Andrew Cooney - 2015 Program Participant

Students walking outside Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria

Myself and the Vienna crew outside the Hofburg Palace

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I knew going into college that I wanted to study abroad. My first time abroad was in Paris when I was nine. My family went for two weeks over Christmas and New Years, and it was simply a life-changing experience. I traveled abroad after that, to Puerto Rico, Mexico twice, and Italy. I wanted to study abroad because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be immersed in another culture and learn about different cultures by traveling. I also wanted to be able to practice my French skills, as I had taken three semesters of college French.

Why did you choose SAI?

I choose SAI to study abroad with because they offered everything I was looking for. They offered a broad, liberal arts education, so I could take psychology classes for credit. The location of the American University of Paris (AUP) was a huge plus and walking by the Eiffel Tower was incredible. They also made everything so simple; they helped me register for classes, apply for a student visa, set me up in a great apartment, and even provided a European cell phone.

A street in Le Marais district in Paris, France

Sunday morning walk in the Marais with a fellow SAI student

What was your favorite part about Paris?

My favorite part about the location was the accessibility to everything in the city. My apartment was pretty centrally located so I could travel to most sites in Paris within 15 to 20 minutes on the metro. The 15th arrondissement (where I lived) was fantastic and really cool. It offered lots of great shops, bread shops, a nice park, but was still quiet and not too busy. The university itself could not be in a better location. Situated right between the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides provided great opportunities to relax on the Champs de Mars or the Invalides lawn in between classes. It was also close to the RER line that can take you to the Latin Quarter in only three stops.

What characteristics of your program made it unique?

What made the program unique was that it was supportive but not overbearing. If you needed help, they were always there for you, but they allowed you to make your study abroad exactly what you wanted. If you wanted to travel every weekend, you could do so. If you wanted to get an internship in the city, they supported that 100 percent. I liked the fact that they allowed for that freedom and gave us opportunities to meet other study abroad students and degree seeking students at the university.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was great! Always on hand and checking in to see how we were all doing. It really helped that the SAI office is right in the neighborhood of the university, it made it easy to pop in and ask any questions. They did a good job of getting everyone settled in Paris and helping us to adjust to the time difference and culture shock that I'm sure everyone felt.

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

The one thing I wish I'd done differently was explore Paris more. I did get out a fair bit and saw many different sides of the city but I feel like I could have done more to really explore and see different things.

View of the Seine River in Paris, France

Early morning on the Seine River

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Most days I would wake up around 8:15 a.m., take a shower, change, and be out the door by 8:45 a.m. I'd walk to the Commerce Metro stop and take it two stops to Ecole Militaire. On the way to class I would often stop in a cozy cafe to grab a croissant and maybe a tea. From there I'd head to class, which lasted until about noon.

After class, my lunch usually consisted of a simple chicken sandwich from one of the boulangeries near the university. I'd walk either to the Eiffel Tower or the Invalides lawn and enjoy a quick, cheap, and delicious lunch. I would have class around 4 p.m. that evening for about one and half hours.

Afterward, many times, my friend from that class (the head of the history club) would invite some of us to hear a guest speaker or lecturer at the university. That was always a fun time and it usually wrapped up around 8 p.m. Following the lecture, most days I would head home, stopping to grab a fresh baguette on the way, and make some dinner. Other times, a bunch of classmates and I would head to one of our classmates apartments a few minutes from the university to hang out, drink some wine, and maybe study a little bit.

What was your favorite thing to do on your free time?

I think my favorite activity was traveling. While abroad I visited Normandy, the Loire Valley, Antwerp, Barcelona, Vienna, Frankfurt, and Stockholm. These were all great experiences and I thoroughly enjoyed each trip. My other favorite activity was hanging out with my friends from my history of Vienna class. We we're all super close and we'd get together to hang out and enjoy each other's company. In fact, the trip to Vienna was a class trip, so we all got to go together and enjoy four awesome days in the city.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it? 

I lived in a normal French apartment with another study abroad student. I loved the apartment because it was small but very charming and comfortable. It was exactly what I'd expected a Parisian apartment to be and it was a great place to live for four and half months.

Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France

Château de Chenonceau

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

Studying abroad in Paris completely changed my life. It made me learn more about myself and question what I want to do with the rest of my life. I really loved the laid back atmosphere and relaxed culture of Europe, and that is one of the big reasons why I want to live and work in Europe one day.

I see international students around me much differently as well. My roommate sophomore year was from Sweden and being able to visit his hometown of Stockholm helped me to understand him better and appreciate how difficult it can be to move to a completely foreign country.

Studying abroad with SAI has left me with indelible memories and great friends from all over the world. I know we'll stay in touch and hopefully meet up again in the coming years. My experience has solidified my desire to work internationally and to have that experience of immersing myself in new cultures.