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Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

Napa Valley, CA
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Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

I realize most here are not college students but I value the advice of TAers. My daughter is currently a college sophomore in CA. She had been accepted to a study abroad program in Paris through her University. Now she has been found ineligible for rhat program since she has taken too much French (long story). So she is faced with finding another program in Paris (there are many so that's not the problem) or switching her destination to Rome. Her current roommate will be going to Rome and Rome has started sounding appealing to her (they would not be attending the same program but would each be there for the semester).

She has about 5 years of French (4 years in HS and one at college). She was thinking of minoring in French but isn't sure. No Italian but would take italian classes during her semester. In either city she would be part of an organized study abroad program from the US.

She has been to Rome (one day on cruise), never to Paris. I know both are fabulous cities and spending 4 months in either will be amazing. My question is: can you compare the two in terms of the college study abroad experience...getting around the city, friendliness of locals, safety, eating inexpensively, etc? I know everyone on this forum loves Paris (I do too and plan to visit if she ends up there!) but I am looking for some advise and comparisons for her as she is very conflicted right now but needs to make a decision soon. Any advice and suggestions are appreciated!

los angeles
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1. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

I agree that there doesn't seem to be any wrong decision here--a win/win.

My initial thought is that from Paris it would be easier to visit other major European cities via a several-hour train ride, and so would be a good "base" for additional travel. If she's in Rome, she probably would travel to other parts of Italy and maybe not outside it. (But it's hard to paint that as as a negative.)

The quality of the programs offered can only be judged by her and how they suit her needs/interests.

the big blue marble
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2. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

I came to Paris as a student but loved Italian, so spent much time in Rome. I love both cities. But Paris became home. Rome is cheaper and more lively and (to me) more romantic.

On the otherhand, it really depends on why she is going abroad for a year. If its for the language... Paris because she already knows French and she is not going to learn anything linguistically in 4 months without a solid base.

Napa Valley, CA
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3. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

Thank you both. You bring up good points re; traveling to other cities/countries and the language. Any more advice? Thank you!

Metro Vancouver
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4. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

Taking a foreign language for years in one's home country and being able to speak it fluently once in the actual country are 2 different things. I was #1 in the English class, could read it fluently and graduated with honours, even muddled through when visiting London, but once I was in Canada it was much much harder to speak the language in a real life do-or-die situation..

So I would encourage your daughter to study in Paris..at least she can read signs, newspapers etc.

As for Italy... I personally would much prefer to go to Venice or Milan..

Ohio, USA
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5. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

I think 3CONILS is spot-on about the language issue. If she is even vaguely thinking of minoring in French it would not make any sense to go anywhere else. Even without that incentive, spending a semester in a country whose language she already has some competence in should help her French enormously *if* she takes advantage of being there. OTOH with only a smattering of Italian she will probably spend most of her time hanging out with other Anglophones, losing much of the benefit of being abroad in the first place.

London, Canada
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6. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

My daughter spent a summer studying history in Rome, Florence and Venice just before college and it galvanized her career interests. She has since visited Paris but perhaps because Italy was her "first love", it still remains just that.

From my visits to both cities I would say that Rome to me seems much less a metropolis because so much of the ancient city still exists. We found shopkeepers, waiters and people on the street tremendously friendly and helpful everywhere in Italy.......not so in Paris. And it will definitely be more expensive to live and eat in Paris.

And I might say that in terms of a "comfort level" having a friend in the same city is a big plus----for her and for you. As exciting as living in a new city can be, it's also daunting even when you're an experienced traveller.

Good luck to her!

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7. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

I'm a recent college graduate who majored in French and International Affairs. I also had the opportunity to study in the most amazing city in the world, Paris, on two occasions.

First off, let me say that the choice seems pretty obvious to me having such a background in French, especially if she will minor in the language. As a language major, I feel it is paramount to take the opportunity to study in the target country if it ever comes your way. It helps your language skills substantially more than any US college course can.

Unless she is entertaining now picking up Italian courses, Rome doesn't make that much sense to me, at least, from an academic standpoint.

I have been to Rome, albeit only as a spring break trip while I was doing an internship in London. I realize I am probably very biased both having studied French language for almost 9 years now and having been to Paris on multiple occasions; however, Rome did not live up to any of my expectations during my few days there. Apart from the awesomeness of the coliseum and nearby ancient Roman sites, I found the city to be incredibly dirty and sketchy. However, perhaps this was just my one visit and an extended stay might have shown me other sides of the city.

To answer each of your questions, then, about Paris:

-Getting around the city is easy, probably the best public transportation of any major city. The metro is fairly intuitive to use, and after just a few weeks of riding on it becomes almost second nature. Compared to Rome's, I found the Parisian metro to offer more of a feeling of safety, far more extensive, and downright more useful.

-The Parisians are akin to most any other big city dweller. Everyone seems to be in a hurry and that's just city life for you. However, if you play by the cultural rules, Parisians (usually) will be very helpful. The biggest reason Parisians get a bad rep. with Americans is because Americans go over there and expect everyone to speak English straight away to them. Just as you would not expect a Frenchman to come here and address you in French, you should not barge into a restaurant and demand a table for 3 in English. The French care very much about 'politesse' and thus, if you do not say 'Bonjour' when you walk into a shop or meet someone, they consider it rude and will probably not give you the time of day. So basically, I found the French to be very fair, endearing, and funny; it's just a matter of learning a new culture and adapting accordingly--one of the main points of studying abroad.

I'm afraid my insight into Romans is limited as I did not speak any Italian, and because I refused to expect anyone to speak English to me while in Rome for the very reasons listed above, my interactions were limited. However, the few shopkeepers I did interact with were pleasant enough, and aside from my hostel landlord, no one went out of their way to be rude to me.

-Safety in Paris is again, similar to that of any big city. The biggest crime there, as with most European cities (including Rome) would be petty crime such as pick pocketing. You have to be alert and aware of surroundings and you'll be fine. There are just some places you would not walk around at at night, just as you wouldn't in NYC or Chicago; (the steps at the butte Montmarte and Gare du Nord come to mind.) However, at large, I felt safer in Paris than I did in Rome. That said, the fact that I knew French and didn't know any Italian might have contributed to my overall feeling of safety.

-With Paris being the gastronomical capital of the world, you can certainly spend all your money on food. However, if you limit yourself to eating out, you can eat on a budget in Paris. French bread is probably the best in the world, so I would eat a substantial sandwich from any of the numerous vendors near where I took classes pretty much every day for lunch. If you stay away from touristy spots (typically right next to any major metro stop) you can find cafe's with reasonable prices. Most even have fixed lunch or dinner menus that are very reasonable. Also, consider where your student will be staying. My housing had kitchens, so buying groceries helped to cut back on money spent out in restaurants. Some schools have cafeterias with very cheap, student-priced food. In Rome, all I did was eat out since I love Italian food so much--and it was my vacation, so I spent a lot of money on food. However, I imagine the situation is very similar to that of Paris.

As far as things to do, both cities are rich in culture, however, I really feel you could live in Paris your whole life and still not see everything there is to offer. Each of the 20 arrondissements has its own character and so much going on. Every time I go back to Paris I discover more and I never grow tired of just walking around the quaint streets.

The more I go on, the more I realize my bias towards Paris, however I feel the fact that your student has a background in French will enable her to get more from her experience living in the city. While I'm sure Rome would offer unique experiences of its own, taking Italian for the first time while she is there will certainly limit the extent to which she is able to interact with locals and take back truly meaningful experiences, rather than just the typical tourist trade.

Sorry if I haven't been helpful and sound like a used-car salesman for Paris, but it truly is my favorite city in the world...my home away from home!

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8. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

Dovey, Our grandson who goes to San Diego State is spending his Jr. year in Paris. We have kept up with his experiences via his blog. You might find it interesting and informative. Check out www.travelingtrevor.blogspot.com. Good luck.


Napa Valley, CA
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9. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

britboi04: Thank you so much for your thorough and informative post. Thank you for taking the time to help me out. Great info and if she does choose Paris I really feel she will have a great experience.

TacoTom: Thanks for the info on the blog . I will check it out.

Thank you to all for being so generous with your time and info.

Los Angeles
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10. Re: Study Abroad College Junior- Paris or Rome???

Paris for reasons of language acquisition.

I've studied 9 languages since I first took my required Spanish course in junior high school. I'm early 50s now. I also started studying one extra language, Thai, in Bangkok, a couple of years ago.

It's good to study in one's own country to get the foundation of the language, but it's great to be in the actual country and using it daily and picking up "current" vocabulary, idioms, expressions, and fine tuning the language skills.

It's also especially great to be able to hang out with friends who are native speakers of the language, that one has studied, which leads to even more language acquisition.

While spending my solo summers in Copenhagen, I used to get invited everywhere with friends; to Danish movies, their parents' summer houses for vacation, social events, over to their family member's houses, etc. They knew that I would really make an effort to speak Danish if there were members of their family who couldn't speak English, like young kids too young to start English lessons at school and their grandparents. And they also knew that they didn't have to always speak English. So, many times it was total immersion for me.

So, I studied really hard, spent two-plus decades of summers in Copenhagen and spent several summers going to Danish language classes while on my 11-week vacations there. When I was on shorter vacations there, I didn't have time to go to Danish classes.

It was quite rewarding both linguistically and culturally and it was great being able to read literature and write my papers in Danish , while taking it at university here in L.A., as I continued my language studies here. Happy Travels!