In my opinion, there’s a certain disregard for academics when it comes to study abroad. We are in an exciting new place; it makes sense that the yearning for discovery overrules academic priorities from time to time. If it was a toss-up, I’d definitely choose watching the sunset at the Eiffel Tower over studying for a midterm… It’s easy to consider classes a minor aspect in my adventure here: School is familiar, therefore, is a second thought while I adapt to a life 5,000 miles away from home.
However, after my first week of classes in Paris, I knew my academic experience here would be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
I have the unique opportunity of being part of the CEA hybrid program--I’m taking classes at the CEA study abroad center and French classes at the Sorbonne, a French university in Paris. The two experiences are completely different from each other--each is unique in both course content and learning environments.
|A cute plaque outside the Sorbonne building. My specific location is only for students studying the French language.|
My courses at CEA are led in English, and have provided me with a much better understanding of the way France operates: politically, socially, etc. I’m taking two classes: French Civilization and Culture and A History of Fashion in Paris. Both are comprised of in-class instruction, but the awesome part about studying abroad in Paris is there’s history in every nook and cranny of this city, which allows for lots of opportunities for my professors to assign off-site assignments that compliment what we learn in class. One of my assignments for my Fashion course was to go to the Louvre and identify the time period of certain portraits based on the style of dress. Definitely beats taking notes from a textbook.
Not only am I learning valuable information about France in general, but my CEA classes also help me assimilate to the Parisian culture. When I’m asked who I’m voting for in the upcoming U.S. election within minutes of meeting someone, I can relate this back to a lesson I learned about how the French have a high regard for being cultured, which includes valuing knowledge about politics.
|CEA study abroad center not only offers our courses, but the staff and resources available are very beneficial to our experience here.|
At the Sorbonne, my French class meets every weekday at 8am for two hours. These classes are small, filled with students of all ages and ethnicities with one goal in common: To learn the French language. The motivation and dedication to learning French is unparalleled to any learning environment I have experienced.
|Colorful French textbooks and cute journals make it easier to study.|
Because we do not share a common language, we can’t just slip into our native tongue to communicate a point clearly. This leads to a sometimes frustrating--but mostly beneficial---learning atmosphere: everyone is engaged and always taking opportunities to use our French so that when we enter the streets of Paris we have the ability to express ourselves clearly.
My education here is not like any schooling I’ve ever witnessed. I consider my studies at CEA and Sorbonne an integral part of my time in France – Without my all-encompassing education here, I surely would be lost in Paris.
Instead, I’m confident in my ability to make this city my home for the next couple months.
Frances Mylod-Vargas is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France. She is currently a junior at Cal Poly SLO.
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