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Bonjour Paris!

It’s coming up to almost two months since I’ve left Sydney and time has flown! Exchange has been something I’ve been looking forward to since first year and it has been great! Major photography fan here so hopefully these photos will do the experience so far justice. Also, photos are worth a thousand words so getting your bang for buck here. In short, go on exchange.

Starting off on Aug 11, I flew to Greece with a group of friends from university. In Greece, we covered Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos. Highlights of that trip: 2 euro gyros in Athens, cliff diving and sunset at Santorini – that place will take your breath away and is like no other, and running into Alessandra Ambrosio in Mykonos (yes, you read that right).

Sunset in Santorini

After a week, a few of us split off and hit up Croatia to cover Dubrovnik and Zagreb. On our way to Dubrovnik, our luggage got lost which ruined our travel plans a bit but with some adjustment, we were able to cover everything we wanted to. If you go, you must do the Old Town Walls Tour and go up to Fort Lovrijenac (for GoT fans, that’s the Red Keep) – the view is stunning. My favorite part of it all had to be sea kayaking though. My friend is actually a rower so we kept on being told off for going ahead of everyone. After two packed and intense days, we fly off to Zagreb for some needed R&R and the Plitvice National Park – amazing but slightly overcast when we went but nonetheless, should be on people’s bucket list.

Sea Kayaking in Dubrovnik
Fort Lovrijenac in Dubrovnik
Fort Lovrijenac in Dubrovnik

Ahh Spain…can never get enough of Spain. The culture, the people, the food – Spain nails it on the head. For the short five days I was there, I was in love and honestly regretted not choosing Spain for exchange. My friends and I covered Valencia (primarily for La Tomatina) and Barcelona. Valencia took my breath away – especially the city center. La Tomatina also took my breath away but more so because I was being squished against thousands of people and also because a tomato would be chucked at me just as I was inhaling. It’s something I’m glad I did but would never do again. Also if you do end up going, be prepared for several things:

  1. Throwing away all the clothes you wore there
  2. Washing your hair five times over only for your friends to still discover tomato residue
  3. Equating the smell of tomatoes to throw-up
  4. Avoiding tomatoes for the next two weeks
  5. Making a memory to look back on (sometimes with laughter, sometimes with fear)

Now (one of) the best for last – Barcelona. My favorite city so far. Unfortunately, I only had two full days there. Now first day, we covered Magic Fountain, city center, Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, Gothic Quarter, Cathedral, and ended the night at Bar Rubi. The next day, we went to see Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila. Tip for each of these: cough up the money and actually go into these places with an audio guide, you’ll get WAY more of the experience because you’ll actually understand the significance of what’s going on. Unfortunately after those three, I was exhausted and sick so I ended up resting at home so I could catch my flight to Paris the next morning at 3AM.

Magic Fountain in Barcelona

I finally arrived in Paris on Aug 30th which unfortunately was a Sunday so all the shops were closed and after three weeks, I was desperate to restock on food and toiletries and to do laundry. I booked Airbnb for temporary accommodation and my host was absolutely lovely. The following day, I started my intensive french seminar which was to take place over the next two weeks for 3 hours a day. Having studied french from  grade 7 to 12 and then subsequently forgetting all of it in Australia, it was definitely a nice reminder. It feels really satisfying to converse in French and actually catch what they’re saying but even better when they reply to my attempt at the language (I say it like I understand what’s going on all the time but really it’s like 30%). Nevertheless, one of the reasons I chose France was to improve my French and it’s really nice to find that I can check in to hotels, submit paperwork for accommodation, order at restaurants, complain about plumbing in French now.

So in a nutshell, of Paris as a city:

Cons: expensive $$$, bureaucracy, miss Asian food, plumbing is old

Pros: ALWAYS something to do – I’ve barely began to crack the surface of this city, absolutely rich in history, excellent pastries (for a country that has a wonky admin system, they sure know how to bake) , shopping here is 10/10, metro system deserves 11/10 and of course, the city itself is stunning

In terms of the actual experience.

Admittedly, was homesick when I first came. Latch that on to being physically sick (since Mykonos) and you’ve got one bummed out girl here. Starting out is always difficult but definitely enjoying myself now!

Everyone I’ve met here has been really lovely and the exchange club here always has something planned – if not, the city will. Highlights:

  1. Joined a running club – I grew to love Sydney by foot and plan to do the same with Paris.
  2. Exploring Paris – Notre Dame after orientation with snacks and drinks by the Seine; Le Marais between class, Champs-Elysee after class, Pantheon on La Journee du Patrimoine, sitting in a park and trying out French pastries with friends and in general, trying my best to find hidden gems here
  3. Discovering France and Europe – this week I’ve gone to Giverny (for Claude Monet’s house and garden), Versailles, went to Bayeux (WWII tour and Mont Saint Michel)  for the weekend. As a side note, probably one of the most fulfilling trips I’ve done. I’m actually heading off to Belgium this weekend and have London and Amsterdam lined up for the next two. It’s so easy to travel in Europe so definitely take advantage while you’re here. I’m excited to see where the next four months will take me.
Claude Monet’s Crib
Versailles with the roomie (who’s also from UTS!)

Now the actual helpful stuff which I forgot about:

  • University: University of Paris Dauphine
    • Tip: tons of paperwork, be patient and check your email often
  • Courses: save your electives (I’ve ended up doing two English courses – Game Theory and Company Culture and three French – summer intensive french course, general language course, and a thematic course), do the intensive french course – you’ll meet a lot of people and feel more settled once uni rolls around, you MUST pre-register for classes and attend the first day to be enrolled. Pre-register for ANY class you think you might want to do.
  • Credit Points: Dauphine multiples exchange students ECTs by 1.5x. Usually, each class is worth 4 ECTs but for us, its 6ECT meaning to fulfill the 30ECTs, we only do five. The summer french seminar counts for 6ECTs meaning we end up going four during the semester.
  • Accommodation: applied through CROUS and was accepted. Others have done home stays or privately rented
  • Money: Citibank, wouldn’t recommend actually opening up one here – takes too long and Citibank works fine. Also save as much as you can
  • Food/Grocery: Carrefour, Franprix, Marks and Spencers, heaps around
  • Bedding, cooking utensils, etc: Conforma, Monoprix, Auchan, Hema (pick up some stroopwaffles while you are here)
  • Electronics: Darty, FNAC
  • Transport: Navigo/Decouvert (70 euro per month) but pretty much lets you go anywhere
  • SIM Card: (20 euro per month) – unlimited calls and texts in France, free calls to landlines overseas and 3GB of data for 3G users, 20GB for 4G users, cancellable at any time
  • Most importantly, food places to hit up
    • Macaroons: Pierre Hermes
    • Hot Chocolate: Angelinas
    • Fallafel: L’As Du Fallafel
    • Chips: Paprika Pringles

Do exchange, you’ll love it

Megan Hue Phuong Nguyen (11656459)

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