Aside from deciding to study abroad in the first place, one of the best decisions I have made was choosing to travel early before the program started. I was lucky enough to click with someone in my program right away during our pre-departure meetings. After talking about it we decided that Paris was always somewhere we had wanted to visit and starting planning our first trip abroad, alone. It was an extremely daunting thought, we have never been abroad before or flown internationally, we only speak English and honestly don’t know much about France. Despite these fears, I would consider myself independent and confident in taking care of myself. I am not naive, I know the dangers of traveling especially to a foreign country but, I really felt like I could handle it.
I am blessed to have parents who knew I could handle it. I am so thankful to have two people who believe in me and allow me to grow independently but most importantly, parents who trust me. You will never learn how to become an independent adult if you do not take on independent adult responsibilities – this was another chance to practice.
Oddly enough, traveling before the program started brought a sort of ease to the chaos that was preparing to study in Rome for six weeks. We were able to get used to the jet lag of a six hour time difference instead of arriving a day before our classes began. We became familiar with the differences between the United States and Europe – even the little things that you would never think about. Do you seat yourself at restaurants? How much do you tip? What do we wear to fit in? Is there anything we usually do that is considered “rude” here? All of these things we slowly figured out which prepared us for our upcoming short residency in Rome.
You might think traveling to Paris before an already quite expensive program would break the bank, but we definitely did it on a student budget. I found an adorable little Airbnb apartment in the perfect location for only $100 each in total for 3 nights. It was tiny but it was all we needed since we spent all day out exploring, we just needed a safe place to sleep. It was right off of the iconic shopping street, Champs-Elysees where the Arc de Triomphe stands. This was fantastic for us because not only was it in a safe area, it was right near the metro station as well as the bus stops with routes to the airport. Keeping all of these things in mind while searching for a place to stay was crucial. I did so much research before we left on the best ways to get from the airport into the city center, where to buy bus tickets and how to use the metro system so that when we arrived we wouldn’t feel lost and overwhelmed. I had maps printed and highlighted, our flight itinerary and all of our Airbnb information at hand in my purse I started to feel like my mom. It seemed like a lot of work, but being smart and prepared keeps you safe.
We kept in budget by sightseeing and doing things that were of no cost. Visiting monuments but saved money by not paying to go in and take a tour, eating meals at small markets or bakeries instead of fancy restaurants etc. which kept the trip affordable. There was so much filled into our three days we just felt like we did it right! It felt so empowering to accomplish something so big alone and made me feel so independent and confident for my upcoming travels. Below are some of our adventures! You can follow my Instagram for more updates at siennamohl. Up next, Roma!!