CEA Paris - the best thing I've ever done. Seriously. Past Review

By (Communications, University of Southern California) for

CEA: Paris, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It deeply changed me as a person. I became more confident, more independent, more self-assured and generally happier. I now travel all over the world and never feel intimidated to be in a new place because I know all of the wonderful things that are in store if I open your eyes. I'm currently in graduate school to become a teacher, and I plan to teach abroad. This is absolutely a choice I made because of my experience abroad.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Ida Kumer, who taught us Franco-international relations, was one of the best professors I've ever had in my life. She gave us so much authentic experience about our subject that was invaluable. By taking us around Paris and showing us things we would never ever have known about otherwise, my mind was opened and preconceptions shattered. I had a similar experience with every professor I had in my program. Art history in Paris was the most breathtaking, exceptional, astounding experiences of my entire life. If I could, I would take that course forever. The educational program was run by CEA at the time, not by an outside university so it was very similar to an American program. I had no trouble adjusting. The workload was very reasonable and in fact really helpful because so much of it engaged with the city itself. I knew other students who were at French schools who barely left their apartments because they had so much reading and writing to do....I felt sorry for them because they didn't get the chance to experience Paris in an academic way.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I loved everything about my program. CEA exceeded my expectations. Support staff was always there when I needed them and helped me with everything from career advice to detailed maps of the city, to phone calls to doctors when I needed them. It felt like a personal concierge service; amazing.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in the Estudines apartment building. I believe our cohort was the last to be allowed to stay there (I think we were too loud... :/) But, we had a fabulous time while there. It was really wonderful to have personal space but also be in a building with 15 other CEA students. It felt like a dorm but with much more privacy. Also, its location in the 11th was amazing; easy access to every main metro, close to the Bastille and Pere Lachaise, as well as the school-- which has since moved)

* Food:

Um, it's France! Of course the food was amazing. It was expensive to dine out frequently though, but the local groceries had limited but decent choices for cooking at home. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend Chez Justine on Rue Oberkampf in the 11th, right next door to a fantastic sangria bar called La Mercerie. And then Cafe Napoleon which I think is in the 7th right across from the Tuileries on the left bank. Omg I could go on forever. I'm not worried about kids who study in Paris though, they'll definitely find great spots.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Where to begin? I absolutely loved every experience I had while studying abroad. Sometimes it was challenging, especially at the beginning. Being in a new country, a big city and having to make all new friends is scary. Sometimes I felt discriminated against because I was an American (Bush was still in office....ugh. Since Obama took office, I've been back and relations seem MUCH improved!!!) Sometimes I felt homesick. But those things helped me grow into an adult and shaped my views of other cultures and the world. I loved every independent trip I took (except Munich for Oktoberfest...not my scene), every field trip CEA sent us on, and the extracurricular activities they offered us were awesome. Climbing trees and zip-lining in a forest outside of Paris? So much fun. Visiting Monet's house at Giverny in fall when all the flowers were in bloom? Indescribable. Even the things I didn't love, I loved.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

It's a big city, take care of yourself. Especially girls!!! Have someone in the group stay sober when going out at night so they can take care of anyone if necessary. A group of wasted American girls is like a screaming target in Paris. Also, don't go north of Montmartre after sunset. I never needed the healthcare system. I got a cold but got over it in a few days. Didn't need any vaccines to go. The pharmacies there are great though! If you have any, you can get all your prescriptions for so much cheaper than the U.S.

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)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French III
Language acquisition improvement?

I practiced French in class and in short conversations (mostly food vendors). French people rarely spoke English to me, but I was surrounded by Americans so I spoke English a majority of the time. If I could do it over again, I would have immersed myself more. It would have been great if CEA had a "buddy" program with a French school so we could practice our french with someone on a regular basis and maybe even make a French friend.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • N/A

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • It sounds cheesy, but seriously, everything. Totally life-changing.
* What could be improved?
  • Like I said before: more support for french/american student interaction.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Take advantage of the city!!!! Explore as much and as frequently as possible. Do things you don't think you're interested in. Definitely take in all of the tourist sites. Also, go off the beaten path whenever you can (carefully though, check with CEA about the safety of different neighborhoods first). Go to Versailles and Giverny. Eat as many crepes as you can. Paris is so central in Europe. If you can, take trips on weekends to other countries. Take advantage of every extracurricular activity CEA provides. Always carry a metro map. DON'T party all night every night and sleep all day! You can do that at home, this is PARIS!!!! Of course enjoy the nightlife, but it is just as much fun to wake up early and explore the quiet streets. I recommend this for open minded students who love (or would love to experience) vibrant city life and love to explore. Students who really want an immersive cultural experience would love this. If all you want to do is party (and trust me, there were students in my cohort who did), don't waste the money and just stay home.