You’re not going to France to do immigration paperwork and hang out with other Americans.

You’re going to have the adventure of a lifetime, to travel Europe, to see the world with new eyes. You’re going so you can eat baguettes and pain au chocolat at a café overlooking the Eiffel Tower, so you can learn to speak French fluently, and so you can date a French man (or woman) whom you’ll kiss passionately while walking along the River Seine with a Berthillon ice cream cone.

You’re going to get a taste of something different.

Yet, so many students today return home disappointed with their experiences, and secretly, you’re afraid you’re going to do what everyone else does: hang out with people from your program, speak mostly English, get really frustrated with French bureaucracy, and leave after 5 or 9 months with a bad taste in your mouth, without having made any French friends or had more than a 15 second interaction in French.

You see, as much as you want to make your semester abroad extraordinary, chances are, you’re going to fall into the same habits as everyone else who’s gone before you. Despite your best intentions, you’re going to rely on your classmates for a social life, your program advisor for course recommendations, and your activities coordinator for “cultural activities” and “language immersion experiences.”

Even worse, you may end up with the Landlord or Host Family from Hell or get your iPhone stolen or get stranded in the middle of nowhere during a strike, and end up wondering why you ever thought studying abroad in a different culture and language would be a good idea in the first place. And the last thing you want is to admit that your nervous-Nellie parents (who didn’t want their baby to go so far away in the first place) may have been right in not wanting you to travel alone.

We want to help you avoid all that.

Our mission at Paris Unraveled is to make your semester or year abroad in France life-changing and transformative. We want you to take classes that inspire you and make you think differently. We want you to join student activities so you can make a difference, make friends with French students, and learn about life in France from the inside looking out, rather than from the outside looking in. And we want you to take advantage of every last modicum of Paris’s cultural heritage, without worrying about paperwork, your French skills, or least of all, money or safety.

To do all that, the Paris Unraveled website and e-books provide detailed, step-by-step explanations of all of the administrative processes you’ll have to complete while preparing to study abroad in France, from getting a visa to opening a bank account, setting up a cell phone contract, and enrolling at classes in French universities (if you’re directly enrolled), and give you tips on the best places to live and hang out to stay safe. Then, we give you the scoop on all of the different academic departments, class offerings, and professors you may study with in French universities, so you can choose the most interesting classes. Finally, we help you communicate with your professors, complete French-style university assignments, improve your language skills, and apply for jobs and internships while you’re here, so you can get the most you can out of your experience academically and professionally.

And that’s just the beginning.

Because I know you’re mostly here to have fun and travel as much as you can, we want you to save as much money as you possible on everything from bank fees to train tickets, so our resources, from our email newsletters to e-books like Save Twenty Times Your Tuition: 13 Money-Saving Reasons to Love Being a Student in France, help you do just that. Plus, we’ll highlight the best student and youth discounts and free Paris events on the blog, so you’ll always be able to find “free and pas cher” events to attend.

I’d love to tell you that study abroad is naturally easy and fun, but the fact is, you can’t make the most out of your experience if you have no idea where to start.

So let us help you. If you have a question about anything related to Paris or France, check here first. Still need help? Comment on a post or send an email to parisunraveled@gmail.com. Sign up for the Trucs et Astuces newsletter to get helpful tips for your studies and your social life. Browse the Student Activities Directory to start having fun and making friends in Paris today.

We’re thrilled you want to broaden your horizons by studying abroad in France, and we’re ready to help make your stay extraordinary.

Et toi?

Allison Lounes, Author and Editor

Allison Lounes (formerly Grant) is a graduate of Columbia University (B.A., French and Romance Philology, 2009) and the Middlebury College French School (M.A., French, 2009). After studying abroad with Columbia University Programs in Paris during the 2007-2008 academic year, she returned to France in September 2009 to complete a Master 2 degree in Comparative Literature at the Université de Paris VII – Denis Diderot, where she studied Algerian libertine folktales. She is currently completing a second Master 2 in Ethnology and Social Anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales studying the transmission of oral tradition in Algerian immigrant families.

She has worked twice as an English Assistant in four elementary schools in Paris (2007-2008) and Seine-Saint Denis (2009-2010), has worked as an English tutor, translator, and a tax preparer at a Paris-based accounting firm. She currently lives in Paris with her husband Hamid and their cat Artemis.

In addition to writing Paris Unraveled, Allison is now working as a freelance writer, web designer, and consultant. You can read more about her other projects, including her 101 Goals in 1001 Days Challenge, at allisonlounes.com.