Coming at you live from Gare de L’est Station in Paris after just missing my train for a weekend trip, I don’t feel as though I’m prepared for exchange—but is readiness really the issue? After a 30-minute phone call rant from my mom about my tardiness, I’d say it’s about responsibility.
I’ve travelled across Europe, so I knew what to expect, but there will always be curve balls (such as staying up to late on a Thursday and sleeping through your 8 alarms). Although in all seriousness (a subject which I’ve had much experience with this morning), how does one prepare themselves for living abroad? Enough self deprecation, here’s what I did before exchange.
Figure out a living situation .
This is probably the most tedious part of the process, but it differs substantially by city. My school doesn’t provide dormitories because it’s right in the middle of the city (specifically in an expensive area between Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores- I know, my wallet is already feeling lighter). Students live all over Paris, so I decided to sublet a room from a student who’s roomates are going on exchange as well. I found her through a housing Facebook group, so I’d say check social media and also your school’s website for advice on lodging.
Review the requirements of your school.
Going into exchange, I knew that I’d chosen a challenging school that asks a lot of its students but also is the alma mater of all of France’s past presidents. Titles aside, it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into. Some think exchange is just frolicking across Europe, but all my class are mandatory or one fails, so school comes first.
Decide where you want to travel, but be realistic.
Speaking of frolicking, I will definitely be engaging in this pastime, although as I’ve most recently realized (as of an hour ago when I decided to buy another train ticket), travel is expensive and requires both planning and responsibility (shout out to mom). In the heat of orientation week I’ve solidified few travels plans, but I think it’s good to start small. I am marking places where I have friends or have been longing to visit and cross referencing times that don’t work with my class schedule. At the end of the day, travelling is also sporadic, but budgeting and thought makes every exciting plan feasible.
After I ironed out these kinks in my study abroad program, I felt much more at ease with the transition. There will always be days where the nerves kick in, but that the thrill of spending a semester abroad.
À la prochaine –Rachel