I arrived in Paris a day ahead of schedule, so it was up to me to get to my hotel room and around the city by myself. So, this is what I’ve learned thus far on arriving in France without a phone or Wifi, and with a reserved amount of cash:
1) Don’t rely on your US cell phone working. Importantly, this was a common theme with the other students in the program, not just with me. I thought that I had taken care of the phone situation before I arrived in Paris (the phone was actually promised to work), so I whole-heartedly expected to be able to call my parents, family, program directors, etc. to let them know I arrived safely. This was not the case, and I had to wait a couple of days to get another SIM card (it was Sunday, so most stores were closed). If you find yourself in this situation, pop into one of Paris’ many internet cafes or use the phone at your hostel or hotel to let your family and resident directors know you’ve arrived safely.
2) Prepare to look crazy. When it came down to the brass tacks, I realized that I would have to take a carry-on that was full of shoes, and I would wear two winter coats through security. It was funny, really, the things that everyone did to make my airline’s 51 lbs luggage weight limit. So, while your parents are headed to Italy to wine and dine for a week, they have the same luggage weight limit (51 lbs) as you do, although you’ll be gone for study abroad for months (51 lbs). Makes perfect sense really, oui?
3) Write down the directions. I tried to do this as much as possible—directions for my hotel, the nearest Tabac, La Poste, Monoprix, just in case my phone wouldn’t work (which I’m super glad that I did). This way, I had a back up plan. I also brought a small map of my arrondissement.
4) Don’t be afraid to get a little lost. Sure, there are some dangerous parts of all major cities, including Paris, but getting a little turned around is perfectly fine. I had to remember that Paris is the most visited city in the world, so things like the Metro and public directions are pretty straight-forward.
5) Try to be nice. This can be super hard when people seem pushy or irritated, and especially when you’re on a crowded street. Parisians walk pretty quickly, but if it makes you feel any better, I’m totally the slowest walker you know.