Bonjour! I am currently spending the semester studying abroad in Paris, France. Two months in, and it is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I have ever had. As much fun as I may be having right now, the process of getting to this point was very long and complicated. Here is some advice for avoiding the stress of pre-departure. Although some of these tips are specific to Paris, you can use them for practically any exchange location!
Tip 1: You don’t need to pack everything that you own, but don’t forget to pack essentials that you take for granted. I am having a difficult time finding baking soda here in Paris and a friend of mind couldn’t find any heat protection hair spray! Although you probably won’t find out if you can buy a product locally or not until you actually arrive, be sure to pack favourite hygiene products, food and anything else that you absolutely cannot live without. In some cases, they may sell what you need, but not in the brand that you prefer.
Tip 2: Don’t be afraid of the $100 extra baggage fee on an airplane. The contents of your extra bag are probably worth more than the $100 fee. This also gives you extra space for any souvenirs and gifts that you plan on bringing back home. Remember that things in France are in euros, meaning it is probably going to be significantly more expensive for your favourite shampoo or cereal in France than it is in Canada, so do the math! The only problem you may encounter with this is lugging it from the airport to your new apartment by yourself.
Tip 3: You should also remember to pack both regular sized and travel-sized hygiene products. If you plan on travelling while on exchange, $1 mini toothpaste from your local drugstore is a lot cheaper than buying €1 mini toothpaste in France.
Paris Tip: Parisian street fashion is very stylish but monochromatic. So, when packing clothes, you may want to skip your neon-green top. This may sound silly, but a decent sense of fashion is a matter of self-preservation! Aggressive beggars and pickpockets are less likely to attack you if you don’t have that neon-green “tourist” target on your back.
Tip 1: Don’t worry too much about banking, meeting new people, public transportation, cellphone plans and most other things. The international team at your host school will cover a lot of this during orientation week. Just remember to bring necessary documents, photocopies of IDs and an unlocked cellphone so that everything else will go by a lot smoother.
Tip 2: Remember to have fun! School is important, but don’t spend your whole day inside school or inside your apartment. If you’re not exploring your new environment and soaking all the culture in, you’re more susceptible to getting really home sick. Your new place – as great or as dingy as it may be – will be your new home for the next couple of months. Try to find the positive aspects of your new place such as a really cool nearby bar or your kind neighbour.