This year I completed my M1 in Neuroscience at Université Paris as an international student! As I am know enjoying my summer break, I am looking back on the things I learned during this past year of studying abroad. I not only learned many things academically, but also about living alone for the first time, about myself, what I can accomplish and how to overcome challenges! Here are some tips that I wish I knew before starting studying abroad:
- Have an open mind to be able to adapt.
The most important thing I learned this year is that having an open mind is critical to adapting successfully to a new country and educational system. Preexisting ideas about how things will go or should go, can hinder adaptation. Once I understood this, I was able to have a more positive mindset and enjoy my time in France.
2. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to your professors or ask for help.
In the first weeks of studying in France, I was struggling with homesickness and the unknown. Adapting to the French educational system was my biggest challenge, so I asked many questions to my professors because gathering information about evaluations and their demands helped me know what to expect and how to prepare. My program director was able to reassure me and put me in contact with other international students who were going through the same challenges. So don’t hesitate to ask for help and talk to your program directors, professors, friends or family!
3. Extracurriculars can be positive outlets for stress.
Volunteering has always been a positive outlet for my academic stress. After my first semester studying in France, I decided to look for volunteering opportunities through the website jemengage.paris.fr. This is such a rewarding and fulfilling way to spend my free time when not studying, as well as giving me an outlet to destress. I highly recommend volunteering or any other type of extracurricular activity that can remind you of activities you were doing home!
4. Live in the moment: enjoy the experience while it lasts.
Studying abroad goes by really fast, especially a 2-year program. This past year I was so busy adapting, letting go of my expectations and missing home that I did not enjoy this experience to the fullest. Luckily, I have 1 year left to make the most out of living in Paris! Ultimately, it was also a year of immense personal growth, so I am proud of myself although the transition wasn’t as smooth as expected.
5. Eat the croissant!
This one might be silly but enjoy the pastries while you can! Nowhere in the world will the croissants and pains au chocolat taste as good! All jokes aside, immersing yourself in France’s culture is an important part of studying here… and eating croissants is a part of it ;).
As you can see, studying abroad is an experience that makes you grow both on an individual and academic level! Overall, I have enjoyed this first year and I am looking forward to a smoother M2!