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Pre-Arrival Tips on Life Management Skills

Sarah Colford Class of '18

Studying in a foreign country is a rewarding and enriching experience. You will meet new people and be exposed to different cultures. It pushes you to try new things and it will make you grow as a person but this does not mean it is easy, especially if you’re moving away from home for the first time to live on your own.

Students are generally on top of their pre-arrival academic administrative tasks: document submission, application for financial assistance, pre-selecting course offerings.


What often gets put in the background are key life skills students should master pre-arrival, in order to succeed in being an independant individual during college. Mastering these life skills will help you stay levelheaded and on top of things.

Related articles: pre-arrival transportation tips and miscellaneous tips from the student body.


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Life in Paris and Students.
Alexandra Hehlen


Artwork by Class of '19 Alexandra Hehlen
  • Do laundry. Delicates, separating colors, fabric softener, how much detergent to use, how to get stains out… Learn this so you don’t ruin your clothes.
  • Clean your room, kitchen, and toilet – understand the basics of housekeeping. Learn what products are supposed to be used for what surfaces. Did you know you have to empty your vaccuum cleaner? The dust doesn’t just turn into air!
  • Unclog a shower/toilet. The plunger is your friend.
  • Make a bed. Nothing is more satisfying than coming home to a well made bed after a long day on campus. Make sure you know: how to change fitted and flat sheets, what a mattress protector is and its importance, how often to wash your bedding, different comforter thicknesses for summer and winter.
  • Perform basic DIY and maintenance: change a lightbulb, iron clothes, keep plants alive, use a screwdriver.
  • Sew (or, befriend a cohort in the Fashion Design department during Orientation Week!): learn to fix a button, hem sleeves, mend a rip.

Look after your health

  • Understand signs of when you’re feeling sick: recognizing when you need to see a doctor vs. getting over-the-counter medication at the pharmacy. Also, check with your health professional back home if there are equivalents of the prescription medications you are taking in France. If not, try to get enough to cover you until you next go home.
  • Perform basic first aid: what to do when you burn your hand, have a cut, get a nose bleed.
  • Do a weekly grocery shop with 20€. Stock up on staples: rice, pasta, potatoes. Get vegetables you can use for many different dishes: onions, garlic, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tinned beans and pulses.
  • Cook 5 simple meals or learn the basics if you don’t know how (rice, pasta, cooking an egg, making a pot of coffee/tea). Follow @pcacooks, a student run club for tips on: easy meals, cooking shortcuts, and budget friendly restaurants.
  • Recognize your alcohol limits and stick to them.
  • Treat your body right: 5 a day keeps the doctor away, drink water, sleep well, exercise. Don’t treat your body like rubbish, and you won’t feel rubbish!
  • Enjoy walking (if you don’t) and taking stairs (there’s hardly any elevators in Paris!)

Prep for la vie française

  • Manage your finances: plan a monthly budget. Allocate for necessities (food, transport, art supplies, stationary, rent, charges) so you know roughly how much you have to spend on miscellaneous activities. Check you’ll be able to withdraw money and use your credit/debit card in France.
  • Convert to the metric system if you’re coming to us from the U.S. In France, we measure in liters, celcius, meters, kilos.
  • Speak basic French. Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais, merci. In France, it is considered rude if you do not greet a stranger before asking for help. A simple BONJOUR will suffice if you do not speak any French at all.
  • If English is not your first language, brush up on it over the summer so you will feel more confident integrating with your cohorts during Orientation Week.
  • Navigate your way around a city: download apps like citymapper, uber, RATP (Paris’ public transport app). Also, learn how to read a physical map in case your phone runs out of battery!
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Take control of life admin

  • Hold a conversation with a stranger: you’re going to meet a whole bunch of new people from different cultural, social, and political backgrounds! Learn to listen with an open mind. Stand up for yourself and your beliefs – however, this does not mean you should be aggressively defensive. Conflict management is being able to articulate your thoughts in a clear, calm, and concise manner.
  • Write an email professionally. Make sure you check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Indicate what you’re writing about in the subject. Verify that any files you are sending are named (do not send files titled: finaldoc. scan. image_7384.) Begin and sign off emails correctly. Is your email address appropriate? If not, make one.
  • Create a basic resume. PCA hosts resume and cover letter workshops once you’re here, but Paris Fashion Week internship applications start before you arrive! If you’ve never built a resume before, schedule an appointment with your high school/university counselor for advice.
  • Be prepared: read the pre-arrival articles, join our Student Life Office online information chat sessions and online video chats with current students
  • Communicate with your parents and/or guardians. Establish how often and when you’ll talk to them so they won’t be worried.
  • Be proactive: make sure you stay on top of visa, document submission, and accommodation deadlines. Keep important documents safe (invest in a folder.)

Most importantly, prepare yourself for things being different to what you are used to, it’s all part of the learning process! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your admissions counselor or the student life office. We’re here to help you prepare for a smooth transition into life at Paris College of Art.