1. Everything gets a little bit harder when you’re the foreigner
Whether it’s going to the grocery store or trying to do homework, the language barrier will mess you up. Especially in France, where everyone already speaks English and is ready to whip out their knowledge every time you make a mistake. Or, even worse, they’ll pretend they can’t understand you because of your accent, and just repeat whatever word you were trying to say back at you confusedly (it gets real old real fast). I have yet to figure out if they’re trying to help or just make fun of me, but either way it makes basic interactions that much harder.
2. People will seem rude
This is not to say that the French actually are rude, they just have a culture that make different things social norms. For example, no one here smiles at each other in public. You know how in America, when you make eye contact with a stranger, you give a little smile to acknowledge each other’s presence? That’s not a thing here, unless you mean to hit on said stranger. The French are also never taught not to stare, which can get pretty awkward when you’re just walking down the street and people are doing obvious double-takes over your hair.
3. Everyone wants a piece of that American ass
Whether you’re walking on the street or chilling in a bar, be prepared to get hit on by lots of foreign guys (or girls). They’ll do their best to hit on you in English, taken in by both the charm of you being from another country and the fact that you won’t be sticking around for too long. But be warned, French relationships (including hookups or one night stands) move at a different pace than American ones. And especially be wary of the French people who are looking to take advantage of foreigners; avoid the more touristy areas, because these guys practically live at those bars.
4. Google Translate will be your new best friend
As much as people, especially teachers, seem to hate Google Translate, it is ridiculously useful when you’re trying to do homework in French (or any foreign language, I’m sure). You want to sound intelligent? Impress your teachers? Rise above your inability to form poetic and meaningful sentences in this complicated foreign language? Do you homework in English and run it through Google Translate. Not only is this a time saver (it’s a lot easier to think in your native language), but it’s easier to catch Google Translate’s mistakes than it is to see your own.
5. It is so easy to travel
Now, I’m not saying it’s especially cheap (thank you exchange rate), but it is easy. Most major European cities are just a bus or train ride away, and for the ones that are a little farther out, you can always fly. Plus, there are hostels all over the place where you can meet all sorts of cool travelers (like yourself). Contrary to popular belief, hostels are actually very clean and perfect for a night’s rest (if you’re looking for more, some student hostels even have bars and group activities). The border checkpoints are also easier to get through, just make sure you have your passport and are prepared for some silly questions. At least you (probably) won’t get your luggage searched!
Studying abroad, especially in Paris, is a pretty crazy experience. But once you figure it all out, life gets that much easier. And a whole lot more fun. Bonne chance!