Moving to the city of lights? Here are a few pointers you should follow if you plan on studying abroad in Paris!
I suggest keeping your bag on your belly, this way people can’t reach into it without you seeing. Also make sure your pockets are empty, pick pocketing is more common in Europe. However, the alternative to your pocket is not your hand; that just makes your items more visible. Your best option is to keep your belongings in a bag, on your front side, with your hands on it. If you are not carrying a bag, put your belongings in your front pockets and keep your hands tucked in with the valuables.
Don’t use your phone abroad unless you have a phone plan that you’ve arranged with your wireless carrier before you left home. Is it worth it to get a European cell phone while you are living abroad? I used a service called Free, and a service called Orange is very popular too. Do some research and pick which one works best for you. The benefit of having your American smart phone is that you can still use it to stay in contact with those back home. With Wi-Fi you still have access to iMessage, FaceTime, social media, etc. For all calls in Europe you may prefer a domestic phone plan, which saves you a ton of money.
4. Privacy in your apartment
Unless you want to uncover your private parts to the rest of Paris, I suggest you invest in some curtains. In Paris, most apartments are stacked on top of each other, just like in most cities, so it’s easy to see straight into your neighbors window and vice versa. Curtains tend to be expensive in stores so an alternative is to head up to Marché Saint-Pierre, a fabric store in Montmartre, where you can find tons of fabric or buy their pre-made curtains at a cheap price. The store is just at the base of Sacre Coeur, which (since you’re already there) you should take the hike to the top. The view of Paris is amazing, and the interior of the Cathedral is one of the best in Paris.
3. Bars and Clubs
Download an app, Google it, ask some locals, get creative. I am not going to write a list because everyone has different tastes and different styles when it comes to their preferred nightlife scene. When studying abroad in Paris, I do suggest going to bars during happy hour, you get a better deal and you can meet a lot of people during this time!
Forget about it, or at least be willing to compromise. if you’re studying abroad in Paris, don’t even think about wearing stilettos, unless you want to break your ankle. Instead, look for a chunky or thick heel, but your best bet is to stick with wedges. You will walk a lot, so it’s worth purchasing those travel foldable flats that fit in your purse, which you can switch for your heels when your feet hurt. Many roads in Paris are uneven and hard to walk on, and in certain parts cobble stones line the streets, so be smart about it. Not wearing heels might be sexier than having a broken ankle in this city.
Learn French, or at least try your best before or while studying abroad in Paris. This is a generalization but a majority of French people hate when Americans don’t make an effort to speak their language and expect that locals speak English. They like when you start a conversation with “Bonjour” (Hello) or “Excuse Moi” (Excuse me), even if that’s the only French you know, they are more willing to help once you tried. Even if your following words come out in English, at least you made an effort and that’s all that matters.
Try to take some French classes, if you can’t afford them don’t worry. There are all kinds of free groups where you can do language exchanges, having conversations in both your language and in French. I’ve been told that Cercle International De L’ARC is a good group for this and it’s free. There are many other groups listed on meetup.com so just find one that fits your schedule. If you do not feel comfortable with this you can also learn French at home with the TV, movies, radio or even an app to learn French.
Also make some French friends, as they can be interested and willing to help you. Another great option is to become an after school Nanny/Au Pair. Many French families want their children to have an immersive English experience and learn from a native. This option allows you to get paid and become part of a second family, which makes things less lonely at times.
There are many, many museums that are free for people 26 and under, while others are free for all students. If the museum doesn’t include one of these deals you can rely on the first Sunday of every month, when most museums open their doors for free. You can never go to too many museums in Paris, they are all different and have a lot of things to offer.
If you have a working visa for France than you have tons of options while studying abroad in Paris. Without a working visa, finding a job is more difficult, like most countries. You can still try to find a position as an au pair job or another option for students, like a paid internship.
Paris’ transportation system is amazing. In most places in America you need a car to get anywhere, but in Paris, the Metro and bus are really accessible. You can also rent a Velib bike for a day. Buying a ticket for $1.80 allows you to check the bike out for 30 minute intervals, and drop it off at whatever station is closest to you. If you absolutely need a car, you must have a license which allows you to drive in Europe, which in most cases you have to apply for in America. Be careful though, the ways of the road are much different, round-a-bouts work the exact opposite from America. Need a concept of this? Go to the Arc De Triomphe, watch and learn.
The secret to cheap cooking in France is spices. If you can only afford canned food, like I lived off of for months, that’s okay. Grab yourself a skillet, a bunch of spices and create a masterpiece on your stove top. Also, bread can really save you when you’re running low on cash. Every Boulangerie in Paris has bread from 25 cents to 2 dollars. They also have pre-made delicious and cheap sandwiches. And why not add a pastry to your order while you’re at it? You won’t notice the price difference.
If you need to furnish your apartment just walk the streets on a Tuesday/Thursday. The day is different for certain areas, so just be aware of when people are piling stuff on the sidewalks. French people throw a ton of furniture out as they don’t have a ton of Goodwill locations like in America, so donating isn’t really a thing. Get all the free furniture you can find and dumpster dive, it’s FREE!
11. Tour the city
If you want to get a better feel for Paris while you’re studying abroad in Paris, hop on a tour and get an idea of where things are. You can take a walking tour which are my favorite because they are very interesting and factual, they show you great locations and you meet other tourists. The best part about them, is that they are free, just be sure to throw your guide a tip, that’s how they work. Two options tours for this are Culture Fish Tours and Discover Walks.
Hopefully these tips for studying abroad in Paris will help you! Let us know how your experience went down below!
Jenna Carlie is a Senior at Rhode Island School of Design where she studies Photography. She enjoys anything related to art and travel. Since age sixteen, Jenna has never lived in one place for more than four years at a time. Her favorite places to live are Colorado, St. Louis, California & Paris.