habit and my heart skipped a beat when I saw an email with the subject line “Application Decision for University of East Anglia”. “Congratulations!” …I felt tears well up in my eyes…”I am delighted to advise that you have been nominated for the University of East Anglia for the academic year.”…I felt a wide, ridiculous grin spread across my face. I felt like I had just written the title for a whole new exciting chapter about to unfold in my life.

Since then I have been working diligently on making all these plans become an enriching, magical reality. Enthusiasm, to reach my goals and make the most of my nine months in England, has been the driving force behind all the hard work in emails, forms, meetings, class approvals, and applications.

My favorite step thus far in the process of preparing for England had to have been the course approvals. The University of East Anglia offers really interesting, specific classes, but I needed to make sure they would transfer to my Temple degree. Getting to discuss these courses with Temple professors and figuring out the equivalents was very insightful. A couple courses which will be included in my schedule this upcoming year are Witchcraft, Magic, and Belief in Early Modern Europe and America in the World: History of US Foreign Relations. Already, I know that this exchange is going to offer me an unusual perspective on many intellectual endeavors. For example, the US Foreign Relations class may contain facts which I may have already learned about in the United States; however, the class will be taught from an outsider’s, non-American perspective. And also, a class about witchcraft and magic? Am I studying abroad at Hogwarts?!

My departure date is fast approaching (Only about a week left!) and now I have been preparing myself in different ways, aside from the paperwork and forms. I will be thousands of miles away from everyone I have ever known in a completely new place with new accents and customs. The goodbyes to family and friends have already begun. I need to prepare to stand alone and need to prepare to make mistakes, but also I am preparing to make new friends, memories, and experiences that will last a life time.

Vamos a España

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Following an exhausting 10-hour flight via Frankfurt, I finally made it to my destination and it was nothing shy of incredible. Madrid has such an inviting atmosphere that you feel at home starting with the first conversation you have, whether it be with the taxi driver or your host family. I have done so much in my first week here and I will describe some of my experiences to date and share a couple of things I have noticed with you.

Morgan (my roommate) and I visiting Saint Louis University Madrid for the first time!

Morgan (my roommate) and I visiting Saint Louis University Madrid for the first time!

Walking into my host family’s house, I did not know what to expect from my host or my roommates as I was given little information about them prior to departure. However, they are all extremely nice and such great people to live with! I met my host, Maria, and my three roommates Morgan, Missy and Karly when I arrived and we went to explore the city although our bodies were barely functioning from the jetlag. The first thing that caught my eye was that a significant number of businesses were closed because it was Sunday. We walked around for about an hour before we found an open super market. Passing by Saint Louis University Madrid, my host university, was such a surreal feeling; that moment reassured me that I was really there and I would be lying if I say I was not a little overwhelmed.

Jamon ensalada at MasQmenos

Jamon ensalada at MasQmenos

 

Later that evening, we headed out to have dinner at MasQmenos café: it has a great setting with a large sitting area outside to enjoy the evening with fresh air and an awesome view, which is very common here. Unfortunately, the whether made it absolutely impossible to sit outside since it was 96 degress. We did however enjoy their salads and light sandwiches with a glass of wine indoors. Looking at their menu, I noticed that Spaniards incorporate ham in almost any dish. This is something I wish had I known ahead of time since I do not eat ham but nevertheless, they have some great option with beef and chicken as well.

 

Although it has just been a week, I feel like I have been here for much longer, mostly due to the people I have met. I can honestly say I have met some of the kindest and most open-minded people I have ever met and it has made my transition much easier. One of the perks of attending an American University in Spain is that although a good amount of the student body is study abroad students, you also meet a significant amount of local English-speaking Spaniards as well. This is great because no one knows the city better than they do, so they give you the type of information you would typically not find in a guide book or travel website. I also enjoy talking to them and getting insight on the life of an average Spanish college student.

My experience so far has been wonderful and I have eliminated any doubts I might have ever had prior to arriving. However, I have had to make a couple of adjustments. It is normal for a Spanish household to not have air conditioning; this is not a major problem but the first three days I was here were the hottest days of the summer so a small fan was definitely necessary for the night. I also notice that Spaniards normally kiss each other twice (once of each side of their cheeks) when they see each other; this is also another minor adjustment that is actually kind of fun!

Thank you for reading about my first week in Madrid and tune in next week for more details about my time in here!

Until Next Time, Paris

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By the time this post is published, I’ll be on my way back to Philadelphia, but right now as I write it’s my last day in Paris, and I’m waiting for my roommate to wake up so we can enjoy a last Parisian breakfast together. I’m planning on using the day to revisit the places I’ve enjoyed the most and to say my goodbyes. First stop is Musée de l’Orangerie, the art museum in the Jardins du Tuileries that houses Monet’s water lily rooms (check out the scene in “Midnight in Paris” for a good idea of what this beautiful space looks like). I visited Orangerie a few weeks ago and I thought the water lilies were so calming and reflective (it’s also free since I’m under 26, but that’s just an added bonus). I also just really like going to art museums by myself, and since Orangerie was one of my favorites I’d like to head over one last time.

After Orangerie, I’m planning on spending some time at Shakespeare and Company and maybe some time in the gardens around Notre Dame (the friendly street artist, small shopkeepers, and breathtaking views of the Seine make this my favorite place in Paris). Saying goodbye to Shakespeare and Co. may be my hardest goodbye (just kidding), but it really became my natural habitat while abroad. I’ve always wanted to open up my own bookstore or café, which is next to impossible in America, but which literally line the streets in Paris, and it’s been very nice getting to know all the bookstores in the area.

The best place on Earth.

The best place on Earth.

After Shakespeare and Co., my roommate and I are meeting our Swedish friend Lovisa for a picnic by the Canal St. Martin. Yesterday I said goodbye to a few friends from Australia, Texas, and Turkey, which was not fun. In the words of Lovisa, “You meet people and you know them so well, and then you go your separate ways and never see each other again. The world is so big.” She’s absolutely right, but it’s very cool to have people all over the world I know I can call anytime, and who can call me, if we’re ever in each others’ home countries. And since I’d never really met a lot of people who weren’t American, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have met friends from so many other cultures here. Life, in my opinion, is about making an impact on other people’s lives—small, personal, fleeting influences, that everyone carries with them wherever they go. I’ll always carry certain people with me, and certain people will always carry me, and that is comforting.

After this tearful goodbye, I’ll head over to Angelina’s, a café by the Louvre famous for its delicious hot chocolate (my junior high French teacher tracked me down to tell me to go, so I have high expectations!) On this Temple program, there are people like me, my roommate, and some others who are in Paris for four weeks, but the majority of people are here for six weeks (I’ll be living vicariously through them until it’s time to go back to Temple) and we’re having a final meal together at Angelina’s to say goodbye until the fall. Coming into this trip, I didn’t know anyone, and was worried I would just be traipsing through Paris by myself for a month. I didn’t believe the Education Abroad staff when they talked about how close people on study abroad trips become. But they were absolutely right, and we really have all become very close—I can’t wait till our reunions in the fall!

One of our first days in Paris, in the Jardins du Luxembourg.

One of our first days in Paris, in the Jardins du Luxembourg.

I'll miss this place!

I’ll miss this place!

Until next time, Paris.

Until next time, Paris.

I won’t spend too much time gushing about how great studying abroad is here—but if possible, go. I remember almost deciding to stay in Philly this summer because I’d never been out of the U.S. before and traveling can be scary, but thank goodness I decided to take the leap. Traveling while young is especially cool, and meeting people my age from all over the world has been a incomparable experience. I’ve dreamed about coming to Paris since I was a little kid watching The Aristocats and reading Madeline, and everything about this trip has just left me in awe. And I’ll of course take Paris with me—the “moveable feast” of it all, and everything I’ve learned here. I made myself a promise to return in ten years (but hopefully sooner!) and I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful city, at a different time in my life. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered,” and that applies to both Philly and Paris now.

Until next time, Paris.

Paris on a Budget

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As a college student in a major city, I’m used to living on a budget. And I’m naturally very frugal, so it’s never been difficult for me to manage money. Coming to Paris, where I wasn’t familiar with the ins-and-outs of daily life, however, definitely threw me for a loop for a little while. During my month abroad I’ve picked up some tips for living the good life in Paris, but for a fraction of the price.

Food

First off is, of course, food. Food was a major category in my budget for the trip, but I underestimated the cost of food, especially with the euro/dollar conversion. Since everyone gets paid more here, most significantly waiters, cashiers, and other minimum wage jobs, everything is priced higher because people can actually afford it. With approximately 1.4 dollars to every euro, however, my meals added up quickly! While eating at restaurants and cafés is very convenient (and tempting), I’ve found multiple alternatives that are cheaper and, often times, better. Farmer’s markets or fruit stands have the freshest produce and baked goods I’ve ever had, and they’re actually very reasonably priced. Also, food bought at the various specialized grocery stores or outdoor markets lasts for at least a couple of days if not a week, rather than one meal that’s gone in two and a half hours (the French take their time at restaurants). My hostel also comes equipped with a modestly-equipped “kitchen”—actually a microwave, a toaster, and two junior-high science class hot plates. I attempted to cook pasta, after finally tracking down a pot, during my first week here, and it took TWO HOURS. The microwave, which was initially broken, is now repaired and my roommate and I have ceramic bowls (which were also surprisingly difficult to find) and we cook our pasta in the microwave like true American college students. And when I do buy food, tons of small cafés offer prix fixe menus for around 10 to 15 euros, three or four course meals that are well worth the cash. And when I do buy lunch or dinner, I’ve found the best places to go are crèpe stands on the side of the road or gyro/falafel shops (which are very popular here). The food in France is such better quality than in the States, and they give you much more for your money—one crèpe will fill me up all day. Saving money on my meals really helps my budget and saves me room for the things I really want to buy—pastries and wine.

Public Transportation

Another concern while in Paris is public transportation. The metro system is great—compared to SEPTA, it is a pleasure to take the metro. Paris’ transportation system consists of 17 metro lines, all color coded and numbered, five RER lines, which travel through the city and also outside, and a comprehensive bus system.

A map of the metro and RER lines, which are actually not confusing at all. After day three, I was giving other travelers directions (without a map!) (Photo courtesy of A Paris Guide.)

A map of the metro and RER lines, which are actually not confusing at all. After day three, I was giving other travelers directions (without a map!) (Photo courtesy of A Paris Guide.)

I take the metro everywhere—Paris is nothing like the grid shape I’m used to back home, and the metro’s really handy in a pinch. On my second day here, I bought a Navigo pass, which gives me unlimited access to all metro lines, RER lines in Paris, and buses for one month. Having the pass was incredibly convenient, and I definitely got my money’s worth.

Museums

My final budget tip concerns one of Paris’ greatest attractions—museums! There are so many here—I’ve been to the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Jeu de Paume, Musée de l’Orangerie, Memorial de la Shoah (Holocaust Museum), Cluny Medieval Museu, Musée d’Art Moderne, and Centre Georges Pompidou. My favorites were Musée de l’Orangerie the Holocaust Museum, and Centre Georges Pompidou. Out of all of these museums I visited, I paid to get into one of them. Most museums in Paris offer reduced admission or, more commonly, admission gratuit, for young people under 26 who are members of the European Union or studying at a French university. I just show my Sorbonne ID and my driver’s license (which I accidentally brought with me but turned out to be a fortuitous mistake), and have every museum at my fingertips. Some places, like the Louvre and Jeu de Paume, only offer these special admissions on certain days, but doing research in advance can save a lot of money. And for those over 26, the Holocaust Museum, Musée d’Art Moderne, and I’m sure other museums I didn’t have a chance to see offer free admission for all at any time.

Typical Louvre picture, taken on my way to the Tour de France!

Typical Louvre picture, taken on my way to the Tour de France!

Overall, I’ve been very happy saving a bit of money here in Paris and looking for alternative ways to feed myself and see all there is to see. Hopefully my tips will help any future Paris travelers! Stay tuned for my next (and final!!!) blog post.

Stumble-Upons in Paris

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Bonjour tout le monde!

While abroad, I really enjoy keeping this blog—it is relaxing and therapeutic to write about my experiences, and the posts will serve as a great chronicle of the trip after I’m back in the States. However, it can be difficult to fit everything worth sharing into themed posts, and so I’ve decided to dedicate this entry to all of the cool events and experiences I’ve stumbled upon here in Paris that don’t necessarily fit in anywhere else. One of my favorite aspects of city life, whether at home or abroad, is the opportunity to just wander into things, and many of these “stumble-upons” have been the best highlights of my trip. And for anyone traveling to Paris, some of these “stumble-upons” which were accidental for me might be something to include on an itinerary or “must-do” list (I strongly recommend having a list of must-see/must-do’s, but also leaving plenty of time for exploring). Now without further ado:

1. Paris Jazz Festival

The Paris Jazz Festival is an annual event that takes place every July (again, arguably the best month to visit the city). My roommate and I accidentally stumbled upon a poster for the festival while we were lost and searching for an apparently nonexistent metro stop. Getting lost in Paris leads to some of the best discoveries, and so we and some others from our trip headed to the festival one Sunday afternoon. The festival has events in Parc des Flores on the outskirts of Paris every weekend, and each is themed—our concert was “A Tribute to South Africa.” The park is absolutely beautiful and the festival was a blast. It also wasn’t touristy in the least—it’s the things you can’t look up online that give you the most authentic Paris experience.

The poster that led to this stumble-upon.

The poster that led to this stumble-upon.

2. Shakespeare and Co. (again)

It’s probably pretty obvious that my favorite place in Paris is this bookshop. Shakespeare and Co. is much more than just a bookshop, though—it is a figurehead of the English-speaking community in Paris. Since my class ends earlier than everyone else’s on my trip, I often spend an hour or two reading in the upstairs library while I wait to head off to whatever museum or area we’re exploring each day. And it is while I’m hanging out there reading that I stumble upon many cool events.

One Sunday afternoon, I was reading upstairs when all of a sudden an old British woman and one of Shakespeare and Company’s employees began moving around furniture and setting out tea supplies and madeleines. A few patrons who seemed to know what was going on joined and began laying out cushions on the floor. Everyone was very welcome and friendly, and I decided this could be a cool event when the British woman, named “Pamelys,” who turned out to be a friend of the now-deceased founder, George Whitman, asked me what my “mother tongue” was. I had accidentally stumbled upon the weekly Shakespeare and Co. “Tea Party,” a group led by Pamelys (who was so crazy she seemed almost normal) shared poetry and writing, drank tea, and talked about life. People wandered in, most of whom were American or British tourists (I even ended up sitting next to some Temple alumni who graduated in 2011!). The entire experience was very welcoming and comforting, and of course only made me love Shakespeare and Co. even more.

Shakespeare and Co. also hosts a “Bard-en-Seine” festival annually with Shakespeare-themed events throughout the year. They feature guest lecturers on Shakespeare, Shakespeare discussion groups, concerts, and, in July, a week of open-air and completely free performances of the year’s play (this year was Macbeth). I found out about the performances while browsing through the store and stumbling upon a flyer, and having played Lady Macbeth in a high school English class’ poorly-thrown-together production of the Scottish play (still waiting for my Tony), I decided to attend. The performance was awesome—it was very cool to be at an open-air play, which I’d never done before, and all of the actors were incredibly talented. There was also that sense of community again, with everyone sitting together on the ground or in chairs or just standing (unfortunately my friends and I didn’t make it in time for seats). Overall it was a very cool event, and definitely something to check out if ever in Paris in July!

The Weirs Sisters in the open-air performance of Macbeth.

The Weirs Sisters in the open-air performance of Macbeth.

Another scene from the play.

Another scene from the play.

3. Brugges, Belgium

While in Europe, it is so tempting to travel to other countries, since it’s so quick and easy. However, it also requires planning, which I unfortunately did not consider. Before coming to Paris, I decided I wanted to visit Amsterdam and London, but quickly realized how much there was to see in Paris and revised my plans to include only Amsterdam. Planning on such short notice was very expensive and hectic (make sure to plan well in advance if visiting other countries is a part of a trip to Paris), so a friend and I decided to take a day trip to Brugges, a small town in Belgium, instead. I hadn’t expected to visit Belgium at all while abroad, but Brugges turned out to be very cool, and was a nice contrast from a major European city (I got to see the other version of Europe, the cobblestone streets-medieval churches-horse and carriages side). Brugges was a short train ride away and very affordable. We took a lovely open-air canal tour, tried our first Belgian waffles and chocolate, visited the Salvador Dali museum and St. Jan’s Hospital, which operated for over 800 years, and explored the (very tiny) city. There were bike parking lots and horse and buggys everywhere,and also a real sense of trust among the community—I did not see a single bike lock. Everyone working in Brugges also spoke at the very least Dutch, English, French, and Netherlands Dutch, and usually German and Spanish as well—very impressive.

Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream -- made with sugar cubes in the actual waffle and the freshest ingredients!

Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream — made with sugar cubes in the actual waffle and the freshest ingredients!

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A very neat flea market we stumbled upon by the river.

A very neat flea market we stumbled upon by the canals.

Horses and carriages everywhere -- but the horses were treated very well (they even had a special water fountain in the town center).

Horses and carriages everywhere — but the horses were treated very well (they even had a special water fountain in the town center).

4. Art Galleries/Street Musicians

Art galleries are everywhere here—we stumbled upon one in Brugges, and at least three throughout Paris. All of the art is incredibly interesting and usually modern (which I love). Paris has a real appreciation for the arts that’s difficult to find in the States sometimes.

Street musicians are also popular here, and they go all out—pianists play in the middle of the street, accordion players serenade on the metro, and live bands pop up in parks or by the Seine. I always make sure to give a few euros to those with caps or cases out, but there are also a lot of performers who don’t ask for money or won’t take any—they simply enjoy playing and want to share it with their city. The people of Paris also respond well to all the performances—they dance on the metro, gather in huge crowds by the piano, and sing along with the bands. Again, Paris has a palpable appreciation for art and music.

5. Synagogue

Growing up, I was always told that going to synagogue in a foreign country is a very cool experience, because even though that synagogue is on another continent, the prayers and tunes and language are the same and feel just like home. I identify more as a cultural Jew than a religious one, but I decided to attend Shabbat services one Friday night while in Paris. I had been feeling a little isolated with all of the anti-Semitic riots throughout the city in response to the conflict happening in Israel and Gaza, but as soon as I walked into synagogue I did indeed feel at home. Many of the tunes were the same, and I actually heard French people pronounce the hard “r” found in Hebrew and English — they can indeed do it. I’m sure that this sense of home can be found during any religious service while abroad, and I definitely recommend attending at least one French religious service, whatever you identify with, even for just a taste of another culture.

6. Marches des Puces/Chez Louisette

Every weekend, there is a huge flea market at Port de Clignancourt (the last stop on metro line 4) that is impossible to get through in a day (or two days, or three days, or more). We headed down one Saturday morning to check out Marches des Puces (literally “market of fleas”)  and were amazed with the place (after searching for it for about 45 minutes —getting lost has been a common theme throughout this trip). The market features everything from cheap shoes to jewelry to street painters to antiques. We spent most of our time in the antiques section which was fun and interesting to browse around. For lunch, we stopped at Chez Louisette, the figureheads restaurant of the market. Our lunch was, to say the least, an experience – featuring an accordion band entirely over the age of 60, groups of tourists taking pictures (although I am technically a tourist myself, I have begun to develop the Parisian attitude toward my fellow travelers since I have been living here for a longer period of time) and shouting, hectic waiters. In the words of my friend: “The theme of this place is tacky.” It was still, however, a neat experience, and worth checking out for a laugh!

Chez Louisette...quite an experience.

Chez Louisette…quite an experience.

7. Paris Plages

Each July, the city of Paris sets up “Paris Plages” (Paris beaches) along the bank of the Seine. The French people never cease to amaze me, but Paris Plages is a little strange. I’m used to beaches involving swimming, bathing suits, sunscreen etc. but Paris Plages is basically a giant sandbox on the street by the Seine. People wear normal clothes and drink wine in the hot sun but never go swimming. There is also a mini-Louvre with reproductions of the paintings and a miniature Eiffel Tower. The Paris Plages are very nice, but another interesting aspect of French culture that reminds me how American I am!

8. The People

Finally (this is the last stumble-upon, I promise), living in Paris and attending classes at the Sorbonne has introduced to me to so many new people from all over the world. Being a part of the Temple group is awesome and we spend most of our time together, but we’ve also all made friends in our respective classes. I have great friends I know I could stay with anytime in Australia, Sweden, Turkey, Pittsburgh, Louisiana, and Texas, and that is very very cool considering that up until now I really only knew Americans. I will be sad to leave a city with people from literally all over the world.

It is also interesting to be an American in Paris. In the States, there is a shared bond between people from the same city or general area—I automatically bond with anyone from Philly, Pennsylvania, or the Northeast (with the exception of Yankees fans). Here, that bond expands to include people I would normally never feel a connection with back home—two of my close friends in class are from Louisiana and Mississippi, and go to school in Texas. In cafés or at bars or even just on the street, Americans hear each other speaking English and automatically introduce themselves or smile. It’s a very friendly atmosphere and will really make me feel more connected to people in other parts of the country once I’m back home.

Thanks for reading the incredibly long post—believe it or not, this is the condensed version. There is just so much to stumble across in Paris! Stay tuned for my next post during my final week in France. Merci!