Emily Koehler - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad? 

Spending a semester abroad has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I was inspired at a young age to study abroad by my Mom, who spent a semester in Orléans during her time in college. The connections she made there, and the impact it had on her, made me feel like it was an experience I couldn't pass up. My Mom is a French teacher, so I've been surrounded by glimpses of the French language and culture my whole life. France has always been a place where I've felt truly at home, but I wanted to get to know it better. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to experience life as a Parisian and to fully integrate myself into the culture.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris
The Arc de Triomphe

Why did you choose CISabroad?

I chose this organization because it offered all the elements I was looking for in a study abroad program. The primary factors for me were the housing arrangements and the academics. CISabroad provided apartments for us right in the heart of the city, but in a non-touristy, residential area. It was an ideal living situation because rather than being surrounded by students, we were surrounded by all sorts of French families. The neighborhood was so family friendly and made it feel like we were really LIVING in Paris, rather than just going to school there. The university we attended was also a great aspect of the program. Since it was a French institution, there was a great mix of French and international students. The French Language and Culture program brought me together with so many people from all over the world. Since we all shared a passion for the French language, we could all communicate in French, no matter where we came from!

What was your favorite part about Paris?

There is ALWAYS something new to see and explore in Paris. I loved that about the city! There are so many museums, stores, cute neighborhoods, festivals, markets... you name it, they've got it! At every opportunity I was flying through the city trying to take in as much as possible. Even going to the same museum multiple times was amazing: there were always exhibits coming and going, each one different than the last. I loved finding fun new things to do, but I also loved having my tried-and-true spots that I would routinely visit. Certain coffee shops and bookstores became my go-to places to just sit and experience Parisian life.

What made your experience abroad unique? 

I think the independence that this program gave me made the experience unique. The great thing about CISabroad is the amount of autonomy you get throughout the semester. We had a few fun group activities, but for the most part, you are planning your days, supplying your meals, exploring on your own or with friends, and it's great! They do a really great job at making you feel like you can go out and create your own experiences. I loved not having a meal plan or eating in a dining hall, because going to the grocery store and local food shops was one of my favorite things to do. I also loved planning out my weekends with friends and getting to live by my own schedule.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

We had one on-site advisor who for the program. She was amazing! If we ever had any issues, or needed help with anything at all, she was there helping us out. She also planned several fun excursions for us over the course of the semester. The great thing about our advisor was that she felt more like a friend than anything. We genuinely enjoyed spending time with her! We maybe only saw her in-person one or two times a month, but she was always there if we needed her.

Place des Vosges in the Marais, Paris
Place des Vosges in the Marais

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have taken advantage of my time there better! In hindsight, I did SO much during my semester. But I'm always going to regret passing up a museum or two, or passing by a restaurant and not trying it.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

On a school day, I would get up around 7:30 a.m. and maybe pop over to the boulangerie across the street to grab a fresh pastry (yum!). If I had class at 9 a.m., I would leave my apartment around 8:30 a.m. to walk to the metro and commute to school. Monday-Thursday I had class (two classes some days, one others). Each class was a three-hour period, which sounds rough, but is actually great because classes only meet once a week. Most days I had plenty of time to go home and eat lunch between my classes. I didn't have class until 2:00 p.m. on Mondays, so I would make a habit of going to Cafe de Flore or Shakespeare & Co. in the morning for a cup of coffee and some relaxing reading time. Watching the morning hustle through Paris from a cafe table is quite entertaining! Most school nights I would cook dinner in my apartment, but occasionally I would hit up a restaurant. A lot of times I would try international restaurants: it's surprisingly not hard to find good Asian food in Paris! My weekends were typically spent checking out a museum, going shopping, spending time with friends, or occasionally traveling around Europe a bit. The great thing about my typical day in Paris is that there was no typical day! Every day was a new and exciting adventure.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

One of my favorite free time activities was hanging at cafes with my friends. Every Thursday night, a French jazz band played at a quiet little bistro tucked away in a non-touristy part of town. Me and my friends would eat amazing food, drink great wine, and just hang out as the band played. We didn't go every Thursday, but it certainly was one of our favorite things to do. My mornings and afternoons on weekends were typically filled with me exploring the city. I walked miles and miles discovering new places and experiences. During school breaks, I traveled to a few places around Europe and even visited some family friends.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I lived in an apartment in the 15th arrondissement in Paris. This part of the city is very residential while still being right in the heart of Paris. We were about two blocks away from a metro stop, and we had plenty of grocery stores and bakeries on our block. I loved our apartment because it wasn't your typical student housing. It was a real apartment building with non-students living there. We had everything we needed; a kitchen, living room, bathroom, individual bedrooms, and our own washing machine.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Do your research before you go! Plan in advance some things you want to see while you study abroad - make a bucket list! There is so much to do and the semester is going to fly by, so maximize your time as much as possible and don't pass up on opportunities.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

My time abroad has made me want to experience as much as I possibly can in life. 

I constantly want to travel to new places, and I also love sharing all I learned about the culture with my friends. The lifestyle changes that I made in Paris have really stuck with me. I've even started exploring job opportunities in Paris for when I graduate. I just can't wait to go back!

Would you recommend CISabroad to others? Why?

I would absolutely recommend this program. If you are looking to really experience life in another city and want to see what it's like to really LIVE abroad, then this is the program for you. CISabroad gave me everything that I wanted and more out of a study abroad experience, and I hope that other people can get as much out of it as I did.