Culturally immersive and academically fulfilling! January 27, 2019

By (Amherst College) - abroad from 08/31/2018 to 12/21/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Bordeaux

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Of course, I gained a far better skillset in the French language. In addition, I grew as an individual. I am now more confident in social situations, uncomfortable interactions, and unfamiliar experiences.

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 very happy with my academic experience at Sciences Po Bordeaux. I felt that this experience was not only educationally rigorous, but culturally fulfilling as well. I was happy to be a member of a French institution rather than a "study abroad" academic program.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

While I very much appreciated the guidance provided by the staff of Middlebury in France, I felt it would have been beneficial to have Middlebury administrators living in France. In this sense, I envied the students studying in the Middlebury in Paris program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was happy with the accommodations provided by my host family. In addition, I enjoyed the time spent with my host-parents and host-siblings.

* Food:

The food provided by my host family was delicious. However, I felt it was sometimes difficult to cook for myself. The kitchen was relatively small, so if my family was cooking for themselves, it was impossible for me to cook at the same time.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Directly enrolling in Sciences Po Bordeaux allowed me to have an incredibly authentic cultural experience. I studied, attended social events, and travelled with my French peers.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never needed access to medical care while in France.

* Safety:

I always felt safe in Bordeaux. The public transportation system was not only safe, but generally clean and well-maintained. The "Gilets Jaunes" protests did introduce an element of excitement into our weekend activities, but I never felt threatened by the protests.

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

Yes, I would choose the same program. While at times my experience was more difficult than the experiences of my friends in non-language intensive programs, I felt my experience was incredibly fulfilling. The challenge was worth it!

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)

Living in a French city did pose some financial challenges. I frequently shopped for goods and cooked at home. However, any meals at restaurants felt to be relatively expensive. In addition, bills for public transportation and cellphone service also represented a portion of my budget.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100/week on essential items and food; $150 per week on travel and activities
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Cook at home!

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

The Middlebury Language Pledge required that we speak French 100% of the time. I felt this pledge was effective in promoting a culture of language immersion.

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 300-level at Amherst College
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I felt that the most difficult linguistic aspect of my time in France was verbal comprehension. Thus, I would recommend listening to French news broadcasts, podcasts, and even French music.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local 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 variety of academic classes offered
  • The commitment to language immersion
  • The ability to travel freely on weekends
* What could be improved?
  • Communication between Middlebury and Sciences Po
  • Communication of important dates
  • Location of host families (living closer to one another)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known how difficult the first few weeks would be. If I had known this prior to my semester, I may have been able to do a better job of tempering personal expectations and allowing myself to make mistakes without becoming upset.

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 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.