unexpected challenges / irreplaceable growth May 03, 2018

By (Champlain College) - abroad from 01/29/2018 to 05/11/2018 with

CEA: Paris, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
CEA Paris has exposed me to an vast array of challenges through the duration of my semester abroad, but the accompanying insights into culture, sociology, history (especially of art), novel academic environments, and international consciousness/"citizenship" have been utterly incredible and dually vital to personal growth that I have no doubt would be impossible to replicate elsewhere. Paris itself is a location that I genuinely believe outranks [virtually] all others as a destination for study abroad; as I see it, the simple fact is that few if any other global cities can rival the vastness of its rich history, culture, and modern-day draw. For the ways in which their program has permitted me to access and observe that, CEA has my gratitude without reservations.

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.

Academics were less intellectually stimulating than I had hoped them to be, yet the content of the courses was an *excellent* gateway nonetheless into Parisian/French culture. My professors were deeply knowledgable and kind, understanding people. Because CEA is an American-based study-abroad provider whose signature courses transfer through University of New Haven with no French university as a liaison, the syllabi were structured very similarly to those I receive in courses at my home institution. The instruction of the courses, however, did not wholly follow the syllabi, and rubrics for grading were distributed in only 1 of my 5 courses, thus leaving grades often ambiguous. Relative to my prior higher-ed academic experiences, course assignments too were disappointing; in 3 of my 5 courses (the two French language courses being the exceptions), I did not feel that assignments were clearly connected to learning objectives and content from lectures but rather more often created "busy work" that merely fell in the same broad genre/field of study in which each respective course was situated. Still, because I was personally motivated to make my learning experiences meaningful, I exerted myself in these assignments and consequently found value in the work—a simple reinforcement of the maxim "it is what you make of it." I will add that the French courses I took during my studies here—one as an early-start two-week language intensive, the second through the duration of the regular semester—were thoughtfully structured and instructed with much care and patience, both of them *incredibly* helpful to my language acquisition and vital to my survival and exploration here. Now at the semester's end, I am eager to continue independent study of French back home, and I am ecstatic to know that I have reasonable conversational capacity now considering I spoke NO French when I landed in Paris in January.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The CEA Paris staff were an immensely helpful and kind team. All my personal experiences with them were highly positive, whether the reason for our interactions was connected to academics, student life, or my own personal life/experiences in the city. The execution/administration of academic programs in a more logistical sense was not inherently problematic, though the separation between the CEA portal used for posting grades and the Moodle page where each course housed syllabus, assignments, and updates made my own upkeep with the details a bit complex, especially due to the user-friendliness that I feel Moodle lacks.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in two forms of housing during my time here, both set up through CEA. During the early-start language intensive program that preceded the main semester, I lived for 2 weeks in a shared studio apartment; by my own tastes/standards, space was very limited and gave me no privacy, which was an especial challenge with my roommate of the time. During the remainder of the semester, however, I lived in a shared apartment that though moderate in size provided ample space for me and my roommate to follow independent meal and sleep schedules, though more often than not we dined together, studied simultaneously, etc. as the space certainly permitted that too. I chose to have a roommate assigned at random, but "random" frankly seems a crude term to apply to something so well aligned—whatever their methods of matching may be, the CEA staff gave me an *excellent* pairing and thus a great new friendship in the process.

* Food:

No meal plans were available with the primary housing options of this program, though due to our housing in apartments, this is perfectly sensible. Apartment kitchens were, as far as I saw in my home and my friends' homes alike, well-stocked with dishes & tools, enabling us with many options for at-home meals. Groceries here are more expensive than most other parts of France certainly, but with a small bit of mindfulness about shopping frugally, I did not feel at all challenged to shop on a budget here. Eating out at restaurants, cafés, and food stands is, however, quite expensive, especially with repeated and frequent visits. The pro to that con is the excellence—French food is INCREDIBLE, even if it's not French cuisine. Bad meals here have been very few and far between—the Italian cuisine is delicious, the Spanish cuisine is delicious, the Bavarian/German cuisine is delicious, etc. ad infinitum. I will MISS my food routines from Paris in the coming months back in the United States.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Culturally, I gained ongoing insights and immersion opportunities through my courses at CEA. I think this was the greatest strength of academics in CEA's Paris Program—the integration of field studies, general out-of-classroom adventures, and French culture learning to encourage a deeper level of immersion in the local culture throughout the semester. Beyond academics too, a series of weekend trips, evening excursions, and in-house workshops supplied almost non-stop opportunities to explore the nuances and histories of Paris/France. This spread of activities was incredibly well-prepared and planned by the CEA staff and aided adaptation immensely. A bit sadly, I did not feel as though I had connection to community in Paris, nor did I find myself building relationships with Parisians through the course of the semester, though this is reflective of French social culture and *not* of CEA's immersion programming. Through the excursions built into CEA courses and included as weekend activities of the program, there were many times during which I was able to connect more deeply with my peers as we shared very special exploration and discovery experiences in Paris and beyond. Paris/France are beautiful and *fascinating* places, and the people with whom you experience so many "firsts" here are ones with whom you naturally begin to grow closer. Despite the challenge of connecting with the local French people, the sense of community that I see within the student body here at CEA Paris is quite strong, and for that I am very grateful.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have to consult with CEA to address personal health issues during my semester, though while accompanying a classmate on her hospital visit I was taken aback by the lack of communication given by the hospital staff and challenged by the depth of the language barrier in that setting.

* Safety:

In comparison to my campus in the States in rather peaceful and uneventful Vermont, Paris (unsurprisingly) requires much more concern for one's safety; thankfully, CEA did equip students well at the semester's start with tips and recommendations for their safety. I was a victim of pickpocketing once and a victim of *attempted* robbery on a separate occasion; despite financial losses and emotional impact, my physical safety was, thankfully, not threatened in either instance.

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

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)

Cell phone plans and the cost of monthly/weekly passes to the Parisian métro significantly increase the cost of living allocated to each week during my time in Paris. As noted prior, food can certainly be expensive, especially when eating at restaurants and cafés and more of their ilk, though those who are mindful can certainly acquire groceries with ease on a reasonable budget.

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

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
How many hours per day did you use the language?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?
  • program location
  • cultural immersion/focus
* What could be improved?
  • coursework design
  • classroom technology
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The standards you hold for yourself may be on a level clearly different from that that anyone else expects of you, but your own growth and learning is not something that can always be measured by a rubric and certainly not something that is always confined to an academic environment. There is nothing more valuable, it seems to me, that you can do with your study abroad experience than passionately and relentlessly pursue awareness, empathy, resilience, and understanding; with even the slightest increase in any of these, you leave your time abroad a better person than you were as you began it.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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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.