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EF Stories: Nele from Belgium at EF Paris

I am Nele, 22 years old and a recent social work graduate. After my studies, I decided to do an academic year with EF. I decided to go to Paris, Dublin and Costa Rica. By now I have almost finished my first 2 stops and I think back to the emotional and amazing moments I experienced.
EF Stories: Nele from Belgium at EF Paris

My experience in Paris: After 4 years of studying, there I was. A freshly graduated social worker, with a beautiful diploma in my hand. I was very proud, even though I had no idea what I wanted to do with that piece of paper. Apply for a job immediately or do another bachelor's degree? Fortunately, I did not have to make that choice immediately. My academic year with EF would start in September. The only thing I had to worry about was what to bring or not to bring in my suitcase. Something that caused me great stress and several panic attacks at that time... Fortunately, my mom was there to help me with that and all's well that ends well!

September 17 was the day. I was ready for my first stop: 3 months in Paris! The city of love and the land of croissants, so surely not much could go wrong. I courageously took the train from Brussels, where I shed a few tears during the farewell. Once arrived in Paris, I started looking for the right bus stop, which I finally found after 2 hours and more tears. And yes, the next day this pattern was repeated again when I couldn't find the school.

So it certainly wasn't off to a great start. However, I decided not to let this discourage me and soon got to work making new friends, visiting museums, and yes, getting lost a few more times. After just 2 weeks, I had a super fun group of friends that I did just about everything with. Trying out the best restaurants, eating delicious cakes and waffles, and eventually even going swimming together to somehow get those calories off. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, of course; there were difficult moments too. When I missed my family or wanted to give my cats a big hug. At those moments we were there for each other. We took each other in tow and tried to take our minds off things. And it always worked!

Paris is such a diverse city, with so many possibilities. We were never bored. What I think the top attractions are? The Louvre is a must-see and is even free for students under 26 years old. 'Bois de Vincennes' is great if you want to get out of the center and find the calm of nature. Last but not least, 'Jardin de Luxembourg'. This park is a must on your bucket list! This is where I spent several hours, if not days.

I very quickly found my feet at school as well. The first week I mainly watched things from a distance, but after a short while I was already participating well in class. My teachers were super sweet and accommodating. Most of them also had a good sense of humor which made the classes never boring. The electives I took were: journalism, where I could work on my writing skills, and comprehension chanson, where we didn't have to sing, but where we mainly learned new vocabulary and learned about some of the French culture. My French made an immense progress, for example, I went from level B2 to C1.

What I learned? First of all: it is no big deal to get lost. Panicking is the last thing you should do in that case. Stay calm, use Google maps and talk to people! Think of it as a positive thing: this way you see another part of the city for a change. However, I am going to have to accept that orientation cannot be taught. My beloved navigation app will remain my best friend for the rest of my life.

In addition, I feel much more confident when I speak French. My French is by no means perfect, but I can definitely make myself understood and have a decent conversation. This is something that is definitely going to help me in my later career. I have made friends for life, with people from many different countries. I also still hear from my host family on a regular basis. They even came to visit me in Dublin.

To be honest, I was fairly skeptical of "The City of Love. There couldn't be a bigger cliché like that, but I've had to completely revise my opinion. No, I have not met my prince, but the city has won a special place in my heart. My plans for my next vacation? Gee, maybe a city trip to Paris!

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