What It's Like to Travel to France During COVID-19

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IES Abroad
September 11, 2021

It's pretty hard to contain my excitement about all of the wonderful students we have studying abroad this fall. It's been so great to work towards making sure that your academic experience while you're abroad is one that will enrich your life both inside and outside the classroom for years to come. 

When I was an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in both Aix-en-Provence and Paris before completing my Bachelors degree in French from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I also pursued a Maîtrise es lettres modernes at the University of Grenoble, specializing in Francophone Literature and the works of Calixthe Beyala. To say that I hold France in high esteem would be an understatement—it has shaped so much of my personal and professional life in the years since that very first study abroad experience. 

I still remember that anticipation I had prior to studying abroad, and I know that international travel looks and feels very different during a global pandemic. I'm sure that many of our students are curious about what life will actually be like on the ground once they go abroad, considering all of the changes that have happened over the last year and a half. Luckily, we had some wonderful student Correspondents sharing their experiences studying abroad in London and Barcelona during COVID-19 this summer, and I wanted to add to that list of resources by talking about my recent trip to France. Below are a few of my observations about traveling, sightseeing, and the overall atmosphere in France these days.


a student holding their passport and boarding pass

Flying there and back

Preparing for international travel felt very daunting at first, but the airlines did an excellent job of outlining exactly what documents would be required and providing links to forms or information that I needed for my trip. Once in flight, all felt fairly normal. While we were required to wear masks in the airport and throughout the flights, there were several opportunities to remove them for eating or drinking. 

We had to get PCR tests for our flight home, and it was fairly straightforward to do so. Complete information was available online and after calling several labs we found one where appointments were not required.  We were able to get our tests without any issues and then accessed our results online.  The airlines accepted both print and digital copies of the results, so this made it fairly easy to show at the airport as well. 

(P.S. If you are considering study abroad this spring, apply for your passport now—processing times are at an unprecedented high!)

Navigating the mask policy while sightseeing

We were in France just as the country was loosening its restrictions. We spent most of our time outdoors in cafés or restaurants, but the few times we did visit places indoors we made reservations in advance. The number of visitors allowed indoors was limited and mask requirements were strictly enforced. 

The French tend to be a bit rebellious by nature, and yet I found that the indoor mask requirement was followed by everyone. Some open-air markets had mask requirements and there, too, it was strictly enforced. 

Enjoying the French joie de vivre

Enjoying the French joie de vivre

Since so much of French life happens outside in the warmer months, we didn’t notice many differences being in France during this phase of the pandemic.  What we did see is how happy the French were to go about their normal routines again, and most of the tourists that we encountered were French.

It was wonderful to be able to experience this sense of hope and joy abroad.

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