Bonjour, my name is Chaya Leybov. I am a self-proclaimed francophile (lover of all French things). I was born in Minsk, Belarus and moved to the US when I was two years old. I started learning French when I was 12 and have been in love with it ever since! I spent one month in France (on a learning program) when I was 16, and I studied abroad in Paris when I was 21. The study abroad experience was very impactful and powerful! I talk about it to this day. I received a business degree from Loyola University, graduating in 2012, and since then, I have been living in Jerusalem, studying religious studies.
Paris. Gleaming lights. Fashion. Famous museums. Everyone is familiar with these stereotypes about Paris. But what is it really like to live as a Parisian? Allow me to give you a glimpse into my study abroad experience – into a world of culture, exploration, and adventure! There’s so much more to Paris than its stereotypes. You just have to look in its little nooks and crannies, and you’ll find an abundance of interesting places, people, and things!
Paris is very multicultural. One of my first experiences was a jazz club near St. Michel called Caveau des Oubliettes. The music was amazing, and I as I started talking to some of the people there, I found out that the musicians were from Mauritius, an island off of Madagascar. In fact, the very people I was talking to were from Mauritius. Wow! France colonized many African countries, as well as some islands, so besides the native French, you’ll also find people from diverse backgrounds. I made an effort to get to know Frenchies – after all, this is an integral part of studying abroad and understanding a different culture!
One of my favorite things to do in Paris was to get lost. It’s the best way to stumble upon special places that a tourist would surely miss. I’ve stumbled upon cute cafes, art galleries, jazz clubs, ethnic restaurants, antique shops, tiny museums, trinket stores, and many more….these are usually hidden in Paris’s tiny streets. Not only are these places fascinating, but so are the architecture and the historical signs that you are bound to find on the way. Of course, I also took full advantage of all of the famous places in Paris: the museums, the cathedrals, the Eiffel Tower…don’t miss the beautiful, touristy things just because you’re busy trying not to be a tourist!
Paris is also dotted with beautiful parks. You can’t walk half a mile (I mean, kilometer!), without seeing one. The grass is luscious – I took advantage and had many a picnic with my friends. My favorite place was sitting right in front of the Eiffel Tower, munching on a baguette smeared with Nutella. Oh, by the way, don’t miss out on the Nutella + baguette combo. Good breakfast, lunch, and dinner idea.
Food shopping was quite the adventure. A major difference between French grocery stores and American ones is that you have to weigh your fruits and vegetables yourself and then present them at the cash register. Fascinating! Look out for all the interesting countries where produce can come from: lychees (cheap!) from Madagascar, avocadoes from Israel, coconuts from Reunion (also an island off of Madagascar), and many more!
Another way I enhanced my study abroad experience was to explore places outside of Paris. I visited Strasbourg, a city on the border of France and Germany; Nice, a beautiful, coastal town near the border with Italy; the Basque Country, a little known, but vastly fascinating and beautiful area in south-western France, and many more. There is so much to do in such a big, beautiful country!