Using the five senses to ground yourself in a foreign place

Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but it can become overwhelming at times. With very limited proficiency in French, there have been times on my study abroad trip that I’ve felt stressed. It’s been helpful to me to combat these emotions with the grounding technique of the five senses in order to fully enjoy my trip. By being careful to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste Parisian culture, I’ve helped myself stay present while also observing really cool things about this city.


As we all know, Paris is beautiful. The gorgeous architecture, the masterpieces in the Louvre, and even a simple swirl of raspberries on top of a perfectly-shaped tart showcase the pride that Parisians take in how things appear. Stopping to enjoy these sights is a joy of traveling here.


The noise of Paris is unlike that of Tuscaloosa. I don’t notice many car horns or loud shouting. People here tend to be quiet as they move about, especially on the Metro. The sounds that I do hear come from street musicians or from tourists in the busier parts of the city.


One of the most significant textures of Paris are the cobblestone roads. There is a charm to them that can’t be beat by asphalt or cement. Although you have to be careful to watch your footing at times, the feeling of walking over the uneven ground is charming and not something that’s common back home.


There’s nothing like the smell of a boulangerie in the morning when I wake up early for a pain au chocolat and an espresso. The buttery, warm aroma of the baked goods is a delightful way to start the day. Here, it is normal to eat slowly and savor the meal, which is a great way to recharge throughout busy days of exploring and sight-seeing.


I’ve greatly enjoyed the simple mixte sandwich as a grab-and-go lunch here. It’s made up of a baguette, ham, cheese, and butter. The taste is perfect and the bread, of course, is incredible. Even something as basic as noticing the flavor of a sandwich can be a grounding experiment, as it is interesting to note how everyday lunch foods differ from country to country.

Being intentional to observe the city around me through my senses has kept me feeling focused and present, and has made me aware of so many unique parts of Paris. For anyone studying abroad, I highly recommend using simple grounding techniques such as this in order to fully enjoy your trip.