Kind of the best experience of my life. (Annecy, France. 2014) Past Review

By (Secondary Education, Kansas State University) - abroad from 09/01/2014 to 12/19/2014 with

College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): Annecy - Institut Français des Alpes

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Definitely gained a better understanding and fluency of the language, but I also gained a much broader perspective of the world. It was great to meet students of my age from other countries, and it was even cooler that French was what really brought us together, out of the necessity of having a mutually speakable language. (More or less.) I really could go on and on about what I gained, but the point in the end would always come down to - YES, it was worthwhile. Honestly, such a great experience.

Review Photos

College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): Annecy - Institut Français des Alpes Photo College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): Annecy - Institut Français des Alpes Photo College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): Annecy - Institut Français des Alpes Photo College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): Annecy - Institut Français des Alpes Photo College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): Annecy - Institut Français des Alpes Photo

Personal Information

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.

I was worried at first about the education system set up at the school because it was so different from here in the U.S.. It didn't feel structured in the beginning, but by the end, I found that it had just taken some getting used to.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everyone in the office felt like family every time I walked in. They were always willing to help, and everyone always had a smile on their face, which was so welcoming.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I definitely appreciate the experience, but I can't say it was the best one. My host family wasn't around too often, and when they were, I didn't feel super welcome to interact with them. I myself was busy as well, so it's not that I felt alone and bored or anything, but I believe other arrangements would've been preferable.

* Food:

Even the microwave meals I found at the grocery stores were really good! Sandwiches were always a good, quick option, and could be found fresh all over town. I am also a huge fan of the regional special, Tartiflette! (And another take on it with goat cheese in place of the Reblochon, called "Tartichèvre." You just can't go too wrong with French food, am I right?

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The culture was definitely something to take in. Very different from in the U.S.. Not in a bad way at all, but I just can't say I felt completely integrated the entire time. Even taking the bus in town, I felt like I was clearly a visitor, but maybe that was just in my head. I was always surprised by how willing to talk the French actually were, though, despite what I've heard about them being intolerant of outsiders.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't personally have any experiences with healthcare in France, but I can vouch for the fact that there are pharmacies everywhere in the town, if needed!

* Safety:

Annecy felt super safe, almost all the time. Although I was cautious, I never had a problem walking or riding my bike home, which was relatively far from the school, the old town, and all other general activities. The only things I got a little freaked out about were two young, drunk men getting on the same bus and yelling at each other; and seeing a homeless person under a highway bridge when I was on foot. Neither was anything major, but that's what I've got!

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)

I got to be rather frugal while abroad, in hopes to spend as little as possible. That being said, outings with friends did come up, as well as books and things I really wanted to buy in stores, but groceries were certainly doable, especially with the farmers market in the old town twice a week!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Probably close to $100.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Watch out for those international service fees! Although it seems risky, do take a good amount of the foreign currency cash with you on your way over. This will put your mind at ease in case you need the money for transportation/food when you first get there, and you'll put off having to deal with service charges from abroad. Use a credit card that doesn't rack up those charges, if possible, as opposed to a debit card that will. My banker also suggested taking out large sums of cash from the ATM every so often compared to using a debit card in stores/restaurants since foreign debit cards are charged per usage AND taxed on the amount withdrawn.


* 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

My teachers were French, and some of them more than others really enforced the "no outside languages" thing in class, which was great. Being American, it's easy to speak English with people, since most Europeans do, but the encouragement to speak the language that I set out to learn was greatly appreciated.

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? Intermediate French 2 (+ honors contract)
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? I'd repeat the obvious, "just try," of course, since practicing and making mistakes is pretty much the only way to learn anything. Also, speak as little of your mother tongue as you can. Watching videos/shows/films and listening to the radio in the language that you're studying definitely helps for listening comprehension! Make that a huge-spare time activity. Really immerse yourself in the language. Also, mimicking has proven to be a good way to learn good pronunciation in my life. Don't be afraid to repeat something until you learn how to say it! I also set my iPhone to French prior to my time abroad, but it was, of course, still a good means of practice while I was abroad.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • The week-long vacation time
  • The amount of class-time offered
  • The price
* What could be improved?
  • The disbursement of changed class-time (20h vs 40h /week)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I'd known that I could've entered into the country more than a day in advance before classes. Also, that the buses don't run on Sundays, and trains are scarce. I also would've appreciated a more up-front acknowledgement of the fact that I would have the opportunity to take the TCF, and how to sign up for that beforehand and all. Going through CampusFrance was also quite a pain, to be honest, and I wish that there was more support on that end.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!