Starting Over, But in Paris

Julianna Caskie
February 14, 2022

Studying abroad can feel a lot like starting college all over again—you’re in a brand-new place with all new people and, for me at least, you’re the farthest away from home you’ve ever been. Now, for some people that’s a thrilling experience, but if you’re a little more introverted (like me), it’s hard feeling like you’re back at day one. It can be hard to make connections when studying abroad, especially since you know that when the four months are over, you’ll go your separate ways. I’ve found it’s a fine line to walk between immersing yourself in a new place and staying connected to your friends and family back home.

Almost everyone here is busy looking for new people to meet and after the first few days it can be tricky to find other students who haven’t fallen in with a group yet. Personally, I’ve found you just have to keep looking and reaching out (which has been a difficult and unusual experience for me). My building here in Paris has a groupchat and frequently students are letting others know about things they are going out to do and I’ve tried to throw myself into as many of these experiences as possible, even when that is something I ordinarily wouldn’t do. Because of this I’ve already been able to visit the Louvre and dine at a handful of restaurants.

This past weekend, I celebrated my twenty-first birthday, and I had a few things I had hoped I would be able to do on Friday. What I hadn’t expected was that, since we are now several weeks into our program, people would be ready to explore outside of Paris. Most of my friends were planning to be out of town Friday which meant it was up to me to cross some things off my bucket list. That’s another thing I’ve found myself doing more of here in Paris, being comfortable doing things solo (safely, of course!). I ended up spending the day shopping and visiting the Palais Garnier (the opera house that inspired the Phantom of the Opera). I always make sure I’m on the metro by sunset so that I won’t be walking in an unfamiliar place after dark. I was starting to prepare for dinner, but then, by a stroke of luck, another IES Abroad student reached out to me, and we went off to dinner together. That’s the thing with a big program like BIA, while it may not always seem like it, someone is almost always around and has a bit of free time!

So, while I’ve been trying to make new friends here in Paris, I also have been working to make sure I don’t lose the connections I had with friends back home. One of my closest friends from my university back home is also studying abroad this semester and is only an hour plane ride away. She’s been in her city for a bit longer than I’ve been in Paris, so she and another girl from her program decided to visit Paris for the weekend. I loved getting to show them the sights and I was even able to check Disneyland Paris off my France to-do list. The three of us managed to navigate the Parisian train with no problem and rode it for about 45 minutes before we hit Disney. So far, all the things I’ve gotten to visit on my bucket list have been so exciting, but that’s a post for another day.

Most people on the IES Abroad BIA program have single rooms as a covid precaution which I think makes it a little more difficult to meet other people. Normally, I would go to the grocery store with my roommate, and we would do our shopping together, but here it’s just me, so I’ve ended up making those trips solo. The few people who do have roommates knew each other prior to their arrival in Paris. There are definitely somedays I wish my friends and I had chosen the same city (or even country) so that I would have a built-in friend for weekends, and even just day-to-day activities. A lot of times I do feel out of my comfort zone, but to some degree, that’s what studying abroad is all about. I’m learning a lot about myself and doing new things: being more extroverted, dining alone, and navigating public transportation to name a few.

Every day can seem a little different here: sometimes a lot of people are free, and you can have a big group outing, but sometimes it’s up to you to make fun for yourself. There have been chill days where I just walk around the city, and also days where I’ve Facetimed with my roommate (who’s in the United States) and got caught up on the newest episodes of Law & Order. Meeting new people and finding new friends has never been the easiest thing for me but studying abroad is forcing me to do things I normally wouldn’t—just like I had to do freshman year. So, while it feels a lot like starting over, there’s a lot of fun things to do and see; even if you have to go by yourself, you can’t let yourself miss out on all the opportunities around you.

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Julianna Caskie

<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>

2022 Spring
Home University:
Lehigh University
Bethlehem, PA
Political Science
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