Finding my Voice and What makes me Happy July 03, 2018

By (Pomona College) - abroad from 01/03/2018 to 05/18/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Paris

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot of the language. I feel very proud of my progress in the language. I realized how lucky I was to be surrounded by strong black women peers on this program because we were always there for each other. And i learned truly how strong and independent of a person I am.

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.

Honestly, the educational experience was very rigorous. I was at Sciences Po and took a couple harder classes. I expected Sciences Po to be difficult so that was fine. However the history class that I took at Centre Madeline was the most stressful class, and a few of my friends and myself found that the amount of work and required outside of class trips we had to take was 1. not made clear when we signed up for the class(particularly the outside of class mandatory trips) and 2. was an unnecessary amount of work for a class that did not have a helpful structure to it. Perhaps this was the first time the class was taught, and although I enjoyed the content very much, the expectations and the ways in which we were taught was not the most effective in my opinion.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

To be honest, I did not have the best experience with the Middlebury Center administration. From the first week, after having a slip up with scheduling, and being told that there was nothing the center can do and that I would just have to "drop and fail the class" and then being told that I should "have a psychologist" by our academic coordinator because I was frustrated because I felt she was being dismissive, condescending, and almost as if she was trying to sabotage my success on the program when I came to her with JUST a scheduling conflict. The way our coordinator handled this incident made me very adverse to seeking help from the administration, as after the incident I found them very unhelpful and from that moment on I referred to the administration at Sciences Po, my friends(who had similar reservations about some of the administration at Centre Madeline), and my home institution of Pomona.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was probably one of the best parts of my experience on this program! I learned so much (the french language and more) from them! They were accommodating and caring and so very helpful. They helped get me through the tough times and I was invited to so many family outings. I also had an amazing host sister, who was so kind and fun to hang out with! The apartment itself was beautiful and my host sister and I shared our own kitchen and bathroom. I had my own room with a desk and ample storage for my clothing and luggage!

* Food:

The food was great! My host family fed me almost every dinner, which they definitely did not have to.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Since I am french, have family in Paris, and have been to France many times I felt that I integrated into the local culture more quickly than others. I understood cultural nuances and humor(which apparently many of my friends didnt understand the dry almost mean type of french humor). I felt well adjusted to the metro and walking city life. Because I have friends and cousins in Paris I was able to adapt to french youth culture decently well as well.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare was addressed as needed. I went to the center to request a psychologist because I was experiencing heightened levels of my anxiety that was affecting my overall health and wellbeing. The psychologist was nice, but it was a bit far from my schools and definitely further from my house. I made it work though.

* Safety:

I felt very safe. I also didn't put myself in compromising situations. If I were out and it was late, I always had friends with me. There were two incidents that were a little concerning: 1. I was told to go back to africa from some man who was clearly on drugs, and 2. While out with 4 of my friends we were harassed by a group of men who actually pulled on one of my friend's sweatshirt hood and followed us until we got into the metro.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

Honestly, I would do the Program again. I would be in Paris, I would go to Sciences Po, I would want to meet and interact with the same people and friends I made. However, I wouldn't do it with the Middlebury Program. I understand that this is an academically focused Program, that is one of the reasons I chose it, but I feel like the program neglected the whole "abroad" aspect of American students being abroad. I appreciate the level of language I attained and progressed in. However, I had friends on other programs in France and their programs hgihlighted the "abroad" aspect of study aborad. They required the students to go to another european country and do a project on that country, they funded and took their students on trips to other countries so they could experience other cultures. I understand that Middlebury is the ultimate immersion, and we got experiences other did not. However, I think it would have been beneficial if Middlebury could facilitate more traveling. Also, as I mentioned before, the administration was not helpful and caused undue stress and challenges.

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)

I think I was able to live on a student budget well, but the thing is Paris itself is not cheap its VERY expensive and I don't think the stipends some of us get go very far at all.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I really tried not to go out so much. But I would say about 20-30 euros a week. at least for groceries.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? don't go out every weekend. I had a budget of how much I could spend, that helped.

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

We were not allowed to speak english anywhere on the middlebury center grounds. We signed a pledge.

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? French 101
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? Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Once you let that fear go, you start speaking more fluidly, and people will correct you or ask you to clarify if they feel the need to do so.

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 people I met
  • my host family
* What could be improved?
  • the way the middlebury center administration communicated with its exchange students
  • the closing/commencement of the program- we literally took our finals and left..there was no closure.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? 1. that you are on your own- sometimes you won't see your friends for the entire school week because everyone is spread out and put in different host families and you wont have a lot of classes in common with you friends from the center. This was okay for me, because I can be independent and sometimes prefer being alone. But it was difficult for a few of my friends. 2. that you won't get trips- you have to plan and finance your own trips. The middlebury center didn't even plan an optional trip to the south or north of France. I found that strange. 3. it can be difficult for a low-income student to do the program