Guide of a Swiss girl in Paris: Preparing for The Move
A little over a month ago, I hopped on a train and began what I already knew would be one of the most unforgettable experiences of my young adult life - actually, what is probably an unforgettable experience for anyone who decides to embark on it: a semester abroad. My destination of choice: Paris. Partly for the courses offered here, but let's be honest, mostly for my unexplainable attraction for this city, which I had been to a few times already and had a fascination for. All the history and culture hidden around every corner, in every little street and behind every door of the great Haussmann buildings appeal to me, like thousands of little secrets to unveil as you discover the city. It's safe to say I was very excited for this and had been looking forward to it for a long time - although there was definitely some anxiety mixed up in there. I had never lived outside of Switzerland - actually, I had never lived outside of my small countryside village, and I had also never lived alone. So as I write about my experience in the City of Lights, I hope someday it can be useful to someone preparing for a similar journey!
My semester abroad took a lot of preparation. I started getting informed on exchange agreements and possibilities in my university over a year ahead. Applying for an exchange entails big piles of paperwork and long hours searching in every corner of other colleges' websites. In addition to all the documents I had to provide the mobility section with, I also had to prepare a list of the courses I was thinking of taking, and which courses from my home university they would be replacing, as well as a cover letter specific to my destination, and a recommendation letter from a teacher. Since I was applying to four different places, this took a lot of time, so I would strongly recommend getting informed on this process as soon as you start thinking about going abroad.
Once I found out I was accepted, as excited and grateful as I was... there was more. Since I had applied a bit less than a year before I would actually be leaving, the classes I had chosen would not all be available when I actually moved. So, a few months later, I had to start this process all over again. This is really one of the most important components of a semester abroad, so make sure you look at all your options, think about how the courses would benefit you, and e-mail the teachers responsible for them, as well as mobility counselors, if you have any questions. Sorbonne IV were very helpful, the couselors answered all my questions promptly and clearly. Colleges are usually accustomed to welcoming foreign students and want to make sure they are comfortable and well informed.
Internship or job
Aside from my classes, I am also doing an internship here, so preparing for the move also included finding that position. There is a multitude of websites that will help you connect with potential employers. The one I used was Asfored - I just typed in the field I was interested in, and started sending out e-mails for all the offers which were related to my future career goals, making sure to check the location of each company beforehand, so as to ensure that it would be possible to go there every day. It's pretty hard to find an internship, so message as many employers as you can and make sure your presentation e-mail as well as your resume are written in a professional and engaging way.
Sorbonne IV offered possible accommodation in student residences, which I applied for. However, they warned me from the beginning that there had very few spots, so I was not counting on that (I later found out that I had been accepted for one, but had already found another place to stay). The student residences have the advantage of being cheap, and they probably make it easier to socialize with other students. However, none of them are very close to the university, which was definitely a disadvantage to me. So I started searching for a place, mostly on specialized websites and on Facebook groups. Not much came of it. On the websites, most people are looking to rent out their apartment for at least a year, and the Facebook groups are so crowded with people in similar situations that it's very difficult to get noticed. After a couple months of looking around and applying to places without any positive results, I turned to an agency called Paris Attitude. I have to admit this was sort of a last resort for me, because agencies charge extra fees to find your accommodation, and these fees are very high in a city like Paris. But it was a way to ensure I would have a place to stay, and the fact that it goes through an agency adds some safety (they have to check out the apartments they put up for rent and make sure they are suitable and fit the description given). In the end, I am very happy with my apartment: it is walking distance from the university, in a very safe neighborhood surrounded by shops and services. It is one of the smallest ones I encountered while searching, but it's enough space for me, and I am glad I managed to find a place of my own (I was avoiding places with roommates because I didn't want to have to deal with a potential bad match or situation). I was expecting a pretty high rent in order to be able to live so close to the Sorbonne, and if I were to stay here for longer I would have looked for a cheaper place further from the center, but for a few months it's exactly what I needed!
More posts will follow with my experiences moving and living here. In the meantime, if you want to see more photos from my time here, you can check out my Instagram. If you want any other info or have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me through the contact page, and if you enjoyed this post, please click the little heart at the top of the article - you can also share it on Facebook, Tumblr or Pinterest from there!