I’ve been abroad for about a month now, and I have already had so many amazing experiences! In just four weeks, I have started at a new school, met people from all walks of life, and challenged myself in ways I never thought possible. With all this excitement, I have learned a lot, so I figured it was time for me attempt to answer my initial questions before making my decision to go abroad (If you don't know what questions I’m talking about, check out my blog post “My Top 5 Google Searches Before Going Abroad”)!
1. Should I go abroad?
Yes, yes, a million times yes. At the risk of sounding like a cliche abroader, this is a once in a lifetime experience. If you have any interest at all, you should absolutely do it. The two main things that held me back were my fears of the unknown and being away from friends and family. It has only been a month, but both of these things have gone completely out the window. Not only have I grown as a person from putting myself in such a new experience, I have met friends for life, and strengthened my relationships with the people I am miles away from. Win, win situation.
2. Weather in the French Riviera
Okay, to be honest, it can get kind of cold here. Like, wear a winter coat and Uber home at night cold. However, seeing as it is currently -11 degrees Fahrenheit in Vermont, 30 degrees at UMass, and -50 degree windchill in Chicago, I really am not complaining about my 58 degree days and 45 degree nights. Still, if you're thinking about studying on the French Riviera, don't neglect cold weather clothing when packing. Think layers.
3. CEA Student Experiences
So far, CEA has been an amazing program. Kristin, our site coordinator is like the “cool mom” (an actual cool mom, not Amy Pohler in Mean Girls). She is incredibly friendly, organized, understanding, and wise. I was perfectly matched with my roommates (everyone in our program was, as far as I can tell), and our all-inclusive group excursions to places like Italy and Monaco are a perfect way to get a taste of different cultures.
4. What do French college students typically wear?
Google hit it on the nose with this one. Answer: not what American students wear. I was secretly hoping that I could get away with leggings and a sweatshirt, but, alas, it has been a month and I am still wearing jeans, sweaters, and booties. However, as soon as I get home—it’s sweatpants and a sweatshirt.
5. Cheap ways to travel in Europe
I have realized at least three main ways of saving money while traveling:
- Book flights in advance and check often. My roommate booked a March-flight to the Canary Islands back in January for 35 Euros round trip. I just checked last night about flying there around the same time she’s going, and the cheapest flight was 202 Euros. Case in point.
- Opt for hostels or splitting Airbnbs. Hostels are dirt cheap and a great way to meet new people! Just make sure you bring a lock for your belongings and carry pepper spray (always better to be overly cautious).
- Try to use cash for personal spending. A lot of credit and debit cards have foreign transaction fees, and a lot of stores will either charge a fee for card-charges under 10 Euros, or simply won’t accept cards as payment. Be sure to have a decent amount of cash on hand so you don't find yourself broke in a foreign land!