Preparing for Paris
posted by Erin Jacobsen
When thinking about where to spend a semester abroad as a fashion student, my mind immediately shot to Paris. Growing up I always related Paris with fashion, fragrance, and of course croissants, crepes, and all other sweet treats. I was eager to learn about the Parisian lifestyle and hopefully learn to speak French as well. Getting ready to leave for France, or any other country, takes a lot of planning, determination and time. So here are three vital steps to make the preparation process a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
Step One: Housing
Luckily my friend Kiana, another LIM student, was going to attend the Paris School of Business the same semester. We decided to arrive in Paris a couple of weeks prior to classes starting. We flew to Paris together so we could start our journey together. We booked an apartment in Paris through Airbnb that was close to school and public transportation. I recommend finding housing as soon as possible because it can be tricky and financially challenging to find an apartment that is available for only five months.
Step Two: Passport
To do this, you have to go to the post office, wait in line and pay a fee to finally receive your passport. Don’t forget to smile when they take your picture, otherwise it’ll look like a mugshot. It’s important to get an early start on this step because you’ll receive your passport about a month later.
Step Three: French Visa
Once you’ve received your passport, it’s time to make an appointment with the French Consulate to obtain your French Visa. This appointment has to be 90 days before you leave, but it takes three weeks to process so the timing is critical. If you're lucky and live in New York City you will be close to one of the eleven French consulates in the United States. Finding an appointment time can be tricky because they only release new dates on Monday and appointments run out quickly as living in France is in high demand. Before your appointment you must have all the required paperwork ready to go and approved. Gathering all of the paperwork can be stressful, but you will have plenty of time to get all of it ready by the time you get a Visa appointment.
Preparing to leave for France means leaving your everyday life and getting ready to live in a foreign, yet lovely city called Paris. As an LIM student living in Manhattan, already far away from my hometown of Chicago, leaving my life in NYC for a semester did not seem so bad. I had spent the previous year interning and working full time and I was ready to take a break. Before school ended I made sure to meet with my academic advisor to plan out the classes that I would take at The Paris School of Business and make sure that the credits would be transferable. I spent all summer working to financially prepare for traveling, shopping, and eating in Paris and the rest of Europe. Before leaving NYC I made sure to spend plenty of time with my friends and family and to do some American things like eating peanut butter, running in Central Park, and dining at a few of my favorite restaurants. Throughout the summer I also spent time trying to learn some French basics and researching and planning out what I would like to do and see in Paris and in Europe. This helped me plan financially for my travels and it helped me realize how much I could actually see and do in my semester abroad.
About a week before my departure I began to pack. With one checked bag, a roll aboard, and a backpack I had to strategically pack all the essentials. Be sure to bring a jacket and walking shoes because Paris gets cold and is best explored by wandering the streets. Also, pack one or more converters for your electronics, you can also buy them in Europe but they are harder to find. Make sure to pack light, airlines charge extra for more than one checked bag and overweight bags hike up the price. Paris has the same shops like Zara, H&M and even better vintage clothing stores than New York so you won't have any trouble finding something to wear here. When the departure day comes you'll be anxious, nervous, and a little sad to leave your friends and family, but just remember you’ll only be gone for a few short months. They will be the best and most adventurous months of your life.