March 2, 2016
One of the most pressing concerns for incoming students is making French friends. The stereotype is that Parisians are closed off and that it is difficult to establish a relationship. First and foremost, I would recommend not stressing out about being alone. You will naturally meet people. Maybe they will not be French, maybe they will not become your best friends, but there will always be someone to go out with on a Friday night.
Don’t hesitate to speak up in class. Some French students will be drawn to the fact that you are American. However, I have found that those who are the most receptive to striking up a conversation are other international students. Hearing us speaking English after class, we were approached by an Italian ERASMUS student. We now sit together in class, grab an espresso during the break and later got our respective groups to go out together to a bar near Bastille. It was a funny night – half of us Americans, half Italians, our common language, French.
Incidentally, getting involved in Erasmus is a good way to find community. They organize activities, ranging from movie nights, potlucks to clubbing. Our favorite is international night, Thursdays at Mix Club. If you get there before midnight, entry is free and the party goes till 5. People are here to have a good time and you are more likely to start a conversation with a stranger. A surprising amount of French students go, but I personally like meeting other Europeans or Americans. I’ve run into situations in which I put forth my best French, chat for a few minutes, only to realize I live a town over from this guyandthat we can probably switch into English now.
And if bars and clubs are not really your thing? No problem! APA works hard to find each student an activity, both on and off campus. Mia is on the rugby team. Molly joined an acapella group. Eleanor is playing flute with an orchestra. I’m trying CrossFit. Quite a few people are volunteering as English tutors in local schools. Not only does this give you something to do, it introduces you to like-minded people.
Take advantage of student tickets for exhibits, shows, etc. After my Transitional Justice class, I joined a few classmates to go see an independent documentary about the Iraq War at half-price. Each university has a student center which is a good place to visit for information on what’s being offered, but it could be enough to just read your email or look at the posters hanging around campus.
As I’ve mentioned before, take advantage of APA’s offer to find you a language partner. This is a shortcut process to making a French friend who will then likely introduce you to his circle of friends.
Also, believe it or not, Tinder could be a good way to meet people. It does not have to be a hook-up situation. Just grab a drink or go for a walk. If things don’t go well, you are not obligated to see that person ever again.
Finally, maybe you don’t want to get stuck in the American bubble, but don’t underestimate the potential for new friendships amongst other APA students. You already have one big thing in common: out of all the places in the world, you chose to study abroad in Paris.