Tomorrow, I’m flying across the ocean to live with a stranger for six weeks while taking a 3000-level French class in Paris, France.
To calm my nerves, I’m reminding myself that I’ve taken French since 7th grade, and took French class during each of my two semesters at Temple. I even got to go to France in high school, for just over a week. I’m better prepared than lots of people who choose to study abroad! But still, something tells me that studying the language in Paris will be quite different from the last six years I’ve spent studying it in the US, and this trip will be nothing like my first.
Welcome to my blog, friends and strangers. And welcome, very soon, to Paris!
Up until a few days ago my French adventure seemed to be far away in the distant future. Suddenly, I realized I was only days from departure and had a LOT to do. So for my first post, a little advice to aspiring students abroad.
I have discovered the importance of doing all the prep stuff in advance. When I went to pick up the prescriptions I will need for my trip, I was informed that although my doctor had approved me to pick up an extra refill, my insurance had not. I learned that a whole big process was required to get that approval, a process for which I no longer had time. Instead, I’m spending money on medicine which I could have spent on delicious breads and cheeses in Paris. Learn from my mistakes and sort out the important stuff way ahead of time!
Packing for this kind of trip is weird; it’s not a vacation for a few days, but it’s also not an entire semester. So what I did was divide the length of my stay (six weeks) by the number of times I expect to wash my clothes (twice) which means everything I bring can be worn three times total. Thus, I have packed clothing sufficient for a two week trip.
You wouldn’t guess it from seeing my messy room, but I love to organize and pack. For my checked bag, I’m using an old suitcase with some glorious floral print that will really stand out on the luggage carousel.
One huge help to me while packing has been the TSA’s “Can I Bring…?” tool, on their website. You can search for pretty much any item and it will tell you whether you can bring it and any special rules. For example, did you know that lip gloss does not count as a liquid? That you can take a pencil sharpener through security? Now you know.
It’s not my first time traveling by myself, but I will be landing in another country alone for the first time. I’ll be honest: I’m pretty freaked out right now. But at the same time, I’m so excited I can’t come close to explaining it in words. Luckily I learned a lot about myself during my first year of college, and I know how to manage the nerves I’m feeling. When I get scared, and my stomach starts to feel funny, I can take some deep breaths and have a ginger candy. And with that simple fix, I’m excited and feeling good again.
Before I Even Get There…
I’m nervous about le métro. In Philly, the lines make sense. The Broad Street Line goes north and south beneath Broad Street. Duh. The Market-Frankford line goes east to west and crosses the BSL in the middle. Welp, the Paris Métro system is NOTHING like that. The 13 different lines snake around the city, criss-crossing and turning all over the place. Just planning my journey from the airport to my host’s home involves a bus, a train station, and a métro. What do these people have against the grid system?!?
Fortunately, I have a tiny map of the city (including métro lines!) that I can carry everywhere. And as I figure out this silly snaking train system, I’ll let you know of any pattern or logic I discover.
This is going to be a challenge, an adventure, and just an incredible experience, and I hope you’ll follow along and experience it with me! My next post will come straight from the City of Lights, and I’ll be sharing some initial realizations of differences between PA and Paris.