My major piece of advice for someone who is traveling abroad for the first time is this: go without any expectations of any kind. I went with the hopes of recreating the trips of friends and family. I went thinking that I would hate Paris. I went thinking that I had to be busy every second or the trip would be wasted. If I had clung to these notions, my experience would have been tarnished in a way. Thankfully, when I arrived in Europe, I realized that I had to form my own opinions and decide for myself what my trip would turn out to be.
I had heard others travel to Paris and describe it as “dirty” or “scary” among other things. But I would not ever use these words to describe the City of Love. Instead, I would use the words “stunning,” “historic,” and “absolutely beautiful.” It was definitely a challenge to figure out how the metro worked, because I spoke absolutely no French whatsoever. And even then, I figured it out pretty quickly with no major issues. The entire day felt like a dream. I climbed up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on the avid recommendation of my professor. It was the best view in the entire city. I sat directly in front of the Eiffel Tower and ate a chocolate macaron. I mean that’s a total bucket list item that I can cross off now! Even the stereotypes about French people seemed to be disproved. Everyone I interacted with was so pleasant and helpful, even when we struggled to communicate. And finally, there was a Van Gogh exhibit that was only in Paris for a limited time. It turned out to be of my favorite things out of the entire trip. At the last minute, I decided to add it to my personal itinerary for our free day. I am so glad I was willing to take a chance on something I new nothing about.Without the recommendations of my friends and family, my trip would not have been as wonderful as it was. But, allow yourself to make your own decisions and refrain from forming your opinions until after you have visited somewhere. Also, try your best to avoid comparing your trip to anyone else’s experience. It will only take away from your own experience. Give yourself time to fully experience everything. Don’t try to fill every second of every day with an activity. Avoid burnout and truly allow yourself to reflect on your experience. An open mind and a willingness to try new things are essential travel items.