Paris: Unexpectedly Challenging, Yet So Very Rewarding Past Review

By (HISTORY., Trinity University) for

Central College Abroad: Study Abroad in Paris

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My French improved by leaps and bounds. I learned how to move past worrying about translating and how accurate my grammar was and what my accent sounded like to just speaking and listening- which in turn improved my grammar and accent subconsciously! I learned more about how to navigate public transportation, and got a teeny tiny bit better with directions. I gained SO much confidence in myself. Comparing myself when I arrived to when I left, the differences were almost comical.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Etoile, Institute Catholique, Central College Abroad- Paris
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The grading system is different, certainly, and never was really fully explained. However, if you do the work as it is assigned, you should make just fine marks. The teachers are a little stricter than you usually find in the US, and will snap at you and judge you if they hear you speaking English with another American student during class. But they do really want what is best for you, and can generally be pretty witty, so it all works out.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I loved Shelley. She helps you out with whatever you need. I bemoaned the lack of popcorn once in a journal assignment, and within a week she had found me microwave popcorn! She was also very hands-on in helping me find vegetarian options throughout the city, recommending places to visit, giving tips on affordable living, etc. There were so many times when all of us doubted her, and grumbled about what she was having us do, but every time, without fail, it turned out that she was totally right, and whatever it was ended up really enhancing our experience and helping us out. The program was nice and small- I think 16 people. Mostly girls, mostly new, though we had three people who were there for their second semester and already knew the ropes.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in the 14th arrondissement, a very nice suburban neighborhood in Montparnasse. I could walk to school in about 20-30 minutes. The living situation Central uses is to disperse us in pairs to foyers around the city. Foyers are basically dorms, but rather than being connected to a specific university, they are for anyone under the age of 26- student or worker. Those who opted to live with roommates had French roommates, though another person from Central lived in the same building (very nice for commuting and having American movie marathons with pizza when you just needed a break). I lived in a single room, so no roommate. You had to pay for the internet, and I had a nightmare time with mine, but overall it was nice. Some had curfews- fortunately mine didn't.

* Food:

Eating out is very expensive, and vegetarian options sometimes require some creativity. Shelley was very helpful here- she pointed me towards ethnic groceries that would have good options, and even found me a list of all of the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the city.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We had good field trips- some intra-Paris stuff (ballet and the Louvre!), day-trips to Giverny and Versailles, and an overnight trip to Marseilles.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Paris can be a little sketchy late at night, and in the outer arrondissements, but no one I knew had any bad experiences, beyond some serious creepage. I was definitely creeped on while riding the Metro multiple times in some truly epic fashions, but once you learn how to handle it and adapt your behavior, it is fine. Health care functions differently, but effectively. The pharmacies are well-stocked and the pharmacists well-informed (most speak English- a wonderful treat when you are still in the early Deer-in-Headlights stage and have developed a raging head cold). The mandatory exam is horribly awkward, what with the topless X-ray, and takes up a whole day, but I understand the reasoning behind it.

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? Expect to pay for internet. Bread shouldn't be more than 1.20 euro. Metro is a fixed expense, get a Navigo card. Get a plan de Paris. Expect for appliances and many other items to have the same numbers as they would in the US, but with a euro sign attached, thus making them actually more expensive. Paris can be very very expensive if you are not careful (eating out is very expensive), but very livable if you pay attention.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

All classes are held in French, and I do mean all of them. We are placed in French student housing, so again, we must use French. For the most part, we all lived in the more residential arrondissements, so fewer people knew English- we must use French. Those who had roommates were placed with French roommates- we must use French. We must use French in the grocery store, and at the cinema (though Paris shows many American movies in English with French subtitles, which is a fun exercise in seeing how things get translated idfferently, as well as a nice break from the constant French). And of course, you have to use French while commuting and at your benevolat. This program, more than any other offered in Paris, is designed to get you to break our of your fear of sounding stupid when speaking French and just get you talking.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
  • Dorm
  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • How much my French improved
  • Shelley- she is a lifesaver
* What could be improved?
  • Longer open hours at the CEntral Office
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Do what Shelley tells you. It may not make sense at the time, but it always ends up being the right move. This one throws you into the real Paris more than the others- the experience of actually living here rather than being a tourist here.