Bonjour, mes amis!
My name is Leighanne, and I’m writing you a little online postcard from Paris, France! This first week has been so crazy, it feels like I’ve been in Paris for a month. The food, the people, the atmosphere have all been so amazing. However, it’s very different from home. While I haven’t gotten homesick (yet), there were definitely things I needed to get used to around here.
In Orange County, you need a car to get anywhere, because it’s all spread out. Here, we have walking and the bus to get us to the neighboring arrondissements, and the métro to get us across the Seine.
So if you’re like me, and wondering how to navigate these cultural differences, then I’m here to give you my five tips for getting through your first week in Paris!
1. Pack Light
I brought bath towels, washcloths, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, Clorox wipes, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. I brought enough stuff to last me two weeks without going to a store. When I got to the ACCENT Study Center for our orientations the first day, I saw a Monoprix twenty feet down the street. It had all of this and more. I could’ve saved myself some of the hassle, (and the luggage space/weight) and bought most of it here for fairly cheap.
Do bring travel sizes of the essentials in case your luggage gets lost, but you really won’t go through both of those travel bottles of shampoo before you find a supermarket. When you clean out half of that weight and space, you can then add more clothes. It’ll mean that you can spend more time enjoying Paris, and less time in the laundry room! Also, if you’re like me, and staying on a higher floor, you will thank yourself for not having to carry up that extra weight one bag at a time!
2. Make Time to Get Lost
As I said, growing up in Southern California, we drive everywhere. Parisians either take the métro or walk. Start taking walks about a month before you get here to help yourself get used to that. Trust me! The métro is fairly simple to use, but if you don’t know how to use one, it takes some getting used to. Take time to figure out how to get to class beforehand.
If you’re going somewhere alone, take time to read the signs, figure out your path beforehand, don’t deviate if you’ve been before, and stay calm. If you’re going with someone, go ahead and take that other route to see where it takes you. If you make a mistake, then having a friendly face will make things a lot less stressful and give you two something to laugh about for the rest of your lives! Plus, you might find a faster route or a cute little shop that you never would’ve found otherwise.
3. Follow the Leader
Depending on which school you’re coming with, you’ll either be left to your own devices or you’ll go on plenty of walking tours with your professor, excursions with the ACCENT staff, or even a gastronomy tour of Paris with the founder of ACCENT. These trips are full of information, history and incredible sights of Paris. You’ll want to spend this time absorbing as much information as you can. They might tell you about this charming café on a little side street that you never would have found without them. You may see a small courtyard off the tourist path that only the Parisians get to see. You might learn a fact about French history that you’d never heard before.
Be respectful and attentive when the leader of the tour or excursion is talking, it’s inconsiderate to the other students and the tour leader if you interrupt or disrupt the tour. Show appreciation for the people who have taken time out of their day to show you the city, teach you important facts and give you helpful tips to enjoy Paris as much as possible.
4. Avoid Main Streets; Walk on the Wild Side
I’ve found some of the cutest, most inexpensive, and friendliest shops in Paris without going to any famous streets or landmarks to do so. I found 3 scarves for €10 in one shop. These places have all been just off the beaten path. You can easily find a métro stop almost anywhere you go and if you find yourself on a one way or pedestrian only street, you may just find a little hidden treasure of your own! You may even find out where I got these rose-shaped gelatos! I’m not going to tell you all that I’ve found, because that’s for you to explore and discover on your own.5. Avoid American Food
I cannot stress this enough. Don’t go to McDonalds, Burger King, or Kentucky Fried Chicken. You can survive without your morning cup of Starbucks. You are in one of the greatest gastronomic locations on the planet. The food is fresh and well made, the cheese is incredible, and the fruits and vegetables are piled up on stands in open-air markets. The seafood is so fresh, you can still smell the ocean on them. I was able to buy enough fruit to last me a week for less than €10 at an open-air market less then ten minutes from the ACCENT Study Center. If you’re on a budget, you know how useful this information can be!
Take advantage of the cuisine! Try the escargot! Try the crêpes! Cafés typically have “formules” or combos with fantastic deals! For those going to classes through the Sorbonne, there’s a cafe across the street where you can get a coffee, orange juice, and a croissant or pain au chocolat for €3,70. It’s really good for the least amount of money!
My experience so far has been amazing, the classes have been fantastic and the walking tours incredible. We have gone on trips to the Louvre, Rouen, Giverny, and Versailles, with lots of laughs and lots of friends. I knew that this trip was going to be the best time of my life, but I had no idea how above and beyond it would be. And I still have three weeks left to enjoy myself.
I hope you all can go on this trip and experience it for yourselves. I can’t do this place enough justice through just one post online. Make sure to keep an eye out for my next article and until then, Au Revoir!
~Leighanne Clitheroe, Orange Coast College
Ready to to take Leighanne’s advice to heart and start discovering Paris for yourself? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to discover your next great adventure: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.
ACCENT is proud to support the Community College Scholarship as part of our commitment pledge to IIE Generation Study Abroad, a nationwide effort to help more U.S. students gain international experience through study abroad programs.