Hamilton College

Program Reviews

Default avatar
cgawlay86
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As a double major in Biochemistry and French at Bowdoin College, I was only able to go to Paris with HCJYF for one semster since I could not complete more than one lab course in Paris. This option, available only to science majors, turned out to be wonderful. I got a great sense of French culture and still enough time to dramatically improve my French. I was even able to take a Molecular Biology and Genetics class at a French Universtiy - in French! It was a challenge but a great experience that I don't regret in any way. It was one of two French University classes I took - with other French students. I found the French academic system...interesting. I attended Paris 6 and Paris 3. I found the coursework challenging as it was in French but the instruction and organization was much less than what I was accustomed to in the U.S. Class sizes were large and professors basically didn't have office hours. I was able to meet other French students, though not too many, as I found it difficult to befriend them. I felt the courses through Hamilton, with other American students, were great. They were realatively *easy* which I feel is important because there is so much more to studying abroad than academics. Plus, my University classes made up for their easiness. The HCJYF program was overall great, especially compared to some of the other programs in Paris that I heard about. Everyone in HCJYF had wonderful housing IN Paris which made transportation a lot easier. The meal plan was great too. I was only responsible for my lunches and 1 dinner a week. I had other friends who had to pay for a lot more meals than that which adds up really quickly in Paris! Also, the cost of the plane tickets was included in the college bill so I didn't have to pay for that out of pocket and was basically able to apply financial aid/loans towards it. I think one of my favorite parts about HCJYF was the traveling we did as a group! Our orientation in Biarritz was AMAZING. Relaxing at a beautiful beach and taking French classes in the day time while meeting French people at night. It was great. Then once we got settled in Paris, we began our excursions to other parts of the country which were also really fun and beautiful. We saw breath taking castles, vineyards, old theatres, cathedrals, etc. Day to day life was really nice in Paris. I mean, Paris is GORGEOUS so just getting anywhere felt like an adventure with much to see along the way. Classes weren't too stressful as I mentioned above so I didn't feel anxious on a daily basis like I do sometimes at Bowdoin. We also found that the night life in Paris was really fun! However, even just walking around in Paris at night is amazing as the city is absolutely stunning with the Seine and the Eiffel tower light show on the hour. I'd say the biggest challenge was generally learning to deal with the French people/culture. They close shops for lunch and on Sunday and generally seem to do everything somehow less efficiently. And they strike... However, I found at the end of the trip that their values are simply different than ours. They are focused more on family and less on work. Difficult for Americans to adjust to, but a vauluable reminder of what's really important. Overall, I really enjoyed myself on the HCJYF program and had a wonderful experience!

Default avatar
ealinikoff
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Hamilton College Madrid program is really among the best offered by U.S. academic institutions. It combines rigorous language training with cultural immersion and encourages travel. The program requires participants to sign a contract that obligates them to speak exclusively in Spanish and I was surprised with participants' enthusiasm to participate. This, combined with courses instructed in Spanish,ensured that students improved language skills. I frequently use Spanish in my job now, and wouldn't have the same abilities if it weren't for this program. The cultural immersion was unmatched. My homestay was fantastic--they had been hosting foreign students for over a decade and really made me part of the family. In addition to all of this, the program requires students to participate in monthly travel tours that ensure students see most of the country before finishing up their year or semester. These first-rate trips involved wonderful hotels and lavish meals at some of the best places in Spain and beyond: Barcelona, Sevilla, and Lisbon were just a few. None of this would be possible if it weren't for the supportive staff in Madrid and Clinton, NY that make the program what it is. They were always there for guidance and support throughout my year.

Default avatar
Barbara
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am an alumna of the 2005-6 Hamilton College Academic Year in Spain (HCAYS) I was there both semesters and was very happy with the overall experience.

It was encouraged that students do the entire year, but not mandatory, however I feel I benefited from the language immersion over a longer period of time as well as the advanced grammar classes for 2 semesters. Being obligated to speak in Spanish, though challenging, has paid off, and I recommend the program specifically to students who want to take their Spanish to the next level. Additionally, as someone who was majoring in Hispanic Studies, I was able to fulfill many of my requirements while abroad.

One of the best parts of the program for me was the opportunity to meet students from other schools in the US, many of whom are still my friends today. Travelling to many different cities and locations in Spain we all became very close, and have shared memories that we brought back with us to the US.

Also, for me the home stay was an invaluable tool in practicing my Spanish with native speakers. My family was welcoming and so helpful in navigating the city and learning Spanish culture and customs.

Speaking of learning Spanish culture, one special aspect of the HCAYS is the option to take classes at a Spanish University, which some of my friends did. From what I observed, this was an additional benefit, as these friends were able to interact with peers, and create a network in the city.

Overall, I also had innumerable opportunities to try new things whether it was VERY amateur bull fighting or taking a painting class. I think Hamilton provides a unique experience and a unique opportunity to commit to learning Spanish while enjoying a small liberal arts atmosphere. I am so happy I chose to spend my junior yeat abroad, and very grateful that it was with the Hamilton Program, in fact I loved it so much I recommended it to my brother. He was in the 2010 group, so look out for his review soon.

Default avatar
Camembert89
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Ahh a year in Paris, where do I begin? Despite a few minor inconveniences, I absolutely loved my experience! My host family was a perfect fit for me and lived in a great neighborhood in Paris. They made me feel very welcome and like I was a part of the family. I had an easy 20-30 minute commute to class on the metro and lived in close proximity to other students in the program.

The site of Hamilton's classes, Reid Hall, is situated in a student-friendly neighborhood surrounded by a wide selection of affordable lunch places. Reid Hall, however, was a rather disappointing facility except for the courtyard garden when it was nice out. Our classroom was small and poorly furnished, the study rooms did not provide a comfortable study environment and the computers in the computer room were dated. In general, the quality of the facilities were not at all equal to those of Hamilton College, Clinton NY.

The Hamilton professor serving as the program director during the 2011-2012 school year was fairly inadequate and in many areas did not have the expertise one would have expected from someone who had previously held the position about 8 times. I'm not going to go into complaints pertaining to her. Our assistant director, however, Mme Stevens, who holds a more permanent position is the best! What a great lady!

We also attended French universities. The classes at institutions such as Paris III and Institut Catholique were pretty much hit or miss in terms of their quality, but they nonetheless gave us enormous insight into the French education system (including its flaws) and its implications for French society. If you are lucky you may even be able to make a couple of French friends at these institutions. Otherwise, it is fairly difficult to make French friends, especially without the residential campus aspect of most schools in the U.S.

All negative comments aside... you are in Paris! There is no better place to be! It's beautiful, there's great shopping, the food is to die for, the metro is extremely convenient (except when it closes at night) and it's a great location making easy to travel to other places in Europe. You have the opportunity to form close ties with your peers going through all of the same challenges of living in a foreign culture and above all, you get to speak French! I have no regrets and am glad I did the program for a year. The year is really much better for language acquisition as well as cultural understanding. Don't worry about missing out on a year at your school in the U.S., you won't regret your decision to study abroad with HCJYF! It was truly a live-changing experience for me!

Default avatar
JMooney
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My year spent in Paris was one of the best years of my life. Going on a year long program is definitely the way to go and I can't really complain at all about Hamilton's program. They have been around for a long time in Paris so the logistics are well worked out at this point and for the most part everything went smoothly from homestays to excursions, classes to orientation. The first couple weeks are spent in Biarritz, France, which is incredible! While there you have very little time spent in class and lots of time at the beach or just hanging out and getting to know the other kids in the group. This time spent in the smaller seaside community makes heading to Paris A LOT less intimidating (and helps you get used to living in French really quickly)! I had an amazing homestay experience, and while navigating the French university system of registration was not easy, I had help from our program director, Martine, the whole time so I never felt completely lost. The group excursions that we took once a month allowed us to explore parts of France that we might never have seen otherwise. We definitely got to see the more popular places like Mont St. Michel and Normandie, but we also got to explore places like a champignonnière (no they do NOT make champagne there!) or a vignoble (they DO make wine there).

Anyway, all this to say that the HCJYF provided me an amazing foundation for an incredible year. Things were well organized, the staff and director were helpful and knowledgeable, and well, who can not love Paris?

Default avatar
kbrogz
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I did the Hamilton College Madrid Program in the fall of my junior year at Hamilton (2005). A little bit about my abroad experience in Madrid...

The Program: Hamilton started its program in Madrid over 20 years ago, and it is extremely well-run and organized. Hamilton's program is small, which allows you to establish strong relationships with fellow students both within and outside of the Hamilton network. I took an Art History class that met every week at the Prado, a Hispanic women in literature class, and a class on the Spanish economy--all three were great. Students are required to take Spanish as their fourth class, and are placed based on their ability at the beginning of the semester. The language class was pretty good as well, as good as a language class can be I suppose. The classes were small and the group of professors teaching the program was dynamic, dedicated, and engaged with all students. Professors even invited students to their houses toward the end of the semester for dinner and drinks.

One of my best friends at Hamilton opted to do a different abroad program through one of the international agencies like SIT and studied in Salamanca. Her program was significantly cheaper, but it did not sound nearly as well-run and enjoyable. Hamilton doesn't skimp on the program or on its weekend trips around the country. We stayed at really nice Paradores hotels throughout the country, went out to great dinners, drank tons of wine, etc.

Host family: My host family, two señoras who were sisters, was extremely welcoming and had been with the program since its first year. They were well adapted to having students and caring for them, I felt as though I was part of the family and not a foreigner renting a room.

One warning--if you're looking to go abroad and do zero work and drink 24/7, this program may not be for you. The classes, while significantly less strenuous than those taken in the US, are nonetheless somewhat demanding for an abroad program.

All in all, this is a great program and I continue to recommend it to friends and peers.

Default avatar
dchin
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I chose Hamilton's program because the program coordinators made a real effort to take care of our daily lives by choosing supportive families for the home stay. I really valued their concern for our personal well-being as we adjusted to life in Paris. The families had six meals a week with us so I really felt like a member of the family I was with, moreso than simply a tenant in the apartment. The location of where I was, and many other students, was another great aspect of the homestay as we were living in the actual city as opposed to the suburbs. I think academic support could have been better, but certain aspects change with the program based on the director, though Mme. Stevens handles the personal aspects and she is phenomenal.

Default avatar
newts3
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The year I spent abroad with HCJYF (Hamilton College Junior Year in France) was without a doubt the best year in my life, and the program is to thank for much of that. Not only did they make navigating the French university system doable (let's be honest, it's never going to be easy...), they put me in a housing situation where I felt welcome, yet gave me the tools (in particular the language skills - I believe the program is unrivaled in the way it really encourages a full immersion in the language) that allowed me to be independent and navigate the city on my own.
Reid Hall, the program center, is a wonderful place to study and just spend time. The garden is beautiful, and we really took advantage of this during the springtime.
The classes aren't on par with what you'd take at Hamilton College or a comparable university in the U.S., but there is NO program that offers you a really rigorous academic experience, and honestly that simply isn't what going abroad is about. With HCJYF you have the opportunity to learn, and to be involved in classes that are really interesting (my art history course visited a different museum every week -- what better way to begin a year abroad in one of the art capitals of the world?), but also allows you the time to experience Paris. And that, is what the program is all about.
Above and beyond all this, the orientation in Biarritz, and the many program-sponsored excursions are really wonderful and enriching and 100% covered by your tuition.
All in all a really incredible experience. They've been doing this for 75 years and the really have it down.

Default avatar
Sally
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

- Homestays were great - each student seemed happy with his/her french family
- Location of Reid Hall in Montparnasse was central & accessible. The center itself was nice.
- The size of the classes was nice, the but professors were sub-par.
- The director did not provide much assistance to the students.
- The program did not do a good job of integrating the second-semester students; and the program did not communicate well with them.
- There were only 3 - 4 excursions, but the program paid for them.
- The individual student did not have enough control over his/her course-load. And there was not an option for more independent work or an independent study, a major short-coming of the program.
- It was not allowed to have an internship while enrolled in this program.
- There weren't many avenues set up (by the program) through which students could interact with real French people.