Paris...My Movable Feast Past Review

By (HISTORY., Fordham University) for

Sweet Briar College: JYF in Paris

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
If I could give 10 stars I would. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could re-live it. I wish I had done more, seen more, and lived more. But I have already gained better language and personal skills, and am much more culturally aware. It taught me to see myself as a citizen of much more than Maine or New York or the US. I have a newfound respect for my home. Yet I also have a newfound appreciation and firsthand understanding of the world beyond my front door.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Alliance Francaise, Universite de Paris IV (Sorbonne)
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.

My time abroad academically was a roller coaster. I went over to France with the express goal of improving my French. However, in doing so I learned alot about just how France and Europe educate their children and college age students. I learned quite a bit about what to appreciate in their system, but also was pleased and surprised to find that in general the American system has many superior qualities. Of course no system is absolute, but I now have a direct comparison to make. My French improved drastically, but more importantly my cultural awareness improved as a result of being, if only for a short while, a product of the French education system.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Sweet Briar has one of the best programs for improving languages as far as I could tell. They also had some great excursion trips (Normandy, the Loire Valley etc.) and the faculty are always helpful. However, some of the administrators were not immediately ready to deal with some students issues. I had no issues, but others did complain from time to time. Most importantly I have to say that Sweet Briar, especially through their 2 week orientation in Tours, did a great job getting all of the students on our program to work and interact together. We were all friends and in some cases the best of friends by the time we left Paris in December.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My housing was randomly assigned (there was an interview process however.) I was provided with all essential amenities, and had my own room. I lived in Neuilly, which is just across the border from Paris, and only a short walk to the Arc de Triomphe. Some who lived in Neuilly were disappointed to not be living "in the city," but I found it to be one in the same. The neighborhood was very nice, and I was treated well by neighbors not just my host family. I was right on the 1 line and was able to get anywhere in Paris in a half an hour or less just about. My host family treated me very well, and while I would not say I was treated as a family member, I was the closest thing. I made an effort to try and speak to them as often as possible, and they were helpful in all aspects of life in France, not to mention that they always provided anything I needed.

* Food:

It's France. And my host mother was a good cook. I've never been one to eat everything, there is always a few things I just don't care for. This was not the case in France. I never had an issue at all with my host family's meals and of course the restaurants were great. If you get to Paris and you are looking for a fun place to eat, just start walking and pick anywhere...literally anywhere.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I had never been outside of the country before. I now can truthfully say that I have seen France, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Italy and that I have a spent serious time in another culture. Every field trip and every day was a unique cultural event to me. I still have the business card from the restaurant where I first managed to order entirely in French without stuttering. I have sand from Omaha Beach (keep that quiet) and I went to an Advent Mass at Notre Dame. I put a lock on the Pont des Arts. I rode a bike over 20 miles through the French country side. And I went to a wine tasting. I had almost no room in my suitcase after I packed just my souvenirs and Christmas gifts.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Paris is like any big city. There are just some places you need to know about as you go. Coming form Fordham in the Bronx gave me a decent preparation for this. I never had any issues. But be mindful of cultural issues. For example, French guys treat flirting differently than American guys. I remember considering some customs disrespectful or rude. I also remember being harassed by a drunk Frenchman about speaking English with another student. But as long as you keep a level head, are aware of your surroundings, and DON'T drink way too much...you're all set. I never got sick over there, and only dealt with the government mandated medical exam for my visa. So I gave the health component 3 stars by default. But France in general seemed very healthy beside the smoking. If you don't like smoke I suggest you re-think France. A solid 75% seemed to smoke.

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

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Paris is expensive. Very, very, very expensive. Do not plan on being there on a total budget. I was the most austere of the group I would imagine. More importantly, there will be people on the program that just have daddy's credit card, and I did not. If you have daddy's card, don't flaunt it please. If you don't then remember that sometimes a lunch in the park with just a few things from Monoprix is better than lunch out at a restaurant somewhere. Budget where you can, but don't skimp on culture. That was my rule and it worked out for me.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? FR 2001 at Fordham University
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I lived with a host family. This was by far the best way to guarantee improvement in language. Of course there were bumps in he road, especially early on. But being both open minded and goal oriented helps. It is a misconception that everyone over in Europe speaks English. It simply is not true, and even those who do often find it taxing or difficult. It was not as if I spoke only French over there, in fact I spoke alot of English with my friends on the program, but my French improved to such a degree that I could translate conversations between my host family and my American girlfriend at full speed, and also that I could make my way through the French Government's mandated medical exam without issue.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The language improvement
  • The cultural excursions
  • The location
* What could be improved?
  • The student/faculty relationship
  • Budgeting advice
  • Preparation for French University lifestyle
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? My words of wisdom? Do it! You can be nervous all you want. But this world is so much bigger than what I put on this review and what is in movies or on TV. My time in Europe was over before I knew it. But without it I would not be half the person I am now. Hemingway wrote that living as a young man in Paris is like a movable feast. Trust me, he was right.