France J-Term Practicum
We were exposed to an incredible diverse amount of study abroad programs during our 2 ½ weeks in Paris. They ranged from Le Centre Madeleine’s hybrid program which offered students a location to consider “home” where they would take some classes, but also enroll in French universities. Students also have the option of partaking in an internship. One of the unique features of this program was the language pledge where students committed to speaking French throughout the duration of their stay in Paris. This also means that students had to have a fairly high level of French already upon applying to the program. The students had two choices for housing, either homestay families our staying in a foyer, which is like a student resident hall with a curfew and strict rules. Le Centre Madeleine offered a wide number of student support programs such as the two-week orientation program prior to students’ classes, many cultural outings throughout the semester, and an introduction to a student organization which offers student outings and connects students with sports teams.
This example of a study abroad program does an amazing job at providing extensive student support but also allowing the students to get to know the culture first hand by living with a family and practicing their language abilities, or the student life living experience living in the residence hall. Students have the best of both worlds by taking classes with high caliber French professors at Le Centre Madeleine but also experiencing the French student experience by enrolling in a French university. This allows the student to really challenge their language skills and learn with French students, but maybe fill in some gaps in Middlebury’s classes and have a more intimate learning experience. Middlebury makes a point to say that they do not completely abandon their students and expect them to figure everything out on their own like Hamilton College, quite au contraire. In my opinion they offer a nice balance between offering students support while also encouraging them to integrate into the actual student life of Paris. They are expected to also be independent and responsible and everything is not just handed to them, such as figuring out how to subscribe to a French cell phone plan, which forces them to use both their linguistic skills and problem-solving skills.
Participating in this program allowed me to get to know a number of different international education/education abroad models, expanding my understanding of the options of in the higher education field. I think so many of us came into this program expecting to work in a study abroad office, whether US based or abroad, and the reality is that there are so many more options that are related but quite possibly very different. Since I applied to the “France: Onsite Perspectives” program my mind has changed quite a bit in regards to which path I want to take with international education, and still I am undecided, however I am eternally grateful for all of the experiences that I had during the program. I think that it will be a matter of evaluating the actual job description and seeing what the position entails to decide if it would be a good option for me. However I can say that being in Paris brought me back to myself again. It reminded my why I love the country so much and how I can relate to and share so many of the values. Though I still don’t know if it will be possible for me to work there long-term, I did discover that there is a great possibility that I can find an internship there after making so many valuable contacts, which would not have been possible if it weren’t for this program. So, having an internship may be a starting point both in seeing if it will be possible to work and live in France long term, and hopefully also in finding a career that allows me to practice what I have learned during this program.