About two weeks ago I was at home struggling to cram 4 months of belongings into 2 suitcases and a backpack. Where am I now? Studying at an amazing school in a charming little town called Jouy-en-Josas situated about a 40-minute train ride away from Paris. I find it quite easy to call this place my home.
My #1 tip for integrating into a foreign culture? Don’t allow yourself time to worry about what life will be like in your new destination, just go out and be a part of it! After arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 9:30 AM, I literally ran to the other end of it (with my “trolley” of luggage in tow, it felt like a scene out of Harry Potter) to catch my bus to campus. The UT kids were the most talkative passengers aboard, so we quickly struck up a conversation with the other exchange students, meeting people from Italy, Russia, and Singapore within an hour of stepping foot in France.
By the second day, in an attempt to familiarize myself with the local public transportation, I took the train into the neighboring city of Versailles to explore the château and jardins and the quaint shops that lined the town’s narrow streets. Along the way, I passed an open-air bookstore and a small Chinese resto that had just brought out fresh entrées that seemed a warm and inviting change from the -2°C (28 Fahrenheit) cold front we were experiencing. I ordered my boeuf aux oignons and riz cantonnais (beef and fried rice) and settled into a small table at the back next to the heater.
Seated there in the comfortable warmth, I thought back to how nervous I was to be making this trip just two weeks before. While reflecting, I realized that the best way to get used to a new place is to make yourself uncomfortable for a little while. Whether it’s speaking the language, traveling around like a local, or asking to sit next to someone new in the cafeteria, the more you put yourself out there, the more rewarding your experience. Looking forward to sharing more stories over the semester! A bientôt!