Packing, TAPIF Edition

How to pack for TAPIF, or 7 months abroad.

Everything I'm bringing to France.

Everything I’m bringing to France.

How was packing this time around the block? Let me tell you, it was stressful, but I feel pretty proud of what I ended up with. I needed to be able to pack for 4 more months than I was abroad in Paris but I knew I needed to pack an entire 50-pound suitcase left after what I learned from studying abroad. I also knew I would be taking many more trips than I did when I was abroad. I didn’t travel very frequently when I was abroad because,

  1. A) Traveling is expensive. Living in Paris is crazy expensive. It’s just not possible to travel all the time when you’re spending so much money just living.
  2. B) I wasn’t interested in skipping class or blowing off a test. Even though study abroad is pass/fail, I respected my teachers and my education enough to opt out of traveling right before a test or big project was due. I wanted to make all As, even if it didn’t matter.
  3. C) I lived in Paris. When will I ever be able to afford to live in Paris again? There are infinitely many things to do in Paris, and as expensive as it is to live there, it’s even more expensive to just visit and have to pay for accommodation and meals out all the time. There were so many things to do and see in Paris that I didn’t want to leave the city every weekend and feel like I didn’t properly enjoy it while I lived there.

But, Le Mans will be different. I’ll have a little more money because I’m going with double the savings I had for abroad, and I’ll be getting a paycheck that will hopefully pay my living expenses and have some room left over assuming I can get housing subsidies etc. Le Mans will be infinitely less expensive than Paris so that will stretch everything farther. Also, I’ll have more time to plan weekend trips and long vacations because as a teacher I’ll have 6 weeks paid vacation. Life is pretty good.

So I want to be prepared for my travels with anything that makes my life easier and can be purchased on Amazon J These are some things I’m bringing other than clothes that I think are really important.

  • An external phone charger that holds 4 charges. This was around $20 on Amazon and I know it will make traveling much less stressful. When Bailey, Alex, and I traveled our phones were constantly dying which is inevitable when you’re taking tons of photos, using maps for directions, yelp for ideas, etc. This charger will take care of myself and the friends I’m traveling with, and even if I’m traveling solo, it will be nice to know that I don’t have to recharge the charger after one use if I don’t have the time or opportunity. $20
  • A packable towel: When you’re traveling around you’re going to be staying in airbnbs or hostels. Airbnbs very often have towels for you, but not always. And hostels always charge a fee to borrow a towel. Bringing a regular towel around with you is irritating both because it takes up a lot of space and also because it takes a while to dry and who wants to put a damp towel in their bag? The packable towel folds down into a tiny little square no bigger than a two pack of socks and it dries almost immediately after use so that you can pack it back up right away and check out. These are not expensive anyways so it’s worth it in my opinion. I got the Sunland Microfiber Compact Drying Travel Bath Towel (24inx48in) for $12
  • Padlock– The padlocks with the spin combination are my favorite because you don’t have to keep track of the extra key. For some reason they are so much more expensive in Europe. You’ll need one to lock your stuff up in hostels both for times you’re in a shared room and times you put your luggage in a luggage room before the check in time. $5
  • Packing cubes- So excited to bring these to France. I already used them on my trip to Chicago and my trip to Tennessee for my brother’s wedding. They are a lifesaver for me, but definitely not necessary for everyone. I just love them because they keep me organized and sane. They weigh almost nothing and they come in different brands, shapes, and sizes. You can get double-sided cubes with odor and waterproof sides to put bathing suits and or dirty clothes. Basically, the idea is that when you’re on the go, you don’t have to take everything out of your suitcase to find that one pair of socks you want. You just grab the cube with all your socks and voilà. This is also useful when you in a shared room in a hostel and you don’t want to unpack and go through your suitcase in front of everyone. You grab the cubes you need and go to the bathroom and change and no one has to see anything that you own. I’ll probably post more on this after I use them in Europe.IMG_6067

So, initially, my dad helped me shove everything I owned into my packing cubes and then we vacuum-sealed everything into space bags before getting in the car to drive from Mississippi to Georgia where I will be staying with my brother and new sister-in-law for a few days in Atlanta before taking my flight from ATL to CDG. As I was taking my turn driving while my dad was sleeping I started to realize that the way I packed was all wrong. Everything was just shoved into a space bag with no rhyme or reason other than simply trying to get everything to fit.

I knew that upon my arrival in France I will be spending 3 days in Paris with Alex, then going on to Le Mans where I’ll be staying in a private room that my contacts reserved for me for my first week there while I look for housing, and then before that week is even up I’ll be going to London for the weekend. Between getting to France and getting back from London, I’ll need access to a lot of the things that are vacuumed in my suitcase and I can’t very well open those things up and get them shut again. Since I don’t have a place to live yet, I don’t have the ability to just unpack when I arrive. I’ll need to live out of a suitcase for my first week or two, so I had to eliminate and re-organize my suitcases so that my smaller carry on would contain everything I need for the first couple weeks organized in packing cubes perfectly for accessibility and my sanity, and then my large checked bag needed to be the one with the space bags but still more organized than before. (Side tip– I put a dryer sheet in every cube so that my clothes will smell fresh even though they’ve been in a suitcase for an undetermined about of time.) 

This is the suitcase I'll be living out of while I look for a place to live.

This is the suitcase I’ll be living out of while I look for a place to live.

It took ages to narrow everything down but it was necessary because I was determined to only take with me 1 large 50lb checked suitcase, 1 small carry on suitcase, and 1 medium sized duffel bag (specifically the weekender Vera Bradley bag, which I really recommend because it has a lot of great pockets and a trolley sleeve so you can slide it over the handle of your suitcase which is extremely nice). I spent an entire afternoon figuring this out and this is the system that worked for me.

  • I put everything I wanted to bring in piles organized by type. Pants, skirts, sweaters, etc.
  • Then I counted and wrote down how many of each item there was and if one pile seemed to have more sweaters than necessary, I tried every sweater back on to make sure I totally loved it and liked it. As silly as it sounds to try stuff on again, doing so with the knowledge that you have to cut something out really helps, at least it did for me.
  • I went back and forth with every pile, trying to make sure I could justify everything I had and eventually I had a pile a foot high and a foot wide of clothes I wasn’t going to bring after all.

 

This is what I came up with,

7 plain t shirts/v necks

One gold sweater shirt

One casual cute shirt

One dressy shirt

3 sports bras

4 work out tops

6 dresses

2 work out capris

1 yoga pant

2 jeans

1 pair of light cloth pants

6 skirts

1 light leatherette jacket

1 light vest

6 normal weight scarves

3 thin scarves

10 heavy sweaters

4 cardigans (2 black, 1 navy, 1 grey)

2 long sleeve light shirts

1 sweatshirt

19 pairs of normal socks

All my undergarments because you can never have enough.

So obviously, this is not a formula! Everyone is going to need different amounts of different clothes because everyone has their own style. Additionally, depending on the weather the amount of sweaters and scarves will obviously changing accordingly. Not only did I have to pack clothes, but I had to pack the things I knew were important to me—150 tampax pearl tampons, a razor with extra blades (I feel like those will be really expensive in France), bath and body works lotion, etc. Something I learned from Dana was that at the end of the day, only you can decide what’s the most important to you. For instance, de-tangling hair cream–they don’t have this in France. I spent my entire 3.5 months searching when I was abroad! So you can bet I’m making room for two bottles of that.

From that point on, I packed up all my winter clothes that I knew I wouldn’t need my first week in Le Mans. I definitely recommend putting sweaters and scarves in a space bag. They are so bulky and take up so much room otherwise that it’s worth it to suck out the air and it increases your space by double. Then I put other less immediately necessary things in the checked bag like my exercise clothes, dresses, other pairs of shoes etc.

After that, my carry-on suitcase was clear to hold all my regular tops and skirts, hairbrushes and just generally things I would need in the next few weeks. I definitely recommend trying to keep everything you need (other than your liquids which I have to be checked no matter what, obviously) for the beginning of your trip in the one carry on in the most organized manner possible if you’re doing TAPIF and you don’t yet have housing before going to France (which is more common than not). You don’t know how long it’s going to take to find a place and it would be annoying to have to constantly be looking between two different bags for the things you just need to start out with that first week or two.

I feel so much better now, knowing that my bags will be manageable on the Paris metro and then on the train from Paris to Le Mans, and knowing that for my trip to Paris, Le Mans, and London my first week abroad, everything I need is in its proper packing cube in the one carry on-suitcase. I leave for Paris tomorrow and I don’t really believe that it’s happening, but I’m happy that the worst of the pre-departure preparations are over. I have my visa, and I’m packed. My next few days will be pure fun with my best friend in Paris before I have to get down to business finding housing in Le Mans.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I got so much packing and packing gear and traveling advice from Sonia’s Travels. She makes awesome youtube videos I’ve been watching to prepare for my trip.

The Saga of the Visa/Weekend in Chicago

“The best things in life never come easy”, isn’t that what people say? Perhaps that is how I can justify the ridiculously stressful situation that trying to get my visa for France. Something I have read time and time again on the countless TAPIF blogs I kept/keep up with is that the French bureaucracy is above all slow. I already mentioned here my concerns with getting my contract before I had to move to Mississippi. As a Missouri resident, I have to travel to the Chicago consulate no matter what, and that would be expensive to do from Mississippi where I would have to drive 2 hours to an airport and then fly to Chicago from either Jackson or New Orleans. From my home in Columbia, MO, it’s just an easy 6 and a half hour drive.

A little has changed since I last wrote– a friend that works at the admissions office, Connie, offered to let me stay in her daughter’s old room in her house in Columbia as long as I planned on staying in town. This was a huge relief because it pushed the time that I would be in Columbia with all my friends back from July 13 to August 10. And this meant I could push my visa appointment back to July 31 which seemed like a pretty safe bet, as August 5 was the day we were given as the day by which everyone should have their contracts. People from previous years in my académie and other académies had told me what their timeline was like and based of their experience, it would be pretty standard for mostly everyone in my académie to have received their contract by mid-July. So, I felt really good about my July 31 date. It was at the end of the month, giving me plenty of time for my parents to get the contract in the mail and then mail it to me, and it was the week before I would leave so I would get some space between the two long road trips by myself.

Unfortunately, something I learned this summer was that every year is different trying to assume when I would get my contract based on a previous year’s timeline is silly. This year, something happened in my académie that pushed back the date that some of us would get our contracts. It seems to be completely random because some of us got ours and some didn’t but the moral of the story is on July 29 I didn’t have my contract and I had to decide if I was still going to make the trip to Chicago for my visa the following day without the most important part of the application. I checked the remaining dates available on the consulate’s website to potentially cancel and reschedule for a later date but to my dismay the only remaining appointments were September 5 and onwards. Since my flight is on the 16th, I would have to cancel my flight, rebook a later flight, cancel my airbnb with Alex in Paris, and a set off a string of other complications. This appointment was basically my Obi-Wan Kenobi.I decided to go in hopes for a miracle, and if not a miracle, I was at least going to get to see best friend Alex for the first time since graduating in Chicago and see my friend Michael for the first time in years. I already had the weekend off both my jobs so what the hell.

I sent off hail mary pleas to all my contacts in France again. The two ladies that work in Le Mans, Sarah and Marie, and Marine, the lady that works at the rectorat in Nantes. Sarah responded that she reached out to Marine and was waiting for her response.

Someone on the académie de Nantes Facebook group had Marine’s phone number. I hatched a plan. After driving all day from Columbia, MO to Chicago, IL on Friday I would stay up with Alex until 2am to call this Marine at 9am French time and beg for an electronic version of my work contract to bring to my appointment. I would keep my appointment regardless and beg them to accept the rest of my documents and let me mail them the contract when it arrived in lieu of making another in-person appointment.

July 30, Chicago 

8 hours of driving later, I picked up Alex from the Chicago O’Hare airport and we were off to mutual best friend Linnea’s parents’ house in a Chicago suburb. Upon our arrival we were met with warm greetings from some of the sweetest parents/people I have ever met, and we went out to one of their family’s favorite pizza joints– Silo.

Over dinner we discussed the visa saga and Linnea’s strong-willed father prepped me for my late night phone call. I would not take no for an answer. I would not hang up until I received my contract via email. I would tell the people at the consulate to push my application through. I would be tough.

July 31, 2am 

I called the number multiple time in different ways until the call finally went through. And it rang. And rang. It seemed to ring longer than any phone would. Alex and I started to fall asleep as the phone continued to ring. Finally, I was woken by a very French sounding, “Allo?”

I froze up. This was it! My one chance to convince this lady to send me the contract electronically if she even could. I got so nervous I threw the phone at Alex, waking her up. She impressed me by sitting up and responding to the lady and carrying out a conversation in French so fast my tired and nervous mind only understood about 30%. All I know is Alex pretended to be me and explained what I needed to the lady. The lady remembered seeing my emails (so why no response?!) and she agreed to send me the contract electronically within a few hours.

Success.

Alex went back to sleep and I laid awake refreshing my email over and over waiting for the contract. Not only was I incredibly anxious to have it for the visa appointment, but I was also still insanely curious about my placement. Yes, I know I’m in Le Mans, but I wanted to know where my schools will be. Am I going to have to commute? If so how far and how easy will it be? If most of my schools are in a smaller town outside of Le Mans, will I live there or Le Mans?

Finally, I received the email at 4:32am. I am placed in a school in Le Mans, a school in a town called Neuville that looks about 30 minutes away from Le Mans, and a school in Mamers, about an hour away from Le Mans. It’s a bummer that I’m going to have to commute to two different schools, and even after an initial sleep deprived research, I’m still not sure how I’ll get to the schools via public transport, but I’m sure there is a way and I know the schools have to compensate at least 50% of my commuting expenses. After attempting to google map the schools for some images, I have had no success in even finding one of them on the map. I know I need to just let it go and wait until I get to France to worry about it.

After getting about 1 hour of sleep, I wake up with Alex ready to go to the famous Walker Brother’s Pancakes with Linnea’s family (It was even mentioned on Mean Girls!). I ordered an apple cinnamon pancake that was even more amazing than it sounds. During breakfast we planned the second line of attack— how I would convince the consulate to accept my electronic copy of my arrêté, especially considering it lacks the official stamp which is specifically requested in the visa application. Marine had told me in the email she wasn’t sure how long it would take to get the stamped version for some reason. I sent many emails to Marine and TAPIF director, Natalie Cox during that breakfast.

After printing out about a million copies of the arrêté and the email correspondance to prove to the visa office that this is the best I can do and pretty please process my visa application, Alex and I were on a train for Chicago city center.

IMG_4810Upon arrival in Chicago I received a call from Natalie Cox about my situation. She couldn’t email the consulate or me because every French consulate email in the world was down (?!) but she would call them for me to let them know what was going on. I felt so relieved that she was so helpful when it really counted.

From that point on, the weekend was great. Alex and I met some other TAPIFers in the visa waiting room and we turned in our application. The kid that accepted my stuff didn’t even glance at it and when I handed him the email correspondance to explain why there was no official stamp on my contract, he looked surprised and started to look back at my documents and I told him that I had word it should be fine and hopefully that all works out.

After our visa appointments

After our visa appointments

The rest of the day was Alex and mine to have fun and explore and profiter from the expensive rule that is being required to apply for your visa in person.

We had lunch at Yolk and had dinner at Giradano’s, both places we had loved last time we visited Chicago for our French visas. We met up with my good friend Michael to check out the Skydeck on the Willis Tower for the gorgeous Chicago views before we went out to dinner where we had hours of fantastic conversation.

The following day Alex had to head back to Dallas and I spent the day in Chicago hanging out with Michael. We explored, we went shopping, we went to the Art Institute of Chicago where I saw amazing impressionism, and we had dinner at one of the cutest Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to. After dinner we were off to see a play called Bad Jew that had been very well reviewed and I can see why. The actors were fantastic, the storyline was interesting, and the play was both hysterical and extremelyprofound. Two very interesting points of view were presented and debated with humor and the result was a play that was incredibly insightful and enjoyable.

Overall, it was a stressful but also fun weekend in Chicago. Now I just wait for my either my visa to arrive or my official contract to send to the visa office if they won’t process my application without it.

Je vais être une mancelle!

 

le mans1I finally have the news I’ve been waiting for! Or at least half of it. I still haven’t received my contract in the mail, but I did receive an email with my placement within the académie! I have been so impatient to find out where I will be because I am a big researcher/planner and it’s hard to do either of those when I only have a very general idea of where I’m going to be. Now, I know that I have been placed in one of the larger cities in the académie, Le Mans and better yet, I know that there is someone out there in France that will help me get settled.

The email saidWe are in charge of the foreign assistants in the primary schools in Le Mans and its area. Our job is to help you with all the logistic details so that your stay in Le Mans will be as comfortable as possible. We’ll help you as well with your work in the schools…If you have any question, send us a mail and we’ll try to answer asap…

As soon as you know when you arrive in Le Mans tell us the date and the time and we will try to pick you up at the train station. Le Mans is very well located : 50 min by train from Paris or 1h and a half from Roissy Charles De Gaulle. It is also direct from Nantes.

We will book you rooms at a local youth hostel where you will be able to stay for free, during the first five days of October (from Tuesday September 30th to Sunday October 5th).

During the first days, we will help you find a housing. The rent is usually about 350 or 400 euros a month but you will be entitled to special benefits which will reduce this rent to about 300 euros. Most owners ask for one or two months in advance as a deposit, so make sure to have enough money at the beginning. You won’t be paid before mid-November for the first time !

We are sure you will enjoy your stay in Le Mans. It’s a middle-sized town (150 000 inhabitants, about 200 000 with the suburb) and the climate is very temperate, it may be rainy but never very cold. So, you are expected on October, 1st.

le mans mapI feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I was worried  bout a few things. I didn’t need to be in a big city, but I wanted to be well connected by public transportation, preferably with an SNCF TGV train station, so traveling around France and Europe will be easy. I know I would still love a small town because I would be in France, but I’m a big-city kind of girl so I’m happy that Le Mans is a good size and has great transportation options—it’s on the main TGV line, it has at tramway inside the city, and, as the email states, it’s only 50 minutes from Paris! I looked it up, and it looks like with an SNCF Carte Jeune, (a youth card for the main train system in France) the TGV (high speed train) to Paris is only 15-20 euros which is not bad at all.

Another great thing about my placement is that Le Mans is absolutely beautiful. If you do a quick google image search for it, you won’t get anything but racecars because of the famous 24 hours of Le Mans race that the city is known for worldwide, but if you type “Le Mans France” you’ll see that that it is a beautiful ancient town on the Sarthe River.le mans4

What I think I’m most relieved about and most happy about with my placement, however, is not the proximity to my beloved Paris, nor is it beautiful architecture, but it is the people who sent me this email! Knowing that these people are here for me for questions I might have and knowing that they’re so ready to help out by picking me up from the train station and providing free housing for the first few days while they help me find a place to live is the biggest win in this placement. I feel really lucky that I don’t have to figure it all out totally alone, and I feel really welcomed into the Le Mans community!

So, that’s the big news for the day. I don’t know yet what schools I’ll be teaching, I’ll get that when I get my contract in the mail so I’m excited about that. I could be teaching in the suburbs and I could be in Le Mans proper, so until I know I’m not sure where I’ll live. But I’m happy with the info I have for now, because it makes me feel less stressed about everything.

Even though I was hoping for Angers, I’m really excited for Le Mans and I’m not disappointed at all. I love that I can make day trips to Paris whenever because it’s inexpensive and close, and I love that I’m equally close to Angers and Laval. The city looks beautiful, the school system is already welcoming, and I already found a good thai place to check out–yes that was one of the first things I looked for because I can’t live 7 months without thai food. That’s the news for now.

There are gorgeous pictures on their tourism website here.

le mans2

 

 

 

Summer TAPIF Preparations Part 1

So, it’s the beginning of June and I am trying to find myself things to do to prepare for France while I’m waiting for my l’arrêté de nomination. That translates to a notice of appointment, which is essentially my work contract. I’ll receive it in the mail and it will inform me of the specific city/town I’ll be living in and the the school(s) I’ll be teaching at. From what I’ve read, there isn’t a whole lot you can do before you get this, and even after you do, a lot of stuff will just have to be figured out upon your arrival in France.

After I get my arrêté, I’ll be able to plan a trip to Chicago to apply for my visa. This is going to be pretty complicated because my lease is over July 13th instead of July 31st like a normal lease. The arrêtés don’t usually come until mid-late July or even August, so chances I will get it while still in Missouri are pretty low. And that sucks, because as a Missouri resident, I have to get my visa in Chicago, even though I’ll be living in southern Mississippi with my parents. This means either an expensive flight I can’t book in advance or a really long road trip alone…If I get it before I move, I could make an easy 8 hour drive. I read that it’s possible to get it late June but I’m not very hopeful.

Anyways, so enough about that. What am I doing this summer to prepare? Here’s my list…

  • Buy a new carry-on suitcase (the one I have is falling apart)

I am so excited about my new suitcase! It’s a Travelpro Light so it’s only 6.6 pounds and it’s tiny and teal and I’m excited for it. I also have my packing cubes, 2 big suitcases (I think I only want to bring one checked bag though) and two duffel bags to fold up and put in my suitcase to bring along with me. So as far as luggage goes, I am all set and ready to go!

  • Get a million passport photos taken/copied
  • Order a new birth certificate
  • Call AT&T and ask if I can freeze my contract
  • Book a one-way plane ticket

I know all the TAPIF communications advise you to wait until you receive your arrêté to buy your plane ticket just to be sure there aren’t any delays with your visa and all that, but I took the risk and bought it now because I found a nonstop one way for a little over $700 through Air France. I just wanted to feel secure that I wasn’t going to pay $1,000 or more on a flight. I originally planned on flying Iceland Air (which is very inexpensive) so I could visit Iceland for a few days on my way to Paris, but, unfortunately, Iceland Air doesn’t have flights available from any of the airports near me. Hopefully I can do the Iceland stopover on my way back to the States. I did buy the trip insurance on my plane ticket so if for some reason there is a delay with my visa, I can cancel my flight and get my money back, so that makes me feel safe. I leave the states September 16 and arrive the following day in Paris! Officially counting down…

  • Apply for my visa at the French Consulate in Chicago
  • Buy a Kindle Voyage
  • Unlock my iPhone so it’s ready for a new French contract
  • Confirm living arrangements in Paris for my arrival
  • Reach my saving’s goal of $10,000

Nouveaux amis français!

Last night at TGIF I had such a great experience and I am so lucky all the timing worked out for me to have it! After I was cut and finished eating a burger after work, the host, Paige, came up to me to tell me that she just sat some French families at table 44 so I should say hi before I left. Obviously I am always up for the opportunity to practice my French with some native speakers, and I am so glad I did!

There were two families, one from Lille and one from a town around Geneva I don’t remember the name of. We talked at length in French about ourselves and I told them I was moving to France which they were excited about. They’re visiting the States for a relative in Colorado Springs and they were just passing through Columbia. They had some trouble reading the menu, so I made some recommendations and translated everything for them, explaining what everything was. They asked me what mac&cheese was and I talked it up so much that two of them ordered it as their side. I convinced one of them to order the All-American Stacked Burger because when in America, eat a giant bacon cheeseburger, am I right?

Their server let me do my thing until I left so I rang in all their food for them since I took their order. After that was put in, I went to say goodbye but we ended up chatting even more. They complimented my French, they told me I had all the vocabulary down to be conversational, and they loved that I knew about the very common, “Bon, bah…” phrase. I learned that from my beloved host dad, Francois, who said it all the time! I was so happy that I was able to understand and speak with them easily and they seemed relieved to have been able to communicate their preferences and order in French with someone. What are the odds?!

They were two older couples and they were just the sweetest. They were insistent on writing down their addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for me so I could get in touch with them and they said if I wanted to stay with them when visiting Lille or the alps, I was more than welcome! I was amazed by their generosity to a perfect stranger! The French are really wonderful people, and I’m sad they are often perceived by Americans as jerks!

I definitely want to visit Lille, and I’ll certainly be passing through at least so that will be an easy offer to take them up on. And I am really excited about the family that lives around Geneva. They said they live ON A MOUNTAIN in the alps so if I want to go skiing…?!?!?!??! I could not even believe my luck in meeting such kind people who were so happy to chat with me and offer to stay in touch.

I really have to thank the people of Friday’s right now for making me even more excited for France every day! Bad tippers make me excited to move to France and not have to serve anymore, but then really wonderful people like the kids I mentioned in the last post, and these two older couples make me so happy to have a job that allows me to interact with strangers that are kind and encouraging.

As a side note…yesterday I turned in my final papers for the semester making that 4 papers in a week! One was about Representations of African American Maternal Power in the awesome novel Mama Day, one was about marriage dissolution and maintenance, one was about Fitzgerald’s criticisms of the wealth-oriented American Dream, and one was in French about surrealist art and poetry and the relationship between the two. YAY!  This means I have officially finished all my work for my double major in my undergraduate career and I am so proud and happy. Graduation is this weekend! I have a Latin honors convocation for my Cum Laude and then I have my official graduation ceremony on Sunday. Yay!

Oh, the places you’ll go!

horizontalBanner:headerA week or two ago I was serving at TGIF and I got a 10-top at table 32. It was 10 kids probably between the ages of 7-12 and their parents were sitting on the other side of the restaurant so it was just us. After I grabbed them all their drinks, they asked me if I went to Mizzou. I told them, yes, actually I’m graduating this year! They asked me what I was going to do for my “grown up job” and when I told them I was moving to France to help teach the French kids English, they were amazed. It was adorable to watch them all get so excited for me, like they had never heard of something so cool.

And to be honest, if someone told me when I was 7 that after college they were moving to France I would probably think that was just about the coolest/craziest thing too. And, I’m not trying to brag about this, I just found their enthusiasm for me and what I’m doing so sweet, and so adorable. It definitely beats all the irritating, skeptical questions of “What are you going to do with an English/French major?” or the dubious tone used when asked “And what are you planning on doing with that?”  from adult customers that seem to think a degree in liberal arts is useless. Knowing I got into TAPIF means finally having an answer for all those skeptical people, and these kids made me feel even more excited for what’s next.

After they knew I was moving to France, that was it. The curiosity was piqued and the kids had a million and one adorable questions to ask me. “Does that mean you can speak French?!” they asked. When I replied in the affirmative they all looked at each other and squealed about how cool that was. From then on, every time I stopped by their table, they asked me to say something in French. They asked me to essentially serve them in French because they thought it was so cool. I went around the table asking all of their names and then I pronounced each name for them the way it would be pronounced in French. They got a kick out of that, and they started calling each other by their French names.

They asked me to go say something to their parent’s table in French, they told me I needed to learn how to French braid or else, they asked me if the food was good in France and when I told them French food is the best in the world, à mon avis, they got excited and told me their favorite was, of course, french fries. I didn’t  think I needed to pop their bubble that the land of french fries is Belgium, not France.

They asked me questions about college in general like, “So are you really smart?” and “Is college hard or fun?” and I told them I was expecting them all to become Missouri Tigers. M-I-Z!

At the end of the meal, one of the little girls, Grace, paid the bill for herself and her brother with money from their parents and I got a good tip. Yay! But then later she came up to me when I was typing in another table’s order and she said, really shyly, as she handed me two more dollars, “We…we…wanted to give you more tip.” Awwww! I don’t even care about the money, I just thought it was so sweet to see how shy and cute she was. The kids loved me, and I know kids are easily pleased, but it just made my night to have the opportunity to interact with these young people that are so curious and excited about everything.

Thinking about their shock and excitement about my news about graduating and moving to France really made me think about where we’ve come, all us graduates or soon-to-be graduates. No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, it’s cool to think of it from a 7-year-old perspective. When you’re that young, the idea of graduating college and moving to another city to start a “big-girl” or “big-boy” job is crazy, it’s exciting. Moving to another country for your first out-of-college job is something I would have thought so far-fetched and so cool at that age. Now, it feels like an incredible opportunity, but it also seems like a realistic result of all the hard work I’ve put in and all the decisions I’ve made.

When you graduate high school, maybe even sooner, usually you read or get the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go. And it’s a really cheesy but accurate book that gives you hope and excitement for everything you could do in your future. The mom of one of my best friends in high school, Victoria Raines, gave me that book when I graduated high school and when I read it I never pictured myself going as far as Europe. It’s exciting to see where you can go if you put in the effort and you follow your passions, as sappy as that all sounds. And it’s so important to be open-minded and not let anything hold you back from pursuing something that you want, even if it’s a non-traditional path. Sure, my job isn’t permanent, and it isn’t going to be perfect and magical, because nothing in life is. But it’s going to be an amazing experience and those kids will have their own someday.

I told them all to promise me to at least consider taking French in college and they promised they would. Who knows, maybe one of them will end up moving to France too! :)

What is something you have or will experience that you never would have guessed you’d do when you were a kid?

Pourquoi Nantes?

ILE DE NANTES OTNA / VINCENT SARAZINSomething a lot of people have asked me since I’ve applied and especially now that I’ve been accepted into my first choice region is, why Nantes? What is Nantes? Why not Paris/Lyon/Strasboug/Nice etc. etc. Are you nervous?

Why not a bigger/more popular city? Well, even if I chose Lyon (which is double the population), I would probably still be in a smaller town outside of Lyon, just like I’ll be in a smaller city outside of Nantes. I have various reasons for choosing this path and here are a few, Nantes is cheaper than Paris (obviously),Grenoble, Lyon, Strasbourg, Nice, etc. Since I know I’ll be paid the same at any of these places, I want more purchasing power with what I earn so I can stretch my income as much as possible. In addition to this, this time around I wanted to feel more immersed in true French culture. I want to go somewhere there are fewer anglophones and fewer tourists so I can’t slip easily into speaking English when my one of my primary goals is increasing my proficiency in French. I studied abroad in Paris, and that was an amazing experience. So in a way, I’ve already gotten the big-popular-French-city experience and I’m up for something smaller that will potentially be more immersive.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a true-French-culture experience to be had in any of those cities, because, of course, there is. I’m sure I would have still loved Lyon or Strasbourg or Nice and maybe if I do a second TAPIF year I’ll preference one of those. But this year Nantes is what I want.

Paris day trip: It’s important for me to remember that I’m in the Nantes region not the city itself. I won’t know what town specifically until later. So for now I’m thinking about things in a general way. So, Nantes is only a 2 hour train ride away from Paris which is nice because I know I’ll want to go back and visit my host family and my favorite spots and the 2 hours is easy enough to make a day trip. This could be different depending on how much farther west I could be in my region, or it could be closer.

The towns around Nantes: The CIEP website gives descriptions of the regions and on the description for Nantes they mention that there is always a bus or some mode of transport to get into the bigger cities of the region. This is wonderful because I would hate having difficulty with mobility since I do want to travel around France and Europe. Additionally, the site says that it is relatively easy to find inexpensive housing in the region which is definitely a plus. One of the biggest reasons I chose Nantes was because I have my fingers crossed that I will live in Angers. I know that is completely hit or miss and I have no control over it, but it’s a hope. One of my university French professors studied abroad there and said that the people in Angers are really sweet, friendly, affectionate, welcoming. I’ll bet this is true for other places in the region and obviously in France, but it’s nice to know that it’s a common aspect of Angers. Plus, Angers has a high youth population as it is a university town, and if I live in there I’m only 1.5 hours from Paris. There are 5 departments. 3 are inland which gives me more proximity to Paris/central/east France, and the other 2 border the Atlantic Ocean which sounds equally amazing. Living seaside could be pretty nice. Who knows where I’ll end up, but the important thing is that I’ll be in France and I can find the positive as long as there is a boulangerie-pâtisserie in town, so I think I’m good.

Pays de la Loire: Nantes is the capital of the Loire region, named for it’s geographic location on the beautiful Loire river. Let’s see if I fall in love with the Loire like I fell in love with the Seine. AND I’ll be close to the Loire Valley which makes some of the best wine white in France. Chenin Blanc, my favorite type of white wine, makes up the majority of production. Yes!

Weather: Being happy with the climate in my region is really important to me. I know I’ll love visiting all areas of France, but I’m happy that the region I’ll live in will have an oceanic climate. Nantes has a pretty mild climate with an average temperature of 53 degrees Fahrenheit which is pretty perfect. It will rain a lot, but Paris already got me used to that.

The beach: One of the longest beaches in Europe is the Plage de la Baule which is in the Nantes region. That beach could be as far as 2.5 hours away if I’m farther inland like Le Mans, but it could be an hour away from Angers or Nantes and closer the further west I get. I love the beach. I love swimming in the ocean, I love body surfing, I love reading on the sand and listening to the waves. Living in the dead center of the midwest in Missouri, United States, I am as landlocked as I could be. 2 hours may sound far but that’s extremely close compared to what I have now and I’m excited about making the trip.

Are you nervous about anything (related to your region?) Of course there are a few aspects that I’m nervous about. It’s a really big region so the possibilities for where I’ll be are vast and impossible to pinpoint. Another thing I’m nervous about is traveling outside of the country. Since I’m so far west, I’m closer to the UK but much, much farther from the rest of Europe. I’m still planning on visiting the places I want to see, but it just might be a longer and more expensive trip since I have to get across France first. The great news is that my best friend Alex will be in the Strasbourg region and we want to traphoto: nantes et l erdrevel together on vacations so I could travel to visit her in Strasbourg and then very easily go from there.

Ultimately, I’m excited about the Nantes region, I think it will be a great place to live and experience life in France and I’m excited to blog about my time for family, anyone out there who cares, and myself to read back later. :)

Le e-mail le plus beau de ma vie…Accepted into TAPIF!

Bonjour, mes amis!

I am over the moon overjoyed to share the best news of my life thus far…I was accepted into the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) today! I was given both of my preferences– I will be teaching primary school in my first choice region, Nantes! I cannot even explain how grateful and happy I am to have this amazing opportunity to move to France and live life à la française.

After 4 years of hard work, double majoring and working two jobs, I will finally be graduating! TAPIF is like a reward for all the late nights studying and working. I know I shouldn’t go in with really high expectations because no experience is perfect, but I’m excited and I’m feeling optimistic. TAPIF will allow me to do something I’ll love– teach little French kids English? Yes please! And I get to live in the amazing and beautiful country of France, in the Nantes region! And I get to travel around Europe to all the places I missed during my too-short time abroad in Paris. And I only work 12 hours a week! I’m planning on doing some private tutoring on the side and some lesson planning/preparation, but ultimately, I will be able to truly relax. No more staying up until 3am working on a research paper after a 4 hours shift with hours of classes the next day. I will be able to teach and read and explore France and Europe and I am so looking forward to this.

Oh, and I want to thank Dana for her amazingly informative and fascinating blog, as well as her sweet helpfulness with all my questions. You’re a wonderful person. I can tell. :)

Many more posts to come as I begin this journey!

Did you get into TAPIF for this year? If so where? Has anyone been to Nantes? Let me know in the comments.

TAPIF Acceptance Email   

Post-Submitted-Application Anxiety

Well, I’m in for a learning experience on patience effective immediately. I have to wait 3 months to find out if I get accepted into TAPIF and if I do, what level of school I’ll be teaching as well as what region I’ll be in. Then I’ll have to wait longer for my work contract and to know exactly where in the large region I’ll be living/teaching. All the TAPIF blogs say that French bureaucracy is above all things slow. So this waiting to know if I get to experience that bureaucracy first-hand is the first test of whether or not I can handle it!

I’m having all kinds of anxiety in these first weeks after submitting my application. I know that if I get accepted, I’ll go no matter what but I can’t help but let my overly-active mind run free and question every single part of my application. I worry mostly about my level preferences, I worry a little about one of my region choices preferences, I worry about getting accepted at all. And I know is that it is out of my hands. And I need to internalize that fact and stop stressing out. I think reading every TAPIF blog under the sun is helpful and gets me excited but I regret not thinking to find them BEFORE I submitted my application and I think reading them before I even know if I’m accepted and where I’m going is causing me to second-guess everything I’ve chosen based on everyone else’s opinions and experiences.

I adore reading TAPIF blogs because each one has something unique and interesting to say about their experiences in the classroom, in their region, in la vie à la française. And I will continue to read them, but I think I’m going to have to cool it on reading them as intensively as I have been until I know whether or not I’m even accepted to TAPIF.

At the end of the day, I could get in or I could not get in. I feel decently confident but I don’t want to underestimate the applicant pool because I know it gets more competitive each year. If I do get in, I know I’ll go no matter what because no matter where I am and no matter who I’m teaching, I would have the opportunity to live in France and teach and travel and most importantly speak my favorite language–French! I just have to remember that the details are going to make a difference on my experience but I can’t lose sight of the big picture which is absolutely amazing no matter what.

So you’re packing for 3-4 months abroad?

We’re at the time of year that ISA (International Studies Abroad) students are probably preparing or at least thinking about packing because the ISA Paris programs generally begin in early February (unless you opt to also be part of the intensive month in January). I have been keeping in touch with some girls that are going on the program to Paris with ISA this spring and one of them asked me for some packing tips. This reminded me of how terribly and horribly I packed for Paris so I decided to send her the longest and most detailed email ever so she would have all the keys to not make the mistakes that I made.

I spent a lot of time detailing every single bullet point because I realize that for over-packers such as myself, it’s really easy to read general packing advice about packing light and dismiss it with really good justifications for just why I need to bring 5 outerwear options instead of just 2. I didn’t want to leave room for those kinds of justifications I knew I made myself when I stuffed my third “light jacket” option into my suitcase.

My packing advice might not work for everyone and it definitely isn’t a brief, short and simple list…but I know that right now I ruthlessly read mass amounts of TAPIF blogs all detailing in varying lengths the same tips and struggles and I always appreciate a thorough explanation. What can I say, I’m really into research. I love those people who write really long reviews on Amazon.

So, I decided to post my packing advice here for anyone who might be packing for a semester abroad to see. A lot of this list is very specific to Paris. Paris is a very different place and so some suggestions will not apply to other countries or even other cities in France. These are tips and tricks very personal to my experience and observations after my study abroad experience in Paris for the spring of 2014 but I do think some of these tips can be generally applicable.

This list is most relevant to the over-packer going to study abroad in Paris.

This was what I brought. More suitcases than I have hands. DO NOT DO THIS.

This was what I brought. More suitcases than I have hands. DO NOT DO THIS.

Packing:

Three very good reasons to not overpack:

Transporting your luggage

I made the ridiculously absurd mistake of packing two large suitcases, one small suitcase and a backpack. DO NOT DO THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I almost had to pay 40 or 50 euros because of this mistake. I will explain. I checked the two large suitcases which was extremely expensive (with American Airlines, you do get one checked bag for free on international flights as long as it is not overweight. I had to pay $100 for the additional bag even though it was not overweight). The other problem was that it meant I had more suitcases then I had hands. This was no problem on my way to France because I had a friend help me bring my suitcases into the airport until I got them checked and I took the ISA shuttle to my home-stay which allowed room for the suitcase.But on my way back to the states, I was in a dilemma…

They do not arrange shuttles for your return to America because everyone returns to different places at different times. What most people do, is take the metro to the airport. If you get the full month of metro on your Navigo (that’s a type of metro card for permanent residents), you get to go to all zones free on weekends (they will explain this in orientation), and the airport Charles de Galle is accessible via metro>RER. So, essentially, free transportation back to the airport with your metro pass..but there is no way to manage 3 suitcases and a backpack with only two hands so I had to find a friend to ride with me the entire way to the airport. DO NOT DO THIS. I felt really bad for my friend that woke up early to help me do this, and initially I was worried she might oversleep and I would have to call a taxi last minute to pick me up and get me to the airport on time. You do not want to be in this situation. I got really lucky that it still worked out, but just save yourself the stress and don’t pack any more than 2 suitcases.

Storing your stuff in a homestay 

You should also be aware that there is no guarantee that you’ll have tons of space to unpack in your host stay if you do the home stay option. if you’re in an apartment, obviously you’re fine, and even with my ridiculous amount of clothes, I was fine, but only because my host family had a lot of drawers in my room. One of my friends had very little space to put her clothes. Only like 3 drawers I think, which is a little crazy.

You just don’t need it! 

I thought I was going to need tons of different options for tons of different types of days and different types of weather. Here’s the truth…

  • I recommend dark and neutral clothes. You will fit in more in Paris and not have to worry so much about being targeted as an American to pickpocket. I brought lots of bright colors. I still wore them because I liked them and wanted to and my blonde hair gave me away anyways…but I found myself going to H&M and buying some black clothes just because I wanted to fit in more.
  • Bring cardigans. I don’t know why but I packed way too much and left all my cardigans at home. They are really useful for making outfits look new and they are also perfect for the weather of lots of Paris days in the last month you’ll be there, we were always walking outside in cardigans. 
  • Bring tights. If you plan to wear skirts and dresses, that’s great because you will fit right in. But always wear tights. The French do not have bare legs. Ever. You can do it if you want… but just like wearing shorts…it’s just not a good idea if you want to fit in. (I never saw any French people wearing shorts. Ever. Even in nice weather.) Tights are cute anyways. And then your legs won’t be cold. And then you don’t have to shave your legs. Shaving your legs can be difficult depending on the way your shower is set up anyways. Haha. 
  • Bring comfortable boots. And leave your flats at home. Alex and I almost never wore anything at all other than boots. Flats are just a bad idea. I’m telling you. They will be uncomfortable and they will get really, really dirty walking around the metro and around the city streets. Since they don’t take up much space, you could bring like one pair, just for the option, but you might not use them much. I know I didn’t.  Shoes other than boots that are pretty decent are sperry’s. I brought two pairs of these and they were comfortable to walk in on the days that I didn’t want to wear my boots for one reason or another. I guess you can wear sneakers if you’re wearing pants. My friend Bailey did that all the time. Boots just went with every outfit. Oh, and if you want to look Parisian, they all wear black chelsea boots. I don’t know why… 
  • Bring real/nice clothes: Don’t wear exercise/lounge clothes in public unless you are actually working out. The French, especially the Parisians don’t leave the house without a semi-nice outfit. If you do decide to walk around Paris in sweats/baggy t-shirts, you may be a target for pick-pocketing because you will stand out as an American tourist. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll probably still get some weird looks. 
  • My most Parisian outfit. I wore it many times. And bought it all in Paris.

    My most Parisian outfit. I wore it many times. And bought it all in Paris.

    Bring outfits you can reuse a lot. I brought a lot of statement pants (like hot pink pants, yellow pants) andstatement blouses (also colorful or with a lot going on) and I really regretted it. Definitely bring a few pieces that you really like, but the way to keep yourself happy in Paris in the wardrobe department without breaking the budget of how much you can pack is by packing a lot of basics. Dark wash jeans. A black skirt. A black cardigan. A black comfortable dress. Plain short sleeved shirts. (not t-shirts that you would wear working out/to sleep!)  Then, you can wear different colored tights or cardigans or scarves with your plain shirts and skirts, and voila! You’ve worn the same skirt a million times and no one can tell! I lived with Alex and she brought very few different pieces but a lot of different pairs of tights, cardigans, and scarves and her outfits never looked the same. I got really sick of only having one pair of pants that wasn’t hot pink or golden yellow…The clothes I wore the most when I was in Paris were the black skirt I bought at H&M when I got there and realized I didn’t have enough black and the plain black shirt I bought the same day. Obviously, you can do what you will feel most comfortable with, but I just recommend sticking with basics because you can accessorize them to look different. This is what all the Parisians do too. I think my host mom wore the same gray polka dot dress or black turtleneck and black skirt the entire time we were there….Oh don’t wear leggings as pants in Paris… Unless you want to get creeped on by aggressive french men…

  • One heavy (but not crazy heavy) coat, and one light jacket. I decided for some reason that I should bring one super heavy coat, one fleece light jacket, one nylon light jacket, one leather light jacket. Well, the down coat I brought was way too warm for typical use (especially since the metro was ALWAYS hot). Paris is not Missouri and it will basically never snow or be as cold as Missouri. So you don’t really need a giant puffy down coat. I never used mine. I ended up ordering a coat online that was heavy but not insane and I wore that a lot. I also only used my light fake-leather jacket for the days I didn’t need my heavy coat and I never used the other jackets. Jackets/coats take up a lot of room in your suitcase, so I suggest wearing your heavy one on the plane to and from and packing only one alternate that is a lighter version (but not too light! My leather jacket was still warm.) Oh and don’t use a fleece north face for your light jacket. That’s too casual and screams I’M AMERICAN! Mine was just a black fake leather jacket and I was warm and fit right in. 
  • Bring a scarf or two. But not all of them! I suggest just bringing one really warm one, and one lighter one. You can bring a couple variations if you really love scarves and you have favorites because these are also a good way of dressing up your basic outfits. But don’t worry about bringing a ton with you— you’ll probably want to buy a scarf in France! They have good deals on scarves in Montmartre. :) 
  • A tote bag for your school stuff-not a backpack! I brought my bright red north face backpack and never used it after the first two days. Backpacks are like a pickpocket’s dream! (S)he can simply unzip your bag from behind and take all your stuff. Carrying a purse and a backpack at the same time is stupid, and you can’t just hold your phone in your hand on the metro (someone can snatch it) so, your precious phone and wallet will end up in your backpack. Where they will very likely get stolen. I was so flipped out about this, I always tried to lean up against the wall or hold the backpack in front of me. It didn’t help that the backpack was bright, cherry-red and said THE NORTH FACE on it. It was so inconvenient and anxiety causing that my third day of class I just marched myself to the Galeries Lafayette department store and bought one of those famous nylon Longchamp le pilage bags
    Le pilage Longchamp

    Le pilage Longchamp

    • If you’re interested in that bag: The size I got was large I think (but there is also an extra large which is too big)— it’s just the normal size you see everywhere. And I got the extra long straps (this is important if you get this purse because you can put it on your shoulder that way which is the safest way to carry a bag in Paris). This bag is really expensive (like 70 euros) but I liked it because it’s perfect for Paris. It was big enough to hold my normal stuff like wallet, phone, hand sanitizer and also all my school books and notebooks PLUS any snacks I picked up at monoprix on the way home. It’s like a mary poppins bag. It fits tons. Plus it’s nylon so it’s perfect for the rain and dirty metro because you can literally just wipe it clean with a rag. Plus it’s pretty hard to pickpocket because it zips and has a fold over button thing in the middle so if someone unzips half of it, it will stop unzipping in the middle if you snap the fold over thing shut. And there are no outside pockets to put things in. (Outside pockets on purses are your enemy in Paris. If you have them on your purse, just don’t use them.) But I just kept my bag close to my body and I was fine. And Alex carried a tote that was big and not Longchamp and it worked perfectly for her too. 
  • Bring small suitcase or duffel for short trips. I used a small roller suitcase for our short trips and Alex and Bailey used duffel bags. The duffels were a pain for them to lug around when we were walking a lot but they were definitely easier and more flexible for easy weekend trips, especially the ones planned by ISA where you literally just have to get to the bus and then set down your bag. If you’re going to be walking around airports and around a city with your bags, the roller is nicer, but I was jealous that they had the duffel bag option as just an easy, flexible thing. 
  • Bring hand sanitizer. Before you go, you should stop at Bath and Body Works and stock up on anything of theirs that you love. Lotion, hand sanitizer, whatever because they don’t have a Bath and Body Works or anything like it in Paris. And we used hand sanitizer constantly. Because the metro is dirty and it’s just a big city and I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom to wash my hands every time I felt like they were dirty or gross because sometimes you have to get a bathroom key or wait in line and all this stuff. They do sell hand sanitizer at the Monoprix there. But I prefer the scented Bath and Body Works ones so I figured I’d mention it. 
  • Bring back-ups of your favorite makeup/face products! AND PLASTIC APPLICATOR TAMPONS IF YOU USE THOSE. Makeup is VERY expensive in Paris. Weirdly expensive. Monoprix brand makeup is pretty much all 10 euros minimum and it goes up from there. I am really glad I brought enough of all my makeup to last me the whole trip because everything cosmetics there is insanely overpriced. Even the nail polish is like 6 euros for the cheapest version which is almost $10!  Additionally, if you have sensitive skin and/or you just have a very preferred face wash or moisturizer, bring enough to last you because they don’t have a lot of the same brands there. Oh, and if you ever use detangler for your hair… bring some… I could never find anything remotely similar while I was there and the water pressure was very different and my hair became really knotty all the time and I could not find detangler. And if you like plastic tampon applicators like tampax pearl….bring a lot. (To save space, take them out of the box and just put them in zip lock bags.) I guess there might have been some places there that sold them because our host mom told us on our last day that they do sell them somewhere in Paris… but I looked hard and all I could ever find were cardboard applicator tampons and I don’t know if you’re fine with that…but they were like torture for me…We called them “torture sticks”. I know this is an awkward tip, but I was really missing tampax pearl when I was there.
  • Don’t forget to get extra refills of any prescriptions you might have. This is obvious. You’re only in Paris for 3.5 months. It would be silly to try to figure out how to get your prescriptions there when you’re there for such a short period of time and it’s pretty easy to get advances back here in the States and just bring them with you and not have to worry. 
  • Bring sunscreen. The only place you can buy it in Paris is at the pharmacy for some reason and it’s really expensive there. And you will absolutely need it because you’ll be walking outside every day all the time.
  • Leave room in your suitcase because you will probably buy souvenirs for people back home and you will probably go shopping at some point and buy clothes or books for yourself. 
  • Don’t bring heat wands/curling irons/straighteners.  You don’t just need an adapter for these, you need a converter too. Which is dumb and expensive. Alex’s straightener was magically fine, but I know people who ruined their flat iron by trying to use it in Europe. If you really need one, buy a cheap one at monoprix. Don’t take the chance and ruin your expensive and favorite American iron. 
  • The things to bring a lot of: basic clothes, tights, underwear, makeup
  • Bring adapters. I’m sure you’ve got this covered. In general, Europe is all on the same type of outlet, but the
    My adapter set-- The PlugBug World.

    My adapter set– The PlugBug World.

    UK has a different one. I used this Plug Bug World set because it has all the adapters for the world which is kinda cool, it’s nice looking, and mostly, it charges your phone and your laptop with the same block (If you have a macbook. Make sure it’s compatible with your year of the macbook if you look into it).

And remember…everything in Paris is so much more expensive than America. If there’s something you might run out of that you’ll want and you can buy it before you go and fit it in your suitcase, you will be patting yourself on the back later. Spending a lot of money on tampons/makeup/lotion/clothes here will save you a lot when you go to Paris and you don’t have to buy it there in euros. 

Addition-packing cubes: I can’t speak from personal experience (yet) but I’ve been watching travel tip videos (all I ever think about is travel) and I’ve become very interested in packing cubes. After reading up on reviews/blogs I decided that packing cubes would be super helpful for short trips. I think they sound helpful overall, when you get to where you’re going and you unpack, everything is already organized and easy but that’s a small convenience for when you’re just moving your things into drawers. But for smaller trips that I would not be unpacking for but living out of my suitcase or duffel for, it would be really nice to be able to just grab the one specific cube/tube that contains all my socks. Or a cube with my already planned outfit. This is great for hostels because I hated having to take all this stuff out of my suitcase to find one thing right in front of everyone. Also it would be good for duffel bags that don’t have lots of pocket organization options like mine because, again, you don’t have to move everything around to find one specific thing. So, if you’re planning on doing small, short trips (which you probably will… you’re in Europe), this might be a good resource for staying organized and efficient. I wish I knew about these last year but I know for the next time. :) I hear that the Eagle Creek brand cubes are pretty lightweight which is good because I wouldn’t want to feel like the cubes were adding tons of extra weight to my bag.

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