The Full Immersion Experience July 19, 2019

By (Southern Methodist University) - abroad from 01/03/2019 to 05/05/2019 with

Academic Programs Abroad (APA): Paris - Immersion for Intermediate & Advanced French Speakers

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Absolutely! I am a big traveler, but after flying solo for 5 months and relying on a second language was the most incredible experience. I am so much more confident in my abilities now, not to mention fluent in French.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

More than satisfied! My host family was the BEST, words cannot describe how much I enjoyed being a part of their family. They will be in my life forever.

* Food:

I'm vegan, kind of a novelty in France, but APA made the arrangements so simple and the food never disappointed. f

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Integration is definitely something you have to do actively, and I recommend finding things you are interested in to lead to immersion. Whether that's picking up a baguette daily from the boulangerie, taking yoga classes at a local studio, or engaging in conversation in a bistro, it's on you to get out there!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

It is important to be cognizant in any big city. Pay attention to your surroundings and if you feel uneasy, listen to your gut. I am a young, very American-looking female and was extremely aware 24/7. I was never pickpocketed or harassed because I made it known through my body language that I wouldn't have any of that. My biggest struggle was getting catcalled, but ignoring it and giving dirty looks shut creepers up right away. Move confidently even if you don't know where you are going, and try to blend with the locals as best you can.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

No other program immerses you like APA. I can't picture myself living in Paris without speaking French, taking classes in the local universities, and navigating the city without the metro and my local knowledge. Everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone, and studying with APA is the best way to do it.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

It helps to stay with a host family and conserve food expenses by meal planning, but Paris is not a cheap city! You will also want to spend on experiences and travel, so save up beforehand.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 150
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Meal planning and seasonal eating is really helpful, as is not buying drinks. I didn't go out often at all because buying a drink or two out on the town adds up fast, but dropping into a local bar or having some wine before going out is a cheaper alternative.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Day 1, the students signed a waiver that declared we would only speak in French with the program and our universities. So we weren't just encouraged, speaking the language was the entire point.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? An upper level French course.
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Listening and comprehension were the hardest part for me, which translates into casual usage of the language. By watching TV and movies in French, I was able to pick up on slang and rapid conversation better. However, I wish I hadn't used French subtitles because though at first it's a struggle, it would have helped a lot (since there's no subtitles when you're speaking with someone!).

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • My host family
  • The city
  • My peers
* What could be improved?
  • Coordination with SMU
  • Scheduling
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I knew to keep an open mind going into it, but I would just reiterate that. Immersing yourself fully means being ok with doing things a different way than your own. It sounds obvious, but in the moment can feel stressful. A huge example I experienced was how the French aren't like Americans when it comes to having a set schedule with advanced notice. I didn't know when my finals were going to be until the end of the semester, but communication is key and it all works out in the end. Just go with it!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'