By Rachel Feidelman
Lauren Brami, 24, graduated from the College of Charleston in 2015, looking to explore the world. She had studied in Paris for a semester and returned there after graduation. She taught English and traveled around the continent, meeting interesting people along the way. She often stayed with people who open up their homes to passing travelers for free, through an online platform called CouchSurfing.
Why did you want to go back abroad after college?
When I studied abroad I fell in love with Paris. It’s really hard not to fall in love with that city. When I graduated from college, I knew that I wanted to go back to France so I found a program.
What was your program like?
The program is called TAPIF and it’s the teaching assistant program in France run through the government. You work 12 hours a week, and you’re helping English teachers teach their classes. I was teaching in two middle schools. One was in a city called Blois, and the other one was in the countryside, and they were very, very different.
What was so different about the two schools?
The kids in Blois thought they were the bad kids from the city and were kind of difficult. They didn’t really want to learn English because they didn’t see any point to it because they were in the middle of France and didn’t think they’d ever need to use English. The ones in the countryside were completely in awe of a person who was not from France and wanted to learn about America and English and they were really excited about it.
Did the program come with housing?
It really varies where you’re assigned. Some teachers will offer to house their teaching assistants if they have a spare bedroom. Some people will rent an apartment in the area. But I ended up staying in a student dorm kind of situation, which was probably the worst apartment I will ever live in. It was an efficiency apartment and it was comical. The guy who ran it was an old romantic French man and every time I had a problem he would try and woo his way into my heart with tales of his past and I would forget the reason I even went to go talk to him. It was quite the scene.
Where else did you travel to and which was your favorite?
I went to Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Budapest, I was all over. But my favorite trip was the one I took to Italy over spring break.
What kinds of places did you stay in when you traveled?
I was couch surfing in a few of the cities I visited. When you tell people you’re couch surfing, they ask why you’re doing that. But when you’re really broke and you want to travel, you don’t really have any other options, especially in cities that aren’t super touristy, they might not have cheap lodging. Somebody had told me about couch surfing and I was like, all right, I guess I’ll try it.
What was your most interesting couch surfing experience?
Italy was the first time I’d ever done it. The most poignant experience I had couch surfing was with this guy called Mossimo. He was just your very typical Italian man who would wake up singing opera in the morning and bring me an espresso. He was just a character. He took me around Bologna. I’ve met so many people from it and I still keep in touch with some of them today.
What’s your biggest takeaway from the trip?
When I first went abroad, I really thought that I wanted to live in Europe for a while. Being there for an extended period of time, the romantic idea that I had about Europe the second time around kind of evened out a little bit. Especially since when I was there, the terrorist attacks were happening in Belgium and Paris, so that was a little shocking. I was ready to come back to the United States by the time I got back here, but now I’m kind of on that wanderlust train again and I’m itching to go back.
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