My apartment is in the 12th district of Paris; CEA, where our classes are held, is in the third district. This makes it sound like our commute would be very long, but Paris’ districts are arranged like a snail, so these are not actually as far from each other as you might think.
The day before classes began, I searched on Google Maps how to get to the center, both by walking and by metro so I could compare commute times. When I looked up the metro time it said 23 minutes so I figured the walk would be much longer. Then I saw the walk would be 27 minuted, only slightly longer. I wanted to walk anyways, so this small difference in commute time sealed my decision. My roommate Sandy also loves to walk everywhere so we quickly decided to walk together, at least the first day just to see what it was like.
The walk is very nice. We walk down our street, passing many others on their commute to work, passing the Bastille and its large roundabout of traffic and a modern opera building that looks out of place among the other historical buildings. Then we turn down a much narrower street, passing many stores, all still closed, bakeries and cafés. The smell of fresh baguettes tempts us each time. Sometimes we give in and stop for a croissant or café au lait. We pass a historic small park with children playing, chasing around pigeons. Finally we get to the street of CEA, an even narrower street that seems too narrow for a car to pass through. We walk through the big red doors, and we’ve made it!
After our first walk, we decided walking would be our main method of commuting. It was so much nicer than a cramped subway ride. By the second day I had most of the commute memorized, and by the end of the first week I could do the walk in my sleep. I have only taken the subway a few times, when I was running very late or when it was pouring down rain. It is much less enjoyable than the walk, but shaving off those extra five minutes can come in handy some days.
At Pitt, my commute is very similar. I walk to class most days, taking the bus if I’m running late. I also travel similarly in Paris as I do at Pitt when it comes to exploring the city, aka taking the subway in Paris and the bus at Pitt. One benefit Paris has is its public transportation system is much more developed. There are buses, trains, and the subway so it is very easy to get where you need to go if you do not want to walk.
So to anyone studying abroad or living in a new place, I recommend choosing walking as your commute, if possible. Just in general, walk around as much as you can. You see new things every time; things you might not notice if you are driving, taking the train, or on the bus. It will give you a better sense of the area you are living in and the people you are living amongst.