Not Quite What You'd Expect Past Review

By (English Language and Literature, and Philosophy, Brandeis University) - abroad from 08/21/2014 to 12/19/2014 with

Sweet Briar College: JYF in Paris

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Naturally. There is always an element of perspective leveling when one studies abroad. I've got great comprehension skills now, but my linguistic ones really aren't as strong as I'd hoped. It's also a really great exercise in independence and inter social skills.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

No matter how many times you hear it, the french educational system is going to be a shock if you're coming from a small school. I took 2 classes with SBC (both were very good, be sure to take Atelier d'Ecriture, no matter how good or bad you feel about your french skills, it's a joy. The Art History lectures in The Louvre are pretty darn cool as well) and 3 courses at Paris 4 (a school belonging to the Sorbonne). I took two philosophy classes and one literature course. All classes are in French, and you are placed amongst the french students and have the same expectations placed upon you. My literature course was in English, but was masters level (most kids also only take 4 courses, so this was my "fun" one). Essentially, it all feels very uneasy until all of a sudden it feels hard. The french system allows for two grades most semesters, and these will be written papers and/or oral presentations. Mind that this is always completely in french. Sometimes assignments aren't due until the last day of school, so most of the semester is spent feeling like there really isn't that much work to do. Also, be forewarned that the Sorbonne classes are exclusively, from what I've heard, lecture based. There is one giant class which is an hour and a half lecture, then a smaller section which claims to be more interactive for each class. It isn't really more interactive. Professors do not make themselves very available, and there was no discussion or debate in either of my philosophy classes. Which was something of a shame.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Very engaged, knew everyone by name and remembered what was going on with each individual student. It's great that you can hang out in the SBC office (where classes take place as well). Sometimes it felt as though communication was lacking, which I do not place completely on the language differences (they speak only french to you and insist that you speak only french at all times that you are in the office). Very attentive group of ladies, it's a solid community.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was placed with a host family (the program does these placements) right in the center of Paris, right near a major metro station with a great view of a huge historical landmark. It's lively and just great. I had my own room and complete freedom, and ate dinner with my host family each night (save one or two per week). Very nice.

* Food:

My host family cooks really well. Also, french food is great. If you don't like bread, butter, cheese, potatoes and pastries, this place isn't for you (although in all seriousness, it's a huge city and you can find whatever you want).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Parisians are impossible to meet. Or at least you have to make very pointed and repeated attempts (excluding, of course, the flirtations men...). That said, towards the end of the semester I became close with other non-american and non-french students at the Sorbonne, which was really lovely.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I'm sure it would have been fine, but it's n/a

* Safety:

Not once did I feel unsafe here. Even walking back in the middle of the night alone, I felt fine. Although I'm sure different neighborhoods have different vibes.

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)

I tend to take out 80 euros per week, and that's about right. But I also ate lunch out (something small from a boulangerie) most days.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 80 ish euros?
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make lunch at home, always ask for student discounts with your Sorbonne ID (there are many many).


* 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

They didn't only encourage, they insisted.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had taken the equivalent of the 4th semester of french at my school (although it was really my 2nd french class in two years)
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? Google "cafe des langues" or "language table" and go to that. There's a bar where people go every Tuesday night literally with the intention of practicing whatever language they want. Do it. Also, write. I wish there had been more, smaller assignments, I learn visually and added to my vocabulary through writing essays.

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
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?
  • outings
  • sense of community
  • freedom
* What could be improved?
  • organization
  • interaction with locals
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Don't forget that study abroad is hard. It's wonderful and so very worth it, but it's also, like I said, an exercise in independence. Which also sometimes means an exercise in solitude. Do really prepare linguistically, do really think about the kind of person you want to spend time with, do really do the homework not at the last minute.

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!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

History of Art

Course Department: SBC Art
Instruction Language: french
Comments: Very knowledgable professor, really knew his way around art and the museums.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Philosophie Politique

Course Department: Philo
Instruction Language: french
Comments: Again, great selection of readings. But the lectures didn't seem to be building much. They mostly consisted of summaries of the texts, or some classes only listed off critiques of the pieces. Not completely cohesive.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

The Power of the Image in American Literature

Course Department: English Literature: Masters level
Instruction Language: english
Comments: Cool group of adults with varied backgrounds. The lecture and analysis style is very different and takes a much smaller closer lens to literature (word choice and grammar) than I am accustomed to. This was a smaller class, and so it was easier to comment and question, which I liked. The readings were fine, even if I don't like Poe, I was introduced to Auster.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Atelier d'Ecriture

Course Department: SBC French
Instruction Language: french
Comments: Great, engaging, useful.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Philosophie Generale

Course Department: Philo
Instruction Language: french
Comments: Mostly challenging due to the uninteractive nature of the course and the foreign paper structures. But the readings were really great and the lecturer was a funny and cool guy.
Credit Transfer Issues: