Most students who spend a semester abroad bombard their friends' social media timelines with photos of beautiful foreign lands, attractions and foods.
Behind those photos and travel stories, however, is a considerable amount of work, which is surprising to a lot of people.
Now into my fourth week of classes, the workload of my courses has been surprisingly more difficult than I had initially expected, but it is allowing me to quickly develop my conversational French abilities through various cultural lessons.
Because most of my courses only meet once a week, it's easy to push off the work, meaning that my Sunday afternoons are spent flipping through textbooks and writing about French culture.
Though I expected to do some real work during my time in Paris, I would be lying if I said that I didn't feel like I was missing out on a great adventure every time I sit down to work on my assignments, but cozy cafés help to ease the pain.
It was during family dinner with my host parents that I had my first true communication breakdown since arriving in Paris three weeks ago.
After a conversation about the difficulties of making it to early morning classes in the city, I explained to my host parents and roommate that I'm no stranger to early mornings, as work days at the Cape Eleuthera Island School last summer began at 7AM and I've taken multiple 8AM courses at Iowa State.
My host parents, Marie Christine and Robert, are two of the smartest and well-read people that I've ever met, so they were quick to start asking me about my time at the Island School.
I was happy to use some of my maritime vocabulary to talk about my experiences as an intern, but it was as I began a story about tagging stingrays that I realised I had run out of French.
Frantically waving my arms about and desperately trying to explain what I was talking about, I realised that this would be my first true failure in communicating with someone else during my time in France.
Eventually, I described a stingray as something along the lines of "a pancake-like fish with a dangerous sword," and my host parents, who know very little English, finally seemed to understand.
Though this was my first failure, I'm confident that it will not be my last.
My legs are sore, my mind is tired, and I might have eaten a few too many baguettes.
After two weeks in Paris, which have passed entirely too quickly and so very slowly at the same time, I have managed to see a lot of the city and learn about French language and culture in an immersive environment.
Before arriving in Paris, I didn't realise how exhausting it can be to simply be surrounded by a foreign language. Wherever I am, my mind is constantly working to sort the conversations being had around me to determine the language and the meaning of the words.
I ensure you that your brain will never work as hard as it does in a three hour Monday morning French lecture about France's economical and social standing. Luckily, the French believe in having a coffee break halfway through class, so the second half is a little more upbeat.
I have also started the process of planning weekend trips around Europe, which requires more planning and number-crunching than I initially believed. With a limited number of free weekends and an even more limited account balance, it's been difficult to pick and choose where I wanted to go, especially since I haven't seen Europe outside of France.
It is surprisingly inexpensive to get around Europe, as compared to traveling in the U.S., so I am eager to start my adventures, starting next weekend with a trip to Normandy and the D-Day Beaches.
Before arriving in Paris, I had this idea that the city wouldn't pose as many cultural differences as many people said it would, but I was wrong.
Aside from the language, I have had to adjust to relying solely on public transportation and my own two feet, while my nose is pressed up against the small map on my phone. The mad rush through the metro to make a connection was initially nerve-racking, but now it's a fun race.
As classes began yesterday morning, I have also initiated the process of changing my style of learning.
This semester, I am taking a wide array of classes, including professional communication, tourism, gastronomy, fashion and cinema, all of which are instructed in exclusively French.
Though I've taken French classes for several years, my instructors have always been willing to go off on an English sidebar to explain a difficult idea, and not having that opportunity in Paris can be slightly terrifying.
It is also interesting to adjust to my new campus after spending three years on the large Iowa State campus. The Institut Catholique de Paris spans throughout several beautiful, old buildings in the Latin Quarter, connected by a small courtyard where students can be found speaking in rapid-fire French and smoking cigarettes.
As the first signs of spring begin to appear around the city, I am anxious for the sun to finally come out and for the flowers to bloom.
Salut à tous!
After a seemingly endless flight across the Atlantic, I finally arrived in Paris yesterday morning.
Confident that my French skills would at least allow me to make it through the airport "sans erreur," I was eager to get off the plane and through customs.
...I got lost before I even left my terminal.
After finally arriving at my homestay around noon, after nearly 24 hours of traveling, I was anxious to settle in.
My host family lives in the 12e arrondissement of Paris, on the right bank (ou rive droite) of the Seine. They speak very little English, which makes for some difficulty in communication, but they have been very forgiving; asking about my family, pets, major and hometown.
Today was the first day of program orientation for ISA students. The 22 of us were greeted with fresh coffee and literal piles of pain au chocolat and croissants, followed with lectures on safety, tourism and "la vie française" and a walking tour of the Latin Quarter, which included famous landmarks like Notre Dame and the Shakespeare and Co. book store.
My roommate, Corri, and I took the afternoon to explore Paris and to find local SIM cards that would allow us to use our phones as we wandered around. For ten euros we were able to purchase cars from Free Mobile, a French phone company, and use our own phones right away, which is nice.
We also had the chance to explore the city's vast metro system, which is complex, but very efficient.
It still seems strange to think of myself as living in Paris, where just my neighborhood is 17 times larger than my hometown, but between the cheese and baguettes, I think I will settle in nicely.
P.S. Since I'm now living in the city and bringing my camera with me, keep an eye on my 'photos' page, as I'm sure it will be updated more frequently with short blurbs about my adventures.
Just under two weeks before leaving for my semester abroad, my beloved camera has broken.
After spending some time outside with my dog, Stella, the small screen of my DSLR began to display an error code that baffled even the most qualified and experienced of Canon customer service reps.
Now tightly swaddled in bubble wrap and stuffed into a sturdy cardboard box, my camera is headed for the nearest Canon store, while I wait at my front door, praying that it shows up before I have to leave.
Luckily, the people closest to me understand how important it is for me to have a camera in my hands, so I have several offers for semester-long camera leases, because my family and friends are the absolute best and I have done nothing to deserve them.
But anyways, at least I got these cute shots, right?
With just under two weeks remaining until I jet off to France, I am eager for my study abroad program to begin.
Because I sub-let my apartment to a friend for the semester, I am living at home again, where I often have to explain myself to others (I usually start by promising that I didn't drop out of school), and make a real effort to not strangle my younger brother.
Luckily, living less than an hour away from where I go to school means that I have the chance to go back and fourth for work and to see my friends, which has helped me to maintain at least a morsel of my sanity.
As I attempt to pack my bags, which I always end up doing too early, leaving myself with very few articles of clothing to work with, I have come to realize that it takes endless planning to move abroad for three months. Not only do I have to plan for the current weather in Paris, but I also have to plan for multiple seasons and excursions (especially for my trip to Morocco-- if you have tips on the appropriate attire for riding camels, please don't hesitate to let me know).
It's also difficult knowing that, as I pack, weight limits (and basic human rights laws, I suppose) render it impossible for me to pack my friends, boyfriend, sister and dog into my suitcase to take them along with me.
Through the seven revisions my packing checklist has undergone, my camera has made the cut every time, which is lucky, since I will be acting as a social media intern with the Iowa State Study Abroad Center and as a video blogger for International Studies Abroad.
So, please, follow me around as I begin my time in Europe! I encourage you to live vicariously through me (yes, I'm looking at you, mom).
After officially completing a language placement exam, registering for classes with the Institut Catholique de Paris and submitting a stack of papers for my visa, it's time to sit back and relax until jetting off to France in February.
There has never been a question as to whether or not I would study abroad; it's been my plan since I began taking French classes as a freshman in high school. When I got to Iowa State in the fall of 2014, I was looking into study abroad programs before I had even declared a major.
Ultimately, I decided to apply to the International Studies Abroad liberal arts program at the Institut Catholique de Paris in Paris, France.
Initially, I was hesitant to study abroad in Paris because of how prominitely English is spoken across the city. I wanted to be immersed in French, but after deciding to live with a French family during my time abroad and enroll in all French courses, I think that I made the right choice, as I have such easy access to French language and culture.
In an effort to keep in touch with everyone at home, I plan to write weekly blogs and post short videos to share my adventures and experiences. I am also applying to be a social media intern with Iowa State's Study Abroad Office to provide students with an idea of what it is really like to tackle a semester in a foreign country.
I am most interested in this internship because in my own research of programs abroad, I found it difficult to find student testimonies, or they were uninteresting. I think that I could provide interesting insight because of my vast experience in writing, photography and videography to make my blog fun, informational and persuasive for students that are considering studying abroad but have yet to commit.