Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program for a multitude of reasons. I knew that I wanted to study abroad in the summertime to give myself more flexibility. As an art student, I really liked the idea of experimenting with different mediums. PCA offers a variety of courses in different art disciplines. I also wanted to practice my French with native speakers (there is no language requirement for this program!).
Some other factors were exploration and independence. This was my first overseas experience!
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
SAI assisted me with a multitude of things. I had a few questions while completing my application and I received timely responses from my SAI admissions counselor and other staff. The program organized a few pre-departure info sessions from staff and alumni. It was cool learning about all of the different experiences. When I arrived in Paris, SAI had already prepared my NaviGo (metro card), living arrangement, and orientation program. They also organized the VIVA Experiences.
My home school helped me find the program that best fit me. They also helped me transfer credits after my study abroad term.
Some things I had to organize myself included airfare, groceries, budgeting for personal expenses, and ordering European currency. Although I chose to fly by myself, SAI does work with a travel agency to arrange possible group flights. I was responsible for buying food and meals for myself. There a lot of grocery stores in Paris and even more yummy restaurants nearby! I also made sure to set aside money for personal expenses like souvenirs and toiletries.
Another big thing to consider before studying abroad is your phone plan. You NEED to have a working cell phone while abroad. There are a few options for this. Some travelers choose to buy an eSIM card or a European sim card. I contacted my provider and paid for a month-long international phone plan.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
One crucial piece of advice I’d like to share is find places you want to visit immediately! Before I left for Paris, I jotted down museums, restaurants, shops, and sites I wanted to see/experience. After school, on the weekends, holidays, downtime, etc. I would pull out my list and pick a place to visit. And I recommend inviting a friend to tag along! This came in handy when the last few days of my program creeped up on me.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
A day/week in my life in Paris looked a little like this. On my way to the métro station, I’d grab breakfast at the local boulangerie (bakery). My commute to PCA was about 45 minutes by métro so I usually listened to music or did some journaling to pass the time.
Class at PCA starts at 9am and ends around 5pm. This gave me a lot of time to learn, practice, experiment, visit museums, and take breaks. During lunchtime, my classmates and I would hang out on the steps of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, a church down the street from school.
On weekends and some weekdays, SAI offers VIVA Experiences. These included trips to Château de Fontainebleau, the Rodin Museum, apéro (appetizers) at Plage Seine, etc. There was never a dull moment during this study abroad experience!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
One of my biggest fears before my time in Paris was public transportation. Back in the States, I didn’t use public transportation that much. The local systems I had used were very confusing at times.
I had to quickly overcome my fear of RATP because it was essential for commuting to school, visiting new places, and gaining independence. During my SAI Orientation, the Paris office helped us navigate a métro line and gave more information about the types of transportation, routes, and closures.
After the first few days of using RATP, I gained some more confidence. There are so many helpful apps like Apple Maps, Bonjour RATP, Citymapper, and Google Maps that can create public transportation routes. But by the second week, I was able to find my way home without GPS. And by the end of my program, I was navigating the city like a pro! Overall, public transportation gave me independence and more reasons to explore Paris.
What were your top 3 most memorable experiences in Paris?
That’s a tough question! If I had to choose, these would be my top 3:
1. Swimming in the Canal Saint-Martin. The Seine that divides Paris has some man-made canals that shoot off of the main river. The Canal Saint-Martin recently opened a few swimming pools for public use pour gratis (free)! This facility is tested and cleaned regularly. This was a great way to cool off and spend some time with friends.
2. Concert at Salle Pleyel. Towards the end of my program, I went to see Men I Trust perform at Salle Pleyel near l’Arc de Triomphe. They’re a French-Canadian band with a large following online. It was a great atmosphere and amazing performance.
3. Watching the Bastille Day fireworks. During Bastille Day, my friends and I wanted to experience the festivities and celebrations. Bastille Day (July 14th) is the French Independence Day. The holiday commemorates the Storming of the Bastille to free innocent prisoners. In the evening, we watched the firework display near the Eiffel Tower. It was so cool to see everyone come together.