Study Away Diaries: Paris Part 1

Kai Zheng offers her first-hand experience at NYU Paris, offering readers her insight into life abroad in Paris.

Bonjour! This semester (Fall, 2019) I am studying abroad in Paris, France. I wanted to write this article so that the readers of ON CENTURY AVENUE could use my first-hand experience to learn more about NYU Paris, gaining wonderful insight about how to navigate Paris and their lives abroad. 

During my first month in Paris, I learned a lot and experienced many uniquely French things. The city of Paris could easily be painted into a very beautiful cliché: the city of light, la ville de la luminère, or a city of love la ville de l’amour. Even though these are pleasant generalities that I find no faults in, I wanted to provide you with a more detailed look into the city.

Beginning Tips 

In welcome week, I learned some harsh lessons. Here are five tips to help you navigate the city:

  1. When using your Navigo (metro card), paste an ID photo otherwise you risk stopped and fined by the RATP contrôle
  2. Carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times and leave the real one in a safe place until you go out of the country
  3. Some restaurants won’t accept a bank card unless you purchase a certain quantity, so keep extra cash on hand
  4. The bathrooms in the train station require a fee, around 0.8€
  5. Carry your belongings in front of you, never in your back pockets

Beyond the fundamentals, finding your direction and routine in Paris shouldn’t be too hard. As with all new places, it takes some time to adjust, but as long as you are mindful of your actions and belongings you should be fine. 

Daily Commute

It’s important to know that the academic site of NYU Paris is in the 5th arrondissement, which is associated with the Latin Quarter. Depending on which dorm or homestay you live in, it can take up to 30 minutes to get to school by metro. It’s also helpful to recognize that the city of Paris is broken up into a snail-like map, and there are 20 districts within it called arrondissements. 

Student Life 

In Paris, you’ll be presented with many opportunities to explore Europe on your own or with your group of friends, but it should also be noted that Student Life plans numerous wonderful trips for students as well. I really suggest you take advantage of them! 

I’ve been on a few of these trips, and they were phenomenal. The activities include events like soccer games, ballets, concerts, and operas. Student Life puts forth a reassuring amount of effort to ensure that these trips are well-planned and full of fun, so you can never go wrong with going on one. They take the guesswork out of scheduling everything on your own.

Top Sights

These are probably obvious to all of you already, but here are eight sights that made it to the top of my list:

  1. Eiffel Tower & Parc de Mars
  2. Musée d’Louvre
  3. Musée de Orsay
  4. Champs Elysees & Arc de Triomphe
  5. Jardin du Luxembourg 
  6. Centre Pompidou & Le Marais
  7. The Seine River 
  8. Notre Dame (outside, because it’s being renovated)

Of course, there are many more wonderful places in Paris, so I suggest that you do some of your own exploring while here.

Enrich Your Interest

I’m sure that while in Paris you’ll be able to find a place that enriches your interests, whether it’s sports, arts, or food. Personally, I’ve enjoyed going to our school’s cheese club, as well as taking in the views at the Louvre and Orsay. One thing that has been very useful to me is my Lonely Planet Pocket Paris guide which I received during a study away session back in Shanghai.

Bonjour- the website

And even if you don’t have a pocket guide, the school has Bonjour; one of the best aids for thriving, or at the very least surviving, a day in the life of NYU Paris.

The information on this website is all clear, easy to use, and indispensable.


Everyone at NYU Paris must take a French class. I find it to be immensely helpful. In addition to my French course, I am currently taking four more classes. Since I’m a humanities student minoring in creative writing, I filled my schedule up with French and Expatriate Literature, History of Modern France, Smartphone Cinema, and Experimental Theatre Workshop. These classes vary in workload and format, but overall I don’t have too tough of a time managing my schoolwork. 


If you found this interesting or informative, I will be writing another article on my travels to Zurich, Milan, Venice, and Berlin. 


This article was written by Kai Zheng. Find her on Instagram @kai_wins. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Bob Handelman

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