Postcards from Paris: an Asbury Student Blog

Check this page for weekly updates from Asbury University’s Paris Semester — a life-changing opportunity for students to immerse themselves in another culture, earn credit toward any major and complete an international internship. Learn more about Asbury University's Paris Semester!

Asbury University students are experiencing a life-changing semester in Paris. Follow their blog!
Christian Williamson '19 says Paris is a learning curve – and that's a good thing!

Learning French and Life in Paris — It’s a Learning Curve

Christian Williamson ‘19 finds the humor in learning French and interacting with French culture.

Wow. That’s about all that comes to my mind right now. Wow that we are actually here on Asbury University’s Paris Semester. Wow that all of us somehow raised the funds to do this. And wow that Jesus has each of us here for a reason bigger than we could ever fully understand. 

We finished our first two weeks of classes and are into our third now — and let me just say that syllabus shock is a universal thing. This semester, I’m enrolled in a French class at a nearby French language school, an art history course taught by Dr. Stratford, an internship under a photographer in Paris, a directed study in photography and a class called the French Church in Context. My total class load equals 13 credits, but when you’re in another country, that can feel like 18 credits because of the pressures and demands of adjusting to a new culture and way of life.

Learning French in a school where the teachers only speak French is difficult, but doable. In my beginner-level class, we have people from the U.S., Germany, Brazil, India and Japan. It is very interesting that all of us can sit in a classroom from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. five days a week being taught entirely in French — and we can and are retaining it!

It is difficult to sit in a class for so long every day, but I do have to admit that being immersed in the French culture helps in learning and experiencing the language. Again, French is a hard language, but my Lord knows every language, and I know this is a part of His plan. So I’m trusting that He’s helping me with this seemly impossible task!

Living in a new culture brings its own challenges. In case you were wondering, yes — the French do kiss both cheeks when greeting even strangers. I learned this the hard way. On our first Sunday in Paris, a group of us went to check out the Hillsong Church. After the service, there was a get-together for young people, so we went with the hope of making some friends.

While I ate my cheeseburger from McDonald’s, a guy approached my friends and me. Everyone saw him walk over except for me. I looked over my right shoulder to see him attempting to greet me with La Bise (the double kiss greeting commonly done in France). I apparently made a disgusted face in response (Hey, I didn’t know he was there, okay?) and so he said, “Oh, okay. You’re American, you don’t do that … how do you greet again?” as he reached out to shake my hand. I continued to just stand there out of embarrassment. The other University students continue to tease me about this story often. 

Just remember — there is still hope, even if you crash and burn during your first encounter with a European or struggle to speak the language perfectly. Paris is a learning curve. 


Culture Shock, Social Cues & Learning From The French Asbury University students are experiencing a life-changing semester in Paris. Follow their blog!

Charisse Salladé ’20 ruminates on the process of experiencing French culture firsthand through Asbury University’s Paris Semester. 

Now that I have been in Paris with Asbury University for almost two weeks, the jet lag has faded and has been replaced by a newfound confidence in this unfamiliar city. However, I’m far from feeling like a local.

I’m only beginning to learn how to navigate the metro—let alone cultural differences! 

My head is constantly full of thoughts like, “Do I greet this person with ‘bonjour’ or ‘salut?’ A handshake or—NO I guess we’re going in for a kiss on the cheek. All right then,” and even the occasional, “Wait. Did I just flirt with that security guard? I…I don’t know.”

Subtle social cues like these make studying abroad a very humbling experience. I have the same everyday tasks I would have on the University’s campus but I’m learning to accomplish them in new ways (and in a new language). Even learning how to open doors took a bit of practice!

In the first few days it’s easy to become overwhelmed with this strange, new way of life. In Paris everyone is living according to instructions I’ve never read and the only way I can learn the rules is by observing how others play the game. At times, it’s a process of trial and error and there is not much time to recover in between errors. Studying abroad and living with a host family can be overwhelming, but when I feel culture shock setting in, I remind myself not to dwell on the differences but focus on the familiar.

In a very real sense, Paris is my home and mission field for these three months. Everywhere I go and with every interaction I have, my mission is to walk in obedience to the Lord and be a loving presence to everyone I meet. My purpose is not to change or shame the French culture but to observe. There will be some behaviors I won’t choose to adopt in my everyday life, but there will be some new discoveries made as well. 

Okay, I probably won’t start greeting my friends back at the University with a kiss, but I do enjoy the French concept of eating everything with silverware (even pizza). I greatly respect how my host brother will serve everyone else their dinner before he fills his own plate. I love the concept of making friends for life rather than building a network of acquaintances.

I have a lot to learn from the French culture and I’m going to make mistakes along the way — but praise the Lord! He is so gracious to me. I’m thankful to have an entire group of Asbury University students to adapt to life in Paris with, too.

He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 2:19)


Asbury University students are experiencing a life-changing semester in Paris. Follow their blog!

The Great Unknown

Malone University student Sarah Elum reflects on arriving in Paris with Asbury University’s Paris Semester Program.  

I never thought I would have the opportunity to study abroad in Paris, but thanks to God and Asbury University, I finally do.

Today is the day. No turning back now. After months of preparation, I leave my country, my home, my people, my language and set off for a ‘grande aventure’ through the University’s Paris Semester. 

As I began to prepare and pack the night before, I realized it would be the end of something, my current life as I know it, but also the start of something new. Never would I have imagined that I would have an opportunity like this after so many years of what seemed to be silence. As I looked around my cozy, softly lit apartment, I realized that when I return to my home in only a few short months, it will seem as though an eternity has passed. Because, when God brings change (even in short spans of time), we are never the same. And I knew that when I woke in the morning, “life as I knew it” would fall away along with the sleep.

So morning came, and with it the frenzy of final preparation and the occasional “do I have everything?” My friend arrived to pick me up and after prayer, she took my hands, looked into my eyes and asked the much anticipated question, ”Are you ready?”

In my own strength, I would never be ready. It’s only by the grace of God that I am ever ready for anything.

The first leg of the trip was relatively uneventful; smooth flight, easy landing. Detroit is a beautiful airport with wide open spaces, high spacious, white rafters and lots of sunlight. With five hours to kill and an empty stomach, I explored the terminal and settled into my departing gate. “Excuse me, are you Sarah?” I looked up from my hummus to discover one of the Asbury University students who would be sharing my flight. It was so great to share the waiting hours talking and getting to know another student who would be sharing this experience.

As we boarded the plane, the emotions came, a flood of tears as I walked down that long ramp, stepped inside the plane and settled into my seat. I find this comical. Most people would die to go to Paris, and here I am crying about it! Tears of joy, of course. I am just amazed at what God has done to call me to this opportunity.

Eight hours later, we arrived in the magical city; 2 a.m. our time, 8 a.m. Paris time. After a relatively easy pass through customs, and retrieving our luggage, I was able to remember enough French to communicate our destination to the cabby.

One hour and much traffic later, we arrived at St. John’s University in the heart of Paris, tired, exhausted but ready to face the very long day ahead of us.

Dr. Linda Stratford, Asbury's Paris Semester Program Director, greeted us at the entrance with her ever present enthusiasm. “Don’t take a nap” was repeated throughout the day to help us push through jet lag. The rest of the day was a blur of check-in, securing Navigo (monthly metro pass), and switching to a French phone plan. Then, orientation, a quick dinner back at the dorm, and the absolute must...our first quick stop at a French cafe for noisettes (a small hazelnut coffee). Then finally, bed.

I lay awake that night imagining the semester much change, but so many wonderful things still unknown. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling like the unknown is a perfect place to be. I can’t wait to see how God will use the Paris Semester to grow my faith in Him. 


We’re About to Leave!

As students prepare to leave for Paris on Aug. 30, Chantal Barlow ’19 reflects on her goals for the coming semester.

Asbury University students are experiencing a life-changing semester in Paris. Follow their blog!
Chantal Barlow '19 is one of many students leaves for Paris on Aug. 30 with Asbury's Paris Semester!

Almost 20 years ago, my parents resided in a town in the French Alps. I was born there and spent the first three months of my life there. Now, 20 years later, I am going to live in France for another three months. But, this time I will be in Paris, the city of lights.

I’ve been excited about going to Paris since the moment I applied for Asbury University’s study abroad program. After I got accepted, preparations began. First came all the paperwork, which took a while, but I am sure Paris will be worth it. Next came the shopping to make sure I had everything I needed for three months in a different country. And finally, the packing, which I still haven’t finished and may still be doing the night before my flight! Getting ready for Paris all summer has been so much fun. Now, only days remain until I leave and a new adventure begins. It still seems surreal.

Asbury University students are experiencing a life-changing semester in Paris. Follow their blog!
Chantal Barlow (pictured with her mother, Julie Barlow) spent the first three months of her life in France. Now, she's returning for an impactful semester with Asbury University.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to be immersed in the French culture and language. I spent part of my childhood in Quebec, Canada, so I learned French there and still speak it pretty well. I have also been studying French, which is my major here at the University. While I am confident with my skills in understanding French, my hope is to improve my knowledge of the language and be able to speak more easily and naturally. I am going into this new adventure with a goal of always trying to speak in French and pushing myself out of my language comfort zone.

Something unique and exciting that I get to experience is living with a French family. Since I am a French major, this option was offered to me instead of living in the dorms with the other Asbury University students. I feel as though this will be an incredible way to be immersed in the culture even more than I could have imagined. I am so excited to meet the French couple that I will be staying with for the next three months!

If anyone knows me, they know that I absolutely love making lists. This summer, when my time wasn’t spent shopping or packing, it was spent making lists of things and places I want to see in Paris and the country of France. Some of the things I am most excited for are the art museums that I will get to see alongside my fellow Asbury University classmates. I am also very excited about the French food I will get to enjoy, from the bakeries and cafés to the outdoor markets full of delicious food and beautiful flowers. I am also looking forward to using the photography skills that I have learned while being at the University to capture the beautiful streets and people of France.

There is a quote by author Jacqueline Luckett that captures my goals and hopes for this fall semester in Paris. It reads, “Be wild. Dance in the streets. Take French lessons. Walk the wrong way home. Don't play it safe.” I want to get out of my comfort zone and have an adventure, even if it may be scary sometimes. I want to live life, explore and have an amazing time in Paris. I’ll be back on the University’s campus soon, but until then, au revoir!


To learn more about Asbury University's Paris Semester, visit:

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