So I entered into a semester study abroad period with Central College thinking, "ok get my French mastered, experience some culture along the way and I'll be happy". What ended up happening was that I stayed a full year (I just couldn't leave yet)and had one of the best experiences of my life.
Classes were hard work, but the prepping at the Institut Tourraine was unbelievably amazing. The professors were prepared for international students and tought in ways that made sure we retained information and were really learning. In the first month I lived with a family in Tours which really helped me break out of my shell and try new things. By the time we all moved to Paris I was ready for a challenge.
At the Institut Catholique I was able to take classes with students from all over the world, young and old, and with a range of positions in life. The professors at Catholique were difficult, but most were very fun. Classes I took there have helped me carry on through my undergraduate and now my Global MBA. But its not all in the classroom. I went out and met friends, and attended language exchanges outside of the program. This gave me the chance to network and meet tons of people that I have had the fortune to stay fairly close with since my return.
I would suggest that if you have any passion for the French culture, language, scenery, or anything that you take up this program and run with it. The director is fantastic and fun, but at the end of the day a study abroad is really what you make of it. Go out there and enjoy every single day cause trust me it goes by way too fast!
Overland Park, Kansas
Graphic Design Summer
I participated in the summer graphic design program in 2009. It was an amazing experience. I had gone in with a lot of experience, but still left with a lot of new techniques and skills. The day trips all around the Netherlands were very educational and a lot of fun too. The teachers were very knowledgeable and Steef helped out with all the tours and anything you could need. It is a really safe town and was such a great experience. Highly reccommended.
Des Moines, IA
Leiden, The Netherlands
I loved everything about Holland as a country. It was eye opening and exciting to live in a new country with a unique culture.
One of my favorite parts of Central's program in Leiden is the fact that they require the students to take a Dutch language class. It's a challenging language, but I think it helped all of us appreciate the culture that much more.
I enjoyed the internship I had in Holland, at a Dutch non-profit educational group called NUFFIC, in their communications department. It was particularly interesting because I helped organize and execute Nuffic's Holland Alumni Conference, so I had the opportunity to meet alumni of Dutch universities from all over the world.
I have only two negative comments about my time in Holland: the first is that the process of getting the internship took much longer than I anticipated, especially since we had filled out paperwork regarding the types of internships were were interested in. It was several weeks, and even months before some students started their internships.
The second negative comment is in regards to the required discussion based course about Holland. I felt that there was very little instruction given in regards to papers and certain assignments.
The Netherlands is a fantastic country, I love it, and would recommend everyone visit if given the chance. However, the program director and the assistant director leave much to be desired. They are both clearly sexistly biased when it comes to classes and grading. Their methods of grading are completely arbitrary and influenced by their personal issues. The assistant director has been clearly biased against the female students. He has been rude to two particular students with higher education than himself--clearly feeling threatened. The male students receive good grades whether they did the work for those grades and are allowed extra privileges that no female student has received. We have, on several occasions, been abandoned in unknown areas by the directors. Most of these times it was not a problem because it was in the Netherlands and we could find our own way; however, it is completely irresponsible to abandon your students on an excursion in another country when they don't know where to go. Besides the incompetence of the directors, they have not given proper compensation for the required trips that we paid for before coming to the Netherlands. This program has many hidden fees that we were not made aware of until they were demanding money from us. Many of these charges should have been taken care of in the program fees that were paid beforehand. These hidden costs amount to hundreds of dollars extra after getting to the Netherlands. Overall, the program is in desperate need of an overhaul. I would recommend studying in a different country and visiting the Netherlands.
Experience in Leiden, NL
- I was not informed about hidden fees for this program. (such as the Residency Permit, travel costs, meal costs during required trips, Belgium trip)
- Housing conditions were not optimal, and I found that I wasn't getting my money's worth. The cleaning staff just decides to not clean if they don't want to. On many occasions I had to clean the kitchen just to eat in a clean space.
- On a good note, Leiden is a beautiful city and the Netherlands is a great country to study abroad in. It is easy to travel around Europe and things are pretty relaxed in the Netherlands.
I am currently in Leiden, the Netherlands, at 32 Hugo de Grootstraat--the international student dormitory.
Overpriced and Undercompensated
During the program you wil incur many costs that were not previously brought to your attention, such as meals for excursions that are advertised as covered, a 600 euro visa, a 50 euro housing deposit, and books that the program should offer but requires each new batch of students to pay for. In addition to money issues, the internship opportunities available only offer minimal clerical work at local universities and offer no subsistance. Courses offered are few and the program disregards the schedule of affiliate universities that is also advertises students can add a course. Finally, the courses provided by the program itself are insignificant in their nature, lack professional teaching styles, the grading systems are arbitrary at best and the professors are typically unprofessional, sexist, and grade students more on likability and personality than aptitude.
Leiden, The Netherlands
Great Place, but some Disappointments.
I loved the program as I gained some life long friends and an experience that you can only get once in a lifetime, but there were some bumps that people should be aware of. This program is a lot more expensive then what they advertise. We didn't get all of our mandatory trips completely paid for like we were told they would be. For instance when we went to Belgium we had to pay for three meals that were supposed to be included in the program fee. Don't let this discourage you. The Netherlands is a great place to study in because it is so easy to travel from and the classes were interesting.
The Netherlands are a great place to live and stay in. The Dutch are very blunt and to the point so if that is not your forte you may want to choose a different country. However, they do have really good cheese and the city of Gouda is a place I am really glad I visited. The directors were helpful in some areas, but extremely unhelpful in others such as dealing with students and health issues. If you have a health concern like allergies or asthma, you may want to contact them before hand to try and see if they will work with you. It was very difficult to stress the importance of avoiding contact with my allergens and I was really sick for my last six weeks in the Netherlands. Even though, I still enjoyed my time abroad and found it to be life changing to live in a different country.
San Antonio, TX
Tough but Worth It
There was a LOT more culture shock than I was expecting, but by the end of the program I truly felt that I had gotten everything out of it that I had wanted coming in. My French proficiency grew by leaps and bounds, I felt much more confident as a person and like I had grown and matured significantly, and I had some amazing travel experiences. Also became friends with a great group of girls (and one lone guy).
The volunteer position was a surprise at first- when my group signed up, all of the information was still saying that it was optional, when it had in fact been made mandatory. I understand that some people liked their placings less than others, but I found mine (Belleville) to be very chill (for Paris) and not a bad way to spend a few hours a week. It was probably the area I felt least safe in, especially in the winter months when I was generally traversing it in the dark. I generally am not comfortable around kids, but I had enough support from the regular volunteers and staff that I had the authority to keep them in line. And trying to teach subtraction in French is an excellent bit of baptism by fire for improving your language skills.
Housing was fine, nothing horrible, nothing special. At my own request, I did not have a roommate, but the only Single offered by the program put me out in the suburbs when I would have preferred to have been closer into the main action. Still, it was in a safe, cute neighborhood, and very convenient to Catho. Food was provided (I didn't partake, as it wasn't very vegetarian friendly).
The program director, Shelley, was an absolute godsend. There were many times when we all thought she was totally misleading us about something, and then it would turn out that she was completely right. Literally every single time. She gave us our space, but each time I reached out about something, she went above and beyond to help me out. In my case, she was particularly useful with finding vegetarian options (she located a list of every vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the entire city of Paris, and gave me tips about ethnic grocers where I could find supplies of tofu and the like), and getting rid of creeps on the Metro.
The creeps on the Metro were one of Paris' biggest failings in my book. Also the fact that n.o.t.h.i.n.g is open past 9pm, or at all on Sundays. Learn some choice phrases to use on the Metro first thing, or do as I did, and take the bus! It might take a little longer, but it's mainly populated by children and old people, and you can actually see Paris while you commute!
I suppose we should actually get to classes at some point. Classes were startlingly long- 2 hours at Etoile and then 3 hours and Catho, with 10 minute breaks at the halfway point. Also, entirely in French. However, I found that they were real confidence boosters. Assuming you didn't cheat on your placement exams somehow, the professor spoke to your level of French, so as long as you stayed alert, you could readily understand all three hours. The homework load was quite reasonable, and the professors relatively friendly.
At school, we met a lot of other American students with different programs. They lived with other American students, and often only took one class at Catho, and the rest were taught by their program, in English. Generally speaking, those of us with Central were speaking with a greater level of ease by the end of the semester. The program Shelley has put together for Central is demanding. We have to use French in our day-to-day life more than English, negotiate with French people more than Americans, and get out into different parts of Paris frequently. If you want a complete fluff semester, this is not the one for you. You will be challenged, but you will grow. It is worth it.
A final note: Paris has weather almost identical to Seattle (lots of grey in the winter and spring, gorgeous in the summer). Be prepared mentally.
A Learning Experience
My day to day experience was exciting. Besides the regularly scheduled events, I was able to travel, explore, visit museums and parks, and spend time with friends. I highly enjoyed my internship at Leiden University. I had a great boss, who was fun to talk to. I also had pretty great directors as well, that were approachable and fun to be around. The best experience was being able to travel and see other countries. I had the chance to visit many different countries and learn more about their culture. Overall, I had a great time in Leiden. If given the chance, I would go back in a heartbeat.
Living in Leiden
As expected, Europe is pretty expensive (as far as travel/dining). However, in Leiden there are several things to do for free - riding your bike through the city, exploring local museums with friends. As far as the social/nightlife scene, drinks are expensive at bars. If you want to have a party, you will have no problem finding an ample amount of people to hang out with - ISN (international student network) is a fantastic way to meet other students.
Study Abroad in Paris
I mainly attended this program for French language acquisition. I felt like the program adequately supported this - mainly through attending the Institut Catholique de Paris, and also the Institut de Touraine. Housing and on-site staff members were average, but not outstanding.
Established in 1965, Central College Abroad is a nationally recognized study abroad provider attracting students from across the United States. Colleges and universities choose Central College Abroad to offer rich global opportunities for their...