An American Girl In Paris: Studying Abroad In The City of Light


Le Tran Quach is someone I’m proud to know. I have known Le since high school, and I am completely and utterly in awe of the woman she has become. A rare combination of humility and tenacity, Le is the type you know will go on to make a huge difference in the world. She's super outgoing, a real go-getter, and probably the bravest person I know. I have no doubt that she will be one of the great changemakers of our generation (you heard it here first, folks)! 

If our 20s are supposed to be a time of self-discovery, exploration, and taking chances, then Le is a perfect example of that. I know that many of us entertain dreams of traveling and/or studying abroad, and so I thought interviewing her would be incredibly fitting. Studying abroad in Paris, France since August 2010, Le gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to live and study in the City of Light.

Study Abroad In Paris
Near Le's University. 
What initially inspired you to move to Paris? My future goals inspired me to move to Paris. I know what I want to do in the future. I am privileged to have choices at hand that bring me closer to my future goals. One of these choices was the opportunity to do my bachelor’s degree in Paris. I came here for my university, the American University of Paris (AUP), more than I came here for this city that I have also come to love! They are inseparable and when I am gone I terribly miss everything.

What’s it like attending university in Paris? What process did you have to go through to be accepted? The process is like any other application to schools in the United States except that there are immigration procedures. Being an American has made it very easy to be a student here. I have found Paris to be a very student-friendly city. It’s a very cosmopolitan and a bigggggg urban center but at the same time it is very “human,” for lack of a better word right now! Everything is human-sized, there aren’t big skyscrapers that make me feel little and the city is very family friendly. You see people of all ages in all different parts of the city and at different times of day (with exceptions).

Study Abroad In Paris
Arc de Triomphe. 
What is an average day like for you? I have a very “student” schedule. My day begins as early as around 5 am and ends around midnight - give or take a few hours of course! This has been the case this semester. I have classes throughout the day like a regular university student, and then I have volleyball four days a week. My course load takes up almost all of my time. For previous semesters, a typical day [began] around 6 am, and [ended] around 1 am. Then, throughout the week, I would have four evenings of volleyball, one afternoon of volunteering, at least two days of working, and at least one extra school club activity.

What advice would you give someone looking to study abroad in Paris? Come with goals and money! One of those goals should be to keep an open mind and know that you are kind of an unofficial ambassador to where you come from. Students who study abroad at my school for [a] semester do not find it enough time to explore France. I think that pursuing dual degrees or completing a full degree is quite beneficial because it helps one get settled and soak it all in. A semester or a year is quite short.


Study Abroad In Paris
Along the Pont des Arts. 
What was your first day in Paris like? What was your initial impression? How has it changed? Paris has not changed. My first day in Paris was hectic because it was also the first day of new-student orientation filled with activities and jet lag! My initial impression was that the food was good. No matter where [I am], I find myself eating! 

What’s your favorite thing to do on nights off? It’s been awhile since I have had a night off. When I do have free time, there’s a coffee in my hand, school supplies in my bag, my [phone] in my other hand, and a volleyball teammate by my side. I try to fit enjoyable things into my schedule without taking away from my original agenda - like walking my most favorite route home. I have found it unsettling to take a night off because of my schedule and commitments.

Study Abroad In Paris
Notre Dame. 
What is the most invaluable lesson you’ve learned since living in Paris? I am learning countless lessons here... none have really been “completed” lessons. So I guess something I may share is that learning is a process, and my time in Paris still has purpose until I graduate. I suppose that the most important lesson in progress is that I am better able to interpret what is worth my time and to reinforce that only the things I care about are worth fighting for. Why make myself suffer for things [that] aren’t worth the trouble? When I was close to transferring back home, my sister reminded me that what I am doing is an investment in my future, and that [as] long as I make the lessons and investments here worth the inconveniences, [my] time is not wasted. 

Music helps me a lot. I remember a quote from K’Naan’s song, if I may. He said that "God never gives you burdens you can’t handle." I don’t practice any religion, and I don’t pay mind to karma and superstitions or anything of the like. I don’t know what other factors affect my life in this sense, but I try to do my best to create my own circumstances, and this also means knowing that any turbulences are of my own creation. So when I don’t feel very optimistic I remind myself of why I am here and ask myself if it is worth it. Another saying that I heard from T.I. is also a friendly reminder. He said that when things are bad, things are never as bad as they seem. And this is tried and true for previous circumstances for me, so when the occasion calls for it, he pops up in my head. Kind of sentimental, but it’s always the small things that pick me up. I don’t splurge on shopping or go on long vacations to pick me up - a coffee and beats often do the trick!

Study Abroad In Paris
At the end of the Champ Elysees. What Le calls the "ferris wheel round-about" 
What is the cost of living like in Paris? If one does not cook at home then one should expect to spend at least 10 euros a day [Editor’s Note: 10 = $13.08]. 10 euros if one buys really basic things at the cheapest of grocery stores. During really stressful periods at school, I spend about 20 euros a day because I don’t cook at home. Rent can be anywhere from 300 euros or more and the living space can be quite scandalous compared to what [I] know in Georgia. Rooms that are about 8 sq. meters can be 350 euros!  

The French have a reputation for being rude. I have a feeling this is untrue. Has this myth been dispelled for you? What is the most memorable act of kindness you’ve experienced? Rudeness is an action that humans have and it has not really been the case that the French are rude, but more often that I encounter rude people every now and then. I recently sprained my ankle and was on crutches for about 4.5 weeks. Paris is not very handicap-friendly but I encountered a kindness that seems instinctive to humans when they see another person in need of a little help. And I have sprained my ankle in three countries and this was the case in all of them! Hahaha

Study Abroad In Paris
The view from Le's apartment, or chambre de bonne. 
What is your most cherished memory in Paris thus far? My favorite memory in Paris happens almost every night. I really like nighttime, and my window is very big so when there is moonlight, my room is filled with it. And because I am often awake when a lot of the city is asleep, it’s really calming for me to kind of get the city to myself from my room. I recently pulled my mattress to be right underneath the window so that when I am lying down I see straight up into the skies with the few stars and moonlight. I suppose I have other cherished memories but these are [usually] recollections of the people I was with somewhere in Paris.

What advice would you give someone looking to travel to Paris? A month is a good time period to explore France. France has very distinctively different regions. Paris can’t be explored in a week without becoming really exhausted, but some do it in a weekend. To really dive into Paris, I think one week is healthy. :) Paris, as are many major cities, was a major crossroad way back when - crossroads have quite complex histories and western European contributions to our society are quite amazing I find!

Study Abroad In Paris
The Eiffel Tower at night. Beautiful! 
What would you most miss about Paris if you moved away? The food. Even generic brands in the grocery stores are quality foods. The bread here is really delicious. Sometimes people might just have a baguette for lunch. This is how good and filling it is! My French supervisor told me that the French live to eat while the British eat to live. Haha, French foods, from the baker to the chef, seem to be meticulously catered... even in the “less nice” restaurants. But keep in mind I don’t eat out much and I don’t think I am too picky on foods. :)

How do you cope with homesickness and missing your family? Yes, my family and I do have these sentiments but often times we are so occupied that we don’t talk for a week and a half or something like this. But my siblings and I are away from home often and my family is familiar with mobility so it’s no biggie!

Study Abroad In Paris
Basilique du Sacre Coeur.
What is your most beloved attraction in Paris? Where have you yet to visit, but hope to? There is a park that I really like that is called Buttes-Chaumont. Oh man! I really want to explore the French countryside, not to mention other countries!

Do you feel like a Parisian? Does Paris feel like home? No, not here. I feel more like a Parisian when I go home and react to things differently than I would have had I never gone to France.

Is finding a job in Paris difficult for an American? No, finding jobs are pretty easy because English-speakers are valued. Paris is very cosmopolitan so this also means that there are many English-speakers but also much demand for these English-speakers! (Though this does not mean that these English-speakers are Americans but most job offers prefer native speakers.) The Franco-American relationship is strong so there aren’t many social obstacles on another note.
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Study Abroad In Paris
Le is a double major in International Economics and International and Comparative Politics at the American University of Paris (AUP). She has visited numerous countries including Belgium, England, and Mali. She is a Department of State YES alum (2009-10) to Mali, where she spent a semester learning French, making life-long friendships, and ultimately, realizing a better channel for her energy with community service: in her spare time she volunteers at international refugee assistance organizations. 
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*Aside from the title photo, all photos are courtesy and property of Le Tran Quach.

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With Gratitude,
Mariah

4 comments:

  1. Interesting interview. Glad you shared! Debbie @ ilovemylemonadelife.com

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    1. Thanks for reading, Debbie! Love your blog!

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  2. Love this interview I always wondered what Le was up to now I know! She was such a sweet person when I knew her for the short time that I did know her lol. Great interview Mariah

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    1. I know, Le touched so many with her sweet and caring nature - she's great! Thanks for reading!

      -Mariah

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