Metros, Museums, and a Little Bit of Madness: The First Weeks Abroad

Maggie Panetta is a student at the College of Charleston and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Paris, France.

Halfway through my third week here in Paris, I’m sitting down to take a breath and reflect on my first few weeks in this huge, beautiful, vibrant, and overwhelming city. The first couple weeks abroad were intimidating.   I was in a new and unfamiliar place, I didn’t know where to find anything, and my brain was processing a foreign language all the time. As the whirlwind of arrival winds down, I want to share some things that helped me survive my first few weeks.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France - Panetta - Photo 1

1. Take a Day for the Tough Stuff

When I arrived in Paris, I needed to buy a Metro Pass and figure out how to ride the Metro, set up a cell phone plan, buy school supplies, and figure out where I could buy my favorite shampoo. Set aside a day to figure out all the essentials of living in new place. That way it will all be done and you can focus on the fun stuff!

2. Explore, Explore, Explore

Ditch public transportation and take some time to walk around your new surroundings. My first few days here, I walked over 20 miles seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Champs-Elysees and more. Also, wandering around on a sunny day is the best way to discover your new neighborhood.

3. Make the Most of Where You Are

Living in Paris means that history’s greatest works of art, dozens of legendary monuments, and world-class concerts are only a metro ride away. The morning before my classes began, I saw Monet’s masterpieces at the Musée de l’Orangerie. My roommate and I toured the Opéra Garnier on our lunch break, and last night I saw a piano concert in the oldest church in Paris. There is never a shortage of things to do while abroad, so try to make the most of it! The best part? Most of it is free for students!

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break

The first few weeks will be exhausting. While you should make the most of your time abroad, don’t be afraid to take a day to rest. Spend a morning reading a book or talking to family at home. A day or two of relaxation will give you the energy you need to enjoy your new home.

Though the first few weeks had some overwhelming moments, I am already feeling so comfortable in Paris. I live with a wonderful French family, I haven’t gotten lost on the Metro and I spend every day surrounded by beautiful things in a fascinating place. I have to agree with Audrey Hepburn when she said, “Paris is always a good idea.”

Want to read more about Paris? Check out “3 Games to Play to Get to Know Paris”