To Whom it may Concern,
Hello my name is Stefan Bordeianu, and I am nearing the end of my study abroad experience in Paris. My time in France was a bit unconventional due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, but it has nevertheless been transformative. The intention of this letter is to provide prospective study abroad students with some advice regarding their future travels to Paris based on my own experience.
My first piece of advice is to begin the visa process early. It took me over two and a half months and cost me over four hundred dollars to successfully receive my visa. It is a complicated bureaucratic process that demands attention to detail and perseverance.
During your first week abroad, I would recommend meeting as many people as you can. At this point in time everyone is willing to reach out and make friends, and no one is caught in a cemented ritual of close friends and schooling. I would also recommend taking advantage of the first half of the semester as much as possible. At the Institut Catholique de Paris, I was not overloaded with schoolwork and was able to spend a lot of time exploring Paris and other cities. This was not the case in the second half of the semester, where my workload greatly increased and the weather got worse.
Regarding travel, I recommend spending a majority of your time in France. Although I did travel to Ireland for a weekend, which I also highly recommend, I profited greatly from visiting over eleven French cities. I learned about regional dialects, culture, and food that I may not have otherwise explored. It was also much easier as a student living during the pandemic to stay within the French boundaries. France offers a vast and diverse landscape, culture, and gastronomy. If you want to ski and eat raclette, go to the French alps; if you want to surf and eat crepes, go to Brittany; and if you want to relax alongside lavish millionaires and eat seafood, go to the French Riviera. That being said, it is also important to experience other cultures and landscapes outside of France. Inter-European travel is relatively cheap, and it is important to take advantage of France’s geological centrality and position within the Schengen Area.
I would also recommend to anyone coming to France to immerse themselves in the French language and culture. If I have one regret during my study abroad experience, it is that I did not speak with more French people. Almost every time I had a conversation with a French friend from school or my French professors, I learned a new word or phrase that has further entrenched me into France’s beautiful language and culture. France’s gastronomy is one of the most important parts of its culture, and it is absolutely necessity to spend your time in France eating good food and drinking good wine. France has so many gifts to offer, and I would recommend opening yourself up to gastronomical opportunities that you may not otherwise have in the United States.
Finally, I would recommend to everyone studying abroad to keep an open mind and explore as much as you can. This has been a formative experience that has surpassed any expectation, and I will miss Paris very dearly. But I can leave knowing that I took full advantage of my time abroad. I have pushed myself to eat snails, talk politics with French people, and travel alone: all of which are equally scary in their own ways. But everything that I have done has been part of a culminating experience that will forever have a special place in my heart. Good luck to all of you beginning the process of studying abroad. I wish you the best and just know that it is all worth the visa issues, the unfamiliar culture shocks, and the homesickness. Bon voyage!