Paris is the most enchanting city in the world. That much is made obvious by the millions of movies and romantic dreams which are completely inhabited within in all of the Haussmanian style buildings. The short street which turn into small parks, which open onto couples holding hands and whispering in the language of romance. This is a city that changes the way you live; I have a hard time imagining going back now, right in the heat of my micro-morph into a Parisian, to a city as fast and cut throat as that of New York City. Paris, although a metropolitan capital of the world, is more like a village than a city. And I believe that it is important to live here as such. Though it is the home of some of the most fantastic and unbelievably beautiful pieces of art and history on record, it’s still a city, just like the rest of them, which has a heart and a soul underneath the ornate carvings and statues of Marianne.
So—for the future Parisian study abroad student, I would recommend the following:
- Say “Bonjour” and “Au Revoir” always — The French culture prides itself on it’s politeness and it’s social intricacies. Saying a simple “bonjour” and “au revoir” to your staff, waiter, store merchant, is the golden key to finding the polite Parisian underneath all of the hostility. Tourists always forget it. Set yourself apart from the tourists and greet them like humans, not like helpers.
- Make friends with a crêpe man — Crêpes are a pivotal part of the French experience, and the French crêpe men who I have become acquainted with love to talk. Even if your French is lacking, they appreciate the effort so much, and love to hear in your broken French about whatever it is you can tell them about. AND they recognize you and I have received (on both of my bad days in Paris) free crêpes because, just as I care about them, they care about me. Voila. Day, suddenly, better.
- Take time alone — Studying abroad is a whirlwind time in which you make fast friends with whom you absorb some of the most mind-boggling sights imaginable. Amidst all of this social time, make sure you take time to yourself. There are many truly enlightening moments which can be had during your time abroad, and it would be a true shame to miss them because you were too busy hanging out with people to see them on your own. Make friends, but also make friends with your French self.
- Take photographs of the little things in addition to the big things— Not just selfies. Document your time abroad. I regret not doing this more, and am going to make an intensely stronger effort do to this my next semester abroad (which is luckily this spring in Paris again). You are going to have so many memories by the end of this time that the little memories run the risk of fading away. Give yourself the opportunity to cherish all of the time you spent here.
I can’t imagine recommending anywhere more than Paris for studying abroad. From the culture to the food to the language, it’s truly a place unlike anywhere else in the world. Make sure to take advantage of every second in the city of lights to see it in a way that nobody else ever has.