EAPA Spotlight: What to Know Before You Study in France

ben-otten_francePhoto by Ben Otten

Whether you have been to France before or this is about to be your first time, there are a few things you should know in advance.  Like any other culture, French people are different than your typical American. We tend to be very loud, enthusiastic and sometimes too friendly, so you may experience some culture shock once you get across the pond!

Understand the Culture:

Before traveling to France I had heard stories about how bitter the French are towards Americans and that I should expect to be treated poorly, even when dining out. I do not know what everyone was talking about, because I did not have a single bad encounter! However, I do understand now that the culture is very different and people can seem unapproachable if you do not know their language. A fellow UK student, Lauren Bix, who studied in Normandy, France explained it like this “They really appreciate the fact that you know the language and have made an effort to come to their country and immerse yourself. I was able to communicate much better with the locals since I am bilingual” After speaking with Lauren, I learned that the French are very proud of their language and will respect any foreigners who have taken the time to learn it. However, another student, Ben Otten, traveled to Paris for a summer program, and said he was able to navigate the city he was in and engage with people just fine by speaking English! Ben said “Americans do have a bad reputation in Paris since it is such a touristy city, but as long as you respect the French and their culture you should have no problem.  For me, it would have been more helpful to be confident in the language so that I could connect with them more, but other than that, I had an amazing experience!”

Eat All of the Food:

If for some reason you do not like the people, you really cannot go wrong with the food! Well that is, if you are willing to try new things. Ben expressed, “Steak Tar Tar is really the only way you can go wrong in France, everything else was unbelievably good.” Lauren agreed, but added “You should know that spicy isn’t a thing, French food is either very savory or very sweet.” They both agreed by saying whether it is a macaroon, cheese, or some escargot, French food is very unique and will always leave you wanting more!

And if you ever feel homesick…

Go to Disney!!! “It was such a cool experience and reminded me of home. I’ve been to Disney World and Disney Land in the US, and the one in Paris is still my favorite,” said Ben. He explained how it was obviously more cultured, and everything was in French. Unfortunately when I wen to Paris, it was only for three days so I could not make it to the Parc Disneyland, but I would highly recommend going if you are going to be in France for a longer period of time because who doesn’t love Disney?!

Regardless of where you are studying or how long you will be there, France is filled with many adventures and you will find what attracts you the most as you go! So, if you are respectful to the natives, love to try new foods, and plan to spend a day at the happiest place on earth, then all you need to do now board the plane! Bon Voyage!

Julie Lamagna is a Junior majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and minoring in International Studies.  She studied abroad during the 2016 Spring semester in Rome, Italy. She traveled to seven different countries during her time in Europe and learned more about her Italian Heritage. She loves to explore new places and is already trying to plan another trip!