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Study Abroad in Paris – a Real Student’s Experience

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alex Johnson in a CollegeVine Livestream. You can watch the full Livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



This post covers the personal experience of a college student’s study abroad experience and the lessons she learned.


A big perk of study abroad is that often the cost of study abroad is covered in your school’s regular admissions cost. Basically, you get to travel on your school’s dime! It’s a great way to take advantage of all that your school has to offer because, let’s face it, college is very expensive. This was the case for Alex, who studied abroad in Paris when she was a student at Duke University. 


Deciding When to Study Abroad


Alex studied abroad her Junior Fall. This is common for students at Duke so that they don’t miss the big basketball season in the Spring. Along these lines, you will definitely want to consider what social or academic events you might miss at your school when choosing when to study abroad.


However, you can generally choose to study abroad either semester, or even for a full school year, based on your priorities and other commitments. 


Studying at a Local University 


Alex’s program was through a partnership with three other universities, so she was able to take two classes with the university students in Paris with other French students. It was challenging because she was fully immersed in the French classroom and often didn’t understand all the professor had to say. But, she had some other study abroad students in her class, which helped her feel more comfortable. 


There were moments where she felt the class made fun of them as “Americans,” but it was all part of the experience! For example, the professor would play movie clips from pretty stereotypical American movies; the professor would then explain something, point at the Americans, and everyone would laugh. These moments helped build character and pushed Alex to try and learn the language. Despite its initial challenges, it was a super fun and positive experience!


Living with a Host Family


You generally have the option to either live in dorms or live with a host family, which is what Alex chose. This really added to her having an authentic experience. 


Her host mom was an artist and would take her to many art galleries, so she was able to explore more of Paris’ culture. She had a little cat named Bob, which is “Bub” in French. You could see the tip of the Eiffel tower from the apartment, and Alex would often sip wine and eat cheese on the patio with her host mom. It felt like an experience straight out of a stereotypical French movie!


Beyond the Classroom


Many programs offer trips and other cultural activities. Alex got to make Maroons and even took wine and cheese tasting classes. Basically, your college might sponsor you to try other cultural and culinary experiences if you choose! 


Alex also had the opportunity to take a day trip to Normandy and attend the opera. All of these activities were covered as a part of her program, so it is definitely important to do your research and take advantage of everything your program might have to offer!


Making it Feel Like Home


Studying abroad is all about trying new things. Alex had lived in the same place her whole life, so it was really exciting for her to make a home in a new city. For example, there was a little soup place on the corner that she loved going to as well as a cat cafe where she liked to study. 


Overall, there are so many new experiences, and flexibility is the name of the game. 


Studying abroad can mean many different things. It doesn’t have to be for a semester, or for a summer, or even to learn a language (although this is a great reason to study abroad). The important thing to remember is that you have a lot of choices in terms of where you go, what you do, and how long you choose to stay abroad!