Paris, I’m Ready. I Think?

Reading materials for the long plane ride

Ah, Paris! The Eiffel Tower, wine, cheese, bread, and berets. Is that all my next few weeks will consist of?

Ah, Paris! The Eiffel Tower, wine, cheese, bread, and berets. Is that all my next few weeks will consist of?

Probably not. But maybe!

My name is Alejandra, a second-year psychology major. I have considered myself a Francophile ever since I was a little girl, I even had a Paris themed bedroom for God’s sake! This fascination for everything French has been awkwardly complemented by my Hispanic roots and American lifestyle. But due to living in a small town, it wasn’t until I came to UF that I began taking French classes. It is now my second year of studying French and I have decided to try out these fresh new language skills by studying abroad in Paris the month of July: host family and all, full immersion. While this will definitely be a  “sink or swim” situation I am hopeful that my friendly nod and quick search engine skills will allow for my survival.

Although I have traveled abroad before, it has never been at this caliber and I usually know the language which lessens troubles in communication. I won’t lie, this past week I have thought “I am not ready for this” more times than I can count and even had mini-meltdowns when not able to remember a certain French word, but I have realized that’s okay. I have come to terms with my areas of weakness and made it my mission to speak as much French as I can possible. Hopefully, this will make me more comfortable making mistakes and actually speaking the language. The purpose of this entire trip is to put myself in a position that challenges my language skills in EVERY aspect possible, even if that means I accidentally offend someone.

One thing this trip has taught me so far is the importance of planning and organization. It’s easy to believe that all it takes is buying a plane ticket and ta-da! You’re ready! … Well, that hasn’t exactly been the case. The most “oh, I didn’t think about that” moment was related to how I was going to pay for things while abroad. You pretty much have 3 options: cash, debit card, or credit card. All of which have their pros and cons depending on your situation. In my case, I wanted to avoid having more than the necessary cash on me, so I looked into using either my debit and credit card. I found a big catch though–if you decide to use your credit or debit card, consult with your bank to understand any “international fees” you may be charged for international transactions. While fees are only a small percentage, they can certainly add up after so long. If you want to get cash before your arrival you can always request foreign currency from your bank or simply go to the foreign currency exchange kiosk at your airport before departure. But keep in mind that airport kiosks can have a larger exchange margin and leave you with less than the desired amount. You can also check if your bank has any alliances with other local banks at your destination and use their ATM’s without being charged a fee. Lastly, if you want a card with no international fees, you can always opt for a travel points credit card that has no fees and offers redeemable points towards travel expenses. Although this is not the most glamorous information, I found it odd that it never crossed my mind, so these are just some of the few details I thought any future traveler should know.

Well, as of now other than haphazardly shoving clothes into my suitcase, nothing too exciting has happened. I would share some information about my host family, but I think a little suspense is good, so I will save that for my next post 😉 Let’s just say they sound incredible!

On that note, je suis prête! I am ready to delve into these next few weeks and share with you my thoughts, questions, mistakes, and pictures. Are you ready?

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