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!