BY ROSE FORSTER

One of the reasons why I chose to study abroad in Europe was because I knew I would be able to travel around the entire continent. The first place, besides Oslo, that I visited was Paris. I actually lived in Paris for a few months in 2013 as part of a high school exchange program. I wanted to go back to indulge in the culture, eat some incredible food, and see my old host family. I had never been to Amsterdam, but I was fascinated by the city, and so I went in a large group of friends the week after I went to Paris. 

Paris  

My schedule in Paris was packed. I travelled with just one of my friends, and we stayed in an Airbnb near Strasbourg Saint-Denis, a trendy (and newly-gentrified) area of the city. We visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse Tower, Montparnasse Cemetery, the Musée de l’Orangerie, the Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge, the Pantheon. You name it, we visited it. I also indulged in some of the world’s most delicious food. I had the best French toast I’ve ever had in my life in a pristine white café, we drank delicious wine, I indulged in my passion for duck with delicious duck confit. While I love Oslo, I will say that there isn’t much of a culture for food, and eating out can be very expensive. By contrast, in Paris everything tasted divine, and the prices only made the food taste better. 

By far the best experience for me was seeing my host family for the first time in five years. My host parents were just as I remembered them, my twin brothers were now teenagers (they were eight when I first met them), and we surprised my host sister with my visit. She now studies outside of Paris, and came home for the weekend, not expecting to see me whatsoever. We had a wonderful night. My friend David walked away that night gushing about how amazing they were, and I couldn’t agree more.  

Amsterdam 

Amsterdam was a completely different experience for me than Paris. I travelled with four other friends, and we stayed in a hostel that was a quick ferry ride from the center of town. Amsterdam was absolutely gorgeous, and we visited the Van Gogh museum, the Tulip Museum, the Cheese museum, and of course the famed Amsterdam sign. Between admiring the beauty of the city, eating incredible fries slathered in mayonnaise and trying to avoid getting crushed by cyclists, I also managed to simply enjoy the time I was spending with my new friends. My favorite experience there was karaoke night at the hostel. We met so many new people and bonded over screeching out 2000’s pop songs.  

It can be difficult to make friends while studying abroad, so I highly recommend traveling somewhere together, even just for a weekend. I became so much closer with my friends after visiting somewhere completely new. We had to navigate public transport, restaurants and museums together. It was especially challenging in France, where not everyone spoke English. Living in Norway is comforting for nervous travelers because everyone can speak English, but it was exciting to try and practice my rusty French (even if the people I talked to often just replied in English anyway).