Getting to France was a process to say the least. Currently, France is requiring a negative COVID test taken 24-48 hours before departure. I tried to be prepared, so I booked a rapid antigen test for around 24 hours before my flight; what I didn’t expect was a snowstorm would hit my hometown and prevent the staff from being able to make it to the testing facility. While I was able to reschedule the test, the results wouldn’t make it on time. All of this meant my family had to pay for the rapid COVID test that the Newark Airport offers. Luckily the facility expects people to be in my situation and made sure that my results came in an hour. With the negative result in hand, I was good to go!
Now that I had proof that I did not have COVID, I gathered up my stuff and headed off to check in for my flight. Another small snag in my arrival: my checked bag was a pound overweight. Thankfully that was an easy fix; I removed a pair of shoes and got my bag to be under the weight limit. From there, checking in was easy and I made my way through security and got to my gate. I grabbed a few snacks (chips, candy, and one of my favorite sodas that isn’t available in Paris) in case I didn’t care for the airplane’s provided meal.
The flight went smoothly, though all my attempts to sleep on the plane failed. Once we touched down at the airport, going through the process to head enter the city went pretty quickly since the airport was pretty empty. Another IES Abroad student and I had been in contact prior to leaving, and since we were on the same flight (and going to the same aparthotel), we shared a cab to our new residence. After finally arriving in my room, I unpacked a little bit, but was ready to just relax. I managed to figure out which streaming service my current show is on (all the streaming service content in France is slightly different than it was in the U.S.), and after watching a few episodes I headed off for lunch in town. There’s a grocery store just a few blocks from our building, so I grabbed a few essentials and a crepe from the stand outside the Monoprix. After struggling to properly pronounce the cheese name in French, the person making my crepe corrected my pronunciation and then talked about how, in his opinion, the French try and meet others halfway when it comes to the language barrier. He was a fantastic first French person to meet!
After a quick meet up with IES Abroad staff members in the evening, a group of IES Abroad students decided to go off and explore a bit. We headed to the Eiffel Tower and stood out in the rain for at least 15 minutes so we could see the sparkling lights. On our walk back, we spotted a restaurant and stopped there for dinner…mostly because it was one of the first places we saw and it had started to pour. Our waitress was amazing and helped us work on our French a little bit while we were ordering. Somehow, we got roped into a singalong with our waitress and a patron on the other side of the patio. None of us knew the actual words to the song since it was in French, so our waitress did most of the actual singing and directed us on what notes to hold (essentially, we served as her backup choir). Most of us had arrived that morning and were getting tired so we headed back to the aparthotel. I finished unpacking and called it on my first day in Paris.
Orientation sessions began the next morning; IES Abroad staff gave us a rundown of what we’ll need to know for our time here in Paris. In the afternoon, a bunch of other students and I went off to see our neighborhood. Tons of the shops in the area are having sales, so we decided to go to the mall near our building and shop around. The second phase of orientation was a cruise on the Seine. While it was disappointing we couldn’t all meet in person for our orientation sessions, getting to have half of the program all together on a boat was a good replacement. We got to see a lot of the must-see spots including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre just to name a few. Those are all spots I’m determined to see up close, but the cruise offered a nice little preview of what was to come. Now it’s time to get ready for language intensive and content classes!
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<p>Bonjour! My name is Julianna Caskie (she/her) and I am from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I’m a junior at Lehigh University studying political science with minors in both architecture studio as well as women, gender, and sexuality studies (strange combo, I know). In my free time I love to read, travel, dance, and compete in Mock Trial tournaments with my team. I can’t wait to share my journey in Paris with you!</p>