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Veronica: How I Chose Montpellier

November 24, 2009

Choosing the program I wanted to go on was a long process for me. I had been thinking about it for about a year. Sometimes just choosing a country to go to can be hard, but for me, I knew it had to be France. It was basically between Paris with IES or CIEE and Montpellier. I love big cities–I grew up in Chicago. So Paris wasn’t scary. Paris is Paris, I mean, come on! Cool! The big plus for Montpellier was that it was on the Med. Sea and warm. France is warmer than here in general, but Montpellier seemed practically tropical from a Minnesota viewpoint, which was lovely. So the cities both had the same amount of pros.

I had heard from a lot of friends that Parisians didn’t like hearing Americans speak French, so speaking French there would be much harder than in Montpellier. Strike against Paris. But then I heard from others that it was actually the other way around. So strike against Montpellier. I still don’t yet know who to believe. So that basically told me that speaking French in France might be harder than I expected. But that’s okay. I’ll try. It can’t be that bad.

What I liked more about the program in Montpellier was that it seemed incredibly supportive of their students. They really help you through the process before you go, and there is a strong support staff in France that help you get settled and established, as well as help you with whatever you need the entire time you’re there. While I was reading the literature from the programs in Paris, I kept getting the impression that it’s much more independent and they kind of just drop you in this foreign country and say “Go have fun.” Obviously, I don’t know if that is actually the case because I’m not doing one of those programs. But the support for/in Montpellier seemed much stronger; they know you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language fluently and that it’s scary. They seemed like they would be there for you much more than the other programs would. And so far, the support for Montpellier has been wonderful.

The one thing I wish Montpellier was and the Paris programs are, is language intensive–no English allowed at all. I’m not too disappointed though because I’m going to be in a French school, living with a French family, and navigating a French city. I’m going to try to get a pact with my friends there for minimal English. We’ll see how that goes.

So, basically, how I chose my program was through the support system. That’s really important to me. I’m a very independent person and I like doing what I want, but I like having people to turn to if I need it. And I always have tons and tons of questions about everything, so I need someone I can go to, to get answers. And I know that I have really good French, I mean, I’ve been taking it for 10 years, but I’m not fluent, I don’t know slang and vernacular, nor a lot of everyday stuff (How in the world do you say ‘stapler’ or that you need somewhere to plug in your laptop??). I need people that can help me get by in this scary, new country.

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal process and you might like the way the programs in Paris sound better. You might like Montpellier better, but for completely different reasons. I’m not telling you why you should like Montpellier more or Paris less. Hell, you could like Senegal the best. I don’t know. This is just how I made my decision, and what I advise you to do when you are making yours is to find out what are the most important things to you in a program and/or a country/city, and what you definitely don’t want. What are the deal makers and deal breakers? Once you know what you want and don’t want, look for a program that meets those the best. You may have to compromise a little (there isn’t one program that has everything), but it will be much easier than having a big, long list of programs and no idea what it is you want to get out of study abroad.

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