Everyone has different goals when studying abroad, and it’s important to know that there’s not one right or wrong way to do it. Many of my peers here in Paris chose this city because it’s centrally located in Europe, giving them the opportunity to travel just about every weekend to a new place. They’ve been to Dublin, Budapest, Prague, Amsterdam, Barcelona…you name it. With Paris’ great public train network (except during strikes…) and two massive airports, it’s a great choice to go if you want to get places quickly and cheaply.
While seeing the world is a great reason to study abroad, my goal was a bit different. Before arriving to Paris, I knew I was mainly interested in the local culture and submerging myself into it as much as I could. This has meant much less traveling outside of Paris and much more central exploration, digging up the “how’s” and “why’s” of the city on my weekends, instead of hopping on a plane every weekend. I wanted to make local friends and crack the French language in a way I knew I couldn’t do inside of a classroom, and that involved me sticking around more than others.
Though I’ve chosen to stay mainly inside of Paris, that doesn’t mean I haven’t traveled or done my fair share of sight-seeing. There is so much to do in Paris that it can feel like an entirely new city every weekend depending on which part I visit. Since there is always something interesting to do on the horizon, it can be easy to forget the “study” part of study abroad.
However, I’ve found ways to balance work with leisure in a way that works for me and my studies on the weekends. The biggest help for me has been having productive mornings. While I might be a morning person, the city of Paris is not. This works in my favor because I can wake up with the sunrise (which is only like, 7 am here…I’m not that crazy), finish my work for the day by the early afternoon, and enjoy the city after that–when everything opens and everyone wakes up.
For my peers that travel more than I do, they often do their homework before and after classes during the week so they don’t have to pack all of their books with them to their weekend destination. However, chances are there’s still some work to be done on the weekends. Choosing slim school supplies (for example, folders instead of binders) and trying to get textbooks online are great ways to keep up on homework while traveling with a light load.
In true college style though, I’ve finished exams and assignments in trains, planes, vans, airports…you name it. So no matter if you’re a morning person or not, sticking inside your host city or traveling every weekend, there’s a way to see everything you’ve dreamt of experiencing as well as ace your classes while studying abroad.