This is the best way to get a handle on any country. Get to know the locals.
It’s such a great experience to be invited to their homes for dinners, birthday parties, events, local hangouts, etc… and to be able to go to the places they go, do the things they do, and eat the true foods that they eat and not the typical foods that only tourist eat.
The average tourist that rolls into town will never experience any countrys true personality the way that you can choose to do so, unless they ally themselves with locals of that country.
When you walk through a local villages’ street Farmers Market 6 hrs southwest of Paris, getting a personal tour and breakdown of the history of that village, walking to each booth tasting the local produce, fruits, cheeses, delicacies, eating in a restaurant that probably see less than a dozen Americans a year, walking through the woods to see the ruins of a 200 yr old castle, and you get the feeling that you are the ONLY outsider currently in that village, then you have made a valiant effort to go above and beyond the typical tourist mentality.
Your soul will be enriched and you will cherish those memories forever.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in just doing the tourist trap thing. There is a time and place for that too and you can do that in addition to immersing yourself in any country.
But if you really want to make your trip special, take my advice and meet some cool locals. You’ll go to places that you’ll never find in guide books and, if you’re lucky, do things that most backpackers and student travelers will never do.