Goals & Preparation to Study in Paris

Hi everyone! I’m Sophie, and I’m excited to share my experiences studying abroad with you as the semester progresses. I will be studying abroad in Paris with the Hamilton in France program, and taking classes with Hamilton and at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. One aspect of the process that makes me nervous is that Paris schools don’t release their course offerings until a few weeks before the semester begins, so I won’t pick classes or create a schedule until I arrive in France and participate in orientation. Ideally, I’d like to take a class (or two) in French literature, a class in the French language, and a class in the theater that involves seeing a live show every few weeks and discussing it with the class. I’m particularly excited about literature and theater classes; I am a big reader and have enjoyed reading French books from different eras, and I grew up loving theater and hope to experience it in France.

A goal I have for myself when studying abroad is to improve my confidence while speaking French. I struggled with the pronunciation of French sounds when I was starting out, and now I find myself a little shy when speaking the language. Being in Paris and having signed a language pledge to speak only French will force me to improve my French speaking. I’m nervous, but I am hopeful that by the end of the program I will feel much more confident.

In addition to gaining fluency, I want to gain a global perspective on social problems. For example, I am interested in how the public health system in France differs from healthcare in the United States, and how the differences affect attitudes towards visiting the doctor or going to the hospital in an emergency.

In preparation for going abroad, I took some time to think of ways I can explore Paris from the perspective of a local, rather than a tourist. One way I want to do this is by visiting all 15 “Remarkable Trees of France” that are in Paris. Arbre, a group of volunteers consisting of botanists, gardeners, writers, and horticulturists, designated dozens of trees in France as “remarkable” to promote the conservation of beautiful, old, rare trees with an official label. I don’t draw, but I think I want to challenge myself to sketch each of the 15 trees to commemorate them as a part of my time abroad. Seeing the trees could also be a way I mark my time abroad: I can see one or two each weekend to transition myself from the previous week to the new week.

This tree in Square Rene Viviani is 420 years old! Photo by the New York Times.

Another way I want to explore Paris is through running. I started running during the pandemic and enjoy exploring cities by running through their streets. There is a half marathon in late October that I hope to participate in, and by training for the race I can discover roads and paths to run on that are away from main streets.

I also am excited at the prospect of visiting the wealth of museums in Paris – there are famous museums such as the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, of course, but also smaller museums that I want to explore. One of my French professors from Amherst recommended Musee Gustave Moreau, Musee Carnavalet, and Musee de l’Orangerie, so I’m excited to explore those. She also recommended several restaurants, and I am looking forward to trying lots of French food. I love tea, and there is a famous tea brand called Mariage Freres with beautiful tea bags, so I’m hoping I can bring some tea back with me. 

Lastly, I hope I’ll take advantage of my time in Europe by using weekends to travel and visit other countries. Once you are in Europe, it is pretty easy to travel around by train, especially with a student pass. The goal is not to visit as many countries as possible, but to have as many meaningful experiences during my time abroad as I can.

Thank you for reading! Please email me at sgoldsmith24@amherst.edu with any questions!

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