Jan 24th, 2018, 11:46 AM

Finding a Community When Studying Abroad at AUP

By Alina Hope Wong
Image Credit: Unsplash/Kaci Baum
Words of wisdom, experiences & regrets from students who have already come out on the other side.

Study abroad students at the American University of Paris can travel up to thousands of miles for dreams they hope to achieve within a minimum of four months. Whatever the allotted window of time, simply living in Paris can inspire adventures and personal growth. When attending a university not bound to a campus, and living with the knowledge that the inescapable change in friendships and lifestyle is right around the end of the term, finding a community to walk with is a unique experience that may seem more foreign than the plethora of baguettes and "Bonjours". 

Thankfully, as a study abroad student at AUP myself, I know that this task is definitely manageable. But do not let me be your only source of confirmation. Instead, lend your ear or eyes to three American study abroad students, who have already navigated the waters and are ready to share pieces of their own insights: 

What is the best way in your opinion for a study abroad student to find their community at AUP? What was your experience like? 

"Get involved. There are many ways to do this but I did so by attending school events and getting to know my roommates. I was lucky I got value-sharing roommates. One thing we shared is that we all didn't really enjoy drinking. So, we bonded by travelling and exploring. While you are here, I think it is important to have a mission to find people that share common ground with you." - Allison, 4 months, Westmont College

"The best way to find a community is to show up to events during orientation week. I met several of my closest friends during orientation and ended up travelling with them throughout the semester. Also, definitely get to know the people in your class - AUP is a tightly-knit community so use that to your advantage." - Katherine, 4 months, USC

"I found that the number one rule is to take initiative! Ask people to hang out; you will meet more people as groups begin to form. Everyone is very friendly but if you are shy, I guarantee there are other new students who are alone and would love to chat." - Vivian, 1 year, USC

Image Credit: Facebook/Allison Tamte

Was your community mostly comprised of other AUP students? If not, why? And who was your community? 

"I had multiple communities at AUP. My closest one included my roommates, who were AUP students. I also attended Hillsong and met people my age with similar interests. They also spoke English. Most of them were other study-abroad students attending different universities in Paris. We supported and learned a lot from each other, which made for a great community." - Allison, 4 months, Westmont College

"My community was mostly other AUP students I met in my classes and during orientation." - Katherine, 4 months, USC

"Definitely not. As a USC TTP student, I found myself connecting more with other USC students since we shared something in common and knew we would all be leaving together. On top of that, I feel like we honestly just gravitate towards each other when small groups form. Then we all mingle." - Vivian, 1 year, USC

Image Credit: Facebook/Katherine Peng

 In what way can the short time in Paris affect study abroad student's friendships / the way they make friends? In this area, is there anything you wish you could have done differently or felt you did well? 

"I personally found it very difficult to invest in friends that I knew would be hard to continue after leaving AUP. Throughout the semester, I had to constantly remind myself of the importance of being present while abroad. If I could offer one piece of advice, I would say to spend more time on relationships with people who will separate from you. I spent a lot of time with peers from my home university. The thing is, I will always have them. I regret not investing in my few relationships with other international students from AUP and other universities." - Allison, 4 months, Westmont College 

"Studying abroad definitely makes an individual more open to meeting new people. I came to Paris not knowing a single person...and I left with a strong group of friends, whom I am still close to today. My advice is to be open-minded and willing to make the first move by introducing yourself to many people." - Katherine, 4 months, USC

"Although it is harder to meet people because there isn't the convenience of typical college dorm life, being at AUP can give you the opportunity to choose who you want to become friends with. In other words, you can easily steer clear of people you don't vibe with and hold onto friends that are valuable to you. Something I learned is that you should not feel the need to change yourself to fit a certain group. Instead, find people that fit your personality. Don't be fake and try to be inclusive. You will definitely grow more independent by being here but honestly, that is a good thing. You will learn a lot about yourself and what you seek in friendships if you are unsatisfied with your current ones. Be okay with being unique or alone." - Vivian, 1 year, USC

Image Credit: Facebook/Vivian An

Do you still keep in touch with the friends you made at AUP? If yes, how? 

"Yes! We Snapchat and Instagram, but I think that the occasional FaceTime makes all the difference. Group chats are also helpful for mass updates." - Allison, 4 months, Westmont College

"Because of modern technology, staying in touch with friends is simple. Send a Snapchat or a Facebook message. There are so many ways; it's up to you to take the initiative." - Katherine, 4 months, USC

"Social media is obviously an amazing way to connect. But because most of my friends are also attending USC, it will be easy for us to reunite! I am so thankful for the relationships I made in Paris, and I hope to continue them throughout my life." - Vivian, 1 year, USC

Trying to find a group of friends for such a short span of time may seem confusing at first. The diversity of responses from Allison, Katherine and Vivian show that there is no singular path to get there. Yet if anything concrete can be gleaned from their advice, it is to be open to befriending different kinds of people and embrace the bravery to take initiative. And most importantly, realize that friendships won't have to end when you board the plane back home. In this digital age, relationships can easily continue on in your university, and if you so desire, for the rest of your life.