Travel Guide to Paris

In Paris, Art of Travel Spring 2016, Tips by Shireen Khandelwal2 Comments

The idea of travelling to another country for school seems to be usually exciting for students. It is not until you leave for the airport that the reality of shifting to a foreign country for a semester dawns on you. Before the date to leave arrives, social media would have romanticised the experience of studying abroad by inundating you with numerous blog posts and pictures that only fuel your excitement. It is all true. You will, in all probability, have a truly enlightening experience while studying abroad!

In my experience, adjusting to the lifestyle in Paris became less of a challenge when I stopped expecting a certain path that my time in Paris “should” take. I understand that there are heavy expectations associated with the idea of being in a new place. As clichéd as it sounds, your experience in Paris will be infinitely better if you let yourself be driven by the flow of life instead of controlling it.

I wouldn’t say it was an easy transition but it was certainly an interesting one. In the beginning, I could not help but compare Paris to New York, in all aspects including geographically and gastronomically. While I guess it was a natural process, to compare Paris and New York, it only made my transition more challenging. I would understand if that is the first thought that strikes you when you land in Paris, but your life would be much less complicated here if you took a conscious effort to avoid creating parallels. It was only when I saw Paris, as just Paris, was I able to fully appreciate the city.

While I have mentioned this in other blog posts as well, it is crucial to take everything you encounter as a learning experience. At some moments, I almost wanted to be challenged by difficulties, to stretch myself beyond my knowledge of my capabilities. In your study abroad, you will not only learn about Paris as a city and its culture but also yourself. Paris is a relatively easy city to become accustomed to; you will be saying “Bonjour” to everyone in no time. I found the stereotypes of Parisians being rude completely false, if they are spoken to in French (even broken French or mere attempts), they are most helpful.

If you are studying abroad in NYU Paris, your interaction with students will be limited to English speakers. It is not that difficult to get used to our own bubble of English speakers, which I did. It will take an active effort on your part to socialize with native French speakers (the best way to learn French). Learning the language outside of the classroom is an incredible opportunity, which should be exploited in the four months you will spend here.

Paris is a centre of history and culture in France; it breeds creativity, which cannot possibly be explored in four months. I made the mistake of being enamored with the idea of travelling in Europe in the first few weeks of the semester when I realized the ease with which one can travel here. As a result, I spent a number of weekends exploring other cities, which did not give me enough time to discover more about Paris. However, even my insufficient explorations of this city have confirmed that the best way to know Paris is through the eyes of a flâneur.

Paris has plenty to offer for you to take home, don’t forget to travel light when you come here! Over the course of a semester, along with memories, you will collect numerous souvenirs (big and small) and you don’t want to deal with overweight baggage at the airports in French. Lastly, be open-minded to experiences, experiment and be spontaneous!

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  1. Heading into a new abroad experience can definitely be filled with high expectations. I feel as though most people, as you described, enter the semester with all these expectations as to what should happen over the course of the next four months. It is so easy to get swept up into the ‘idea’ of things and lose sight in the actual simplicity of living in a new and foreign city. You have the opportunity to start a new and temporary life – a new routine, new local spots, new friends, and lots of new experiences. Too often the old gets brought into this experience and can begin to taint it. As you said, you compared Paris to New York a lot at the beginning which can put a lot of pressure on a city. Paris is not New York and New York is not Paris – thats what makes them both so special. There is a beauty in being able to say goodbye to your home city and saying hello to a brand new experience!

  2. Hi Shireen,
    I agree with your recommendation to take everything you encounter as a learning experience. I think this is the essence of conscious travel and being an engaged person wherever you are in the world. It is one thing to say this, and another to live it, and it sounds like you were really applying this in your experiences abroad. Thanks for that great reminder.

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