Big Fish, BIG World? – Tips

Big Fish, Small World: Hack Your CEPA Program!

Bonjour mon amis!

I thought the best use of my last post was reaching out to prospective CEPA participants. I recently reread their prep guide, and I can give you five tips and tricks to maximize your experience that are not in there. My experience is specific to the EU Studies Abroad program and Americans; however, I feel it is pretty universal for other programs and people from other countries.

Tip 1: Get your shoe situation straight! This advice is the only tip in your CEPA profile, but it is so crucial that I had to make it my first tip. You are going to be walking an enormous amount compared to the USA. I know this is a deviation from what CEPA recommends, but I think four pairs of shoes should be on everyone’s list. If you do not plan on buying shoes, bring tennis shoes, hiking shoes/boots, dress shoes, and sandals or slippers for lazy days when you do not leave the château.

Tip 2: Collaborate! These next two posts are all about your new roommates. First, make sure you are all in a group chat together. After that, start asking some good questions: Can someone create an amazon account in this country, and can we all pay them to order things we need? I recommend one amazon account per 10 students. Does someone have a VPN so we can watch significant television events or watch some of our streaming services from America? Schedule a meeting with your peers after the first week, then at least have a once-a-month “house meeting” to address issues or give tips.

Tip 3: Roomies! Look, you know if you’re a solitary individual and need your space. However, let me share my experience with you. I am super independent, ten years the senior of most of my peers, and have strict routines. Oh, also, I am unabashedly American, and other than Ancient Latin (and maybe Italian), I do not speak any other languages fluently. I was paired with Takumi, a Japanese student, who was not what I would call fluent in English, and man, is he very much a college kid with some of the same habits. Today Takumi is better at English than most Americans, and I will never say “chopsticks” without first saying “hashi” ever again. I am leaving here knowing that if I ever get married, this new friend of mine is getting an invitation to the wedding.

Tip 4: Join a club at your university. Joining a club is a great way to meet locals, get info on your city, and make new friends while learning the local customs and language. Of course, it is optional, but they have something for everyone, and most clubs will even accommodate you if you still need to learn the local language.

Tip 5: Let CEPA help where they can. This particular tip is something I was very reluctant with throughout my program. Nobody wants to go to the teacher (or, in this case, your program directors) for help. That line of thinking is stupid. You will get sick; you might need help with the courses or teachers, you might just be homesick, and your world is closing in on you. Whatever it is, your CEPA program coordinators are there to help you, and they will, but only if you give them a chance.

I could share so much more (like order your bedding a week or two in, trust me), but I’m afraid my time here is over. For anyone on the fence about this program, do it. You will grow in so many ways by the time you leave. Au revoir for the last time!everything I missed in my next post, Au Revoir!