CEA Paris: My Home in the City of Lights

An overlooking view of Paris from Parc de Belleville in the 20th Arrondissement

My (Small Studio) Apartment

From the moment that I signed up to study abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic, I knew that I would have to be willing to expect and embrace certain provisions and restrictions that would otherwise not have occurred if I had not studied abroad during these challenging times. My biggest “surprise” so far was being placed in a small studio apartment by myself.

My studio consists of a room the size of a dorm room, a bathroom, a closet, and a “kitchen” that includes two hot plates, a microwave, and a mini-fridge. This is different from the Foyer housing, which was my first option. A Foyer is an international student housing dormitory in which students from around the world who are studying in Paris are able to speak the common language of French under one roof. This would have been a very enriching experience, but because of worries regarding our health and safety, our CEA program put everyone except for home-stay students in one apartment. Since we live in studios, it would be much easier to quarantine if one of us contracts the Coronavirus.

That being said, I have taken advantage of this new housing situation by doing three things that I would have not been able to do in a Foyer. The first is that I have been able to cook for myself. Just yesterday, I made a delicious French meal consisting of a chicken breast sautéed with vegetables in a red wine vinaigrette and served over Gouda cheese, sautéed potatoes, and a side salad. The second is that I have been able to more easily watch television in French. For example, I am able to put on the morning news and learn French while I prepare my breakfast. Finally, the small size of my apartment has pushed me to explore the neighborhood that I live in: the 20th arrondissement

The 20th Arrondissement

Paris is divided into twenty districts, or arrondissements. They are ordered like a snail shell and extend out to the edges of the city. This means that the first arrondissement is in the center of the city while the 15th is on the eastern edge and the 20th is on the western edge of the city. The 10th arrondissement is north of the 1st and is sandwiched between the 9th and 11th arrondissements.

Each arrondissement has its own distinctions, landmarks, and cultures that make them unique. For example, the 1st arrondissement which contains the Louvre Museum is classically French. There are many grand boulevards that are filled with beautiful Haussmann apartment buildings, lavish boutiques, and expensive bistros. On the opposite end are arrondissements like the 15th the 20th where I live. These arrondissements are family and student oriented in the sense that there are not as many tourist locations and the housing is cheaper. The streets are still pretty and you can tell that you are in Paris, but the food is cheaper, there is a wider variety of buildings, and not as many people speak English.

The 20th arrondissement is particularly large, so I have not explored everything, but it is filled with small restaurants, beautiful parks, and the infamous Père-Lachaise Cemetery. The 20th is also known for it’s art scene, which includes a large amount of street art that is hidden throughout the arrondissement and makes my walks to the metro very enjoyable.

I am honestly quite happy that I do not live in the center of Paris. I feel like I am much more connected with the real Parisian community and I am constantly surprised by the subtle beauty of my arrondissement. And although I did not plan on it, I am lucky to have my small apartment that is constantly persuading me to go out and explore Paris.

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