Bonjour my little croissants, I’m back and have decided to go full Parisian and be fashionably late for my final post as OCA’s Paris site ambassador. Hopefully I can share some final wisdom about Paris and study away, because as I keep telling people, I’m really wise and cultured and everyone should listen to me.
Re: traveling on the weekends
First up on the things you should listen to me about is traveling during your study away. Let me say first: yes, do it. Take advantage of where you are, be it Paris or Buenos Aires or Tokyo. See that city you’ve always wanted to see, and when a plane ticket to Berlin is on flash sale for €20, go for it. However, don’t forget to experience the city you’re living in. It seems obvious, but you don’t want to go home from the semester not really knowing what it’s like to be a local in your city because you spent all your free time being a tourist somewhere else.
SEE? I told you I was wise.
My best packing investment ever has been a microfiber towel. Since dorms don’t provide towels, you obviously need to bring one, but normal towels take up so. much. space. Also they’re heavy. Since I am a firm believer in not carrying heavy objects if I don’t have to, and also I like being able to fit more shoes into my suitcase, this is a win-win. They’re pretty cheap on Amazon (and definitely cheaper than paying an overweight fee for your suitcase) and are compact enough to bring in a small bag for a weekend trip. I am not being paid to write about these towels, I am just a big fan. Although feel free to pay me.
Re: gifts for friends and family at home
I don’t know if anyone has figured this out at all, but actually I am not a millionaire. Given this fact, buying hella gifts for people back home every time I go abroad is financially not a solid decision. But I still feel a prick of guilt when I go home and I don’t have a bunch of gifts for everyone. But I feel I have found a great compromise between my desire to give gifts and to not be broke, which is to bring back diamonds. Small ones! Just kidding, but I bring back something just as wonderful to behold: food. Bringing back local treats like candies or biscuits usually doesn’t break the bank, while still giving a taste of your travels to your dearly beloveds.
- Seating at cafés can seem confusing because no one comes and tells you where to go. Just sit somewhere and the waiter will come to you.
- Especially if you’re in Paris for a year, get a French bank account and apply for a Carte Imagine R (student metro pass) instead of a Navigo (other metro pass). It’s half the price so definitely worth the extra step of applying by mail.
- I recommend to get a phone plan from Free mobile, which is 10€ for a sim card and 20€ per month for unlimited calls and texts and 50 GB of data. Just bring a friend who speaks French to the store in central Paris and you can pay by foreign card and get your sim card on the spot instead of waiting for the post. You can pay online each following month even if you only have a foreign card, but again, it’s only in French so if you don’t speak find a friend ! Or a stranger if you want. I won’t tell you what to do.
- Don’t go to chains for groceries! I know I just said I wasn’t going to tell you what to do, but I changed my mind. Chain stores and supermarkets aren’t super common in Paris, and they are useful for stuff like buying cleaning supplies, BUT the stuff you can get at specialty stores is so much better and the price isn’t bad. Plus if you make friends with your baker sometimes they give you free stuff. Which, let’s be honest, is the true way to a uni student’s heart.
- A really important part of french culture is saying hello to people. Acknowledge that they’re people first by saying bonjour, and then do whatever you need (order your coffee, ask them to help you with your Carte Imagine R). It will go a long way. Plus it’s polite and my mom told me that’s important. (Shout out to my mom! See, I listen to you!)
- If you go to Disneyland, pack your own lunch. It will literally save you millions of euros, which you can use to buy me a thank you gift for all this great advice.
Hopefully these tips can help out anyone who’s going to Paris, even though it was a lot of me telling you what to do. Please forgive me for that, I promise I’ll never do it again unless I feel like it.
This article was written by Dana Myers. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Dana Myers