France--The best decision I ever made (even 6 years later) Past Review

By (Vanderbilt University) - abroad from 08/12/2008 to 01/31/2009 with

AFS: High School Year and Semester Study Abroad

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Going abroad at such a young age is unlike any other abroad experience out there. For me, that level of independence helped me to know myself in a way that no other experience could have afforded. I know for a lot of students, the hurdle in this is parents who are concerned that their children are too young to embark on such a journey. While this is valid, I can tell you that the rewards absolutely outweigh the risks (also, AFS has been in the business for so many successful years, that they mitigate issues by handling any problems that arise like professionals). This experience helped me to grow and learn skills that I still use today. To my time in France I attribute the following: my choice of college, my choice of college major, my self-confidence, and the skills that allowed me to thrive in college and, eventually, land my dream job.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Academics is not the focus of this program. Since all classes were at a French school in French and I was not yet fluent, the classes were not for credit. I believe this was the case for most students, although there may have been exceptions with some high schools.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The highest level of AFS administrators is great, but the host country coordinator was overly strict and not understanding. Nonetheless, they do a good job of checking up on you and how you are faring with your family.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family became my second family. We still keep in touch 6 years later!

* Food:

Everyone loves French food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

As one of maybe two native English speakers in a small French town, I became integrated into the culture pretty quickly.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

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


* 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)


* 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

You're usually not around other English speakers, so you really don't have a choice, which is hands down the best and only way to truly learn a new language.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
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? French 4
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? Watching TV/movies is a great way to pick up colloquialisms, especially if your host family is around to ask questions. I also kept a dictionary and small spiral notebook with me wherever I went and was diligent about looking up new words as a came across them. I think this was the key to my picking up the language quickly.

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
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?
  • Host family
  • Life-long friends
  • Allowed me to grow into a confident, independent person
* What could be improved?
  • Local administration
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? We had hosted many exchange students, so I was more prepared than most students for the challenges. What I did not foresee, though, was how vast the benefits would be. Six years later, I am still reaping the rewards. Studying abroad in high school is a challenge, no doubt about it--academically, emotionally, and mentally. But, if you're the kind of person who is open to change and eager to explore your own unique path, this is for you. Don't let people scare you into backing out. The experience is invigorating, challenging, liberating, and so much fun! The benefits outweigh the challenges in every way.