The GoGlobal Blog

Category: France

My First Seven Days Abroad – Unfiltered

My First Seven Days Abroad – Unfiltered

As anyone would expect, moving to another country for five months during a pandemic comes with many complications. This is also my first time traveling outside of the United States – I know I skipped a few steps – so I faced whole second set of challenges awaiting my arrival in Paris.

That being said, my journey to get here started fifteen days before my flight when I was exposed to a positive Covid case. Upon immediately testing negative, I began full isolation testing again on day 3, 5 and 7 from exposure. I never contracted Covid (yay booster shots and KN-95s) and spent my last two weeks at home, by myself, toasting to the new year in a bathrobe and slippers. The day before my flight, I took my last negative test, gathered all the necessary paperwork to cross the border and said goodbye to my family (outdoors and in masks).

My flight was relatively smooth (minus the fact that it was a redeye so I did not sleep at all) and I arrived in Paris on January 12th around 12h00. The first moment of culture shock occurred when I was greeted by signs written entirely in French. My brain switched to 24/7 translation in that moment and has yet to switch back. My car arrived at the airport and I was able to exchange niceties with the driver in somewhat broken French. My host mother (Drissia, she’s a main character in my life here and should be treated with such respect) and her dog, Talia, welcomed me as I clumsily carried my suitcases into the apartment. Before I could unpack, I met two other international students who share the apartment and was whisked away to a lunch with friends. A lot of small stresses happened that I will not get into but my first 24 hours in Paris consisted of trying to learn the entire French language in 10 minutes, jet lag, getting a metro pass, validating my visa, purchasing toiletries, getting another negative Covid test, switching my SIM card and meeting a lot of people. Due to the lack of sleep, I may have cried once but it was purely out of exhaustion.

So the language barrier – I speak English and a good bit of Spanish but I have never taken a French class. I taught myself as much as I could using the internet and my roommate at home (shout out to Lauren Pfleuger who is currently in Rome) before arriving but not nearly enough. Many hospitality services here speak English, but the French are very proud of their language and I want to respect their willingness to welcome me into their country by learning their language and culture with humility. At my host home, we only speak French at dinner so I listen to French conversation for two hours a day, and I ask questions as frequently as possible. Drissia, a queen truly, also sits with me for an hour or two every day to teach me to write and read French as well. I have been here for a week and I can now carry out a short, pleasant conversation in French as well as navigate any business interactions without switching to English – a small step but an important one.

On the other side a a few full nights of sleep and gaining confidence in a new language, I have gone out and about with friends and on my own to see the beauty of Paris. I indulged in a few tourist stereotypes (the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Cœur, baguettes and croissants) but I also explored my new home in the 11th arrondissement finding my favorite pâtisseries, grocery stores, bars and parks to walk in. Also, I must admit that the love for baguettes and croissants is not a false stereotype; every French household I have visited has a baguette or two sitting on their kitchen table and pâtisseries are packed with locals every hour of the day ordering a croissant, tarte or other treat of choice. In general, Paris is beginning to feel like a new home with the big city opportunities of Chicago but a different, beautiful language and culture.

If you want to see more of the glossy, edited highlights of my time here I will be flooding my Instagram with photo dumps regularly @ellie.stz

If you find yourself in the 11th arrondissement of Paris check out…

  • The Dirty Lemon : a small bar with excellent food and drinks, great for grabbing a table with friends or grabbing a stool by yourself
  • Tout Autour du Pain : a fantastic boulangerie with Drissia’s stamp of approval (which is very difficult to earn as she studied the art of pastries for several years and has tried world renowned recipes)
  • By the République metro station, there is an open park for sitting, skating and admiring where you are.
  • Kott Cafe : a coffee place with expensive lattes (so only go if you want to treat yourself) but the kindest owners who love to welcome all people
Je ne parle pas français

Je ne parle pas français

For this weekend, I did not know enough French to say even the title. In fact, to write the title, I had to ask my friend to type out “I do not speak any French” in French (on that note, any complaints about translation can be directed to Laney Miller). Yet – while I may not have known a lick of French – I felt so much at home in Paris.

I spent this trip with two of my close friends: Morgan and Amanda. Inspired mostly by Beyonce’s hit song “Love on Top,” but also by a desire to visit one of the most magnificent cities in Europe, we set out to enjoy a weekend of adventures and crepes together in Paris.

Upon arrival, we all went straight to the most busy site in the city – the Eiffel Tower – so we could get our bearings and enjoy a crisp morning in the park. I always knew the Eiffel Tower was massive and imposingly beautiful, but I did not expect to be so stunned when we emerged from the Trocaderó stop of the Paris metro and saw the impressive building. We waited a little while underneath the structure and then made our ascent and peered out in wonder over our new home for the next three days. It seemed like Paris never ended, and we knew there was no way to explore all of its secrets but we decided to try our hardest.

That evening, knowing that the Louvre offers free entry to young European residents (for which, thanks to our staying in Rome, we qualified), we went to my new favorite museum. The Mona Lisa and Winged Victory were impressive, yes, but what struck me the most was how the Louvre was like an exhibit itself. The museum’s halls had been designed by countless different geniuses throughout the ages and thus even its ceilings and walls began to merge with the art it hosted. With the sound of Lorde in my head, I was mesmerized by what I saw. Afterwards, we sat down for some sweet crepes in the Latin quarter and walked past Notre Dame on our way home. Totally casual.

Saturday morning, we made our way outside of the city to Versailles. Or, at least, we tried to. Turns out the three of us were not as good at navigating as we thought. Nevertheless, despite hours of confusion and chaos, we ended up at Versailles and ate our baguette and brie while waiting in line to the humor of all those around us. The Hall of Mirrors, Louis XIV’s bedroom, and the Gardens at Versailles were tremendous and gorgeous, but in truth its grandeur did not at all compare to the laughter we shared tucked away in the gardens over a bottle of Merlot.

After Versailles, we returned to Paris and journeyed to a Digital Art gallery that I had heard about – L’Atelier des Lumières. While normally hosting an exhibit on Klimt, L’Atelier was instead showing an exhibit on nature and society on Earth called Terra Magnifica. In truth, it ended up being much more stirring than Klimt’s artwork would have been. We discussed our thoughts as well as our favorite moments of the trip so far that night over escargot and other French cuisine. I had realized finally that, after years of making fun of the French language, Paris was one of the most comfortable and yet exciting places I had ever visited. I simultaneously felt at home and constantly driven to explore more of the city.

We had purposefully planned very little for Sunday and soon found ourselves wandering through the streets of Paris in search of its gems. We eventually found a few truly hidden ones (like Breakfast in America – look it up!) as well as some better known ones (Shakespeare in Company, Les Catacombes). All of Sunday’s adventuring was fun and relaxing (at least, our pit-stop in Luxembourg Gardens was), but my favorite moment was when we were sitting in a small – A. Lacroix – with Amanda and Morgan and listening to the ringing bells of Notre Dame over macaroons and coffee. Paris felt like mine in that moment; it felt like Paris had decided to share those aforementioned secrets with me.

Pretty in Paris

Pretty in Paris

Make sure to visit this at night for a stunning light show every hour on the hour
If you can afford it, the views from the tower are breath-taking

I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Europe before. I saw some cities in Spain, France, and Italy, and loved them all enough to come back. Recently, I returned from a trip to Paris, which I saw last time I was in Europe.

I thought I wouldn’t have much to do, since I’d been to the Eiffel Tower, seen inside the Louvre, and entered the Notre Dame, but I didn’t have enough time to visit half of what I wanted to.

As preparation for this semester abroad, I hunted down works of fiction that took place in Europe as inspiration on where to visit during my stay, and I had a few new ideas on what to see in Paris. This trip was so fun because it was like a scavenger hunt, I was either viewing the touristic attractions in a new light or visiting places a tourist would normally walk by.

Be sure to look for the cat if you don’t have the time to read part of a book in there
A complicated, beautiful work of art. If you think it’s pretty on the outside, wait until you walk in

I highly recommend reading a couple books that take place in the countries you’d like to visit, because that way you’ll learn about new places to visit, or gain more knowledge on places you already know of.

Thanks to the books I have read, I was able to visit the church of St. Etienne du Mont, Shakespeare & Company, and learn more about Point Zero.

I learned Point Zero is where all distances in France are measured. Apparently if you make a wish on it, it’ll come true, and if you don’t make a wish, you’re bound to return to Paris again one day.

Don’t worry, I made sure to stop at Point Zero before I left Paris, but I can’t tell you what I wished for, or it won’t come true!

It’s worn away from the tourists walking past, to Notre Dame
What I Learned: Having Your Parents Visit You While Studying Abroad and Visiting a Different Country

What I Learned: Having Your Parents Visit You While Studying Abroad and Visiting a Different Country

Last month, my parents came to visit me here in Rome. I was so excited because I definitely needed a little taste of home! This was their first time out of the states, so they were a little nervous but very excited. When they arrived, it felt surprisingly normal to see them, even in a place so far from home.

Navigating the city with them was fun because I got to be their tour guide, showing them my favorite places and sharing what I’ve learned about the history of Rome… But it was also a little tricky because I felt like I needed to be the “expert,” knowing where to go and speaking in broken Italian for them at restaurants and gelaterias. I became frustrated because I felt like I either had to do all the talking or, once people heard my parents speak in English, like I couldn’t practice my Italian. I seemed to forget that my parents hadn’t taken a semester of Italian 101 before coming here, like I had.

The weekend after they left, I traveled to Paris with some friends, and I finally understood how my parents felt in Rome. None of us spoke any French, so trying to order food and find our way around was daunting at times. Waiters sometimes seemed impatient with us for only speaking English. I felt self-conscious and wanted to hide in a bathroom sometimes, but after falling up the stairs from the bathroom at a restaurant and having a French man catch me (haha it was wild), I realized that I couldn’t let this fear hold me back from enjoying this place. People travel all over the world without knowing the language or culture of the places they go. It’s important to be sensitive to the culture you find yourself in, but it’s something that you can figure out once you visit a place. Yes, it’s scary and you’re bound to make a fool of yourself once or twice, but the things you see and the things you learn are so worth it.

I spent spring break in three different countries and plan on visiting three more before the semester is over, and I will hold onto this idea through each of them. It’s easy to let fear get in the way, but I don’t know the next time I’ll be back in these places… Or if I’ll know any more about them when/if I come back. So, right now, at the edge of my comfort zone, I am pushing myself to be a little scared. That’s how I learn!

Also, big shoutout to my parents for coming to visit me. I enjoyed the week so, so much. Y’all rock!!!