Jamie Simonson - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide it was time for you to go abroad?

My love for French and my desire to do something with my summer that will positively impact my life. I wanted to expand my worldview while also having an awesome summer, and I wanted to take French classes in France.

What is one thing every participant should know before going to France?

Be open to speaking a lot of French! Everyone knows you're not perfect so just try; they appreciate it a lot even if you're not great!

Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It was easy since most people in Paris spoke English, and I also had a pretty good French foundation. But even if I just knew salut and merci, I think I still would've managed.

What surprised you most about France?

What surprised me the most was how nice the people are. Most Americans have a picture of a typical rude French person, but this was not true at all! Almost everyone I met was super warm and open to me talking French with them.

What made your experience abroad unique? 

The fact that not only did I get to hang out with a lot of peers from the U.S. and get really close to them, but also that I had the chance to meet people from other parts of the world through my language school.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

By being awesome guides who were obviously extremely knowledgeable, which enriched the experience a lot.

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

I wish I would've been open to talking more French, sooner!

France flag in a baguette
The flag of France on a baguette

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

We woke up and went downstairs to breakfast. Next, we went to language school via the metro and spent the morning there. After that we had lunch either near the school or hotel and relaxed for a little. In the afternoon, we went to museums, shopped, sat at cafes, and explored Paris. Then we'd go for an awesome dinner at a local restaurant and finally have some night activity before returning to our hotel and resting for the next fun-filled day!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Sitting at cafes and parks while people watching.

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

It was a non-luxury hotel. I like that it felt like we had our own apartments!

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to France?

My one biggest packing tip is to just pack light! Remember: France has washing machines and they also have awesome shopping. If you didn't bring enough, you can always buy something in France. But if you brought too much, you probably wouldn't just go and throw out some of your clothes. Trust me, packing light will let you get more souvenirs and your arms will thank you when you're going up and down the metro stairs!

What is one thing you wish you would have known before going to France?

I wish I did more exploring online for things to do in Paris. While I did have time to do more than just your basic touristy things, I wish I knew some more hot spots and cool local hangouts before I went. Also, I wish I took more time to learn about French culture and table manners. Knowing the local customs really helps you feel much more comfortable, which will ultimately lead to being more willing to take risks and meet awesome new people or learn cool new things!

Colors of France projected on the Eiffel Tower
Colors of France projected on the Eiffel Tower

What was the hardest part about your time abroad?

The hardest part was trying to just fully immerse yourself in the culture and the language. It is very scary at first to speak a different language with natives you've never met before, but once I started speaking more French and got more comfortable, I had a blast!

In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit of participating in a language and cultural immersion program abroad?

The biggest benefit was without a doubt learning about other cultures and meeting people I never would've met. In terms of culture, for me this meant learning more French, eating great food, and learning more about French history. In terms of meeting people, by going to "school" everyday to learn French, I got to meet people from other counties who didn't speak English, so our only way to connect was through French.

Ultimately, the trip really just broadened my worldview and gave me a new perspective on literally everything I do!

Would you recommend Travel for Teens to others? Why?

I would because of how much fun it was and how much it impacted me. Especially being able to feel like you were real "locals,” it felt like you really lived in Paris!

How has your time abroad impacted your life at home?

I just have a broader outlook on life and I look at things with a different perspective.

If you could go abroad again, where would you go?

I would absolutely go back to France in a heartbeat (I absolutely fell in love with Paris!). But I'd probably go somewhere in Eastern Europe, since that's where most of my family is from. I think it'd be interesting to see the places they lived.