I moved to Paris – this is what it’s really like…
This September I packed two suitcases and hopped on the Eurostar to Paris to start studying Maths at the Sorbonne (Paris VI). And, whilst I’ve had my share of picnics by the Louvre, wine and sunsets by the Seine and met some lovely people, I’ve also faced challenges. So, before you decide the only way to get out of Leam is an Erasmus year, let’s dig into the less glamourous reality of what it’s really like moving to a new city alone – and, maybe you’ll decide a holiday is more what you had in mind!
It’s a Big City…
Don’t get me wrong – Paris is beautiful, and I wouldn’t change my choice of destination given the chance. However, unsurprisingly, it’s a little bit more daunting than Leam. I live on a road about twice the length of Leamington High Street and double the width, and the sound of sirens (and the occasional protest!) is something I’m going to have to get used to very soon. I don’t feel safe walking down my road alone when it’s dark and when I arrived at my appartement it was dirty (– old socks behind radiators and ramen packets on shelves kind of dirty…). So, as you can imagine, the first couple of days were spent buying bleach and kitchen roll rather than croissants and charcuterie – not the welcome I was hoping for! What can I say, trade-off for living in one of the greatest cities in the world?
It’s a bureaucratic nightmare!
Things that were so easy at home have suddenly become exhaustingly complicated. Setting up a bank account took a 15 page in-person form, where one wrong line meant starting the page from the beginning again and, regardless, the process won’t be complete for about a month. Whether it’s with university or life (transport, bank accounts, home insurance) a lot seems to go wrong and a lot seems to remain uncommunicated. So, on arrival, grab a French Sim and be ready to spend 10-15 minutes on hold to ask some questions about a missing form, being double-charged or why you haven’t heard anything about where your classes will take place! Whilst the optimist inside of me is trying to argue it’s all part of the adventure, let’s be realistic – long story short – it’s an unorganised mess!
It’s pretty lonely…
As I mentioned, I came out here not knowing anyone in Paris – twenty arrondissements, a couple million people and I didn’t know one person. There is, however, a large and welcoming international community that I’ve been really grateful to meet (ESN Paris, EIAP, PEL are a great place to start). Nevertheless, it takes time to form proper friendships – and whilst the company I have met is great, they are scattered across Paris at different universities, in different accommodation and staying for different amounts of time. Leaving behind friends you’ve lived with for a couple of years and known through all their best and worst times in exchange for a group of friendly strangers is definitely making me miss home. However, there are new memories to made and no shortage of other international students to make them with!
Despite these challenges, I am so happy to be here. I’m scared, but I’m excited. We can’t grow and we can’t learn unless we push ourselves beyond our comfort zones and the easy option isn’t always the option we should take.
If you’re considering an Erasmus year and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’d be happy to answer! Please, also remember that this is a list of challenges not the whole story – friendships, settling in, making sense of it all takes time – so it’s definitely worth reading a few reports from the end of an Erasmus year as this is just my beginning!