The IES Beginning Language and Marketing program in Paris, France was an awakening experience both in my education and my personal growth. It was a six week extravaganza of learning about the global business world and French culture where each day provided new learning opportunities and fresh experiences. There are three courses typically available for the summer program (unfortunately for my year, there were only two after a professor mixup occurred): Global Marketing, Luxury Brand Management, and French for Beginners. You're supposed to pick two out of the three. I was only able to take Global Marketing and French for Beginners due to the mistake mentioned above, but that did not dampen my experience with this program at all. Each course was paced fairly and never once did I feel overwhelmed with any of the assignments or the marketing group project I was asked to complete. IES makes sure you have a balance in your time dedicated to studies and time for exploring Paris and all it has to offer. The two often mix as some homework assignments are to go out and experience French culture in a way you might not think about (like visiting McDonald's and seeing what's different on the menu compared to the U.S. menu). Overall, the educational adventure of this program is top notch and enlightening in fun and unexpected ways.
On the personal side, I had many of the same fears that students who have never studied abroad had. I had never lived alone before, traveled alone before, and I didn't know a single person in the program. Everything was new from the experiences of getting situated in my apartment to every single person I met. It was nerve-wracking fun, and to get past these initial fears, I simply did not entertain them to a deep level when applying for this program. I only let them come out once I had stepped foot on French soil, but even then they had subsided now that I was face-to-face with this land I had only read stories about and saw in movies. Overcoming the hurtles of stepping out of my comfort level to talk to strangers in my second language (I had taken French for four years previously) which I had never had the opportunity to truly practice, and navigating a new city's unfamiliar transportation system, I discovered a different side of myself that would never have come out if I had not studied abroad. It's IES's job to make you as comfortable as you can be living in the city you choose to explore, but it is a personal responsibility to truly take care of yourself and make the efforts to reach out and dive into the culture firsthand. It was an unforgettable experience, and one that I beg each person considering studying abroad to fully participate in because it is absolutely life-changing. You will never regret studying abroad, but it is very possible that you will regret not taking this opportunity when you have the chance right in front of you. There is too much life out there to experience to remain comfy in your own surroundings, so go out there and live it.