If you’re reading this, you’re witnessing history in the making. For the first time in TJF history, I have a valid excuse for my absence. While I would love nothing more than to regale you with the details, that’s not what you came for. In a nutshell, my faithful laptop died. I had to wait to buy a new one, then recover my files from the old one. The moral of the story: thank the I.T. friend in your life. And backup your files.

This time last year, I was like you: an enthusiastic new assistant. Ready to take Europe as the Kardashians took…plenty of cities in shows I’ll never watch. Though I write this series with the confidence of experience, I too had my missteps during my first stint as a language assistant. Some of which I’ll share on this blog so that you can learn from my experience. Others will remain locked away unless I’m plied with copious amounts of alcohol.

In my previous post, I expressed gratitude towards past me for the decent job she did packing last year. Yet I still fell into the “pack like I’m never coming back” trap. In retrospect, I understand how important it is to treat every inch of your suitcase as valuable real estate. This time around, I plan to pack better. And I want you to get it right the first time by learning from my mistakes.


Generally, profanity has no place in my writing, save for dramatic effect. And I believe that this is one such exception because I’m bemused at why I thought packing eight pairs of shoes was a good idea. You read that correctly. I brought eight pairs of shoes with me to France. Which wouldn’t be absurd (because a girl likes to have options) but for the fact that I only wore three pairs. Ultimately, five pairs of shoes never touched French soil (or sand, snow or sidewalk).

The five pairs that I never wore were ballet flats and sandals. And if you recall, TAPIF takes place from autumn to spring; the seasons where it’s too cold to wear ballet flats and sandals. Even my prof ref asked when I planned to wear them. The three pairs of shoes that I wore all the time were two pairs of sneakers and one pair of boots; sturdy shoes that were suitable for walking and would protect my feet from the harsh elements.

By no means am I limiting you to three pairs of shoes. I’m not even limiting myself to three pairs of shoes (even after learning my lesson). What I am telling you is to prioritize practical and multipurpose over cosmetic. No offense, but nobody cares how fashionable your shoes are. Nor will they care if you wear the same shoes everyday. And it’ll hardly matter when your toes are falling off during a night out in the middle of winter.

Pro Tip: While you’re prioritizing purpose over cosmetic, I would advise you to bring some comfortable bed slippers for winter nights and cold floors, as well as shower shoes for communal bathrooms.


While we’re on the topic of clothing that’s unfit for cold weather, I figured it was the perfect segue to discuss another packing blunder of mine; packing the type of clothing I would wear around Jamaica. This goes back to a point I made in a previous post about not understanding how cold it can get in France. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid. I packed my sweaters and thermal underwear. But I also had a handful of short-sleeves and T shirts that I thought I would get a few opportunities to wear. And I did, once in a blue moon in autumn. Then in spring, it was indeed warm enough to wear a T shirt (under a light jacket).

Nevertheless, I consider this a blunder because I had so many dresses. I packed three bodycon dresses, then bought two more. To this day, I only wore one of those dresses ONCE in France. And I regretted that choice within thirty minutes of leaving my apartment. As good as I looked, confidence couldn’t shield my legs from a light breeze.

My advice: You can afford to pack three T shirts for those rare sunny days. But leave the tropical wardrobe at home. Pack one dress in the event you have somewhere nice to go, but no more.


TAPIF is a transformative experience. If you come back from France as the same person who left, then you did something wrong. However, that transformation may not happen the way that you think it will. Prior to my departure, I thought that living in France would be an opportunity to become the productive person I had always aspired to be. And I packed with that goal in mind. I brought books intending to rediscover my love of reading and prep for the DALF C1. I planned to document every experience on this blog. I wanted to pack my yoga mat to start exercising again. In my mind, I was going to return to Jamaica as a new woman.

Then I got to France and I wasn’t motivated to do any of those things.

Not once did I crack open a textbook to study. This blog is proof that my “document every experience” plan went unfulfilled until now. Thankfully my yoga mat was too large to justify packing, because I wouldn’t have used it either. I did experience personal growth and accomplished other goals such as travel and independence. Yet I had to surrender those lofty goals that I set for myself so that I wouldn’t feel burdened. Burdened by the weight of these aspirations that needed more than seven months and a new environment to accomplish. Burdened by the guilt of not working towards them. Which rendered all of the objects that I packed to accomplish them – the books, the action camera, the tension bands in lieu of the yoga mat- unnecessary.

Here’s a hard pill to swallow: if you weren’t that person at home, you likely won’t become that person in France. TAPIF isn’t a mystical pilgrimage that will change your entire being. And the way you mentally pack for TAPIF will bleed into how you will physically pack. You’ll end up disappointing yourself because your mental and physical suitcase are ill-suited for the situation you will face in France.

If you take nothing else from this post, or you’ve decided to skip to the end because I’m long-winded, take this: be realistic. Realistic in what you’ll use and realistic about your expectations. Sometimes, you just need to enjoy your experience as the present you instead of a future you that doesn’t exist yet.

And if you aren’t motivated by my words, be motivated by the price of an overweight suitcase.