Paris and the life I wasn't expecting but wound up LOVING. Past Review

By (Theatre, University of Maryland - College Park) - abroad from 01/17/2013 to 05/31/2013 with

AIFS: Paris - Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Definitely worthwhile. Amazing people. Amazing city. Amazing time!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

As far as rigor goes, I'd give this program a low score, but I gotta say, when you're living abroad it's really not so bad to not have to be devoting a lot of time to classes and homework. I enjoyed the time I wasn't having to spend on coursework.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Jane is AMAZING. Danica and Claire are also great... they do really care about us and feel free to go to them if you need to.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living with a host family is really a risky thing. I say that because it can make or break your stay, and the difference in families and homes are vast. Some of the others in the program has separate entrances, had less access to a kitchen, had pets, and could have friends over. I was not allowed to have friends over. This ended up being REALLY annoying because Paris is expensive and this spring was COLD. Those nights when I just wanted to have a friend over and cook dinner, we couldn't. I was very lucky because I ended up having a host sister who was amazing and host parents that went away a lot. She'd let me see my friends and would sometimes have her friends over and invite us to hang out with them. My best friend in the program had the opposite with his host family and it made him pretty miserable. My house was also AMAZING. I will probably never live in such an amazing place every again in my life, so overal, I was satisfied with my situation, but I must say that I feel lucky and it you're nervous about a home stay, I would recommend looking into own-living. For me, I did not really have the money for that, but if you do it is an option you should consider. (And invite friends over if you get your own place! We'll come and we'll appreciate it. :D)

* Food:

Food in Paris can be done cheaply. I got the meal plan and I'm SO SO SO happy I did. It lasted until the end and I was even able to get some nicer dinners by using a few at a time because I was able to each cheaply for lunches and such. Almost everywhere takes the tokens, by the way. It's great for people who suck at budgeting like me. :)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Americans speak mostly to Americans. It's just what happens. We did occasionally go out with French people, but it was always kind of a big deal when that happened. Haha Of course, the better your French is, the easier time you'll have with that. But even still, it's rough. Don't beat yourself up for this though, because what I can say is that you get the expat vibe with other Americans and even alliance with other foreigners. The French (especially Parisians) can sure be exclusive, so use that to your advantage and get to know people from all over the world!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had no health issues but my phone did get stolen. I went to Jane with AIFS and she helped me file a policy report the next day so I could get an insurance claim. Woo Jane!

* Safety:

I always felt safe. Except once. When someone who casually started talking to me on the metro late at night ended up getting off the metro with me and staying with me while I walked home even when I told him not to. He pushed me up against my door and tried to get in my lobby with me at which point I ran out and called my friend and waited until he went away. LADIES, it can seem tempting to be social when you're trying to make friends in the city, but French guys can be creeps! Trust your instincts and stand up for yourself. I probably should have slapped this guy before it got anywhere near where it went. Be smart!

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)

You definitely can live on a budget, but that's preparing to sacrifice. There was a way I imagined my life in Paris would be, and then there was my reality. My reality did not involve a lot of bistro dinner and cafe sit-downs, but it did involved exploring all over the city, cheap bottles of wine and good company on the bank of the Seine, sneaking into parks late at night, picnics all the time, and an occasional free concert, and lots of museums! I'd say give yourself a chance to try budget Paris living, but definitely plan to have a decent amount of money availible for use for this trip. You're going to want to travel, you're going to want to buy things, you're going to want to have a few of those fantastic typical Parisian nights- so make sure to have the money to do those things! But I was super fond of my student life in Paris and I implore you to let yourself have those nights too.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Stay away from American imports! I bought Levi jeans during my second week there for SOOO much more than I could have gotten them in the states. Stupid mistake! Oh, and Paris doesn't really do returns so be aware and sure when you shop!


* 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

Only in class. Most home stays encourage language usage, but mine did not really, which I was fine with.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 1
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Don't be shy and don't be discouraged. It will be hard because the French are not used to hearing broken French so they really don't have the ear for foreign accents, but don't let that stop you.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • 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?
  • 2 weeks in Cannes and London Weekend
  • AIFS activities!
  • Getting to meet some seriously amazing people.
* What could be improved?
  • Housing options
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Paris IS expensive, but you CAN do it for cheap!

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 Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Paris: History and Arch.

Course Department:
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Although I missed this class a few times since it was at 9am on Fridays, every time I went I was so happy. I loved the material and the professor was excellent and knew a lot about the city. We had 2 tests (I missed one!) and a paper that was very simple, but I'd say it was the class I learned the most in. Plus, we got to walk around the city and actually look at what we were discussing. Paris is so rich in architectural history and it's a great benefit to be there and being educated about everything you might pass by without knowing it otherwise.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Franco American Relations

Course Department:
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Teacher was great! Some people gave her sass, but overal she just wanted us to learn. The material can be somewhat dry, but if you pay attention and listen to the material, it's good material to know. If you want to be an educated American in Paris, take this class! Plus, we went on a Hemingway scavenger hunt and it was pretty sweet. We had 2 projects (easy, just DO them. My partner and I slacked on the first one and didn't get it in on time and then had to do TWO more because of it.) And a midterm and a final that are open note.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:


Course Department:
Instruction Language: French
Comments: (Debutant level) I adored my teacher, but I seem to be in the minority with this experience. She was a great and understanding teacher. However, a week before spring break they told us that we were done learning what we needed to know for the final and then we spent the next few weeks just reviewing and learning a few random things. Honestly, I missed a crap-ton of classes because it sometimes just felt like a waste of time, which was especially true because my University was not going to let me transfer any of the 9 credits because I tested into a lower level than they wanted me to. We did have a little bit of homework almost every night, but you go over it in class and it's not do or die. Compared to a normal work load in American University classes, I didn't think it was stressful or bothersome at all.
Credit Transfer Issues: