The Catholic University of America

Top Five Reasons to Select the Program

  1. Paris is an absolutely AMAZING city full of art, culture, history and some of the most amazing food you will ever eat. You will NEVER be bored in Paris because there is so much to do and see (but sadly not enough time to see it all).
  2. It is a great way to practice your knowledge of the French language both inside and outside of the classroom. The IES Abroad French Language Immersion program is structured so that all of your class lectures, readings and homework assignments are in French. It is an absolutely fantastic way to truly learn the French language, especially when you can take what you learned in the classroom and practice it in the city.
  3. Paris is a diverse city. You will experience a wide range of cultures and meet so many new and captivating people. Just remember to be careful when you talk to people because Paris is a big city, and just as in any city there are some people of “questionable” character.
  4. You will meet so many amazing people not only in the city but in the program as well. You will be surprised at how close you become with some of the friends you make in the program, and how you share the experience of studying abroad with them. I have definitely made some friends while in Paris that I consider to be life-long friends.
  5. IES in general is a great company to use for studying abroad. They try and leave no question unanswered and are always concerned with the health and safety of its students. The staff at IES Paris are caring, easy to get along with and kind.

 

What I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Went

  • Pack less stuff. You should leave enough room in your suitcase for items that you buy while studying abroad. I didn’t realize how much stuff I truly bought while abroad until it came time to pack for my return home and I had very little space to fit everything.
  • The extreme difficulty to not over-spend. Your spending habits in the States might be very modest and controlled, but remember that you’re in a new city and your urge to bring back tokens of your time abroad is overwhelming. I’m not saying that you can’t buy plenty of items while abroad, but make sure that you budget your money well so that you have funds for other activities than just shopping.
  • The difficult transition process. I know you’re thinking that you’re in a new city abroad so why would you possibly miss your home in the States? The truth is that you will be homesick for awhile, and you will begin to appreciate a lot of things you had back in the shome Then again, try not to let that get the best of you. Remember how badly you wanted to live abroad and how much there is to see and experience in your new temporary home!
  • More cultural expectations and customs of the country in which I was studying. Adapting to the culture can be a significant challenge to many students, and it’s important to remember that things that are acceptable here in the States may not be that way abroad. Try to research some of the customs and practices of the country in which you’re going to be living. That way you are not totally in the dark while abroad.
  • Don’t get too distracted. The temptations of experiencing the new city is overwhelming, but remember not to get too over the top and forget about school! It’s important that you get your school work completed well and on time (just as it is here).

 

A Funny Story or Situation

“Special Goods Aren’t Always So Special"

In all honesty, I had situations happen to me in Paris that would a) only happen to me and b) are awkward yet apparently hilarious to everyone I share it with. In particular, one night I was riding the metro home (it was about 11:30 at night) and I encountered what I suppose could be considered a “cultural difference” with someone else in the metro car with me. I’m reading a French book, and all of a sudden a woman sitting across from me starts making whispering noises to get my attention. Naturally, I try and ignore the woman. They she starts yelling “hey!” at me really loudly to the point where everyone else is staring at me. Therefore I remove the book from in front of my face to look at her, and in return she asks me (in French, of course) if I would like to open her box of “special goods?” and sitting on her lap was a box wrapped in a black trash bag. At this point, I didn’t say one word to her (although I’m sure my facial expressions said plenty) and I went back to reading my book. In my opinion, that was definitely a cultural experience of living in Paris because it’s a great example of all the different kinds of people I encountered while abroad.

 

An Embarrassing Situation

One day I was in a grocery store right near my homestay and I was trying to buy some clementines. When I chose the clementines I didn’t realize that there were two different kinds placed right next to each other, and one kind was drastically more expensive than the other. When I went to pay for my three clementines the total came to about five Euros, and I was stunned. I then had a polite conversation with the cashier about the price of them, and I explained how the price was definitely lower on the sign. She explained that differences about the clementines, but I told her that I didn’t want to buy them. I said “thank you” and left the store. I felt absolutely awful and rude, especially after she already rang them up, but I found it absurd that they were charging me five Euros for three small pieces of fruit. That may not seem to be too much of an awkward cultural experience, but for me it was. Everything in Paris is extremely expensive and I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to that.

 

The Teacher From Whom I Learned the Most

The best professor I had while abroad was my professor for my French grammar and culture class. Not only did he help me understand French grammar much more thoroughly( it’s not the simplest grammatical structure to understand), but he also helped me to better understand the French culture. It was important to me to know the French culture better so that I could interact with the French people better. His class helped me to do exactly that: we read articles, wrote papers and saw plays and movies that gave us an in-depth look into French culture. It truly was a challenging but great class!

 

Housing

At first living with a host family can be a little awkward just because you’re still getting to know your family and getting accustomed to a different life style. I honestly had the best housing experience ever! I lived in what is called a “Chambre de Bonne” which is basically a maid’s courters. Back in the olden days, French maids would live in small rooms on the top floors of apartment buildings and then go and clean the apartments of their specific families. Each Chambre de Bonne varies in what it has specifically, but each are small but comfortable little rooms that feel like mini-apartments. I lived on the seventh floor and in my room I had my own mini kitchen (as in a microwave and dishes), a sink, a bed, and a few other pieces of furniture that really made it feel like a small apartment. I also had an amazing view too: I could see the very top of l’Arc de Triumph from my room, and I had a typical Parisian view of various classic and modern apartment buildings. My host family consisted of a retired older woman who was housing five other students, and had four grown children and ten grandchildren. This woman was charismatic, welcoming and generous. She loved having exchange students living with her and was so easy to talk to. Honestly, writing about my homestay makes me so nostalgic about Paris and how badly I wish I could go back. I had my own mini-apartment and a wonderful host family-it was the best experience! I would truly recommend living with a host family. You learn more about the culture of that country, get to practice your language skills and meet new and kind people. Granted not everyone always gets along well with their host families at first, but with a little time you too will come to admire your host family as they will admire you. If I had lived in an apartment on my own I honestly would not have had as positive of a living experience as I did living in a homestay.

Student Profile:

Major: English

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Program: Paris, IES Abroad French Studies Program

Term Abroad:

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