August is coming to an end and so are my first two weeks here in Paris. Time went so quickly and there are so many things happening that I barely get the time to unwind and reflect. But that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Preparing for my year in Paris was actually pretty tough. Especially finding a place to live was a bit of a nightmare as I spend weeks and weeks browsing through webpages and Facebook groups, sending dozens of messages to people and most of the times didn’t get a response at all. Additionally everything is Paris is, surprise surprise, super expensive; but eventually you get used to that and when I now see a room being advertise for 600€ I feel that’s a great bargain. Finally, after weeks of searching I got a room. It is in a flat I will share with two other French students so hopefully I will get to practise a lot of French. I really wanted to live with native speakers so I would be forced to learn French but now that I’m about to move in I’m starting to get nervous… Fingers crossed we will get on and they have the patience to speak slowly and repeat themselves often.
Unfortunately the room wasn’t free until September so for the first two weeks here I stayed with some relatives in a suburb of Paris. They live in an idyllic town located by the river Marne from which it takes about 25 Minutes to get into Paris. The long commute was pretty annoying, especially as it made me quite inflexible with regards to staying out late or relaxing in between scheduled activities; but on the other hand it was great to get out of the city when it was super hot.
The Parisians all leave Paris for the month of August and having experienced 38 degrees in between tall, limestone houses without a breeze I can totally understand why.
Staying in Lagny also helped me with getting to know French people as my cousins would take me to parties or gatherings with their friends. One of them also took me kayaking a few times which was great fun and as I want to try new things while in Paris it was also a good start to that. It would have been nice to have a room right from the start of my year in Paris; on the other hand, I am glad I got to spend time with my relatives who explained me a lot about life in France, showed me around and made me feel at home right from the first day.
The Sciences Po organised a welcome programme which lasted a bit over a week which was a great way of meeting other students. Obviously we were all internationals but that wasn’t bad at all. I guess finding friends is something most students worry about when moving to a different country, and I’m no exception, but here everyone goes through the same thing and is keen to find people to hang out with. I’d say it worked out pretty well for me as within days I found myself to be part of a lovely group that would hang out together between classes and in the evenings.
Together we are getting used to Paris coffee prices, crowded metros, and the sizzling heat or try to open bank accounts while enjoying the pretty views around us, eating pain au chocolat, drinking wine on the river banks at night and make plans for the weeks ahead of us. Interestingly most exchange students here are from the US and one of our favourite topics is to compare our home countries. So coming to Paris does not only show me the French way of life but also a lot about other countries and how people see them.
Overall my start in Paris has been very good. I’m sure things will be quite different once the novelty of living in Paris wears off and we spend more time in the Sciences Po library than by the Seine. But until then I will enjoy being busy and not having the time to miss home.