APA (Academic Programs Abroad)
APA (Academic Programs Abroad) is centered around the complete integration of its students into French academic and quotidian life. Students are allowed to study at a number of French universities, with recommended course listings on the APA site. APA offers its students avenues into non-academic French culture by organizing volunteer positions, as well as by providing access to a number of local extracurricular activities. APA offers regular academic, cultural, and personal support to its students, and acts as a liaison between students' home universities and their courses in France. Cultural immersion is emphasized in this program, providing students with many opportunities to engage in group trips and outings. APA offers semester or yearlong programs, as well as a spring-semester engagement followed by an added 2-month internship with IFE (Internships in Francophone Europe). Host-family housing is organized by the program, and independent housing, while not offered directly, is allowed and assisted. Students studying in Paris through APA are expected to have taken at least 2 years of college-level French, with a GPA of at least 3.0.
Further info can be found at: http://www.apaparis.com/
I learned to speak French better, and I also thought about myself for the first time as an American, wondering what that meant to me. I am really glad I went. The lessons or whatever are more complex and numerous than I could begin to outline for you here, suffice it to say that I am extremely happy that I went. It affected me very deeply. I learned to be more realistic than I have been about what I'm capable of. I had taken French for like six or seven years and yet I placed into the bottom level French class there. That was so humiliating at first, but whatever, my French level did suck and I had to come to terms with it. Then I went through a phase where I decided I was horrible at everything, but I had to get over that pretty quickly too. You realize, when it's 5 in the afternoon the day before a paper is due, that you can't afford to exaggerate either way, you just have to be humble and try the best you can and take every bit of advice available to you. I guess I felt I had to work harder for the professor's attention, and I felt like since the program was academically kind of weak, I had to make myself perform the best I could or just accept weak grades and a negative experience in paris. I lived on my own, paris food is fantastic, although you can't adapt American recipes to French grocery stores very easily!
I chose to live with a host family in what they called Option 2, which meant that my host family provided 3 meals a week for me. I felt extremely satisfied with my host family. I had a host mother who had retired from the profession of a high school Spanish teacher the year before and her 22 year-old daughter. They were both kind and welcoming. I was able to come and go whenever I wanted. I took classes at two different universities, Paris 8 Saint-Denis, and Paris 10 Nanterre. Paris 8 is an interesting university because it has a history of fostering radical professors and students. The academic aspects of the program were a bit disappointing. When I left for Paris, I knew that the quality of the academics there would not be on the same standard as Reed, but I still felt surprised by the lack of creativity and independent thinking that the university courses allowed. I was even more frustrated by APA's "Cours Complementaires". These courses were designed to help American students by "supplementing" the work we did in class and trying to fill in the gaps that might have been present in our knowledge, due to the fact that we hadn't been raised in France. Instead, these courses just added to my class time and course load and did nothing more than reiterate the exact same material that was covered in the university courses. Even the courses required and taught by APA (the French language and culture courses) were full of busy-work and uninspiring academically.