American Abroad in Paris


Simone Spilka

Bonjour from Paris! For fall quarter of my third year I decided to take some quality time away from Santa Barbara to experience firsthand the French culture at UC Paris. I decided to make the most of my time in Europe by leaving a month earlier than my program start date to travel, which was more fulfilling than I ever could have predicted. I’ve officially been overseas for two months and living up every possible opportunity that comes my way.

I am currently a student in Accent International where my program consists of 115 UC-based students, ranging from third years to fifth years with varying majors, levels of French, and motives for studying abroad. Upon arrival, we were given a relatively brief orientation and provided with an amenity of packets with tips for coming to understand the city like true Parisian locals.

After four days of free time to explore and become acquainted with our new home, UC Paris required an 11-day intensive language practicum (ILP). After testing into prospective French level courses, we attended class three hours each weekday morning to improve and facilitate communication for living in a foreign country. Six of these days also included excursions to multiple districts and monuments where our teachers gave guided tours in both English and French.

Our small campus provides an environment different from that of UCSB, but the intimate classrooms, versus 300-seat lecture halls, are a nice adjustment. The high demands of the ILP count as four transferable credits, so a full schedule in Paris requires only three classes during the semester here. I am currently enrolled in French Media, French Art, and French language, which are clearly all classes that will leave me with an immense knowledge of the culture I am submersed into.

The French Art course requires weekly excursions to the Louvre with our teacher to discuss paintings taught in class, understandably just one of the defining advantages of studying abroad. With only two weeks of class under my belt I am not yet able to accurately judge the workload of the courses, and I have experienced difficulty finding motivation to appropriately balance school and travel. The thought that I am currently living the most memorable months of my life often overpower my desire to open up a textbook for tedious reading.

But the program has a very strict attendance policy.  Missing more than one day of class per course results in a three percent grade drop at the end of the semester, which is one of the only complaints I have heard from fellow peers. Yes, we are here to study, but this rule would surely upset any student who sometimes just wants that extra hour to lie in bed and relax, especially when the dorms are further away than a five minute bike ride down Del Playa.

After procrastinating to turn in my housing forms until the last possible date, along with fifteen other students in my program, I was assigned to live at the Cite Universitaire, the International dorms of Paris.  Although the location is not in the heart of the City, the accommodations are greater than what was either predicted or expected. Each student has a massive single bedroom complete with a bed, desk, nightstand, large closet, sink, mirrors, and beautiful views.

Directly across the street is a popular and beautiful park where there are constantly people exercising, reading, listening to music, or simply enjoying the company of their friends and family. The true beauty of the dorms easily outweighs the thirty-minute commute to school, especially because of the simplicity of using the metro system for transportation.

Studying abroad has an abundance of advantages and has proved after just one month of classes to be a truly life-changing experience. The UC Paris program is designed so classes are not offered on Friday to specifically give students the freedom to jet off to whatever appealing country calls to them any given weekend. I have already booked flights to Munich, Nice, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Milan, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Edinburgh. After spending the summer traveling Spain, Germany, and Prague, I was influenced and inspired to discover the other great wonders of Europe.

Studying abroad is something I always knew I would take advantage of, and I cannot stress enough to other students how rewarding it is to completely immerse oneself in a culture outside of Isla Vista. My advice to other students is to not get discouraged by the expense because this opportunity will not be available in just a few short years when we’re all off living in the real world. For now I’m avoiding the real world at all costs and living my own reality – which consists of baguettes, cheese, and wine at the Eiffel Tower with new and old friends whenever fits my fancy.