Note: Because study abroad application deadlines for Fall ‘10 are fast approaching, every posting day from February 1 to February 12, we’ll be featuring a different NYU Study Abroad site to help you decide where you want to be constantly drunk for the coming semester. Check them all out here.
I spent last semester in Paris, eating pastries, playing open mics, and lamenting the terrible expensiveness of almost everything. But I loved it, and would have stayed a full year if I wasn’t majoring in two things that were not French or art history (and totally eager to jump back into NYU Local, of course). France is one of those places where you will likely experience most of the negative stereotypes you can think of – being stranded by a debilitating métro strike, having cigarette ashes flicked upon your shoes by disdainful, glamorous women, being taunted by the French for saying obnoxiously American things. But it’s also a place where it’s not all too difficult to make the positive stereotypes come true as well – making out under the Eiffel Tower, carrying a warm baguette home every morning, drinking wine on the Seine in the moonlight. Some other students that recently studied at NYU in Paris and I share our experiences below.
Types of Classes Offered:
* Political Science
* Art History
Don’t let that list above fool you – every class is geared towards French culture, and sometimes art history. It’s difficult to find classes that will fulfill requirements for other majors, though it is possible. In general, classes are more demanding than you think – the program is divided into Program I (for students who have not taken up to Conversation and Composition), where the classes are in English, and Program II (for students who have taken beyond that), where the classes are in French. Advanced French speakers can take classes at the Sorbonne or Sciences Po.
- “Littérature with Prof. Boyer convinced me to declare my major as Comparative Literature, while my Sciences Po class gave myself and every one of my classmates a stroke each Wednesday night.”
- “…the way that NYU in Paris sets up the Sciences Po tutorat is completely retarded, if you pardon my French.”
- “I loved all of my classes. Global Media Studies was fun for a media studies major, Paris Monuments was fun for a non-history major, and my class at the University of Paris was…an experience.”
- “Global Media Studies was one of the most poorly organized classes I’ve taken at NYU. Terrible. Most other classes were pretty good.”
- “Spoken was an easy A, so it was great for my GPA and Reychman was a really lovely woman. Vichy France was an intense history course but really fulfilling intellectually.”
NYU does a pretty good job of giving students things for free (weekend trips, wine and cheese “tastings”) – or at least, they do a good job of giving the illusion of giving students things for free (we pay $50,000 to go here, remember?). In any case, having a fancy Thanksgiving dinner on the Eiffel Tower with no charge to us was pretty badass.
- “Longer trips were better and getting to see the opera was fantastic. I wish there were more trips, though, even if we had to pay for them. Having a “replacement” Thanksgiving dinner was really special for me, since the holiday is so important to me in the states. It was a great way to connect with the students and just appreciate a bit of our culture in a foreign place. “
- “You don’t realize how much NYU can pamper you until you go abroad. From the ballet and opera tickets to the overnight excursions around France (I went on three!), they really do a good job of, well, paying for your fun.”
- “Student Activities at NYU in Paris were amazing…They also have vouchers for operas and plays, and everyone gets to go on one weekend trip, usually to a couple towns in the south of France, where NYU wines and dines you and takes complete care of you, all but short of rubbing your belly and calling you pet names.”
My advice to you: don’t choose a homestay or residence hall; choose an apartment with a roommate. There were rare people who loved their host families, but most had some kind of problem, like my friends who were forced to tie up their hair while they ate dinner. My host mother accused us of stealing tupperware and breaking dishes, and not using the toilet paper. She also told us that gays were pretty much the bane of society.
I would have improved my French more if I had an apartment where I could have invited French friends over to hang out. And some of the apartments NYU sets people up with were truly, truly swank.
- “It was a little nerve-racking being put in a studio apartment by myself and dealing with a landlord alone, but it worked out well. I was fairly far away from campus and it got pretty lonely sometimes without someone to practice my French with, but the accommodations themselves were really worth my dollars…I mean, euros.”
- “Everyone who lived [in the residence hall] was really angry about how much we had to pay to live there compared to other kids in the program considering all the things we had to deal with.”
- “I lived in a home stay and loved the family I lived with. They had so many incredible stories from their life experiences to share with me and really welcomed me into their home as if I was one of their own grandchildren. Our weekly dinners remain one of my favorite parts of the entire semester. “
Nightlife wasn’t bad if you knew were to go, but the métro closing at 12:30 or 1:30 (depending on the night) caused some serious inconvenience.
- “Nightlife in Paris is kind of a joke. What you may imagine of Parisian night clubs is only accessible if you are willing to pay a 20 Euro cover, so we ended up frequenting a few no-cover bars that played music we liked, like Disquaires, Le Pop In and Le Truskel.”
- “Nightlife in Paris was a joke compared to New York. It is really difficult to travel at night. That being said, I found some incredible bars – some intense and others really laid back – that always made for a good night on the town. I highly recommend finding a couple good places, one for every type of night, and sticking to them.”
- “Paris has hotspots, but is much different from New York where you can walk a block in any direction south of 14th street and find a fun place. Parisians, I think, like to be clandestine and very few will throw a huge bar party.”
French food can be incredible, but the French are pretty much terrible at food that isn’t from their own country. You find yourself going through horrific Asian food cravings.
- “There’s nothing to say about Parisian food except that it’s incredible and diverse. You can find anything, you’ll like what you find, and you’ll miss it when you leave.”
- “Say goodbye to fruits and vegetables, say hello to ham, butter, and lots of bread. In some fromageries they have different varieties of butter, as if it is its own gourmet food group.”
- “Food was the BEST PART OF MY ENTIRE TRIP. Try everything. Try bone marrow. Try steak tartar. Try anything and everything that involves duck. Don’t limit yourself. “
Sex and Dating
True story: I met a French boy who made out with an American girl once, and we and a bunch of other people went to the bar where she worked for her birthday. Surprise, she ignored him the whole night. It had to be explained to him that she was American and making out meant nothing to her. Result: heartbroken French boy. The moral of the story is that Frenchies seem to get attached pretty quickly, resulting in a lot of post-hook-up texting cascades that are often overwhelming for Americans.
Another true story: It’s not too difficult to snag a hot French boyfriend if you are willing to go out and do things on your own.
- “It was fun learning the “rules” of French dating, but the gay scene isn’t really all that different from the one in New York. It was a little difficult meeting people when you’re out, but the determined ones succeed.”
- “I slept with one American who I never saw ever again and didn’t have the patience to meet the French. I wish I had though. Avoid hooking up with people in the Paris program. It can get awkward. “
- “Some people had French boyfriends, but this was pretty rare. The French are a pretty family-oriented, closed-circle society and it might not be easy to just walk out your door, or go to a bar or an event and meet French people, let alone date them.”
- “The best part of Paris, at times, was leaving Paris. Traveling was so easy that to not travel would have been stupid. I was able to see so much on weekends, and have no regrets about the cities I visited. I wish I had spent more time in Paris and France, however. There were still so many neighborhoods in the city I didn’t get to explore, and I never did get to spend an entire day in the Louvre like I wanted. “
- “There are a lot of cheap flights available to other Western European cities for 60 to 70 euros round trip. Traveling farther east than Prague will be expensive, though. So is the train between Paris and Amsterdam, which you have to book in advance.”
- “Parisians are definitely not afraid to let their thoughts be known. Maybe it’s because there are no guns there, so no one ever feels any risk of physical harm if they get up in someone’s face.”
- “I wouldn’t say a lot of people go through culture shock as defined as the scary psychological disorder, but about halfway through the semester you realize how draining life in another country can be and you start to understand that 4 months is actually longer than you expected, not one long vacation. It’s finding the new routine that can be a little tough, but ultimately the best part of living abroad.”
- “It’s not just a reputation. Some of the French really just suck. Some are just downright rude. But, aren’t New Yorkers kind of rude? The biggest problem for me was grocery shopping, but eventually I just accepted that many people don’t drink fresh milk and that the American grocery store is not necessarily the best grocery store. You learn to appreciate these differences. I miss grocery stores in France now and wish I could get food as fresh here. “
- “…since I was in Program II some of my professors demanded that we take school very seriously, which doesn’t always make for a nurturing environment when you’re living in a foreign country, constantly converting currency in your head and trying to see everything you can while you’re there.”
Why You Should Go
Paris is a city in which you feel the weight of its history and culture, and it has a certain pace of life that’s in some ways very different from New York. It’s a beautiful place, and I’d live there if I could.
- “You realize the value of your NYU tuition, you meet some best new pals, and you get to see the world in ways that undoubtedly will change everything you thought you knew.”
- “It is beautiful. What I said about professors wanting students to take school ‘seriously’ comes from this bizarre passion with which French people seem to live in every sphere of life; they demand that their ideals and principles be realized, most notably that education be free and for all, because this is the one guarantee of your right to equality in society. Honestly, watching maniféstations in person will change your life and put anyone who has protested anything in the US to personal shame. Perhaps similar to the existence of this ‘passion,’ Paris is hyper-saturated in art and culture in a way that New York is not.”
- “You should go because it will make you appreciate New York more, and it will broaden your horizons, so to speak. It’s fascinating to see the differences and to see what our society could have been like. The differences in lifestyle help give you a perspective on American life and Europe. And, it feels really amazing to say that you can navigate the metro system with your eyes closed and not get lost in the Marais. It feels even better to say that you can speak a foreign language almost fluently. Quelle chance!”
Why You Shouldn’t Go
Unfortunately, Paris is also a place in which money magically vanishes from your wallet when you breathe in the air. Also, it can be difficult to find classes to fit for your major if you don’t plan it out well.
- “It can be stressful, it will burn your wallet in a giant fire, if you are not a French, Comparative Literature or Art History major you may find it difficult to fit the classes into your requirements.”
- “If money is a problem, you’re going be stressed out a lot during the semester. Otherwise, there is no good reason you shouldn’t leave the country during your undergrad career. None whatsoever.”
- “Paris is a fairy tale that only certain kinds of people can appreciate. If you’re looking for a more laid back situation, go elsewhere. Paris actually required work and effort, at least for Program II kids.”