Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Past Review

By (Literature, Howard University) - abroad from 01/31/2016 to 05/31/2015 with

AIFS: Paris - Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to grow from mistakes, how to pack a suitcase, and how to make the most of every day. I also grew a lot as a French speaker. It was extremely worthwhile and I believe that everyone should take this opportunity if they can. It will change your life.

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.

I give the educational experience a four because, while my grammar and phonetics professors were well trained and extremely knowledgeable, course applications were a bit confusing--the courses I thought were going to be offered were changed once I arrived, and the schedule is not available until classes start, which makes it hard to plan ahead. I took 18 credits, though, and I enjoyed all of my classes thoroughly.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I liked the on-site administration. The staff are friendly and helpful, and often offer great insights into the city. My only difficulty was with the course offerings being given to us on such short notice, which probably was not admin's fault.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my home stay. I had my own room and a pretty large living space. My host mother and siblings were warm and helpful, and living with them enriched my experience a lot.

* Food:

Butter and Cream. Need I say more?

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very integrated with the local culture. If I am honest, however, this was mostly attributed to my own efforts, not the program. The program does a good job of giving students a comfortable home base, but does not really facilitate cultural engagement with locals. This you must do yourself. I joined a local church, taught English lessons to a young French girl, and found ways to meet people outside of the program activities. If you make the effort, immersion will happen. But if not, it is very easy to stay in your American comfort zone.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Insurance is included in AIFS packages, so health care issues are well handled. I did not have to deal with any health problems, except a minor cold which was treated with cold medicine from the local pharmacy. I did not need any special vaccines for this program.

* Safety:

Paris is a metropolitan city. I'm from a large city myself, so I found that the same urban rules apply: be vigilant about your surroundings, pay attention to where you are walking, and who is around you. Keep your valuable items on your body, not in bags or pockets which give easy access to thieves. I know many people are fearful of attacks after what has happened in 2015, but having experienced 9/11 I have come to expect that terrorism happens everywhere. Students should use caution and common sense.

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)

Paris is expensive. AIFS offers all inclusive programs, which means that your housing, travel and tuition is paid before you arrive. However, you still must pay for things like books, transport, laundry, food, and cultural activities. The currency exchange adds some stress to this as well. The only other large expenses I had were monthly metro passes, which were about $80USD a month.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I think I spent about $60 a week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Students make sure to budget wisely. Plan what you are going to splurge on, and what your main expenses are in advance. If you plan to travel, book trips in advance to keep costs low. Also, consider cooking for yourself instead of eating out, which adds up quickly.


* 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

When spending time together with other students in the program, we mostly spoke in English. This was understandable, but I also wish AIFS had facilitated some sort of meet and greet or buddy system with local French students.

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? Advanced
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?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Join a local community, a church, a meetup, a volunteer organization. Meet local people, and don't be afraid to chat up the person in line next to you at the bakery, or someone in the bookstore. Also, make friends with the non-English speakers in your school. La Sorbonne attracts students from all around the world. My closest friends were from Norway and Korea. We spoke French with eachother, and this made practicing extremely fun. If you stick with Americans, you won't get anywhere.

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? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • All Inclusive Package
  • Knowledgeable and Helpful Educators
  • Great Location
* What could be improved?
  • Course Listings/Registration
  • Facilitated Interactions with Locals
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that I had known the course listings beforehand.

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.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Grammar B1.1

Course Department: French
Instructor: Veronique Gautier
Instruction Language: French
Comments: This course was amazing. Prof. Gautier is absolutely thrilling. She comes to class enthusiastic, and gives fast paced lesson plans that make the 2 hours go by pretty fast. She is also very experienced and as a result is extremely helpful when it comes to understanding your mistakes and helping you to find appropriate learning techniques. I loved her class, it was a pleasure to be her student.
Credit Transfer Issues: This course transferred to my home institution as three separate classes (Oral Expressions, Textual Analysis, and Phonetics) because it was a 9 credit class. Students should get these courses approved in advance.