Just thinking of Paris conjures up scenes of charming cafes, delicious baguettes, long strolls along the Seine, and visiting the Eiffel Tower at night. It’s no wonder it is a popular study abroad destination for many students. This beautiful city is rich in culture, world class museums, entertainment, great food, and home to Ivy League universities, such as the Sorbonne and SciencesPo. Its central location in Western Europe makes traveling easy and affordable to neighboring European and African countries. From the art student to the history buff and every major in between, this city has something for everyone to enjoy.
You can find study abroad programs in Paris for practically any major in both English and French classes. The most popular areas of study are fashion, art & art history, history, international relations, architecture, women's studies, literature, political science, mathematics, and French language studies.
Everything about the French university experience is different from the American one, especially when it comes to courses. The majority of French courses are divided into two sections or séances; each one meets about one to three hours a week. These séancess are the cours magistral (CM) and the travaux dirigés (TD), and range from three to five credits. At the beginning of the semester, your “prof” (what French students call professors) will give you the syllabus called the programme or calendrier des séances. This will outline when you will have your assignments which are usually devoir sur table, an essay written in class using your texts for reference and support.
Expect one to three redactions, or term papers, per class. There is usually one term paper per semester, per class. Depending upon the class, you may have to complete weekly lesson summaries as homework or complete an oral presentation. These assignments make up 15 percent of your grade typically. The other 85 percent will be reserved for a huge test that local students have to take at the end of the semester. If you are not directly enrolled in a French university, you may be exempt from taking this test, in which case, your program will count the initial 15 percent as 100 percent to determine your final grade.
Paris is home to a variety of institutions, such as French universities, foreign universities (ex. American University of Paris), and numerous language schools. (Insider tip: Did you know that your university might have a study abroad office? If so, this is a great place to start asking about study abroad).
Paris is a beautiful city, but it’s not always as easy as one, two, oui. For a major city, Paris is pretty small. Public transportation and bicycle rentals make it easy to get around town. Don’t concentrate on the dreamy aspects of living in Paris. The life of a student in Paris is similar to life in your home country- you’ll have to go grocery shopping, to school, do laundry- these things aren’t exciting but are a very real part of life. It’s better to be prepared for the everyday aspects of life and then be pleasantly surprised by the beauty and charm of Paris, than to plan on its attractive qualities and be disappointed by real life.
Just remember too, Paris is the capital of France. It is very hustle and bustle, but a quick stop into any public park or garden on a sunny afternoon will show you how the French enjoy the simple things in life, like good food with a friend in the sunshine.
The French are very proud of their language and culture. Even if you choose a program with courses taught in English, you need to know French. When you leave the classroom, everyone will be speaking French. Being able to speak and understand it will not only ease your daily interactions with Parisians, but it will also help to enrich your study abroad experience. It’s also important to adopt French customs and culture to not stick out and to more easily make friends.
Summer study abroad programs do not require a visa. However, study abroad programs for one semester require a visa de court séjour étudiant, which lasts from one to ninety days. Study abroad programs for an academic year (two semesters) require a visa de long séjour étudiant, which is for more than ninety days and for students who are eighteen years of age or older. If you need to get a visa de long séjour étudiant, you must file for the carte de séjour with the préfecture de police after 90 days in Paris to obtain a residency card.
If you aren’t careful in your preparations, getting a visa can be tricky. Your program will not necessarily help you get a visa, but they will give you the needed documents to start the process. The first step is going to the Campus France website, where you can create a dossier (file) and complete essays regarding your education and why you want to study abroad in France. When you’re finished you will need to mail a copy of your acceptance letter from your home university and an attestation statement from the French university you will be traveling to, along with a $60 USD check to Campus France.
Once everything is cleared, you’ll get an email which allows you to go to the French consulate. There may not be a French Consulate in your city or maybe even your country, so you may have to travel to obtain your visa (Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to locate your nearest consulate). Before you go to your visa appointment, make sure you have ten copies of all your paperwork and have a valid, current passport.
You’ll have lifelong memories of spending more than a week in the most beautiful city on Earth. For French majors or minors specifically, this experience will improve your language skills by leaps and bounds.
Cultural immersion and language fluency are key to a successful study abroad in Paris. French culture is not always accepting of new people so it’s important to embrace their way of life.
Another thing to look out for is strikes. They can really mess up your day when the metro is on strike or worse, university students! Best way to get around them is to always wear comfy shoes and follow the news to see when they end.
One last major challenge is making friends. French culture is about quality- this goes for food and friendships. It will be hard to make friends but keep at it! Once you make a French friend, you have one for life.