Katherine Thomas shares her ten experiences as a year abroad student in Paris
It is a city which inspires artists, attracts tourists by the millions and produces thousands of pastries and baguettes a day, but have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Paris?
I study History with French and I spent my year abroad studying at the Sorbonne. I thought I was fully prepared for a year of croissants and awkward misunderstandings, but here are 10 reflections from France which will give you an insight into a year abroad.
- Becoming ‘une gourmande’
What article about France could not start without food? Especially when enjoying food and becoming a ‘gourmande’ (lover of food) is a classic year abroad trait. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the city and the stress of exams or presentations, crêpes and pastries would always be a delicious distraction.
Everything needed forms: the bank, the metro, university, sport clubs, my phone… Whether the bureaucracy was French or British, for the first few months I was often inundated with forms.
When I left for my year I decidedly did not like coffee, but after a few months in a city where coffee is at the centre of student and professional life I found myself converted. I do miss the less-than €1 espressos from the university (which are a far cry from London prices).
- Le ‘happy hour’
Many of my best memories are the hours spent in bars, on terraces and in squares reflecting on the unexpected plot twists of our years abroad, or discussing life in different countries.
- The Parisian Routine
Adapting from my London routine to a Parisian one was relatively simple, apart from the frustrating lesson I learnt to not leave anything, ever, until Sunday. Early on I needed to buy clothes for work, but I found myself wandering round a city where every single shop was closed …
- Everyday French
I worked in a café at weekends and many of my friends had part time jobs, often as an au-pair, tutor or waitress. I quickly realised that though my French was good for writing essays or presentations, I lacked seemingly simple words such as ‘mop’… But you quickly pick up these useful phrases.
- Hidden wonders
Paris is truly a city of twists and turns. Throughout the year I let my feet take me in any direction, and I found all sorts of quaint roads, new boulangeries and quiet parks.
- Learning to live on my own
In Paris, it’s common for students to live in studio flats, unlike in Britain where we live in halls or share flats, so I ended up in a studio apartment in a ‘student halls’ (which unfortunately) seemed to lack many other students. I took a long time adjusting to this lifestyle, so one of the most important lessons I learnt was that flatmates are really rather good.
- To compare or not to compare
I occasionally dreamt of better apartments, more beautiful neighbourhoods and travelling more, but I learnt that comparisons based on brief conversations or Instagram feeds rarely show all aspect of your lives. I learnt to enjoy listening about other people’s lives, while appreciating what I had.
This is a lesson all year abroad students learn, whether it is how to cope with homesickness, missing your friends or adapting to life in a new culture. However, moving abroad is a useful experience because you discover that no matter what difficulties you come across, you will manage and hopefully thrive.
And with these lessons – food, forms, coffee and coping – I have survived my year abroad and had an insight into the Parisian world.
All images credits: Katherine Thomas (Instagram: katherine010203)