Good running vibes

Without getting too spiritual about it, running is a way for me to keep balance in my life. It gives me a chunk of time in the middle of the day to focus on myself, in silence, and outdoors and it helps me exert stress, stay physically fit, and sleep better.

When I decided to spend a year studying abroad in Paris, the first thing I researched was their running culture. Everywhere I have lived has been either surrounded by forested hills or vast expanses of corn fields, so the idea of living in a cobbled city had me stressed.

But once I arrived, I immediately started to sense a good runners vibe. First of all, there are parks everywhere. Now, most of which, if you were to run in them, you’d have to loop the park 29 times before clocking a mile, but some are true running gems. As it turns out, I was placed with a host family that lives next to one of them. Le parc Buttes Chaumont is nestled amongst towering apartment buildings and is home to seemingly out-of-place waterfalls, man-made caves, and this touring cement mountain structure that overlooks all of Paris. Another favorite place to run is in the Bois (forest) de Vincennes. Only a 30 min metro ride from home and I find myself running through miles and miles of forested trails.

Running groups are a trend in the city and I’ve been trying really, really hard join one of them. Try is the key word here because for two reasons it hasn’t been as easy as expected.

Firstly, you have to speak French. It can be intimidating to intentionally put yourself into environments where you are completely isolated from the anglophone world and in which you are totally reliant on your French skills and the friendly, empathetic help of the person running next to you. Said friendly, empathetic neighbor turned out to be a lifesaver when I took a (few) wrong turn(s) along the way. She would come running after me to guide me back onto the right route and eventually decided just to stick by my directionless self for the duration of our workout!

Running through the steep, cobbled streets of Montmartre for the first time – in the dark – is highly inadvisable…unless you make a friend, in which case, I couldn’t encourage you enough to give it a go 🙂

And secondly, you have to speak French. I have yet to figure out how these people organize but it must be telepathically, and to be completely honest, my french telepathy skills are in rough shape. Either that, or they decide at the end of a workout. In either case, the likelihood of me misinterpreting the times or addresses is just so high. This has happened so many times to me that I can say that I’ve missed the team more times than I’ve actually run with them. The upside is that I’ve discovered some really sweet routes and have had some quality personal time…though making French running friends would definitely be cool. Cooler. In fact, that is the whole point really. What with all this stress, it would be so much easier to just get lost running through these damned cobbled streets alone. But we’re trying to be positive here…

Long story short, I’ve “found” the running culture of Paris and there is a lot to be said about getting involved in activities that are familiar to you despite the foreign backdrop. Perhaps at some point I’ll share more about running in Paris for those of you interested. But for now, reflecting on the importance of seeking out what you need to be happy and healthy in unfamiliar places is at the forefront of my mind as I begin to fall into some semblance of a routine here in Paris. It is both a way of getting out of your comfort zone and a way of encouraging yourself to be challenged by getting involved in ways that are familiar. Whether you do theatre or play a sport or like dancing to obscure underground music, you are bound to find people with similar interests wherever you go. And even if you don’t share the same mother language, you can at least bond over the same passion, and that’s a guaranteed way to start making friends…so long as you can find them 🙂

 

Cheers,

Sophia

SOS which lines do I use in my notebook?

During our orientation week we had a session about the ways in which the French and US education systems differ. We learned all about the different paths students take to get into their chosen universities and how the academic programs are divided. It was eluded to us how different the structure of the classes and the expectations for the students would be. And we even got a taste of what campus life would be like during a tour of the University of Nanterre. But none of that could have prepared us for what the next few weeks would bring.
For the first two weeks we underwent a selection process during which we attended as many classes as we could fit into a day in order to get a feel for what courses we would want to follow. The APA staff worked tirelessly to help us locate classrooms, pinpoint start times, and navigate the academic hierarchy. And yet, the real challenges rested in the slowly dawning realisation of the true differences between the university systems we are so accustomed to and those of which we had just been thrown into.
I.
Going to college here costs next to nothing. For a few hundrerd euro a year, you have rooms with chairs, whiteboards, sometimes even projectors; you get access to dining services and well-stocked libraries; you may even choose to join the campus gym or a student club. And for a few hundrerd euros, your class may have so many students, you have to sit on the floor; there may be “pro-revolution” grafiti on the classroom walls; the class may start 45 mins late each day; or the professor may decide not to show up at all. It really makes you realize that what we US college students pay for is assurance: assurance that we will have a certain number of contact hours with our professors; assurance that we will be able to take our desired classes; assurance that we will become part of a broader campus/ alumni community; and assurance that even if we go into a ton of debt by the time we graduate, we will have had the “college” experience our older siblings or parents nostalgically wax on about.
II.
As APA students, one of the greatests benefits is that we have the opportunity to take classes at more than one university in Paris. Not only does this open the range of possible courses we could take, but it also allows us to get a taste for the ways inwhich these campus cultures differ. For example, the University of Nanterre (Paris 10) resembles a liberal arts campus in the US: open green spaces surrounded by a cluster of small buildings, secluded from the outside world. While the University of Saint-Denis (Paris 8) is more like the vibe of an abandoned airport: one huge cement structure with hallways decorated with big arows to direct student traffic. And again, the Sorbonne (Paris 4) has campuses all over the city ranging from academic buildings on the outskirts of the city to the iconic stone-engraved buildings guarded by police and surrounded by chique cafes and libraries.
The commute is sometimes exhausting and keeping track of when and where all my classes are has been a real test. But now that the firsts are over, no longer do I have to arrive 45 mins before classes was intended to start in order to track down the elusive correct building/ room combination, and now I am begining to get a feel for what this semester will truly have to offer.
III.
The final important aspect to note as I reflect on the beginnings of my semester studying in Paris is the language. After having taken french language classes for so many years, you have a certain association between learning french and sitting at a desk. But when you find yourself entering a massive lecture hall full of the hum of students speaking to each other in french or you are sitting amongst a small circle of students discusses french literature…in french…it begins to dawn on you that your relationship with the french language has moved beyond the bounds of studying grammar and editing essays. You have to focus, sometimes for an obsene number of hours, not on the individual words (because there is never going to be time to check wordreference for all the vocab about french colonization being thown at you) but rather on the big ideas. You realise that you have to take your notes in french cause sometimes the powerpoint has words you cant transalte into English… translating into English would just take too much time anyway. You realise that when you go to the library to get a book on the topic you’re studying, you have to read it in french. And you realise that if you want to add something to a class discussion, you have to be ready to formulate your thoughts in another language you speak so limitedly while maintaining the depth reflective of a college-level student.
Sometimes, at the end of a day of classes, my brain is numb and my motivation is drained. Not because of some feeling of failure, on the contrary; I feel numb because I am working, in a way, harder than I have ever done while sitting at a desk. And the thought that I can follow a class in another language, albeit difficultly, and tackle assignments like analyzing a research paper in french or doing a short presentation on the portrayal of nature in french art in front of a class of native french speakers makes me feel like a superhero(ine).

 

Cheers,

Sophia

 

P.S. here is a pic (I took from the internet) of the “french rule” paper…when you figure out which lines to use, let me know 🙂

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "french notebook paper"

Vertigo

I.

As I wait to for the little green person to light up as a sign that I can cross the street, I scan the sea of faces for anyone I recognize. I was on my way to one of APA’s intimate group tours of the various neighborhoods in Paris and was searching for our group. Upon seeing another of the APA students, I instinctively put up my hand and waived energetically toward them. At this point in the story, I felt something almost imperceptible, something most likely intangible amongst these words. French people don’t waive to each other. Something so common place as body language, we think nothing of, until it is no longer reflected back at us.

There are countless moments throughout the day when I become distinctly aware of the discord between my culture and the one I am immersed in and twice as many moments my foreign culture betrays me in my efforts to adopt new mannerisms, new vocabulary, or new habits. You go in to kiss your friend on the cheeks and as you turn, you find yourself kissing their lips instead…in the middle of a metro car…who knew my cheek-kissing game would require such presition. Luckily, I get a lot of practice.

You spend a painful amount of time trying to express your academic interests to a bunch of cute french college guys only to realise that every time you mentioned the word « college », they were under the impression that you were talking about your days back in middle school*…as if those awkward days of braces and freshly flowing hormones provide could pick-up line material.

Speaking to the locked bathroom door, you try to worn your host brother that the hand lotion you are lending him for his tattoo smells strongly of coconuts but only after you leave the house in confusion do you realise that he had thought you had been telling him that he smelled strongly. You have to shrug it off, finding humor in all that is lost in translation.

Though it isn’t always apparent, these differences in behavior that back in the states would serve to distinguish me, are often isolating here. At this point, as a foreigner, you have a choice. You stick to waiving from a distance, or you submit to a new kind of language.

 

II.

The author Milan Kundera, of the book I’m currently reading, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, defines the feeling of vertigo as the « intoxication of the weak ». She goes on to explain that « aware of his own weakness, a man decides to give in rather than stand up to it…wishes to fall down in the middle of the main square in front of everybody, wishes to be down, lower than down » (74). I relate to this interpretation of the term in how it reflects the way I view my own weaknesses.

Here in Paris, especially during these past two weeks as we APA students have been navigating college campuses for the first time, it has become clear that my main weakness here is the desire to feel comfortable. It takes such emotional and intellectual focus to go from one place to the next, to successfully make it through conversations with people, and to pay attention in classes only to end each day reflecting on all the challenging, embarassing, and confusing moments.

This is where our APA group is both so important to have and difficult to balance. It is so easy to stick to each others’ sides, to slip into speaking english when we’re together, and to use our connection as an excuse not to reach out for help or friendship to local peers, all in the name of creating some semblence of the comfort we are accustomed to.

You want to build relationships with the other APA students (because they are all awesome, obviously!) in order to have a good safety network. But that magnetic pull to speak english and spend time together becomes a weakness and being around everyone else gives me such vertigo that in order not to succumb to the fall, I’ve had to separate myself. So far, it has meant saying yes to any invitation and being open to meeting all kinds of people. This means forcing myself to seperate from the other students at a party we attended together; tricking myself to feel more curageous than my rapid heartbeat was implying; or submitting to the humbling role of asking for help from a stranger. Ultimately, at some point you have to reach out beyond APA in order to make your own comfort zone.

So, cheers to being willing to go to the movies with french friends despite only understanding 50% of the dialogue; to laughing at yourself when you stumble through pronouncing your own name in front of the class because Richter has too many r’s for the french accent; and to masterfully playing the role of a chill, savee college student even though you are sharply aware that you would be kicked out of in a french elementary school debate team.

A la prochain !

Sophia

*the french word, collège, means middle school in english… which turns out to be a good distinction to be aware of.

 

P.S. Shout out to all the other APA students. Despite said vertigo, we’ve got a good support network that is both pretty rad and really important to all of our mental/ emotional health 🙂

P.P.S. Pardon any misspelled words- spell check is programmed for the french language and I’m in this weird linguistic limbo stage where in order to make room for learning french, I’ve, apparently, had to give up some English…unfortunately, said french hasn’t yet decided to settle into my brain so, yea, I’m a mess.

not a question of Why, but of How

By the end of my years of high school French, it became clear that the goal wasn’t to speak French but rather to check off the obligatory “cultural exposure” class from the list of requirements that stood between the student and their graduation or their acceptance into a University. To me it was an activity as alien as my algebra classes and only served to give me equal amounts of anxiety. And yet, I had a foundation to work from and I had a half formed hope of building off of it. So when I decided to take a bridge year before university, I chose to spend a year in Senegal, an African country that, according to Wikipedia, spoke French. Among a multitude of reasons, learning how to adapt to a way of life amongst a culture of people so different from my own was my main goal. I wanted to gain cultural and linguistic fluency in Senegal in the hopes that it would help me better understand my own.

Long story short, most people in Senegal prefer not to speak French. And I quickly realized that to immerse myself and connect fully with my community there, I had to give up my own notions of what “fluency” meant and instead simply embrace what was right in front of me. So, I learned to speak Wolof, the national language of Senegal. With this, I learned about the power of connecting with people in their native language and as a result of a better understanding of the culture, I gained a deeper awareness of the vast variance of Francophone culture.

To me, the notion that a language can open the door for deeper connections and can act as a lens to view the world differently is so powerful. Language isn’t simply a formulaic construction of vocabulary that follows abstract grammar rules. Rather, it is a vessel for self-expression; it serves as cultural and temporal unification, and it can capture the world views and archetypal values of its speakers.

So here I am, encore, immersing myself in another culture with the hope of finally learning French. To me the question isn’t about why learn French over another language, but rather how to learn French. The first step is linguistic immersion. The reason I chose to study through APA was that this program provides multiple opportunities to engage in the Parisian life such as taking classes directly in universities with local French-speakers and living with a host family. It has only been a week and I have already starting making friends with French students and am quickly building an intuition for how the metro system works.

There is a Wolof proverb that goes: ndank-ndank mooy jaap golo si gnay (slowly, slowly, one catches the monkey in the forest) which is to say that everything takes time and it is the one who is patient and persistent who succeeds in the end. Since I have a year in Paris, I have the opportunity to continuously put myself in challenging situations that force me to use French but also to be forgiving of myself and to be reflective in my learning. With the help of APA, I hope to (all in French, of course!) be able to build meaningful relationships, develop a deeper awareness of the Parisian French culture, and gain a bit more clarity as to what the next step will be. Well that’s the goal anyway 🙂

 

Cheers,

Sophia Richter

 

P.S.

I’m a junior at Alma College, MI and its been said that my major is Economics and French… figured the introductory blog post should give at least some context to the author 🙂

My Paris: Looking Back

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It’s an odd feeling, isn’t it – missing something before it’s left you. Unfortunately, time never slows in the face of nostalgia. Especially not in the warm-ish, glinting haze that is Paris in May.

Having been away from the City of Light for about a week and a half during spring break, I’d had some time to really understand what Paris and France mean to me. After only a few days spent crossing southern Italy, I started missing Paris, the French language, and the country as a whole. I realized gently that I’d grown as comfortable in Paris and in France as I had in the US.

Paris feels like home, and the French people do too – and I had no idea how much a place that wasn’t my home could feel like it. Life in Paris isn’t easy, and anyone who said it was probably stayed for a few days on the right bank close to the Seine and didn’t once step in dog poop. Any season of your life that’s spent immersed in a different culture, making constant mistakes (and growing progressively aware of them with each new mistake made), meeting new people and making new friends and putting yourself out there is going to be difficult. Paris, in its own enigmatic way, makes this even worse by being so damn alluring. Every winding alley beckons, especially when you’re on your way to the library or trying to catch up on some sleep.

And yet, just as I feel the city and my time here slipping through my fingers, I can feel how much I’ve grown. Paris is a reminder that hard work should, and needs to be, balanced with play. That a life without joy is just as silly as a life without any hard work. Paris giveth and Paris taketh away, making the past semester exhausting and exhilarating and hard and yet easily the most fun I’ve ever had.

The real Paris isn’t easy nor is it simple, and perhaps that’s what makes it so real: it presents a life that is a fairytale-imagined, simultaneously peppered with everyday inconveniences. It’s expensive, the tourists are teeming, and you can’t pass a street without dodging streams on the sidewalk from men and dogs and particularly amusing (read: intoxicated) women. Regardless, there’s a living, breathing, thrumming undercurrent in this city that offers an original experience to those who know where to look… like the time I went out for a drink with a friend and ended up staying out until 3 am because some guy in a bar turned out to be a world-renowned illusionist –seriously, he started bending spoons and levitating euros and reading minds – or the nights I spent figure drawing in bars.

That’s my Paris: unexpectedly warm and inviting, rich in imagery and experience. Paris asks that you leave your apartment some days without any expectation of the day to follow, using a compass found only within yourself to navigate its winding streets. Paris has taught me to embrace my new mastery of Franglish, and the sensation that maybe work isn’t the most important thing in life; Paris has underlined the importance of sharing experiences with people you love, and embracing the uncomfortable sensation of growing out of an older version of yourself.

Merci pour tous, et à tous.
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Weekend in the Loire Valley

This beautiful weekend saw a couple of things: the resultats of the premier tour of the French presidential elections (!), and an utterly gorgeous weekend in the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley spans 280 kilometres in central France and is referred to as the Garden of France or the Cradle of France thanks to the abundance of vineyards, châteaux, and orchards. Our tour was composed of four châteaux (Blois, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Chenonceau, and Chambord), a wine-tasting, a fabulous lunch on a farm, and a stay at a renovated-farm-turned-auberge. It was 60 degrees, sunny, and a great way to make some last memories as a group before the (daunting) reality of finals and the true end of the semester kicks in.

Chenonceau, pictured in a lot of the photos below, was a crowd favorite. The beautiful fresh flowers, arranged in nearly every room, and the roaring fires in the fireplaces lent a lived-in (albeit fairy-tale) atmosphere to the château. The other MVPs of the weekend? Chèvre, a thing called wine jam (it’s real), and a scenic bike ride around Chambord. Formidable!

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Travel Tip Round-Up: Spring 2017

It’s spring break (vacances de printemps) here in Paris – which means that a lot of APA students are enjoying their time-off with well-earned travel! Having been on the European continent for about three and a half months at this point, with plenty of travel to boot, many of us feel like seasoned travelers. Some of us have been trying pizza in Naples, gelato in Rome, and funny cinnamon sugar pastries in Prague; others have visited the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, and sunned themselves on the beaches of southern France. Here’s how we get from point A to point B – and the tools that help us do that:

Skyscanner or Kayak (in incognito-tab): The jury’s out on whether or not this actually works, but it’s worth giving it a shot! The idea is that the prices will go up if you don’t browse without cookies (internet terminology, whatever that means). Regardless, use the Skyscanner or Kayak “explore” tools in a private window to figure out where to go in the first place. You plug in your home airport, dates, and the websites will do all the work for you. Gotta love 30 euro flights to Milan!

Hostelworld.com: Find lodging easily; search using reviews, ratings, and price tools. Hostelworld even has its favorite hostels for different cities – leaving more time for the fun part of travel (which definitely isn’t staying in a hostel, is it?).

SNCF’s “carte jeune”: Save tons if you know you’re going to be taking the train a lot. The initial cost (50 euros) quickly pays for itself. For France-only travel, you can save up to 30% on ticket costs. A word on trains: take them when you can. You see more of the country, there’s usually outlets, and they can be a great place to get some work done between weekend trips.

BlaBlaCar: Train, flight too expensive? Check out this website, which helps travelers find empty seats in cars/buses for cheap.

TimeOut: There’s a TimeOut market in Lisbon (one of our favorites!) but both the website and app are really wonderful for figuring where to eat and where to drink, and what to do with your time when you’re not doing either of the afore-mentioned activities. The app for Paris is actually divided by arrondisement, which can be super useful when you’re trying to stay local. Perfect for finding restaurants and bars.

VSCO: You have to edit all those abroad pictures for a fire instagram, don’t you?

Google Trips: This little-known app from Google helps you map out your travel. Create itineraries in different layers, divided by city or day. Add pins for landmarks, restaurants, or create walking paths.

Mint: You have to pay for all of this, don’t you? Track spending and set budgets.

Some final words to the wise: Leave the rollerboard suitcase at home. Bring a backpack (try 40-55L, do your research) and learn how to stuff it correctly. Buy an even smaller backpack and use that for day-trips – stuff that smaller backpack in your big backpack and you’ve got backpack inception. Microfiber towels are your best bet (they dry quickly, soak up a ton of water, and usually are anti-bacterial). Lush makes great solid shampoo, which is perfect if you don’t want to deal with a toiletry bag. Finally, as fun as the dual-wattage converters are, if you’re traveling with an iPhone and a laptop you don’t need it. They’re also heavy, take up a ton of space, and fall out of the sockets themselves.

Happy travel!

Liv

A Host Family Experience

I met my host-mom Solène (mère d’accueil) over macarons and champagne a few days after I arrived in Paris. Solène’s a nurse, and she has a habit of wearing two pairs of glasses at the same time. I met her husband, Thierry, about an hour later over dinner. Thierry owns a bookstore, and the small kitchen in the corner of the apartment is his favorite place to be. They were high-school sweethearts and have three children – thanks to them, I know the word for affectionately crazy (dingue) and how to describe ragging on someone (taquiner).

The day after I arrived, Thierry walked me through his neighbourhood, noting the changes that he’s witnessed in the 30 years that he’s lived there. He’s watched bookstores and publishers transition into niche, expensive boutiques. Regardless, he kindly pointed out his favorite bars and cafés, and introduced me to his cheese-monger. For the past three months, he’s taken to calling me a gourmand, probably because I never refuse cheese or olives… or food in general.

With APA, you don’t meet your host family until a few days after you arrive in Paris. I’ll admit, it’s crazy to pack your bags without knowing where exactly you’ll be living, but APA uses that time to ensure that each student is well-matched with her host family. Over meals, plenty of conversation, and a questionnaire sent out before the semester begins, the APA directors make their selections; it’s a delicate science, but they do it well.

I can confidently say that my host family has been one of my favorite – and most important – parts of my study abroad experience. Eating with them every night is my favorite part of the day, and it’s not just because the food is wonderful. Thierry and Solène recommend expositions and concerts; Clementine, my host sister, will ask me about politics and daily life. Benoît and I discuss the twists and turns of his favorite TV show (Friends). I’ve fallen in love with raclette and fondue, what Thierry affectionately calls his “kitchen-sink pasta” and the secret to Solène’s béchamel sauce. I’ve learned the French words for inane vegetables, and how to kindly turn away more food (‘j’ai bien dîné’ is a bit more genteel than ‘j’ai bien mangé’).

Thierry and Solène were even kind enough to host both sets of my parents when they visited last month, breaking out their English along with the good china. Ultimately, with a great host-family match, you get more than room and board for a few months: you get a lifetime relationship with a family. I can’t wait to keep in touch with my family when I return to the States, and I’d love to offer the same hospitality that they’ve shown me.

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My host dad’s camera collection.

The French Problématique: A French University Experience

Sorbonne

With just over two months of classes at French university under my belt, I’ve had enough time to note the differences between the French and American school systems. During our orientation, the APA directors explained the differences in full, but practice can often be different than execution. Here are some things I’ve noticed:

  • American systems prefer meeting more often for shorter periods of time. (In high school, my classes were 40 minutes, and the lab of 75 minutes once a week felt like an eternity.) Meanwhile, I have four classes here that are 3 hours long with a 10 minute “pause” in the middle. Students use the pause here to grab an espresso or a bite to eat, or more often than not, smoke outside and gab with friends. The longer periods of time can feel incredibly challenging, as it’s hard enough to concentrate for 3 hours in your native language, much less in a language that requires rock-solid focus.
  • As long as it’s kind of clear-ish, your hand-writing doesn’t really make a difference… in the States, that is. The French love good penmanship, and if you cross out and correct too much in an essay, they’ll ask you to write it over again. No kidding, this happened during one of my in-class essays!
  • French students love to take notes that are in full paragraphs. Gone are your bullet points! Weird.
  • The paper is different. In the US, we love our simple college-ruled notebook paper. In France, it’s gridded – all of it. Some of the notebooks also have paper that has multiple thin lines, and I made the mistake of writing very very tinily the first time I used it. The professor refused it because it was too “difficult” to read, but at least she thought my excuse was funny. (?)
  • Don’t even think about writing in pencil during an exam. (This makes it difficult for foreign students, because we’re always making grammatical errors that require careful proof-reading… and if you can’t cross it out without having to re-write, you see the issue!)
  • Some courses will have only one assignment. ONE. For the entire course.
  • When a professor says that a paper is 3 pages long, they mean single-spaced. I kid you not.
  • We had an entire methodology class about writing in a specific way. Instead of making a direct claim, for example, in an essay, you have to distance yourself and use quizzical language. Instead of saying “the French love baguettes” you’d say, “One could claim that the French enjoy eating baguettes because of their chewy texture and crunchy crust.” Not kidding. (Everything you learned about omitting superfluous language in school is apparently wrong in France.)
  • Look up a “problématique”, “thèse”, “antithèse”, and “car en réalité” and you’ll understand everything. (French dissertations and commentaires have a completely different structure than normal American essays. You literally ask a question in the introduction. Intriguing.)
  • Some American universities love to create an intimate rapport between students and faculty. Some cool French professors are like this, but more often than not, you’ll never refer to your professor by their first name or ask for one-on-one help. (This is where the APA help plays in, with language assistants and additional classes.)

While these differences can definitely be challenging, I’m grateful to have the experience of university in a different country and in a different language. Learning in French all the time (and in the French system) can be tiring and frustrating, but ultimately don’t think I would have understood the differences between the American and French systems had I not been immersed in it.

Happy studies!

Liv

Playing Tourguide

When my family and friends found out that I was officially going to be studying abroad in Paris, their first reaction was: We’re coming to visit!

Oftentimes, your semester abroad gives the people who love you a perfect excuse to come to Paris (though really, do you need an excuse?) Though as fun as it can be having everyone visit – for example, my dad and step mom, my mom, my aunt, and my good friend from high school are all visiting me during the month of March – it can feel overwhelming. The city has so much to offer in general, and mixed with school work and language immersion, it can be a more stressful experience than it should be. How do you show your family your Paris, and how can you guarantee that they fall in love with the city during their stay in the same way that you have?

I’ve come to realise that while things like the Eiffel Tower, the Arche de Triumph, the Louvre, the Champs-Elysées are fun and definitely worthwhile for a first-time visit to the city, the people who come to visit me want to see my Paris. My Paris self has only been up-close to the Eiffel Tower twice in the past two and a half months, and heavily frequents neighbourhoods like the Marais, the Latin Quarter, and Ile-de-la-Cité.

Stressed about where to bring your visitors? Here’s where to start:

  1. Your favorite neighbourhood café for an espresso – and the conversation that ensues about why the coffee is so small.
  2. The restaurant(s) you’ve been circling for the past two months but haven’t had the time to try yet. Show off your French when you order, and insist that you have a French menu! (It sounds impressive. Look up the fancy food words.)
  3. If your host parents are game, bring them over for dinner! Have them bring flowers so you can finally visit that neighbourhood florist you love to pass by on the way to the metro.
  4. That one bakery you always go to. Treat them to a smorgasbord of butter and bread.
  5. If you’re feeling adventurous, your favorite happy hour!
  6. Even better, if they manage to hang-on until the jetlag takes over, take them to your favorite late-night food place. Show mom and dad the magic of kebab.
  7. Show them your favorite piece of art in the city. (If you don’t have one yet, go to a museum together and decide which art you really don’t like. Oftentimes a little easier.)
  8. Take them to a neighbourhood you love and wander around there. Share anecdotes. Laugh a lot. Drink lots of wine together.

Happy visiting!

Liv

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My dad and step-mom during their (very rainy) visit to Paris.