If you are studying abroad for the first time, like me, you probably have some worries. These may include feeling homesick, not knowing how to get around the city, or general concern about not seeing the best Paris has to offer. I can assure you that the only way you can have a truly unique and personal adventure is to explore on your own. It’s not hard! Just get on the metro and get off at a stop you’ve never been to before. You’ll be amazed at what you find!! Here are a few tips of information to make your study abroad experience the best it can be and a few places to visit that will completely change your life!
If you haven’t heard…public transportation in Paris is INCREDIBLE. The Paris metro system is very large but not complicated once you learn your everyday route. In addition, the longest I ever had to wait for a metro was about 7 minutes, and that was at 1 AM. Also if you’ve been out exploring and you are not sure where a metro stop is, you can be assured that there is one a 10-minute walk in just about any direction. If you are staying a semester I suggest the monthly Navigo Pass, which costs around 86 euros. It’s worth it though because you get unlimited rides in zones 1 and 2 (pretty much all of Paris).
Café’s in Paris
Tribeca Café on Rue Cler near the American University of Paris. Personally, my favorite café in all of Paris.
As you will soon learn, there are cafés on literally every block in Paris. If you are looking for somewhere cheap, I suggest staying away from the 7th arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower, as well as the Latin Quarter, which is beside Notre Dame. A bottle of water can cost up to 4.5 euros so watch out!! If you want water ask for tap water and they will give it to you for free. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, once you sit down at a table you have the freedom to sit there ALL DAY LONG!! Unlike in the U.S. it is considered rude to hurry someone from their table after they finish eating/drinking. Make sure to get the waiter/waitress’s attention and ask for the l’addition(bill) when you are ready to leave.
Speaking French in France
I’m guessing what you have heard before heading to France is that the French hate it when Americans try to speak French. I thought the same thing. While some native Parisians WILL get annoyed or brush you aside, the vast majority are very accepting and open to you speaking French. In fact, many appreciate the effort you are putting forth to try and use their language and are more than willing to switch to English if need be. Make sure to know some basic phrases and don’t be afraid of making a mistake or being embarrassed. Everyone will screw up at some point but it will only help you improve your language skills.
…NOW TO THE FUN STUFF
Sacré Coeur Cathedral
This amazing basilica sits on Montmartre in the Northeast part of the city. It offers an incredible view of the rest of Paris and is a must-see attraction. Even if you are not religious, I recommend going to mass there at least once. It is a truly unique and awe-inspiring experience.
Louis Vuitton Museum
Situated near the Bois de Boulogne, this incredible museum houses several exhibits that change on a regular basis. What is so cool is that you can go to the top (about 6 stories) and the only unobstructed view looks towards La Défense signaling a shift to the future, which is reflected in the structure’s architecture.
Grilled Cheese Factory
Let’s be honest, as good as the food is in Paris there is always a craving for a really good, American grilled cheese. You have to look no further than Grilled Cheese Factory on Rue Jacques Coeur. If you’re feeling homesick or want a taste of Americana this is the best spot to be. The guys who run the place are really awesome and the grilled cheese is as good as you’ll find anywhere. I had the Fabrication Bacon, which is mozzarella, cheddar, bacon, barbecue sauce, and caramelized onions.
Relais de L’Entrecote Saint Germain
One of the best things Paris is known for is its steak-frites (steak and French fries) and there is no place better in the city than Relais de L’Entrecote Saint Germain. Only steps from the Mabillon metro stop this restaurant draws a large crowd every evening with its succulent steak and delicious wine. In fact, steak-frites is the only item on the menu! The only decisions you have to make are what wine would you like, how do you want your steak cooked, and do you want seconds! It is rather expensive but everyone should get to experience it at least once during their time in the city of light.
James Madison University
My time studying in Paris was the most transformative experience of my life. The learning I did in the classroom at the American University of Paris was expanded upon and improved by my experiences living in Paris and traveling all over Europe. Although I walked past the Eiffel Tower on the way to class each day, I was always awed by the shear enormity of it and it made me thankful to have such a great opportunity. SAI’s assistance, guidance, and helpfulness really made my study abroad experience the best it could have been. I look forward to helping other students at JMU realize their study abroad goals and can’t wait to return to Europe soon!