The Cultural Life of a Student in Paris

Now that my days in Paris are slowly coming to an end, I begin to ponder over what it is that has truly made me fall in love with this eternal city. Among all of Paris’ attractions, I think it is foremost the rich and easily accessible cultural life that has me mesmerized. The innumerable museums, unique bookshops, free exhibitions, plays at theaters, premieres at cinemas, dazzling street art, metro performances and simply interesting conversations during charming soirees all contribute to making Paris a captivating cultural hub where lovers of art and knowledge truly feel alive.

The great French actor, director, screenwriter, and playwright Sacha Guitry said: “Being a Parisian is not being born in Paris, but to be reborn there.” Having lived in Paris for more than three months now, I can certainly testify to the magical and transformative power of this cosmopolitan city. As an English major, I have long embraced art as part of my life. But Paris makes me feel like art is just as important as bread, if not more so, and all that represents the most basic substances for living our everyday life. Take the metro experience as an example, as part of a quotidian necessity that takes a large chunk of daily time, taking the metro has always been considered as immensely tedious and time-consuming. The French even have an expression to summarize the boredom of such a way of life: “Métro, boulot, dodo, c’est la vie.” Essentially it means that life is basically consisted of subway (Métro), work (boulot) and sleep (dodo). However, even such a banal everyday experience can be lit up by the Parisian passion for art. At the metro station Châtelet – Les Halles, which is also the location of our API home base in Paris, you can always expect to see a band of musicians playing classical music or singing Italian opera at the crossroads. No matter how gloomy and cold the day is or how blue I feel, watching and hearing these enthusiastic and persistent musicians unfailingly lifts my spirits.

Completely free and high-quality art performances are omnipresent in Paris. Walking on the famous and chic Rue de Rivoli, it won’t take you more than five minutes to find the uniquely decorated artists’ commune – 59 Rivoli. Open 6 days a week from 13h to 20h, one can watch artists create and work in these ateliers where they actually live. Fortunately, in Paris, these artists are not the only ones who get to live in art. The Louvre, as the one of the biggest museums in the world, and has collections of artworks that range from the earliest civilizations to the most contemporary culture. Musée d’Orsay, owning the world’s largest collection of impressionists’ art, is also a reconstruction of an old Parisian-style train station. Home to 153 museums, Paris never lacks art for those who truly seek it. And the good news is that if you are a student under 25 years old, most of the museums in Paris are free and therefore take nothing more than curiosity and a pair of willing feet to visit. The famous English bookshop Shakespeare and Company is also an alluring spot to go for literary and cultural events or simply a lazy afternoon immersed in this world of literature that used to be frequented by Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ezra Pound.

As a university student in Paris, many cultural events are free or have a student discount. For one of my French literature classes, I went with my classmates to see a theatrical play based on the French philosopher Denis Diderot’s novel La Religieuse (The Nun) at a cozy retro-style Parisian theater. After this particular experience, I am finally able to understand the French public’s enthusiasm for theater. The theatrical performance is what truly makes the already elegant and delectable French language sublime. And of course, this opportunity to see the performance and afterwards to converse with the actors of the play is entirely free and university-funded.

Having said so much, if you love culture, art and all that is beautiful in this world, come to Paris and you shall never regret!

Books on French fashion in Galaries Lafayette


Mona Lisa and its admirers


Shakespeare and Company

Vicky Huang is a student at Colby-Sawyer College and an official API Student Blogger. Vicky is studying abroad with API in Paris, France.

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