The IES BIA Program gave me the opportunity to learn more about the political, economic, social, and cultural institutions in France through their planned excursions, weekend recommendations, and ticket giveaways for the Opera, Ballet, rugby games, and cooking classes. My French not only significantly improved through these immersive experiences, but also because of my host family, which was perhaps the best part of my experience. My host mom was kind and supportive, always helping me improve my French and introducing me to the different facets of French culture and cuisine.
The classes were engaging and the small size allows you to interact with both the professors, which come from prestigious universities around France, as well as the students. Coming from a university with larger class sizes, this was something I appreciated. The classes also offered excursions; I went to the cinema with my French class to watch a movie and went to the World Trade Organization Headquarters in Geneva with my Market Trends and Economics class. I learned a lot about the policies that France and the European Union implement; a lot of the material presented in my classes as well as the presentations I completed impressed employers when doing internship interviews.
My study abroad experience only grew my identity as a global citizen and shaped my ability to communicate across different cultures, which in an increasingly connected world is important. My decision to immerse myself as much as possible refined my French and by the end of the five months, I was confident and it was easy to carry on discussions in French.
I highly recommend this program to others who are interested in learning about the facets of French culture and are studying business or international affairs because the knowledge you acquire is invaluable and will aid you in the future. I also recommend doing a homestay - it was probably one of the best decisions I made while abroad.