The absolute best way to experience a semester abroad in Paris! Past Review

By (Political Science And International Studies, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/09/2014 to 05/17/2014 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Paris

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Everyone who goes to Paris should learn about the stereo-typically French things like cheese, wine, art, food, etc. but the best lessons Paris has to offer lie beneath the glamorous surface. Recognizing that Paris is not just a post card, but a living, breathing city is not as apparent as one would assume. The lessons I learned once I discovered this side of Paris may be similar to the lessons learned in any big city, but the particularly Parisian nature offered by the Paris not found in the tourist guide books is indescribable. In discovering Paris, you discover yourself. As you consume the city, it can at times feel like the city is consuming you, but that sometimes overwhelming feeling is integral to understanding the city everyone dreams about. And coming through the other side of this understanding makes the entire experience worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Middlebury is one of the few study abroad programs that not only offers full cultural immersion, but full academic immersion as well. Students choose classes at a variety of Parisian universities, and often you are the only Middlebury student, and sometimes even the only American in your classes. Taking classes at a French university offers students the best possible academic experience while abroad. What you learn in the classroom is supplemented by the knowledge only direct enrollment can bring. Experiencing the French education system firsthand was just as informative as many lectures. Plus, despite the fact that Middlebury study abroad students are dispersed across Paris' many universities, the College in France is there when you need them. They allow you to do many things on your own, but are constantly there to advise you on classes, how to enroll, and what you should be doing to keep up. Moreover, Middlebury offers a wide array of tutors in each subject area. These tutors, many of them professors at the very best French universities, provide the individualized attention and help American students are accustomed to, and are integral to making your journey through the French education system a success. In addition, Middlebury's language pledge, requiring all students to speak in French in the Center, and with one another is the defining factor behind this program's success. After just a few weeks in Paris with Middlebury, I made exponential progress in my French abilities. The full cultural and language immersion is supplemented by a high level grammar course and a phonetics course, designed for the French student living in a Francophone country, with the answers to the questions that come up in everyday life. The pledge does increase the intensity of the program, but if one of your study abroad goals is to become fluent in another language, Middlebury has no equal.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff at the Middlebury College in France is absolutely incredible. Amy Tondu, the academic adviser and the Assistant Director of the School in France was the best academic adviser I have ever interacted with. She takes the time to get to know each and every student on the program. The passion she has for her work is palpable. She somehow manages to keep track of 40+ students and their various activities, always seeming to know when I had given a stressful presentation and making sure to ask about it the next day. She is ready to respond to even the smallest of concerns with a level of compassion that seemingly knows no limits. Plus, her knowledge of the French education system makes navigating it that much easier. Knowing she was there in a time of need assuaged any worries that I and many other program participants may have otherwise had about study abroad. In addition the Middlebury program has a designated "Student Life Coordinator" who makes an effort to get to know the host families students are placed with. The housing coordinator during my time in Paris is no longer with Middlebury, but she was also amazing. She made everyone on the program feel incredibly comfortable and was there for everyone along the way. Whenever I had a question, she was there and ready to answer. Plus there are a wide array of cultural activities offered by the Student Life Coordinator. These outings are optional but always a ton of fun. What made them so great however was their ability to avoid the feeling that I was going on a high school field trip. Many programs take their participants on museum visits, with tours in English, and for some programs these outings are a requirement. Middlebury offers these visits for interested students and is sure to conduct all tours in French, with experts in their field.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I felt that the Student Life coordinator matched me with a host family that fit exactly what I detailed in the housing application. That housing application was incredibly detailed and I felt like it asked the most important question to ensure students are happy with their living arrangement.

* Food:

A 5 star rating for food in Paris is almost unnecessary, it is Paris. Surprisingly though, my favorite restaurant in Paris was a thai place, not a French restaurant, but either way, most of the food is great if you stay away from tourist traps.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I spoke French 95% of my time in Paris, took classes at a French university, spoke in French to friends I met in France and American friends I met on the Middlebury program. Paris is a difficult city to break into, but once I started sneering at people on the metro like a true Parisian I felt I had arrived. In such a diverse city as Paris, the key to integrating is to find a niche within the larger Parisian community. And it really is the French language that ties it all together. Even if the community you find yourself integrating into is a bunch of Erasmus students from your Parisian university, if you're speaking French with them and going to restaurants in a non-touristy part of town, consider that a success.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have any health issues while abroad, but Parisian hospitals are just as modern as those in America and Middlebury had a lot of readily available information and support in case of a health issue.

* Safety:

Paris, like any big city has problems with crime. Middlebury did a great job making students aware of the crime situation in Paris. The key, like anywhere else is to be constantly vigilant. As long as you remember that you are no longer on your suburban college campus, and make sure you watch your bag in the metro, you can avoid many of the problems that plague new arrivals to Paris. Just remember that behind the glamour, Paris is a real-live, functioning city where bad things can happen. Be aware, stay with friends, and you will be totally fine.

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)

Paris is an expensive city. You can save money shopping in markets, but overall expect to spend much more than you do normally at school, unless you go to NYU.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 100euros a week on average.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Parisians tend to go out really late. I would recommend cooking at home as much as possible and going out after that. The money you save on the restaurant can be used for your night. Also, keep up with the various exhibitions offered around the city. Many of them are free and they are the absolute best way to entertain yourself on the weekend.


* 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

I talked about the language pledge in the academic rigor section, but this pledge is part of what makes Middlebury such a special program. There is constant encouragement to use the language, from the Middlebury staff and from the other students. While not everyone did this, when I hung out with the friends I had made on the program, we made a concerted effort to only speak in French. This was difficult at the beginning, but our commitment to the pledge meant our progress was spectacular. Not all students are that motivated, even on the Middlebury program, but it is certainly easy to find encouragement inside and outside the Middlebury center if you are motivated to do so.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
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 elective courses
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? Go on the Middlebury program and you will be presented with so many opportunities to practice the language you'll have no excuse not to.

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
  • Americans
  • 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 commitment to language learning
  • My peers' motivation to learn
  • The independent spirit
* What could be improved?
  • Not much
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I should have been a bit more realistic about my budget.

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!