After initially having a miserable time studying in Paris, Andrea Bouchaud learned how to enjoy herself. Now, she is sharing her know-how with others.
Andrea Bouchaud had dreamed of a blissful junior year studying in France, the country of her paternal grandfather’s birth, but Paris was no City of Lights during her first semester. Bouchaud CCAS’09 felt alienated, depressed, and homesick. Her skulls-and-chains punk clothing, so trendy in Philadelphia, marked her as weirdly foreign. And, worst of all, despite studying French for eight years, from middle school to college, she was far less proficient than she’d believed. Only after months of misery did Bouchaud modify her wardrobe, master the language, and begin enjoying the study abroad experience she’d always imagined.
To spare other students that steep learning curve, Bouchaud recently self-published two books based on her year in France: Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris, which combines memoir with practical advice on everything from applying for a student visa to buying hair dye; and The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored, a transcription of the journal in which Bouchaud recorded her heartaches, disappointments, and eventual adaptation. The books are available through her website, twentyinparis.net.
“Preparation is so key to having a less stressful study abroad experience,” says Bouchaud. “Knowing what’s awaiting you relieves so much pressure, so much stress, and confusion and frustration.”
A southern New Jersey native who lives in Dallas with her husband, Steven Palaia CCAS’08, Bouchaud works for a French eyeglass-lens company, using her language skills to translate technical documents and interpret for Anglophone colleagues. Eventually, she hopes to make a career as a study abroad expert, in a world that increasingly needs global citizens.
“We’re used to everybody coming to us and speaking English. We’re not used to doing the reverse,” Bouchaud says. “But things have changed, and we have become more globalized. We’re finding that we have to speak other people’s languages now.”
— Deborah Yaffe
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