Last spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad for four months in France.
Grove City has a wonderful study center in Nantes, but I chose to go through an outside study abroad program rather than directly through the College. There are many different options for studying abroad that aren’t only through Grove City; they require a bit of an application process the semester before, but my program provider had wonderful people working there who were able to help me through every step of the process.
Another helpful event that the College puts on each spring and fall is a study abroad fair that brings in a number of different program representatives, which was a great opportunity for me in being able to talk to the people who work for these programs.
After much consideration of what I was looking for in my experience, I determined that my three main objectives were to learn French, to live in a somewhat large city, and to get out of my comfort zone by going on my own without anyone I knew.
After doing a lot of research, I decided to study in Paris at L’Institut Catholique (Catholic Institute). All of my classes would be in French, I would have the opportunity to live with a host family, and I would be able to live in and explore the city of lights!
I visited Paris for the first time three years ago on a trip I took with my brother and sister through several European countries and I remember being a bit skeptical before I arrived there. I reasoned that since everyone raves about Paris, could it really be that wonderful? Spoiler: I loved it. I loved the Eiffel Tower and how it towered over the city, I loved the quaint streets, the quiet cafes, and the stunning architecture of the buildings and bridges.
When I decided to return to Paris to study there, I was beyond excited, but I had no idea just what an amazing experience I would have. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
To set the scene, I lived with my host mom in a huge apartment complex in the 19th arrondissment, which is in the northeastern part of the city. My University was in the 6th, which is in central Paris, just south of the river. My daily commute (when I say daily, I only had class Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays) was 35 minutes by the Metro, which was one of my favorite parts of the day. I loved the idea that if I minded my own business and didn’t open my mouth, I could be French!
As I mentioned, all of my classes were in French and were each three hours long at a time, usually from 9:00 am-12:00 pm, or 2:00-5:00 pm. My grammar and writing class met three times per week while my Discovering Paris and Parisian Cinema each met once. I studied with international students and made friends from all over the world including Japan, India, Chile, Colombia, and Taiwan. Class was a neat experience because much of the time the only thing we had in common with our fellow students was our (albeit somewhat limited, especially at the beginning) French ability, so we were forced to use it in order to communicate.
There was something so freeing about being anonymous in a city as majestic and beautiful as Paris; I could walk down the street and take everything in without anyone noticing me. My program provided me with a Navigo Pass, which gave me access to the Metro and bus systems in the entire ile-de-France, which extends quite a bit out of the city. The possibilities were endless; I could go see all the museums, parks, stroll along the river, anything I wanted.
Living in Paris made me more aware of the world around me. I loved the way in which Parisians approach life: they are on time to work, but think nothing of enjoying a cafe crème for a few hours in the afternoon with a friend. I loved watching all of the people on the street and trying to guess their destination and learning how to wander the different neighborhoods and streets without a destination.
In coming posts, I am going to explain more of the different aspects of my life abroad and some of the things I learned, but suffice it to say that it was the best decision I’ve made so far in my life. I will be writing about some of my favorite museums, my favorite places to visit, and several of my different experiences outside of France. Come along with me to relive my dream of a semester!