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Gap Year Abroad

19 posts categorized "Kira Farley"


Dealing with Dietary Restrictions in Paris

    First, let me apologize for the lack of interesting blog posts. As the year draws to a close, I have been thinking of logistical topics that I wished someone had written about before me, but I will write something actually interesting to read soon!


However, here is another post on a (hopefully) helpful subject:

Dietary Restrictions in Paris!


    Most Parisians seem to be thin and sleek, but it’s not due to the latest diet or fad. While talking to a friend about salad, I discovered that he had no idea what Kale was (Yes, I translated it AND showed them a photo...still nothing. Imagine a world that’s not Kale Krazy!!!). When I asked one woman about the idea of being a vegetarian or a vegan her response was “I understand why an American would do it because your meat is bad, but in France our food is actually good”.

    Needless to say, coming into Paris with any dietary restrictions is no piece of cake (gluten free, of course). As a former vegetarian and a current lactose-free gal, I talked with one vegetarian pal, Susan, and one pescetarian pal, Moses, to see how they go about eating in a country that doesn’t seem to want to accept their diet:

    Note: As usual, French people have it together more than Americans and don’t seem to have the same allergies as we do. Lactose pills are NOT available in France as nobody seems to be lactose-intolerant (I’m now known as that weird American who can’t handle French cheese). I haven’t met anyone with a peanut allergy or any other major allergies in general. As with all medication and supplements, it’s best to bring a large enough supply to last you the entire stay (I started my semester with zero lactaid pills and let’s just say it was a really rough time for all).


Host Family:

In the application you will be asked if you have any restrictions, but you should still talk about it with your family upon arrival. For the first two months my host mom thought I was dairy AND gluten free until I set the record straight. She, being the glorious and wonderful person that she is, was more than happy to work around my restrictions, but not every family is like mine. Nobody should be forcing you to eat a piece of chicken, but both Susan and Moses mentioned that neither of their families eat vegetarian. So, the two of them eat only veg-friendly side dishes or make their own food like they do back in America.



This one is complicated depending on your restrictions. It’s easier for me because I can more or less tell if their is going to be dairy in a dish and I just pop a Lactaid (shout-out to this glorious saviour of a dietary supplement), but it’s not always easy. If you happen to be hypoglycemic or diabetic and need to know sugar contents, you can try to ask but you may not achieve a reliable answer. Susan and Moses said they don’t tend to just try any restaurant because often times the only vegetarian option on the menu is a salad (which often time means a bowl of iceberg lettuce. Nothing else.) and going out to eat in Paris is no cheap ordeal. There are vegetarian restaurants scattered around Paris, but nothing like the U.S. See here for a list of good vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and generally more healthy options:



It’s really easy to think that French people don’t “diet” because they just all naturally diet by eating enough food for a small mouse. Yes, the portions in France are smaller, but French people eat healthy and they eat often. You’re most likely going to be walking a LOT and unless you want to make yourself ill and spend your time in bed (see my previous post “Sick Nasty” for tips on dealing with sickness in Paris), you need to fuel your body. First semester I ate kebab (a glorious and horribly unhealthy fast food) at least once a week and I felt awful because I wouldn’t eat anything else all day and my body was getting no nutrients (my host mom swiftly told me this was a bad idea and re-introduced proper meals). I was basically living like the stereotypical college kid. The beautiful thing about living in Paris on a gap semester/year is that you can eat REAL FOOD before you head off to a dining hall.


So, it is a little more difficult to have a dietary restriction in Paris, but it is still very possible! Go out and try out as much good food as you can and bon appetit!



P.s. Some helpful vocab below

Vegetarian=végétarien(ne)  (Pescetarian is the same as in english) 


Gluten-Free=Sans Gluten

Lactose intolerant=Intolérant au lactose



Shellfish=Fruits de mer

Nuts=Des noisettes 

Vegetables=Les légume

Meat=La viande 

Fish=Le poisson

And...because I know someone will want to know:

Kale=Chou frisé



Sick Nasty!

Disclaimer: this post is more geared towards those who are looking for advice for their own Gap Year in Paris, but feel free to read anyway!

There are fewer things I find worse than being sick. I can't stand it. I know some people love taking days off to lie in bed, watch Netflix, eat food and otherwise do nothing...but that's my nightmare. Don't get me wrong, I'm good for the first hour or two, but after that I'm fidgety, moody and downright mad about being less than 100% healthy. What's worse is being sick in Paris. I spent most of my senior year in high school battling this illness or combating that ailment. My goal in Paris was/is to spend as few days sick in bed as possible, but everyone has their downfalls sometimes. Being sick in Paris is hard for me because 1. My hatred of illness and 2. In the beginning, I was clueless about how to handle it. Luckily (or maybe unluckily considering I have had practice in being sick...) I have figured out how to conquer it all!

In America, I would take some medication, eat those go-to snack foods that you have had since you were a kid and sleep it off. Worst case scenario I would call my aunt (she's a pediatrician, but talking to loved ones can't hurt your sickness! Give your grandma a call!) and maybe then visit Children's Medical Atlanta (heck yeah I still see a doctor for kids...the grownup doctors don't even have my favorite lollipop flavor OR stickers!!!).

I figured it would be something similar in Paris and while it isn't too different, I wasn't as prepared as I could have been. Here is my advice for getting back on your feet and in the streets and cafes of Paris ASAP:

1. Be aware that your favorite comfort food may not be available here. Before I left I heard that goldfish crackers didn't exist in Paris so I stocked up in my luggage. I'm glad I did because that's all I ate for two days the first time I got sick. There are still plenty of comfort (and health friendly!) options! Ignore the saying about starving a cold or a fever or whatever it is. Your body needs food and liquids and Paris is no slouch on those two. Just maybe avoid the coffee and wine for a few days :)

2. The pharmacy is recognizable by the giant green plus sign and it is a lot less scary than you think! Even if you don't speak any French, you can usually manage to get what you need by A. Speaking English very politely and B. Miming out your ailment (just don't get TOO realistic...).

3. Going to the doctor's office usually involves going to an apartment down the street turned into a small practice. The first time I went to one, I thought I was about to enter someone's home! In a way, it feels nicer than being in a cold, white room.

4. If you can't/don't want to go to a doctor...they can come to you! House visits are much more of a regular thing in Paris than in the United States and don't cost much more than a regular visit to an office (those usually range from €20-€30 and depending on your healthcare, you can be reimbursed! Think of all the croissants you can buy with that money!!!). The service is called SOS Medicins. A friend of mine has called them to visit her and said it was pain-free and easy! They can also come at odd hours which is really helpful if something comes up where you can't get yourself to a doctor right away! Bonus: you don't even have to change out of your pajamas!

5. Your parents are a phone call away if you're really struggling, but if you're doing this program, take advantage of your host family. They are in charge of taking care of you for a reason. They care about your health and wellness! My host mom (who I am pretty convinced is just the greatest French woman to walk the earth ever) has been there for any little cough or sneeze I've had. She has made the doctors appointments for me when I lost my voice (or was too scared to call a French person), made me tea, let me sleep for a ridiculous amount of hours and acted like my own mom would.

Overall, getting sick is no fun and missing a day to explore some nook or cranny in Paris is less than ideal, but the most important thing to remember is that if you don't take care of yourself throughout this semester/year, you'll be burnt out and feeling bad the whole time. Make sure to drink water and rest (believe me...I know it's hard. I only slept 3 or 4 hours the first week or two and really paid the price) and as I always like to say:

"Positive Thinking, Positive Feeling, Positive Outcome"

And as the French would say:
“Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir” AKA “It is better to prevent than to heal"

Cheers and good health!


Call me Princess Kira

I love Paris, but I have decided to move. I’ll be packing my things this week and heading to my new home: Le château de Versailles. It's fitting for me since I have always wanted to be a princess (and a dinosaur and a bug, but I am still working on those). The palace began construction in 1623 by King Louis XIII to serve the purpose of a hunting lodge. The major expansions were overseen by King Louis XIV when he moved from Paris to Versailles in 1682. Men worked on the elaborate structure 24/7 with the exception of Sunday morning to attend mass. At night, the men worked by torch light...what dedication! Their hard work is evident as Versaille’s grounds cover 87,728,720 square feet, 2,014 acres, including 230 acres of gardens. The palace itself contains 721,206 square feet of floorspace!

12620661_1170614149623344_877047227_o Fence 12656307_965815673508706_502092582_o
Le jardin
The land is enormous and the gardens are just as exquisite as the palace itself. Inside the palace there are well known rooms and apartments like le grand appartement du roi, le appartement de la reine (King’s Apartment and Queen’s Apartment) and La Galerie de Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) where commoners could gather and hope to see the king. It was known that you could only speak to him if you made eye contact as he crossed the hall...kind of like the paris metro today where eye contact is often taken as an invitation to spark a conversation. I guess French tradition stays strong. La Galerie du Glaces 12669203_965815800175360_1216147991_o


And of course we took a $quad $elfie in the mirrors because we are obnoxious American teenage girls:  12674804_965815736842033_2092459848_o

The palace is a wonder to behold and like the Louvre, a place that requires more than one visit to see in its entirety. Since I plan to move in, this won’t be an issue. My one problem, however, is the size of the beds available. The beds are much smaller and square because people didn’t sleep lying down as this was viewed as a position for the dead. People often slept sitting halfway up! I guess I will have to bring an air-mattress because if I tried to sleep like they did, I would wake up in the morning looking like this:

Me in the morning

On the bright side, I could practice my gymnastics tumbling because the beds were so high they required a step to get up on. Bed


One of the most incredible aspects of the palace was the art within. The palace was something of a museum for the king with paintings, sculptures and busts lining the walls.

Versailles ceiling paintings Versailles chapel

So, I can’t wait to unpack, but I may have to change a few rules. For example, there was a room where people could observe King Louis XIV eating his meals. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would feel incredibly awkward if people sat and watched me eat. Let’s be real here, folks...there is NO way to elegantly eat a sushi roll in one bite.


I am excited to return in the spring and walk through the blooming gardens and visit the farm animals that still reside on the farm in the back of the property! 12655996_965815826842024_1663200657_oBeauty Blender Jardin


Welcome, Moses!!!


On February 8, 2016 the CIEE Gap Year¨Program welcomed their new little miracle: Moses Milchberg. He weighed over 100 lbs and measured at a whopping six feet and two inches!

Last semester we had two other members of the CIEE crew: Nick and Robert. Now they are off on their own adventures in New Zealand and Middlebury College respectively. At first, we thought this semester would be just us four gals...but we were pleasantly surprised with the news of a new student! His host family and Lucie, our (AMAZING) program director were both busy, so Catie, Caroline, Susan and I set out to pick him up.

On the way to the airport with big smiles:  12714189_538949682950696_1725374455_n 12696244_538949689617362_897324344_n
Our main goals before we left were to 1. stay calm and 2.Not weird him out immediately. I would say that we failed on both accounts, but that is just part of being in the #CIEE$quad. We have already dubbed him into the family as the long lost uncle who has come out of hiding and given him multiple nicknames (Moes, Mo, Mossy, Moss ball <--My personal favorite)12735710_538949696284028_1751265968_n

While I don’t want to be too hasty with opinion, I think I can safely say that all CIEE gap people welcome Moses with open arms and with his arrival, we are finally a complete team that is ready to take on the next semester in Paris! (Plus he also takes Lactaid pills...automatic bonding. I only mention this for a food restriction/sensitivity post to come in the future for all those who are wondering what it may be like) 12666284_538949692950695_684983366_n 12714365_538949702950694_1336958215_n


Le Brunch du Dimanche

The French have mastered the art of “Sunday Brunch”. You can feel your life improving with every bite of fresh airy croissant and each sip of café au lait or jus d’orange pressé. Le Brunch du Dimanche often consists of other pastries and breads as well. My personal favorites include spicy chorizo bread, chouquettes, pain au chocolat and an occasional surprise pastry that is chosen simply because it stood out among the other artistic creations.  

Croissant-836722_960_720 IMG_2015This particular Sunday my host mom and I took to the streets and walked to a petit and classically French brunch place. The atmosphere is quaint and welcoming. As I sat opposite my host mom (featuring her new leopard print coat) I felt as though I should be sitting with one leg crossed over the other and have my head thrown back in a gay display of laughter. I wanted to purse my lips (adorned with a bold red lipstick for a true French woman knows how to rock the perfect red), wink and exclaim, “C’est la vie, ma cherie!”


As we finished our repas (meal) and paid (buying extra bread for l’après midi aka afternoon because it was just baked in house that morning and you just cannot resist), my host mom used her magical french ways to convince the man working in the bakery to let me behind the counter and into the kitchen. I can’t say I have spent much time in professional kitchens, but I have to imagine that a French bakery is something out of a baker’s dream. There I was standing in my jean jacket and little red backpack like a dumbstruck fifth grader on their first field trip. The culture around bread (which is another post to come in the future) is not something to be messed with. I felt like I was in a NASA control center mixed with an artist's private studio: extreme precision and free-flowing art all in one.

IMG_2008 IMG_2009

As we parted and began our return to l'appartement, we popped into a charcuterie (butcher’s shop) and picked up one of the scrumptious poulet rôti (rotisserie chicken) dripping with flavor on the spinning spit (the rod on which the meat is skewered). IMG_2011 IMG_2010

Photo: The Hip Paris Blog

Après ça we continued on our way, winding through the streets alive with other potential Sunday Brunchers. It felt like the scene out of The Sound of Music when Marie is skipping down the road with her guitar and singing “I Have Confidence”...except I was holding chicken and singing “Le Ciel Le Soleil Et La Mer”. With that, the quintessential "Brunch du Dimanche" was complete.


Crêpes? Fancy Pancakes?

Happy National Crêpe Day! It is an incredibly simple dish: some flour, eggs, milk, butter and you are set. Every French person and their mother gets together and celebrates this glorious day of crêpe eating goodness.

I actually celebrated the day after with my host family and friends. The day of, my friend Caroline and I had our own little festive crêpe (and fries, of course...what is a meal without frites et café au lait) in a café:

IMG_1901 (1)

However, I am not one to ever turn down a good crêpes, so we celebrated again last night! In the United States, crêpes are usually eaten with some combination of nutella, sugar, fruit and the occasional savory ingredient. In France, however, anything goes. I have seen fois gras, tomatoes, four cheeses and more. Alas, a crêpe seems to be the perfect food for the options are limitless meaning the fun never ends!


Clarification: A crêpe is NOT a pancake. Both exist in France! A french crêpe is what Americans picture, but the pancake is where things change. Due to different ingredients, a french pancake is often denser and tinted yellow (this is due to the fact that eggs in France are very yellow). Then there are blinis...known in America as sand dollar pancakes/silver dollar pancakes/mini pancakes. Don’t trust anyone who tells you that they are all the same.


So, I hope that everyone reading this gets the opportunity to try the delicious (preferably a homemade one from France...but it is okay to settle for a well made American crêpe) thin masterpiece called the crêpe!

BONUS: My host sister, Luna, saying the glorious word, crêpe:




5 Cities, 8 Days

I’m pooped. I am achy and exhausted and my reflection actually scared me this morning because the circles under my eyes are so purple I thought I had paint streaked on my face. It’s also the best feeling in the world. I just spent the last eight days hopping from Hamburg to Munich and more! It was exhausting in the most invigorating way possible. Trying to share the trip through writing would never cover it all, so I’ll give some highlights from each city. Thanks to all the old and new friends along the way who made it a fantastic time! 

PLUS: I made a video from the trip created entirely from one second long snippits..I hope you enjoy!



-The LARGEST model railway in the world! It even had hidden gems like a dragon flying through Bavaria or the United States staging the moon landing on a set.

-Sasha. This is the family friend of Katie, my trusty travel companion, and also one of the nicest people I have met in Europe thus far. He made the experience 100X better EVEN IF he has the scariest hairless cats on the planet.



-The wall and all the other art we saw. Berlin has wonderful street art. That’s a fact.

-The Jewish memorials and museums. My friends and I spent five hours one day learning, mourning and discovering the history of Jews throughout European history.


Budapest (my personal favorite):

-The bathhouses!!! I love a good bath and the historic bathhouses in Budapest were almost too much to handle. Every muscle in my body felt like jello and going at night when the moonlight is shining into the water is definitely the right move.

-The spectacular views. This was such a beautiful city...I couldn’t get enough of it.


Vienna (Katie’s favorite):

-The music. Everyone knows Vienna is home to the best classical music in the world and we were lucky enough to be able to see it live! We went to a performance house where a small orchestra played crowd favorites, opera singers gave us chills and dancers made us wish we had stuck with ballet past the age of 7...or could even just sway on beat...


-The Residenz Museum. Very elaborate. Very gold. Very good.

-The food and drinks. Munich is famous for really good beer for a reason (Disclaimer: All alcohol was had responsibly, legally and while on a historic beer tour), but I can’t say the same for the schnitzel. I can live without eating veal for a long while.



New Year, Still Me

2016-01-02 01.41.50
Sometimes I wear fake bangs. I got them as a birthday present years ago, but have never dared wear them out of my house. Every so often I like to creep over late at night to my “battle-station corner” where my overloaded collection of makeup, hair tools and accessories resides and dig the fringe out.  I clip them into place and examine myself in the mirror as I contort my face into fake laughter, fish lips, stone cold and “Oh! You caught me off guard!”. I play with the length and pull at how it falls atop my face. Sometimes I try baby bangs and remember when Beyonc
é did it best. Other times I pull a Bardot and stick out a pout. There is something comforting about being awake at such a late hour...a sense of isolation and protection. A feeling that the judgement takes a break for a little bit and I breath freely in my own skin. I consider going for the cut in real life and my mind jumps from enjoyment to fear of physical perception.  I remove my fake hair and ever-so-carefully return them to their hair net where they remain until another late night craving for a hair transformation.

A transformation, that is what I was always trying to achieve. Was I not satisfied with who I was and felt that changing something about my appearance will fix everything? Was it when I saw old pictures of myself as a child with real bangs that I ached to return to when life seemed so much simpler? I can’t tell you because I honestly don’t know. However, I know that tonight I had a different feeling within me. I put the bangs on and thought the cliché: “New year, new me”. This time, transformation didn’t dazzle me. I didn’t make any faces...I just sat there and stared back at myself. I really looked for the first time in a long time. I saw details that I had obscured from my own vision: the smile lines that cut down through my cheeks, faint freckles that danced across my nose, purple-tinted paint-like skin greased below my eyes from sleepless nights. I touched the scar on my lip from when a dog decided I looked edible and I took in the way my right eye closed more than my left. I didn’t see my physical features as something to be transformed, I saw them as reflections on the story my life has told so far. 

Someone asked me who I wanted to become in 2016. The thing is, a new year doesn’t mean a new you. You are the same you that you were the day before and yet, you are never the same no matter what day it is. Life is all about changing. No changes you make on the surface don’t equal changes within you. If there is one thing that my gap year is teaching me, it is that life is uncontrollable. You don't get to decide what happens all of the time. So, my resolution this year is to recognize changes and accept them as they come and go. I want to appreciate the time that I have and spend it well and maybe, just maybe I’ll actually cut my bangs this year.



Luna and Hugues send me on my way


“How was Paris?!” -Everyone

Paris less than amazing. It is intoxicating...everything about it filled my pores, filtered my vision, clouded my brain with a high unavailable on any black market. Paris is every newly discovered piece of myself that I never had in Atlanta. Paris is a home. Paris is where half of me still remains, waiting impatiently for my return in January.

For the time being, I’m ever so slightly detoxing as I shift my focus in my attempt to adjust back to Atlanta.

I’m relearning how to live in a space where I can’t comfortably call to someone from one side to the other.

I forgot what it’s like to have squirrels as upstairs neighbors and not the four thunderous children that seemingly love being active at all hours.

If I want to get anywhere it will be in car rather than the metro. It is much easier to walk across Paris than it is Atlanta. My subconscious came through the very first day of me driving again in Atlanta and I ripped off my front bumper. Adjusting takes time.

I coming back to a curfew and Christmas on steroids. I’m seeing the people that I once saw everyday in the halls of my high school for the first time in months and I’m realizing that I am not the only one who has changed. The memories are there, yet somehow I remember everything differently.

When I opened my closet for the first time, an abyss of clothes looked back at me as if to judge, “you left us here to hang with no purpose and now you’re back to fit into us and pretend you never left?”

People always say the first time you come home for a break is the hardest. I would agree, except I don’t feel like I have come home yet. I feel like I am sleeping in a bed, but it’s not mine anymore. I run with my dog on the same paths I have been marking for years, but I don’t know the direction to go anymore. My actions aren’t automatic and familiar, they are awkward and arrive with doubt. Maybe Atlanta doesn’t fit me anymore or maybe I just don’t fit Atlanta.

So, I will enjoy the things I spent a semester living without: my family, fresh air, Chick-fil-a, my over-sized sweater embroidered with a scarf clad llama, my dad bringing me hot coffee every morning, my favorite squirty green Gatorade bottle, booming southern thunderstorms, mason jars and tea cups, the ding-dong of the church around the corner announcing each new half-hour that passes by.

My best friend, Greer, who picked me up from the airport and bought me Chick-Fil-A...if that's not true love, I don't know what is.
Catfish, hushpuppies, fries, jalapeño poppers, nachos and more...ahhh southern food.

I shouldn’t complain. I can’t look at my situation and be ungrateful. I have more than I could ever wish for. So, don’t take this as me feeling unhappy for not having Paris, take this as me being overwhelmingly grateful that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunities that I have. Everyday I wake up and get a warm feeling knowing I’ll be right back where I belong in no time.

Besides, how can you hate coming back when you get a text like this (if you haven't noticed, food is very important to me...I figured out my first few meals before I knew when my flight home was):



Foie Gras

Foie Gras. It's controversial. It looks gross. It's delicious. 

This weekend I did the Frenchest thing I have done to date and I learned how to make it! 

I gathered with my CIEE folks in one of my professor's apartment (which was adorable as many French apartments seem to be) Saturday night and step by step, transformed a pink ball of fatty liver into a smaller browned ball of fatty liver12369941_1136094423075317_466378570_o 12364272_1136094389741987_332228564_oThe actual cooking of foie gras isn't complicated at all. Although, as with most French food, it is an art within itself. Watching my professor scuttle around her small kitchen, mumbling French words here and there to herself , I felt like I had gone through some Narnia-Esq portal into the heart of real French cuisine. Subtle things like measuring salt into grams instead of tablespoons and sipping homemade vin chaud transformed my night into something out of a movie.
12394418_1136094359741990_547772539_oAll it really takes is some simmering water and spices. You submerge it in the hot water for five or six minutes and then dunk it into cold water. Next you salt it (better to have more than less in this step) and finally you smoosh it down into a dish where it will sit for a few days in the refrigerator until it's ready to be eaten with some good wine and toast. It was as easy as pie! So easy I almost forget how it's prepared before we obtained the liver in the market... 12375869_1136094069742019_279054097_o

I completely understand why it's a touchy subject. It's prohibited to import in India. It's illegal to produce in Australia, Argentina and Brazil. It's illegal in countries all over Europe including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Turkey, Norway, and most of the Austrian provinces. Thanks to general animal protection laws in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom mean that production is essentially banned there as well. 

Before I spend my evening creating such an iconic French food, I was right there with these countries. Now I am caught between my feelings on the process and the artistry of it all. Yet, at the end of the day, foie gras will still be around and even if I am not completely supportive, I am glad I got to experience just another one of the delicacies that French life has offered me. 


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