Why did you choose this program? I have a French minor and I only had two more classes to finish. This program had the exact two classes I had left, and I had wanted to study abroad but wouldn't have been able to during the school year, so the summer was a perfect fit for me.
Describe your favorite class abroad. My sociology class taught me so much. We learned a lot about the culture and my professor taught us a lot of the slang terms and showed us some really neat places to hang out. We took field trips every other week to different neighborhoods and we learned the history of each one. The professor shared some things we should not do to prevent us from looking like tourists.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived with a host family. The family had three daughters, but only one of them still lived at home. All three girls came in and out throughout the week, and the older two were fluent in English so they always wanted to practice their English with me. I spoke French with them almost all of the time, but occasionally at dinner, I would teach the family some English words.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Dive right in! Especially if you're only there for a few weeks. At first, it's very overwhelming, but if you just embrace your fears, it'll make your study abroad experience so much more fruitful. Once I learned to step out of my comfort zone, that's when I really began to feel like I was starting to fit in. Also, get to know your program staff. They live there all the time so they know the fun places to hang out that are tourist-free. Go explore the city and get to know the local places, those are the best! People are usually more friendly in the places that tourists are uncommon.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My friends and I would always go explore the city after classes. The weekend before finals, we studied along the Seine. That was when I realized that my time there was almost over. I was able to reflect back upon the incredible experience I'd had and all the friends I made. I still talk to both of them every day.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program?I was really shocked that it was so easy to get around. The metro was so simple and easy to understand. I was also surprised at how friendly the locals were if you made the effort to not look like a tourist. If you try to speak their language and aren't obnoxious, they'll really appreciate you.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Culture shock is such a real thing. I would find myself constantly asking why they did things the way they did. Why don't they dry their clothes? Why don't they pick up after their dogs in the streets? After awhile, I learned the meaning behind all of my questions and I actually brought back a few habits that I learned over there. I air dry my clothes now, I use more uncommon foods when I cook, I don't eat as much processed food.
“If I could do it over, I would…” Spend more time getting to know locals.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? There are multiple ways to complete almost any task and none of them are necessarily "wrong".
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? Don't let yourself stay at home, especially in the first week.
What was your greatest challenge? There were a lot of big milestones in my family that happened while I was in Paris so it was very difficult to miss those once-in-a-lifetime things. I was able to Skype in for some of them, but it still wasn't the same.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? There is a strike almost every other day. Strikes are encouraged so that workers can have their opinions heard. The workers still get paid during the strikes. The strikes are announced and published in the newspapers a few weeks before so that you can plan accordingly. There was a big taxi strike while I was in Paris so we knew we needed to leave 30 minutes early because the metro would be packed.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? IU has a wonderful online list. My program also had a list of scholarships. Just look through those. They've already done the research.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? If you have any current scholarships, see what their guidelines are for study abroad. Mine offered another option that helped out.