Category Archives: Temple Summer

Tiny Parisian Culture Shocks


Even though I’d been to Paris very briefly before, there were quite a few things that surprised or confused me during my experience here. Most are funny, some are strange, and one is just really stinky.


  • Goats in the Garden?

My roommate and I were walking through the Tuileries Gardens and thought, huh that’s a really funny-looking dog in that grassy patch. Nope. It was a goat. In the middle of Paris. For some reason, Paris keeps a few goats in this park, who have little underground homes and walk around tethered to a post, as a way to keep the grass short. Saves a lot of trouble with mowing and adds a lot of cuteness. Win-win situation.

  • Armed Soldiers

Because of all the terrorist activity that has been happening in France and the consequent state of emergency that the country is in, there are heavily armed military personnel who patrol the streets of Paris. This was jarring for me at first, in particular when I saw a 5-year-old boy walk with his head mere inches from the tip of an assault rifle while licking an ice cream cone. I became accustomed to them fairly quickly, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget how intense of an image that was.

  • Parisian Drivers

If you think PA / NJ / (insert any other state here) drivers are bad, you have never watched traffic in Paris. You’ve definitely never been on a coach bus while you driver has a philosophical conversation, puts a CD in the radio, and shifts lanes all at the same time. You probably haven’t seen moped riders go twice the speed limit along the dotted line between lanes on the highway. Parisians drive SO terrifyingly aggressively but they do it SO well (so many near accidents, not even one tiny bumper-bump).

  • Hanging out in the Cemetery

While in Père-Lachaise; a cemetery that houses Chopin, Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and more; my roommate and I noticed people hanging out, relaxing in the grassy patches (not on graves) reading or talking to friends. This seemed extremely bizarre to me until I took a second to listen. It is one of the only places in the city that isn’t full of the sound of laughter, car engines, and discussion. When peace and quiet becomes an endangered resource, people must find creative ways around it.

  • La Vie en Rose Does Not Smell Like Roses

Paris, despite how beautiful she may look in photographs, smells really quite disgusting in the middle of the summer. For those of you who know and love Philly (AKA Filthadelphia), I can assure you that this is worse. While I begrudgingly accepted my fate, lots of breath-holding and breathing through my shirtsleeve, this is the one culture shock that I never really got used to. It’s just that stinky.

  • (Very) Public Displays of (a Lot of) Affection

Paris is known as the city of love because it appears that there are next to no rules on PDA. From making out over the dinner table in the restaurant to cuddling in the grass in the Luxembourg Gardens, the French love to show why they have earned their title of being the greatest romantics. This surprised me at first, mostly because I had never realized how conservative America is on that regard, but I quickly got over it. I even came to decide that the U.S. could use some extra love in the air too, à la française.

Three Trips to Remember in France


The past two weekends, I’ve gone on two more excursions (#3 and #4) organized by Temple’s Study Abroad program and one informal boat trip down the Seine. The excursions were to Fontainebleau, the castle of the kings, and the Champagne region, the birthplace of bubbly wine. I was sick on the day of excursion #2, so I only ended up going to three total but still found myself with more photos than I know what to do with. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them!



The exterior of the Fontainebleau Castle – the famous summer home of all the French kings. The horseshoe-shaped staircase at the front of the castle was made famous by Napoleon, as it was here that he announced his abdication.



The TU group going through one of the grand halls in the castle. Each of the many kings that stayed in the castle had many renovations and additions made, which makes the castle rich with art and ornamentation that is absolutely stunning and even overwhelming in some places.


Our amazing tour guide told us that this is the room in which Napoleon I attempted to commit suicide to prevent his abdication. He failed because his opium, which he tried to overdose with, was expired. It was in this room that he very angrily agreed to his abdication. This salon is full of history AND crazy pink decorations.


The Temple Group listens to their tour guide explain the history of the art in Fontainebleau Castle.


A stunning example of the overwhelming decoration in the Fontainebleau Castle. This room used to belong to a king’s mistress but has since been transformed into a stairwell.

Reims / Champagne


The famous Reims Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is, surprisingly, still standing today despite its being bombed for weeks during World War One and a large fire it experienced. Restoration on the church is continuing to this day. Our tour guide told us that Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was actually inspired by a man he met in this church, but he later decided to place the story in Paris


This is a close-up of some stained glass from the Reims Cathedral. All the glass in the church has been made by the same family for hundreds of years and their craftsmanship is absolutely excellent.


In addition to the lovely, traditional stained glass that decorated the cathedral, Reims was also home to some much more modern windows, including this one which was created by the artist Marc Chagall.


Temple French professors Dr. Gabriel and Dr. Roget try on some fancy French hats and graciously pose for a photograph in the Champagne vineyards.


Some Temple students and Dr. Roget frolicking in the lush vineyards of the Champagne region after our tour of the wine cellars (which were sadly too dark to photograph).



Boat Ride on the Seine


A view of the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day from the Bateau Mouche (a huge tour boat).


A row of beautiful houses on the right bank of the Seine, just east of Notre Dame


The Musée D’Orsay from the boat. With its large windows and clock, it is easy to tell that this building used to be a train station before it housed some of the most important paintings and sculptures of all time.


Pont (bridge) Alexandre III, undeniably one of the most gorgeous and ornate bridges that crosses over the Seine.


The infamous Notre Dame Cathedral.

Ciao, Italy!


It was bittersweet leaving Artena, whether it was the fresh countryside air, the amazing home cooked food, the little family run hotel, or the unreal views that I’ll always remember. My experience in Italy for the Artena Excavation program was an absolute dream. Now that I’m back in the U.S.,  I still find it hard to believe that I really went. Yes, the excavation was hard work, but I found really awesome artifacts, had some class trips to local museums, and learned about my future profession as an archaeologist. This includes the fact that I’d like to specialize in osteology- the study of bones. If it weren’t for this experience, I wouldn’t have gotten to visit Pompeii, Naples, Rome, Palestrina, and Artena to see ancient sites and relics that were apart of the history of the Roman Empire that shaped the world we live in today.

Also, during my month in Italy, I learned a few things about Italian life from my experience. Some of them may seem like minor details, but these are things that made my experience so fulfilling:

  1. Coffee- Coffee lovers in America need to know the differences between Italian and American coffee etiquette. Are you into your venti size coffees at Starbucks? Sorry to disappoint, but there are no Starbucks in Italy, and no to-go cups of coffee. Instead, there are coffee bars that people stand at to drink a quick espresso and then move on. Also, Italian coffee is much stronger than American coffee, though Italian coffee portions are much smaller. You can ask for a cafe Americano, which is an espresso coffee but larger, but there is no option for “black coffee.”
  2. Language- Simple phrases of gratitude go a long way in Italy. During my trip, I learned simple words like grazie (thank you), buongiorno (good morning/afternoon), buonasera (good evening), or buonanotte (goodnight). However, Italians don’t say goodnight unless they are actually going to sleep, unlike in America. Also, have you ever been curious what the word “prego” meant on that spaghetti sauce jar?  It doubles at “you’re welcome” and “don’t mention it,” when you give something to someone.
  3. Food- In Italy, you’ll never go hungry. There are usually 4- or 5- course meals. In cities, you can choose just one course at restaurants. However, at the hotel I stayed at in Artena, we first had antipasti, aka appetizers. This included olives, fried vegetables, bruschetta, beans, and much more. The first course is always a pasta, which you could choose between ravioli, carbonara, and fettuccini with mushrooms. Second course is the meat course, in which you can choose chicken, rabbit, or pork chop. Then finally, there’s dessert. Usually we had cake, which was very flaky and had creamy icing in the layers. Dinner was always perfect in Italy!
  4. Style- Italians are very stylish. Guys usually wear dress shirts and shorts because it’s pretty hot in the summer. Girls also wear shorts or a dress with converse because a lot of people walk, especially in Rome. Usually, shorts are not common in Italy, but this trend may be due to the fact that I went during the hottest month of the year, or it is possible that it’s becoming a trend.

The little details are what make experiences so great, especially when visiting a different country. You learn that your own culture isn’t the only one out there, and that there are many perspectives in this world. I hope to extend my travels in the future! Ciao, Artena! Hope to see you soon!




Italian Museums and Archaeology


If I have any advice to give, it’d be to always take opportunities. I have weekends off, so I decided to travel each weekend because you never know when you will be able to be in Italy again. So, since Rome captured my heart, and the archaeologist in me was yelling to come out, I went to the Vatican Museum one weekend. Their collection is very extensive. They have art as old as 4,000 years, like the Sumerian cuneiform tablets that were used to document law and stories, all the way to Egyptian, Roman, and contemporary art. The architecture of the Vatican is a wonder all by itself because it looks like it was very carefully crafted. As presented in the pictures below, the whole building is extremely ornate and takes a few minutes of observation to be able to notice all the details.  It’s absolutely exquisite! I’ve been to the Met in New York and the U Penn Museum in Philly, but this museum is just something you need to see for yourself.

A few of the art works surprised me because I’ve never seen anything like them! One of them was a statue of Roman Emperor Hadrian dressed as a Pharaoh, which I didn’t even know existed. Also, since I minor in art history, I’ve learned a lot about Roman art, but I always saw famous Roman art works in textbooks; in Rome, I found myself standing in front of them. For example, the Augustus of Prima Porta caught me by surprise as I was exiting the museum. To see a work of art that I’ve been studying for years gives it so much more meaning because suddenly when you see the art in person, it’s a real “thing” and not just a picture in a book. It was made by someone and valued by many, and that is fascinating to think about.

Though, this doesn’t only apply to pieces of art. It also applies to entire archaeological sites that you learn about while taking archaeology courses. For instance, I went to Pompeii the following weekend with two of my classmates. At first I didn’t know what to expect because I had an image in my head of what it should look like: small city, narrow streets, and maybe ten homes to walk through. It was nothing like my vision. It was even better! The streets were wider, still paved with ancient roads. There were remains of at least 30 houses you were able to walk into. Many of the frescoes and mosaic floors were still intact inside the homes as well. Not only are there homes, but a forum, an amphitheater, gladiator barracks, and a bath house. The ancient city is huge. In fact, I’d love to go again  sometime because I didn’t get to see all of Pompeii in a day.

Artifacts and entire sites are most definitely more grand than in textbooks. The most intriguing part of seeing these things is realizing that humans built things like the city of Pompeii and created the art works in museums. Because of that realization, I’ll never forget these experiences. The Vatican Museum and Pompeii are definitely a must! I’m extremely grateful that this program encourages me to explore, all while training me for my dream profession!


Emperor Hadrian in Pharaoh wear



Augustus of Prima Porta



A concrete body cast of an actual body from Pompeii that was preserved



Streets of Pompeii

L’Université v. University


Having gone to school in France before, I was expecting my transition to my FLE (French version of ESL) classes at the Sorbonne to be perfectly smooth, but culture shock had other plans for me. There are some huge differences between my French language learning classes here and those that I take at Temple, for better or worse. Here are the biggest ones that I have noticed so far:

The Sorbonne, the university that hosts our classes (but sadly not our classrooms)

      1. Structure

At Temple, the entire semester is outlined in the syllabus. From day one of the class, you know exactly when everything is due and what you will be learning each and every day. For someone who already has the time and date of their Fall semester finals written into the December section of their planner (yes, for the semester that doesn’t even start for another month), this is comforting and wonderful.

No such thing exists in my class. No syllabus, no outline of grading policies (see below), very little forewarning for assignments. When you are told what will be on the test, there’s a solid chance that this will not be very accurate.

The con with this method is, of course, that I cannot plan as absurdly far ahead as I would like, but I’ve come to realize that there are also a few pros to this.

The first is that the lack of a pre-announced schedule allows for the professor to adjust their lessons exactly to the class’s needs. For example, our phonetics teacher scrapped her entire 3-week lesson plan to accommodate for our class’s advanced level. Had she handed out highly detailed syllabi beforehand, it would have been a huge pain in the neck to alter the plans.

The other positive is that it is forcing me to take things as they come rather than planning and worrying over them for weeks or months in advance, which is always a good thing.

    2. Grading

Grading at Temple is very objective. The grading policy is given and explained on the first day and is based on math. Each assignment and exam is worth a certain percent of your grade. Again, very structured.

Here it is much more subjective. Brownie points are a very, very real thing in my class and are something that I plan very much to cash in on. Students in my class who pay attention, show effort, and come every day are going to be given 2 extra points at the end of the semester. When you’re graded out of 20 (more on this in a minute), this is very wonderful news. In reality, I guess that these brownie points are really just our attendance and participation grade, but again, this is not based on any kind of math.

This subjective grading allows teachers a lot more freedom when grading, which can be good or bad depending on who your teacher is and what kind of student you are.

Another point on grading is the 20 point system, which does not coordinate mathematically to the American system (of course). 10 is the baseline for passing (70% in the US). Anything above a 14 is an A, 16 and up is an A+, and anything above 18 is considered rare. 20 is nearly impossible unless you’re doing math or another very objective subject that doesn’t require written responses. This doesn’t take long to get used to once you know the conversions, but it really is a strange jump to make.

3. Classroom Etiquette

French classroom atmosphere and professors are known to be stricter than their American counterparts, but I am not completely sold on this point.

While my professor is very much the boss of the classroom, unflinchingly going 20 minutes past the end of class more than once without apology or acknowledgment, he never hesitates to humor the purposefully off-topic questions that my classmates pose with lots of google image searches and impromptu discussions on everything from prostitution to literature to hedge-grooming. In our defense, these are technically cultural topics, and our class is technically on both the French language and culture.

While American college students would most likely revolt if a professor dared to go so far over class time, I would not be surprised to experience such off topic discussions in schools in America, especially in classrooms with friendly atmospheres and discussion times structured into the curriculum.

Something that exists in French classrooms that doesn’t in Americans that dictates the formality (or lack thereof) is the “tu/vous” issue. In English we have “you.” You call your grandma you, your doctor you, the president you. In French we have “tu,” the informal you,  and “vous,”the plural or formal you. I dislike this a bit, because it creates a hierarchy that is ingrained into the language.

Some professors, the most traditional or strict, will call students “vous” and be offended if you accidentally use “tu” with them. Others will “tutoie” you (use tu) but still expect you to “vouvoie” them. Both of these are normal. I’d like to imagine some very young or hip professors accept being called “tu,” but I have yet to experience this.

Overall, there are some pretty significant differences between my experiences at Temple and mine at the Sorbonne so far, but I know that the three professors I’ve had so far aren’t representative of every French teacher out there. While I am definitely someone who prefers structure, I am still enjoying my classes very, very much.

Un Jour à Paris


Halfway through my study abroad experience, I’ve found a rhythm.

Some mornings I wake up to the sound of travellers with early flights dragging their suitcases down seven flights of echoey stairs (just take the elevator!!), but on most mornings I wake up to the friendly creaking of floorboards under my roommate’s feet and my rumbling stomach’s never-ending need to consume more French bread.

Once I’m up and dressed it is usually too late for me to properly enjoy the breakfast that my residence hall, the Foyer International des Étudiants, offers every morning. As always in France, breakfast consists of baguette with nutella or jam paired with a cup of coffee or juice. For many Americans, this is hard to get used to, but for my carb-and-chocolate-loving self, it works just fine.

My roommate and I head out the Foyer doors, baguette in mouth and nutella in hand, around 9:30 in order to make it to our first class on time. The walk takes about 15-20 minutes and it’s 20 times better than any walk you could have on Temple’s main campus (sorry). We pass the Luxembourg gardens filled with her many joggers, cafés with sleepy-eyed baristas, and restaurants with sidewalk tables already full of people chatting and smoking.


The Luxembourg Gardens on a stormy day

Our first class is phonétique, which is a lab in which we work on properly pronouncing French words and hopefully erasing traces of our accents little by little with the help of our amazing professor. Our phonetics class is small, with only about 7 students, but diverse — I think there are at least 5 different native languages among us.

In the half hour break after phonétique, my roommate and I run across the street to the boulangerie and buy huge smoked salmon and hard-boiled egg baguette sandwiches (trust me, it’s amazing) and grab some tea and coffee.

Our “cours pratique” is where all the real work happens. We have two hours of it a day, five days a week; which is a really different schedule from what us Temple students are used to. Our professor has high expectations for us, and because Temple doesn’t use the exact same proficiency system that the Sorbonne uses, sometimes I find myself being really behind in certain skills that the other students learned in the previous semester’s program. Overall though, the class is challenging in a good way and I have definitely noticed my grammar and comprehension advancing quickly.

After class finishes at 1:30, I usually head back to the Foyer and get a big sorbet/gelato on the way, which is the other staple of my diet here.


Lychee, peach, and mango sorbet after class

Once we drop off our bags in our room and take a breather, anything goes. On Thursdays we like to go listen to our professor give lectures on Albert Camus, but every other weekday we usually pick an attraction off our list, double-check the metro map, and venture out into the unknown.

Yesterday, for example, my roommate and I nearly got heatstroke (okay, maybe not NEARLY) walking out to visit the Rodin Museum in the inescapably horrible Parisian heat. While it is not that hot here (it was only 96 degrees yesterday), the combination of heat, humidity, heavy pollution, and virtual lack of breeze makes Parisian heat the nastiest that I have ever encountered.

After our daily excursion, I will grab dinner at either a panini place or one of the little shops near the Foyer that has a student menu. This is the best way to go in my opinion. You can get a tasty, decently-sized meal for around 5 euros if you’re willing to do take-out (which you should be – go eat somewhere pretty!). One of my favorite places to eat is on the roof terrace of the Foyer, which has an amazing view of the city.


The view from the roof of the Foyer

Once I’m back at the Foyer I’ll do the boring stuff: homework, shower, catch up on the internet. The days are really long here since the sun sets at 10pm and even halfway through my experience here, I’m still not used to it. I always end up staying up much later than I’d like because I never realize how late it is. Once I finally get into bed, I usually pass out right away.

Then: sleep, wake up, repeat (for three more weeks).

Just Keep Digging


This past week was fascinating and unimaginable. Let’s begin with my daily routine. First, we wake up at 5:30am where we are served coffee and croissants (Italian coffee is amazing). Then, we head out to the excavation site by car and hike up a very steep hill. It certainly gets your blood pumping! At the top lies the ancient site. We are each divided into teams or given solo jobs, and we are each given tasks. I’ve learned so much already because the professor makes sure you try all jobs. I pickaxed, shoveled, and scraped around ancient pottery that was too fragile to take out by pickaxe. It’s extremely fun to pickaxe the soil because it’s gratifying to be productive. So far, I have found about 30 pieces of pottery that date to over 1,000 years old! Occasionally I will find a bone, which is most likely an animal bone because they’re pretty small. Then, we have a second breakfast of more coffee and cookies at around 9:00am. We work some more, eat lunch, and then wash the pottery that we found that day.

Not only do we find pottery, but we find other artifacts that can show us how these ancient people lived. One girl in the program uncovered a large pot with small stones placed around it in a circular fashion, so my professor thought it could be a tomb. Today, the pot was tediously scraped and brushed. Before we knew it, bones were appearing in the pot. Turns out, they were bones of a baby. It’s sad to think how this child passed away, but it’s so fascinating to witness such an uncovering, especially because I have a special interest in osteology–I hope to be able to study bones because the information we can obtain from them is very important.

Also, I work in various sections of the site and always have the opportunity to uncover different types of artifacts as well. The other day, two of the girls and I were trying to figure out where a stone wall led by pickaxing the dirt around it. We ended up finding a threshold! We knew it was a doorway because there was a gap in the wall with a tile floor in between. I wish I could post pictures, but I can’t post specific artifacts and structures since they aren’t published yet. It’s important to know the laws of archaeology and I’m glad to learn some on this excavation.

We also learned to “level” the site. First, we set up at tripod at a reference point. Someone then held up a meter stick at a specific structure while another person looked through the magnifying lens on the tripod to read the height measurement. We do this for all the different levels of ground that we uncovered so we can use it to relatively date the artifacts and structures found in each layer! The layers of dirt that are lower should be older than those layers on top of them. It’s really fascinating stuff and I enjoy it a lot.

There are a lot of technical aspects of archaeology that you’d need to be aware of if you want to be an archaeologist, like learning how to set up the tripod or how to dig so that artifacts won’t be destroyed in the process. It can get complicated, but at the end of the day, I know I’ve learned so much and will only learn more from experience.


Leveling the site, in which the yellow tripod is at the reference point and the meter stick is in one of the structures. This helps us see the height of the layer.



Excursion to Giverny and Rouen


Four weekends of the Paris program are dedicated to excursions, where the group leaves the city and heads somewhere new to learn about the culture and history of the country and region.

This past weekend, the Temple group packed itself into a coach bus to head out to two amazing sites outside of Paris: Rouen and Giverny. I had heard of Giverny before this excursion, being the art nerd that I am, and was extremely excited to hear that we would get to visit the house and garden (and water lilies!) of Claude Monet, the impressionist painter; but had never known anything about Rouen until looking it up the day before leaving. My excitement to visit increased ten-fold when I learned that not only is it home to the cathedral that Monet famously painted over and over to study the light and atmosphere, but also the location of Joan of Arc’s trial and consequent death.

Monet’s garden and home were everything that I had dreamed of and more. They are so peaceful and stunning, despite the crowds that you’ll find there on a beautiful day. Monet’s infatuation with painting the scene made sense to me once I saw the way the light and color played off the water, the intense colors of the flowers, and the lushness of the greenery.

Rouen also surpassed my expectations, with its dazzlingly ornate cathedral and its sweet, tiny streets. We went to a museum dedicated to Joan of Arc and watched a multimedia exposition on her life and the debate surrounding her death. I had no idea how controversial she was and nor how tough she was (she was shot in battle twice!).

Overall, the excursion was absolutely eye- and mind-opening and definitely has me looking forward to our next!


A wonderful view of the pond at Monet’s Gardens


Temple students and their Program Director standing under a beautiful archway in Monet’s Gardens


Monet’s atelier full of impressionist paintings


Temple students walking through the garden in front of Monet’s house


Flowers in front of Monet’s water lily pond


Temple students enjoying the view on their walk towards the Cathedral


A view of Rouen Cathedral’s famous spire


Rouen Cathedral’s intensely ornate Gothic style is almost dizzying to look at up close


Temple students exploring the beautiful chapel attached to the Joan of Arc Museum


One of the adorable shop-lined streets leading up to Rouen Cathedral

Expanding My Horizons



You think that when you go study abroad to a new country you’ll be completely lost. You think that you will be limited as to how many monuments you’ll see because you’re a tourist. All of that is completely untrue. Why?

Well first, your classmates are either just as clueless or have been abroad before and can help you with tips to get around! Last week was my first week of excavating EVER (I know right? I’m an anthropology major). It is really hard work. In Artena, Italy, I learned how to pickaxe, shovel, wheel barrow, scrape ruins, and to ALWAYS keep the sunscreen handy. Yes, I sweated a lot. Yeah, I was sore the whole week. But the feeling of being able to bring ruins back to life is addicting. It gives me a sense of purpose. There’s this girl in our small  group of 5 who has done this Artena Excavation program before and has come back a 2nd year because she loved it so much. She helped the rest of us by giving us great advice such as the correct posture to pickaxe so that your back doesn’t hurt or what places are good to eat at around Artena.

Second, you can explore by yourself and not get lost in Italy. Mostly everyone speaks English at least a little bit. This past weekend, my group and I went to Rome by train, which is about 40 minutes away. All I have to say is: WOW. Anyone would be able to enjoy that city. Because I’m a total nerd of an archaeologist, I explored at least 12 monuments in one day by foot, spanning across half of Rome, including the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. On Sunday I went to Vatican City to see the Pope and to hear his blessing, which was an amazing experience! Whether you’re religious or not, it’s truly something you should see. Afterwards, we ventured into St. Peter’s Basilica, where Michelangelo’s Pieta is housed. What a beautiful church full of history! But beware, don’t wear shorts or tank tops or they won’t let you in! This was a moment of my life when I reflected on how cultures can be very different from ours but you must respect them. In this case it would pertain to Italian Catholics.


Roman Forum






Not into ruins? That’s okay. The food is also amazing in both Rome and Artena. Italians eat appetizers, the first course of pasta, the second course of meat, and dessert. The hotel in Artena feeds me well, not to mention they have white wine and cappuccinos. Yum!

But let’s get back to archaeology, shall we? I have been working with French archaeologists this week. We have been digging a trench next to an ancient wall so that we can see where it leads and to be able to see the layers of dirt in order to date the wall and the artifacts that were found. So far, I found lots of pot shards and a few small bones! I don’t know what bones they are but it was such an awesome find. I feel much more comfortable about digging and I have been improving my French, which is very important for my future career as an archaeologist. I can’t wait to see what is in store for me next week! Ciao!





five ways to enjoy your first five days


Everyone reacts to studying abroad differently, especially during the crucial first days. While some can jump right in at full-speed, invincible in the face of jet lag, culture shock, language barriers, and new surroundings; others need some time to get comfortable. I am of the second sort.

My first five days have been a nonstop whirlwind of amazing sightseeing, great (and inexpensive!) food, miles and miles of walking tours, and challenging french classes and lectures. While I have already done more wonderful things than I previously thought humanly possible in only five days, I have also felt exhausted, sick, overwhelmed, and a little homesick at the end of the day.

Feeling a little weird at the start is totally normal, but here are five ways to make sure your first days studying abroad are as un-weird as possible:

  • Remember socks

Forgetting to pack essentials for your comfort (like I forgot all of my socks) can really put a damper on your first days in your host country and distract you from the fun you could be having. It is important to make a list of everything you need to feel comfortable during the day and to triple check that list and your luggage before you leave so that all of your energy can go towards better things like scoping out the best panini stands and navigating the Champs-Élysées.


Temple students at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

  • Be social

Studying abroad is a lot like one big team-building exercise, except for the fact that it isn’t justifiably hated by everyone except camp counselors. Once you try to buy a complicated metro pass in a foreign country with someone, you are destined to become fast friends. This study abroad camaraderie takes work to foster though, so make sure you are spending as much time with your group as possible, even if you aren’t psyched about the activity. The first few days are key for bonding and you won’t want to miss out on the amazing memories, support, and laughs you can get from your study abroad friends.

  • Get lost

The best way to get comfortable in a place is to get uncomfortable in it. Pop a map in your back pocket, or roughly plan out a route ahead of time, grab your new friends, and explore your neighborhood! This will help you get connected to your surroundings and your peers (which is the best way to prevent homesickness) and will also be helpful for finding hidden sightseeing gems the best (read: cheapest) shops and food around.


Shakespeare & Company, a famous Parisian bookstore with a long history

  • Cross something off of your list

If you have a “bucket list” for your experience abroad, don’t procrastinate! It’s easy to tell ourselves “the Eiffel Tower will be there tomorrow, there’s no rush” only to find that time has flown by and we are 48 hours from boarding our flight and only saw the tower once out of a taxi window. So text those wonderful new friends, pull out that metro pass you worked so hard to get, and check off something new right away!

  • Give yourself time

Lastly, remember that studying abroad is a never-ending transition from one way of life to another and that the beginning is one part of that transition that can be especially rough. If you are feeling overwhelmed, decide to give yourself a week to feel wonky and lost, then check in again after seven days. Luckily for us humans, adaptability is our thing, so you should be feeling ten times more equipped to handle your new life once you have given yourself ample time to get used to it. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to people that you trust for support and guidance.