Paris jour après jour…

I’ve been in Paris for two months now and am already scheming about how I can extend my time here.

Paris is an incredible city with much to offer to everyone in all walks of life.  It is special in that it offers all the accessibility of a big city, but at the same time, possesses a certain quaintness and way of life which large cities in the U.S. lack.

A big part of what has made my experiences here so amazing is being a student at the American University of Paris.  AUP is a very small school (under 1,000 students in total- undergraduate and graduate students) and consists of a very self-selective student body.  The school is about 38% Americans and 20% French.  The rest of the students come from all over world- from Europe to the Middle East, Africa, and South America.  There are about 82 different languages spoken on campus between students and faculty.

A big reason why European students love AUP is because it offers an American education in Paris.  In France (and in many other European countries), higher education is extremely formal.  Classes are massive and there is very little contact (if any) between professors and students- it’s basically a “sink or swim” mentality if you end up needing help in a course.  At AUP, the classes are usually no more than 15 or 20 students.  Discussion is greatly encouraged by all professors and I have found that because of the vast cultural differences, discussion can often lead to exciting intellectual disputes among students (especially in classes like Foundations of Modern Politics).

Though AUP is small, they do offer students a surprising number of extracurricular activities.  And when I say “extracurricular activities” I don’t mean lame on-campus clubs or movie nights.  The school has everything from organized day trips and long weekend getaways around Europe, sports teams, and the occasional cocktail night for students to mingle with classmates and staff (no, AUP is not a dry campus).  At the beginning of the semester, I joined the equestrian team, which has been one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had here.  Every Friday, the team takes the RER C train out to Versailles to practice at Haras de Jardy, a beautiful equestrian center about an hour outside of Paris.  I have not participated in an extracurricular activity at AUP I did not enjoy.

Taking the above ground 6 metro line each morning over the Seine from my apartment in the bourgeois 16th Arrondissement to the beautiful and historic 7th Arrondissement each morning for class is just plain incredible.  But this all didn’t just suddenly fall from the sky one day.  It was a lot of work getting here and there is never a dull day mingling with the French system.  There is a lot of logistical work to be done between coordinating with FIT, getting a visa, finding an apartment, getting cell phone service, opening a bank account etc etc.  AUP classes are much more academically rigorous than at FIT, so don’t be surprised if you only sign up for 3 or 4 of them… you will definitely be busy.  Courses here, however, are incredibly interesting because of the international perspective brought from the faculty and students and I feel like I am learning a great deal that goes beyond the scope of the classroom.

So, to wrap up, here are a few words of wisdom for anyone interested in AUP:

-Stay on top of all the logistics between FIT, AUP and getting your visa at the French Consulate.  Try not to loose ANY paperwork… it will be a major pain if you do.

-Get a bank account once you’re here.  It’s just so much easier.  Even if you are here for only a semester.  Much of the time, American credit cards don’t work in French machines and you’ll be charged crazy high foreign transaction rates.

-Trust AUP with figuring out your housing situation.  They do it for over 500 students each semester and are really good at it.  I could not be more thrilled with where I am living right now.  Most students live alone in “chambre de bonne” apartments, which are located on the top floors of the traditional 7-floor Parisian apartment buildings.  You can opt to have your own bathroom, an elevator in your building, etc.  Right now, I am living in an “au pair” apartment in a French family’s home, which is great because I have my own private space, but I often get the chance to practice my French and interact with the family.

-Learn at least some French.  It is just all around incredibly helpful.

AUP is an amazing study abroad experience.  It is definitely more expensive than other options, but it is that way for a reason.  Between the culturally diverse student body, the incredible professors, and the fact that the university is located in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Paris, I feel like I am definitely getting my money’s worth from this experience.

And one more piece of advice: when the French consulate asks if you plan on extending your visa while you are in France, just say yes. You will understand once you are here.


Advice From a Veteran

Blogged by: Mollie Attenson

I connected with Meaghan during math class and she has become an angel! Meaghan went to the University of Westminster last year and told me she had no one to prepare her before she went. Luckily,I have had the opportunity to talk to Meaghan about her experience. She has provided me with a list of tips and tricks that may help those of you going in the future… I know they sure have helped me better prepare.

Meaghan’s Advice…
I would pack what you normally would pack for a fall season. Even though it’s spring time, you don’t get a touch of spring until the last few weeks you are there. Bring lots of layering pieces and sweaters. I would suggest a warm winter coat, a rain trench, and a lighter jacket such as a leather jacket. As for shoes, DON’T go crazy. You are going to want to bring options (like i did, i brought 7 pairs) but don’t do it. Bring the shoes you would wear the most often and wellies (rain boots). For going out at night its still going to be cold, and there is a ton of cobblestone. So, bring a practical heel or if you can wedge because you will not wear stilettos on the tube (subway). Tights were a lifesaver when it came to making outfits day->night so bring a few pairs if that is your kinda thing. Bring a few going out dresses but don’t over do it, their pub/bar/club wear is more casual than you think and you wont wear it or you’ll be a bit overdressed.Stock up on your makeup and toiletries before you go. They are going to be more expensive there and especially deodorant they don’t sell in stick only aerosol cans so if you have particular products you use bring those.You will have an option to buy a bedding package and a kitchen package. I got both. I would definitely suggest investing in the kitchen one. They give you anything you would want or need to make food. It is delivered right to your room and is there when you move in. It saves the stress, spending money, and having to search and then lug pots and pans from different shops back to you room. As for the bedding, you can do that if you like, but they aren’t the greatest of quality. You can get affordable bedding/pillows at the Sainsbery’s (place you get your groceries) and they will be better quality. I would suggest bringing either a duvet cover or a quilt or something to put on your bed to make it feel more at home because the rooms, like most dorms, are standard and ugly. You have your own bathroom with toilet and shower in your room (you have no idea how great it really is) so you don’t have to worry about anyone touching your stuff.
Tip #1 would be make friends with your flatmates because they will clue you in on all the cool places to go. They are going to be a lot younger than you (17-18-19) because only first year students are allowed to live in the halls.


Tip #2 is dont be afraid to mingle and talk to randoms. When it comes to strangers its nothing like NY. They are very friendly and when it comes to hanging out, central london, what to order, how to pay properly etc. they have no problem helping you out. And they love to hear the accent and the fact that we are clueless, so they wont mind it. Sainsbery’s is the grocery store that everyone shops at. Its in walking distance (kinda like from FIT to Kaufman). They sell reusable bags. Buy them! or bring your own, you will thank yourself when having to lug you stuff back to the halls, especially cause its always raining.

Tip #3 Restaurants are different there. 90% of them are a kind where you seat yourself, the menus are on the table, the tables are numbered, and one by one you go to the bar you order your own meal and pay for it there individually. Its served to your table. Its cool cause you can hang as long as you want and the paying aspect is already done with and you don’t have to deal with the check. Make sure you always have all picture forms of ID on you (fit id, Westminster id, drivers license) because if you use American cards they check to make sure the names match on everything, also most the highstreet stores in central London (urban outfitters, topshop, forever 21..) have student discounts.TRAVEL:I did travel. I did a weekend trip to Liverpool. Then in April I did 9 days in Italy where 3 of my friends and I traveled from Venice, Florence, then Rome. Then we did 4 days in Paris. In the orientation they give you a bunch of advice when it comes to traveling but some good sites were for flights and hostelworld.comfor booking hostels (which I stayed in, in each city.) If you want to know specifics about places or booking things or anything let me know.CLASSES: The professors are tough.  The students are in blocks so they all know each other (like our art students) so they do a lot of group work. Don’t expect to be babied or coached through it. There. There is no attendance policy or homework. You have exams and projects that you are expected to work on and research and everything on your own. The library is 24 hours so take advantage.  If you have questions they let you set up one on one meetings with them on your off time, which is really really helpful when final papers/projects are assigned.
PHONE: yes i got a phone. i went to orange and you get the cheapest one and there is a plan where you just put money on as you go. it gets you like 100 texts a month and like 50 min. or something. i had a international plan on my regular iphone so i could call my parents on that only. but for communicating over there i used the orange phone
Me: Are you happy you went?
Meaghan : it was hands down one of the best decision i have made, and it was a life changing experience. i have made friends that mean so much to me and i can’t wait to go back. it is weird at first having to adjust but once you do you will fall right into it. you will learn so much about yourself and meet so many cool people!

Ask Away: Q&A!

Blogged by: Mollie Attenson  
Recently, I have been asked some questions about why I am going abroad and over the next few weeks I will be posting and responding to them. Hopefully these questions and answers will help those of you who choose to go through this process at some point. I’m going to title it Q&A and if you have any additional questions feel free to ask!
Q:  How/Why you decided to study abroad after having already moved here from the Midwest?
A: I have traveled all over the USA, some parts of Canada, Mexico, and the US Virgin Islands, but never to Europe. FIT gives its students the opportunity to study abroad, so I thought I would take advantage of it. Being an FMM student I am constantly having conversations about fashions all over the world and I see what a large role European countries play on trends, styles, and textiles. The opportunity to see an explore Europe is something I could not turn down. I want to see firsthand and be involved in the fashion world there. I want to see more of the world and grow as a person. Moving from Michigan to New York City was a big move, but I had been preparing for it since I was a young girl when I learned about the fashion industry. The plane ride to visit home is at most 2 hours long and I am still in the same time zone as my family and friends back home.  I would travel to New York in the summers to attend summer programs. Going to study abroad is the next logical step for me to take. I am very family oriented, and extremely close with all my friends so it will be hard to leave them for 6 months. This opportunity only comes knocking once, why not take it?

Accepted! Countdown to Studying in the UK.

Blogged by: Mollie Attenson

Accepted! I cannot believe days ago I was accepted to study at the University of Westminster. Soon I will venture off once again and travel from New York City to London. Officially I have 76 days until my departure! This is going to be my first time in Europe. I am so excited to start my 6 month adventure. There seems to be so much to do before I takeoff on my journey, including the making of several lists (to do, to pack, to see, etc….) To all my family, friends, and supporters: THANK YOU! Without you guys this trip would not be possible. I am so appreciative of what you do for me. Check here for updates on my life changing journey!