Defining France : Defining Me Past Review

By (International Relations and Affairs., Maryville College) for

ISEP Exchange: Chambéry - Exchange Program at Université de Savoie

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience was absolutely worthwhile. The trip definitely changed me and helped me evolve into someone more motivated, more courageous, and more sympathetic. I now understand what it's like to be somewhere all alone and where one cannot understand the language and I will definitely carry that with me when I meet someone in that same situation. I learned a lot about differences and similarities in cultures, not just between French and American cultures, but between others from my encounters with other international students. I also learned more about what I want to be and do in life because of this trip. I have my eyes set on grad school now, with a focus on foreign affairs, and I intend to revisit France at the earliest convenience.

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.

The grading system was hard for me because I'm used to having more opportunities to maintain my grade. It was a lot of pressure riding on one final exam in a foreign language at the end of the semester. However, it was very beneficial and educational - it definitely makes me appreciate my home university's structure more.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

It was sometimes difficult to get answers to questions about things expected of us. For the most part, everything ran smoothly. There were only a few bumps in the road, but that happens with any school in any country and they were minor. The biggest issue was during the second semester when our meal stipends that we were supposed to receive every month did not come in for two months.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was a little old fashioned and denied us a great deal of freedom. We were not allowed guests in the house at all and we were often never told that something was not allowed until after we had done it, such as using a certain outlet in the kitchen area or bringing an extra chair from a bedroom into the kitchen. Communication was difficult and I wish that our host had been more clear with us about certain aspects of our living situation. When I moved into my dorm, I did have to buy items to settle in, such as sheets and cookware. Overall, however, I enjoyed both experiences for what they were.

* Food:

For the duration of my stay, I primarily bought and cooked my own food so my exposure to variety of food was limited. The food that I did purchase in restaurants and bakeries, however, were perfect. The fondue in France is something that every student should try, especially those studying in the Savoie region. Each region had a different specialty and I found them all to be delicious. I even enjoyed the snails.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I went on several trips during the first semester with the other American ISEP students. One was on our own time and a few others were planned by the school. They were all wonderful, and I definitely felt like I experienced the culture and bonded with my fellow Americans. I especially enjoyed the trips to Paris and to Nice.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

While I was there, a few riots did take place. For the most part they took place in cities bigger than the one that I was living in, but I did encounter a few protestors who were throwing cobblestones and dispersing tear gas into the air. The biggest safety advice I could possibly give would be to not stand out and just try to blend in with the community. I never required any health care, but my roommate did and she found it to be agreeable.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

I could practice language with the professors and with the French people I met in class and around France. I typically needed to be able to speak French at least part of everyday - when ordering food, shopping, socializing, etc. A lot of people that I surrounded myself, however, spoke English or were French and interested in practicing their English and helping me with my French.

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

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would absolutely recommend this program to other students. All the professors were very helpful and considerate towards foreign students. The town was small enough to get around easily on foot or by bus, and close enough to any other cities by train. I think the student that would benefit the most would be one who doesn't want to immerse themselves into a big city like Paris or Nice, but still wants to enjoy the culture of France.