Mary Elizabeth Winther - 2014 Program Participant

Lovers Bridge in Paris, France

On the “lock bridge” by Notre Dame. This bridge is one of many bridges in Paris that are covered in locks.

Why did you choose study abroad in Paris as opposed to other cities in France?

I chose to study in Paris because I was looking for a city that would provide me with plenty of artistic and cultural opportunities outside of my academic program. As someone majoring in an artistic field, I was drawn to Paris by the multitude of museums and theatres, as well as the rich artistic history of the city.

What did you stay in Paris? What was your housing like?

I stayed with a family just south of the Paris border, in a suburb called Malakoff. My host family was fairly a-typical, but they were wonderful! The house belonged to a couple named Andre and Lucile. Their family friend Livia, who was from Italy, was also living in the home. They frequently had friends over for dinner, so I had the opportunity to meet new people almost every week.

What are your fondest memories from your time in Paris?

Some of the most memorable days were the little adventures in the city, rather than the big trips outside of Paris. The best feeling in the world was being worn out from walking around sightseeing and exploring all day on a weekend. I found so many hidden gems of Paris this way--parks, restaurants, and crepe vendors! One of my favorite afternoons was spend in Parc Montsouris, which was packed once the weather was nicer and the rainy winter was over!

Mont St. Michel in France

Trip to Mont St. Michel. The trip was organized by the Erasmus organization, and Mary went with several other IES Abroad students.

What was the biggest challenge you faced studying abroad in Paris?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was finding the discipline to speak French even when professors weren’t listening. I constantly had to remind myself that my goal was to improve my language skills, and had to consciously surround myself with people who shared that goal and motivation to speak French even outside of school. It’s easier to speak English with American classmates, but it’s so much more rewarding to force yourself to stay in “French-mode.”

If you had the chance, why would you travel to Paris again?

Paris is an enormous city, and there is no way to experience all of it in only three or four months! There were still places that I want to visit that I simply didn’t have time for during my study abroad program. And of course even familiar places would be fun to visit again, maybe this time with friends or family from home. I would love the chance to share my memories and favorite spots with someone else.

Would you recommend IES Abroad’s French Studies program to other students?

I would absolutely recommend the French Studies program to others. My French abilities grew significantly, and the program lived up to my expectations. The staff and professors were very approachable and open to answering questions, and the program itself was well-structured. I felt like I was challenged, but well supported.

What important tips do you have for future study abroad students in Paris?

Many people get so swept up in the Paris night-life that they forget about the adventures that they can have in the city during the day! Spend afternoons after classes exploring, visit gardens, museums, and cafes. Find the open-air market closest to your house or apartment and go grocery shopping there. Going out for drinks or on big trips with friends is fun too, but don’t forget about all of the things you can experience and learn during everyday life.

At Monets water gardens in Giverny, France

IES field trip to Giverny, to see Monet’s water gardens.