Paris: beauty in the nighttime often juxtaposed with the harshness of its people Past Review

By (Health: Science, Society and Policy, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/08/2014 to 05/26/2014 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Paris

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This was not my first time living abroad, so it was not very daunting to me, other than the language barrier. I had always dreamed of studying in Paris because I loved the language, and the impressionist paintings. I was always hungry for wanting to see where all this beauty and inspiration came from. However, as a city I was sometimes disappointed by the tiny surprises, such as the pollution, the dirt, the bottles lying around, etc. Yet it was a learning experience for me because my expectations did not match upto the reality, and I became intrigued by the immigration influx Paris acts as in Europe. It was worthwhile, but 5 months felt too little and superficial at times, but I personally felt that the city wasn't for me.

Review Photos

Middlebury College: Paris - Ctr Madeleine, Inst d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Univ de Paris III Photo Middlebury College: Paris - Ctr Madeleine, Inst d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Univ de Paris III Photo Middlebury College: Paris - Ctr Madeleine, Inst d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Univ de Paris III Photo Middlebury College: Paris - Ctr Madeleine, Inst d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Univ de Paris III Photo Middlebury College: Paris - Ctr Madeleine, Inst d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Univ de Paris III Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Definitely a challenging, yet rewarding experience both at the Centre Madeleine, which was solely for Middlebury registered students, and at the Parisian University, Diderot (Paris 7). I took Sociology classes because I felt most comfortable with this subject area, or Anthropology, at Brandeis. It really taught me a lot, and gave me insights to french culture and academic expectations at public universities in Paris. The language was sometimes a challenge, but I felt it was important to attend classes regularly and approach the professors, if they stay after class.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I really liked the balance between student responsibilities in technical and academic matters and the responsibility of the approachable staff members that worked at Centre Madeleine.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with a single lady in her mid-50s, who worked from home as an interior designer. My room was my space and the kitchen was open to me at all times.

* Food:

I think I am a bit picky about food in general because of my high tolerance and love for spicy food. My host mom really put in an effort to find out what I liked and disliked so that she could prepare meals accordingly. Despite her best efforts and the appeals of the cafes in Paris, I was never quite happy with the food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

As an international student who was at a decent level of French, it was still very difficult initially to overcome the language barrier. I was always a bit self conscious of my accent and level of spoken french. Even though I took 3 classes at Diderot (Paris 7), it was challenging to truly feel "integrated." What worked for me was that 2 of my classes involved and depended on group projects. By participating within small groups I can confidently say that I always knew someone to ask questions to or borrow notes from, but I never really felt like a "local" other than when I carried out daily activities like grocery shopping, buying movie tickets, ordering food, etc.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We were told to buy International insurance before arriving in Paris, which was always a great resource to have in case of any emergency. I did not have any personal experience with it, but from what I was told was that healthcare was relatively cheap and easy to access, except for long waits and the language barrier. Healthcare issues were the one exception to the language pledge.

* Safety:

The first thing we were told at orientation was to stay alert at all times for pick-pockets - it happens! Especially during metro rides and very touristy areas. As a female in the city I would sometimes feel uncomfortable with the male attention, especially late at night, when people are out drinking. Overall, I did not have any issues, other than constantly being aware of my surroundings, staying in a small group, texting my friends if I've reached back safe and sound and vice-versa.

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)

Varied by week. Around 3/4.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? For groceries around 20-30 euros, eating out for meals around 10-15 euros.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Paris is expensive! Be smart about buying groceries instead of eating out all the time even though it's a temptation.


* 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 reason for why I chose the Middlebury program over any other was because of the language pledge aspect. At the Centre Madeleine, students were strictly reminded to speak only in french, which although was very exhausting at first, it became easier with time. 5

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 106 along with an elective.
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? Stick to the language pledge with friends, don't be shy in front of french-native speakers, talk frequently with host family, french radio, 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
  • 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?
  • Language pledge
  • Availability of staff, resources, tutors
  • Link with Parisian universities
* What could be improved?
  • Ambiance felt very intimidating
  • Explanation of proximity of living in Paris
  • Money management
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That Paris is not like what you see in the movies, or in the books - it has changed with time.

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!