Edward: French Gap Year in Paris
20 weeks course
Languages for Life
I wanted to work on my French after finishing University. Paris was the obvious choice for me, as I prefer cities to smaller towns, and commuting never bothered me, though I can see it might be an issue for some.
I expected the course to be hard work, and it was, but it wasn’t a struggle which is what I’d thought/feared, as the different language levels were carefully pitched. In fact I saw significant improvement by the end of the course (just made the C1 class before I left). I really liked the way the French school in Paris used authentic materials; newspaper articles etc rather than text books to base lessons upon. The classes were always pitched at adult learners and the teachers expected us to be motivated and get involved, which really suited me.
Once in Paris, I booked extra afternoon sessions, which worked well for me. I’d suggest students consider the Writing and Grammar class (sounds dull, but good revision) and the Culture and Civilization class (relaxed class but good for putting the language in to context). Each workshop only took up one afternoon a week – so didn’t impinge on exploring the city.
The school could not have been better located, easy to walk to many central places and easy metro access right by the school to get to the rest of the city. There’s a great outdoor courtyard just behind the school, great place to chill out in break time, or there was the common room for rainy days. As the school got busier as the year went on they could have done with more toilets in the school to cope with student numbers, but that’s my only gripe.
My host parents were about 30 minutes commute to the French school, gave me great food and were really kind. I really could come and go as I pleased. I know CESA said this would be the case, but I still half expected it to be like the French Exchange of my youth, where the hosts kept a beady eye on me at all times. They didn’t, they let me do my own thing, but one of them was generally on hand for a chat and I didn’t go hungry. I chose half-board, so I didn’t have to think about evening meals, which worked great for me. Some of my friends had gone for B&B with kitchen access which seemed a good plan if you were happy to cater for yourself, they were, but I’d have hated it.
Paris was incredible. Yes it’s not cheap although to be fair the metro is incredibly good value. There is so much to see and do! It was knackering to start with, doing all the tourist things, once life had developed into a pattern it was much easier. I found the Parisians were pretty friendly once they realised you were willing to make the effort.
I found the other students of the course very friendly. There was a real mixed bunch (loads of Europeans, some Americans, some Japanese).
I’d absolutely recommend Paris to other students but you have to be the sort of person who loves city life, or you’d be better off going somewhere smaller.