Exploring Paris with AIFS Past Review

By (Government and Arabic, The University of Texas at Austin) for

AIFS: Paris - Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes! It made me more independent and made me rethink my academic and professional future.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Université de Paris IV, University of London Institute in Paris
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.

NO daily homework like we get in American language classes - just big assignments and tests. Most of your grade is from the final. Fortunately, the AIFS classes were really easy, which was fine with me because my priority was learning the language. I did that in my French and phonetics classes and in everyday life - you learn a ton of French in bar/café discussions with strangers. The light workload also gave me more time to travel and explore Paris.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Jane was wonderful. She organized all the cultural excursions -- definitely one of the highlights of the whole program. Alexia, the housing director, was helpful as well. But I had a very traumatic experience with a service AIFS had hired at the end of the trip and Danica, the program director, was extremely unhelpful and unsympathetic. I also had friends who had a lot of difficulty transferring credit and making the schedule work for them, as many of the classes on the website weren't actually offered for our semester. I think we had about 6 options total for classes. The program size was nice, though, only 46 people, so you got to know people well and it was small enough that you were motivated to get out and make French friends.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a gorgeous neighborhood, literally two blocks and a bridge away from the Louvre. I could walk home from the bars and clubs easily and safely, even late at night. I even walked to class every day (about thirty minutes but you don't notice when it's so beautiful). Only drawback was that it was expensive to buy groceries in my neighborhood. I didn't need to buy anything except food. Host families are different in France - my host mother definitely talked to me and occasionally we spent time together, but it has the feel of renting a room much more than being a part of the family.

* Food:

Parisian food is famous for a reason! Eat out when you can. Don't bother with tourist traps or cheap restaurants - eat at home (pasta is cheap, as is bread and cheese, both of which are awesome there) and save up for the good places. Make sure to try some of the pastries, a good way to have a reasonably priced treat.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program did a great job with cultural excursions - we got to go to Reims, Giverny, and Versailles with the program, as well as optional trips to Normany and the Loire valley. There were also a lot of great trips within Paris - museums, tours, wine and cheese tastings and so on. Particularly memorable was the Fairground Art Museum, which is closed to the public throughout the year. It's a "musée spectacle," which is like an interactive museum, of fairground art from the turn of the century. It was a really special experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

It's a big city. Be smart. Watch your purse, don't walk alone at night, and know your way around. As far as health, I never went to the doctor but a friend went to the emergency room and it was free! The program will also reimburse your doctors' fees if you save the receipts. Medications at the pharmacy are also really affordable.

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Just keep in mind that Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so come in with some savings and be frugal when possible.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Accelerated Second-Year French
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I lived with a host family, my American roommate and I spoke French to each other, and we went out and explored the city often. I spoke French in daily interactions. Despite what you hear, the French are friendly especially if you want to speak French with them. Another great way to practice French was to go to where people hung out at night - either bars, the canal, or along the Seine or Place St. Michel - and just talk to people. If you stick to French in the classroom you really won't learn much.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

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

Select all that apply

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you aren't concerned about being challenged academically and are willing to be proactive in exploring the city, this program will be great for you.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Phonétique (Phonetics)

Course Department:
Instructor: Can't remember the name, but this was at the Sorbonne
Instruction Language: French
Comments: Most useful course of the semester. Five hours a week, every other week. We just would repeat after the teacher, record ourselves, and listen back with personalized feedback. This made the most difference in my ability to understand and be understood in French.
Credit Transfer Issues: I think it was included for credit in my Advanced French class.
Course Name/Rating:

Français Niveau Avancé (Advanced French)

Course Department:
Instructor: Stéphanie
Instruction Language: French
Comments: Somewhat challenging as it focused mainly on French grammar, and I didn't find the professor's explanations very enlightening. It was fun to meet international students. There was homework but it was usually pretty light and nobody checked it - we just went over it in class, so it was easy to fall behind if you weren't motivated. We had some literature too, which was nice. I wish there had been more emphasis on speaking practice.
Credit Transfer Issues: I didn't, but I know people who did. Make sure you study a bit for the Sorbonne placement test so you get in to the class you need for UT credit.
Course Name/Rating:

Franco-American Relations from Lafayette to Today

Course Department: GOV
Instructor: Prof. Galichon
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Easy peasy, but we got to walk around Paris a few times and the big assignments were to visit places frequented by historical figures - I got to see Fitzgerald's apartments, for example. If you know much about history though, you won't learn a lot from this class. Fortunately, I didn't.
Credit Transfer Issues: I took it for UD GOV credit but you could probably take it for history credit as well, or European Studies.
Course Name/Rating:

Art and Ideas in France: 1858-1919

Course Department: Art History
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Though the classroom component was a bit rudimentary, we got to visit lots of museums - it was awesome to get a guided tour and for someone like me who doesn't know anything about art history, it was very enlightening.
Credit Transfer Issues: