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Trip Report Study Abroad Paris--Our experience and a thank you

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I'm back from a Paris move-in with my daughter, and I wanted to thank all who helped me out and would like to pass those favors forward.

As a brief review, my daughter decided to spend a Fall 2011 semester abroad at a school that provides no housing. She is no stranger to Paris and no stranger to the French language; she therefore had a very good idea of the areas she would like to live, she wanted to build her education within a very specific academic area that limited her opportunity for transferred credits, and she also had a strong desire to use and strengthen her language skills.

She spent a long time last spring talking to other students at her university who had studied in Paris, and while many of them had had positive experiences with the American University in Paris, the ones who had had some previous command of the French language before they went felt that their growth in language skills was quite minimal there. As one would expect, too many Americans means too much time in English.

Those who attended programs outside of Paris (Rouen has an excellent program), felt their language skills grew, but they felt shortchanged by not being closer to Paris. Having been to Rouen, my daughter asked them why they did not go in via train on weekends since it's so easy. They explained that one chooses to become part of local life or lose out on precious experience. That makes sense, doesn't it?

So she chose a happy medium. She has elected to attend a school inside of the Paris core but one that is in a more residential area. The students are mainly French; the rest of the students are from all over the world.

The price she (and her parents!) have paid for this choice is that while there has been a promise of housing "help", actual action was null. Complicating matters was the fact that even though her United States university, a top-ranked institution, employs a full-time study abroad coordinator, the information she received tended to be inaccurate and/or useless. The positive was that if the coordinator were to be asked a specific question, she actually responded immediately and usually accurately. Go figure!

Let's just put it this way--thank goodness we as a family a) know how to research via internet almost anything b) had traveled to France before and c) had this forum.
Next entry: Getting a visa.

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    Getting a Visa

    The most important things for a study abroad student to France to know is that
    a) you must obtain a French visa at the US consulate nearest the place you are currently studying or where your home with your parents is
    b) one has to create an account and submit documentation to "Campus France" first (see below).

    Even if you are groaning about the paperwork, any student applying for 2012 is lucky. Many of the embassy/consulate websites and the Campus France site were dramatically revised since we slogged through them. No matter what, your ordeal will be easier than ours was.

    Here is the new video for creating your Campus France account:

    We did not have this luxury of clarity. My daughter found out with days to go in her term, in the middle of finals, that their coordinator "forgot" to mention the Campus France part of the deal. How did she remember? Well, on a whim, I had decided to take a looksee.


    In a panic, I spent two days on the internet collecting advice from any American university that published a guide and forwarded it to my daughter (who then notified the "coordinator" who then suddenly sent out an informational email).

    My daughter then created a Campus France account and started chipping away at all the documentation using my collated references as resources. As soon as she submitted the final documentation, she scheduled her consulate appt to get her longterm visa. Two notes: If your stay is under 90 days, you don't have to do ANYTHING; be aware that your appt requirements will vary according to the consulate in your area. Make sure you check your local consulate website for requirement.

    My daughter's eventual visa appt was four weeks out from her Campus France document submission. That date was pushing it given the Campus France backlog, but since my daughter had to start a very important summer internship and could not take time off to travel to DC then (no Saturday appts), we just held our breath.

    In the meantime, we assembled a "let's include every possible sort of documentation" binder, especially since the checklist PDF provided by the Washington embassy website did not match watch the requirements listed in the body of the website. Oh well, we just included everything from BOTH lists. And when my daughter got to the visa window, she found that the associate had an entirely DIFFERENT checklist.

    Yeah, I think we may have overdone it, but let's put it this way: my daughter watched 1 out of every four persons rejected at the windows because they did not do their homework.

    One thing that she know helped was that she had a signed lease in hand (next post). She also had signed and notorized letters of admission to the university program from both her institution AND the Paris school. I'd say that besides her driver's license, passport, and birth certificate, the signed lease and both admission letters were the things that greased the wheels. We created a FedEx account with envelope to get the VISA fast mailed back to us. We had it within five days.

    *It is interesting that she had to take it upon herself to get the study abroad coordinator to sign and notorize her letter. In other words, study abroad students--get those letters!

    Next, Getting the Apartment

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    Thanks, AnnHig. Bet you know someone that might need some of this...

    Getting an apartment in Paris
    We quickly figured out that our "help" from her French institution would be minimal at best and untimely at worst (we were so right as it turned out).

    We decided to fall on the financial grenade and go through a Paris apartmental rental agency.

    Here's the deal: You are going to pay BIG BUCKS to use any agency, and they are not the renter's friend. If you can accept that fact, you are OK. If not, just give up.

    I looked at agency reviews and it was a crapshoot. We decided upon Lodgis ( Their website search properties were quite good; however, it turns out the price we paid for the apartment ended up a bit more (more details later).

    Just so you know, it used to be that going on Craig's List in Paris would help one out; unfortunately, rental agencies are listing on Craig's List, so it can be confusing. I think that unless you are "on the ground", it's pretty hard. If we had had time (and $$$) for a quickie Paris trip to snag an apartment, that would have been ideal. That was not an option.

    Anyway, we spent two straight days attached to the computer listing and sorting through all possible apartments on various sites. Usually, no specific addresses were given for these, but going by Metro stops, etc., we were able to decide upon best ones with a decent commute to school. As mentioned above, we are not strangers to Paris and already had a good feel for what was what. We scrutinized any and all photos for light sources, internet, and storage.

    The apartment we ended up choosing had, of all things, the same bureau that my daughter and I had purchased from IKEA and built for her room. We took it as an omen. It had light. It was a studio on the FIRST floor (not the ground floor) and best of all, it was in the 7th. In other words, she would be living in a rather safe neighborhood, she would be near kids from her university attending AUP, but she would not be locked into speaking English 24/7.

    We next faced all the documentation. Next post: Documentation, Payment.

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    Warning: The process of getting a lease is long. It took almost a week of emails. There is verification for the agency, then contacting the landlord, then more verification, etc etc. I'm really happy we did this early on. I just don't see how my daughter could have completed her internship AND done this.

    We were quite uncomfortable having to FAX both my daughter's passport and MY passport to the rental agency, so when they then asked for bank information, I said, "Sorry, not doing that." The agent said, "Well, you could promise to pay two month's in advance." Thus opened the black hole of all time.

    Let's go over this again....
    Just to get the apartment one has to pay:
    --Agency fees (we paid around $1,000) through PayPal
    --Insurance (through PayPal) -- not that bad considering all that that covered, around $200 for deluxe coverage
    --First Month's rent -- undisclosed

    On the first day of meeting the landlord, one has to hand over:
    --Security Deposit -- Combine first and last month's rent--only understand that it is NOT the first and last month's rent as in the US. It's a separate amount of money (I know--culture shock)
    --And in our case, two month's rent

    Anyway, our landlord required us to pay all fees for any wire transfer since she did not do PayPal. I learned the hard way--my local bank, one of the big wheelers and dealers in the financial world--charged me $45 upfront and THEN incurred both middleman and deposit charges. In other words, my bank transfer cost me around 95 Euros.

    I was angry with my bank, and I still had to figure out how to get thousands of Euros to hand to the landlord on the first day. Luckily, when this forum was giving me suggestions for cost-free ATM/Debit accounts, I got to research good wire transfers, too. My recommendation: Schwab!!!!! We already had investment accounts; creating bank accounts (debit card that could be reduced to a penney but withdrawals that could be increased to $2,000) was easy.

    Therefore, we waited for the Euro/USD to come to some almost sensible conversion, and we wire-transferred via Schwab the security deposit.

    In the meantime, we had opened two Schwab banking accounts (debit, details about), one Capital One MM (debit) and one Capital One High Yield (ATM). We were able to withdraw enough money from all within ONE HOUR on ONE DAY to meet rent needs. All institutions were easy to deal with and have also been very accurate.

    My daughter's credit card abroad will be Capital One because there are no foreign transaction fees. She has two other cc's as back-ups, but she will not use them unless there's an emergency. And again, one of those debit/atm cards will work no matter what.

    Next: The Apartment (and the landlord); Inventory

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    The Apartment and the Inventory

    Our landlord was a very chic Parisienne.

    We handed her the cash and then she handed us the apartment inventory, which included the number of wine glasses and tiny scratches on the furniture. She also lauded how clean the place was and showed us to clean the place. I suspect she may never have cleaned anything in her life. Heck, if I looked the way she did, I wouldn't clean anything either. :)

    Well, I think the windows had been cleaned, the floor had been vacuumed, and things like the toilet seat, the sink, the shower stall floor and the kitchen sink had be swiped. There cleanliness ended.

    My daughter and I waited for her to leave, looked at each other, and got out cameras. We photographed almost every dirty and damaged item, concentrating on the black toilet bowl. We would complete the inventory notes as we started cleaning.

    But we could not yet start cleaning. Suffering from jet lag, we went to bed. At 7 a.m. Paris time the next day, we started in. I spent five hours in the shower stall alone, taking breaks to keep adding cleaner to the toilet bowl. By 7 pm, both were white.

    72 hours later, we had removed enough junk and cleaned enough to move clothing into the place. I had cleaned inches of dust from behind and under furniture and had to scrub the floor 8 times before I didn't pick up any dirt.

    But it's darn cute. Her location is just so perfect.

    Next: Did we overpay? Were we crazy?

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    Did we overpay? Were we crazy?

    The jury's out, but we might have done well.

    My daughter told me after I had left (which was before any other students from her school got there), that some of the AUP kids ended up with Turkish toilets in their places. Two of the classmates from her Paris school ended up in a neighborhood that was horrifying (as she said, "Mom, I thought we had explored all of inner Paris, even the scary places, and somehow, we missed THAT neighborhood). Their rents are the same as hers; the difference was the added cost of an agency fee.

    What would I have done differently? Since we were shopping SO early, I think I would have chanced looking for the SAME apartment with different agencies. I was so afraid that we would lose the apartment, that I just didn't want to take the chance once negotiations were under way. In other words, I chickened out.

    Would I have sent the bank information instead of going crazy opening alternative bank accounts? Yes. But then again, I think our choice made us far more knowledgeable about which bank accounts are best to have in Paris or in any place in Europe.

    Speaking of bank accounts, that's my next post: The Paris Bank Account

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    The Paris Bank Account

    This item is to be continued. We've been told so many things about Paris bank accounts that we don't know what is true or not yet.

    I had given up on the process but on a whim, notified one of the managers listed on the AUP website with the dates of my daughter's stay and her Paris school. He wrote us back that he would be happy to accomodate us. We arranged an appt for our second day in Paris.

    The bank representative was not there. His associate was friendly but told us that no such account could be created. We showed her all the emails and she turned bright red. She consulted her director, and then told us again that it was a "no." She said the less than six months would be a problem; since we had discussed that very issue with her associate, I'm thinking we could still have swung it.

    I think it still would be possible. But should my daughter even bother???

    We were under the impression that she had to pay for water and electricity directly. Now it turns out that she pays the landlord. We suspect we could take care of all other needs with the landlord via wire transfer, and all cash/purchases can be done through the ATM/Debit/CC already owned.

    So who knows what my daughter will do.

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    One final comment--
    Thought I'd better add this disclaimer for any parent who might want to use this entry as a reason to "take" one's child to the study abroad program.

    If my daughter had been moving into a dorm, as did my other daughter on her study abroad experience which was even further away geographically and culturally, I would not have gone with her.

    Had this handing over cash problem not existed with the apartment (we had to obtain thousands within an hour's timeframe) and the subsequent legal things not seemed so odd, I would have been dropping her off at the airport with just a tearful goodbye.

    Even so, I precisely scheduled my Paris exit before any other American students arrived and before her coordinator was even back in the country. I never saw the school she will attend--part of her experience will be her journey in finding it. Moreover, I've been positively adament to all relatives who all of a sudden want to go to Paris that they should think twice before "stealing" this experience from her. The same thing happened with the relatives when my oldest went to college in NY. It bugs me that adults forget how social lives and academic work balance in collegiate life--so much happens on a whim, and adult presence just interrupts the "go with the flow".

    Some other nice things that did happen as a result of my going, though...
    --I had upgrades due me, thus giving my daughter a nice free flight over in business class
    --I could haul a TON of luggage*** without charge, thus allowing her to bring over household goods that she otherwise would never have packed and would have had to buy at a premium.
    ****We laughed so hard at seeing all our luggage lined up--we only fly carry on!

    I would be lying though, if I did not admit I felt I was owed French food after all of this :)

    I left a lot of information out. I can lead people to resources not listed here, so please do feel free to ask questions. I even have her eventual packing list if you need it.

    And once again, thank you, all of you, who helped us get through some sticky legal and financial details. I owe you.

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    Congratulations on navigating through some tricky waters. I hope your daughter has a wonderful time.

    And where is the sketchy neighborhood where those other students ended up?

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    Nikki--I haven't talked to her to ask closely, but I suspect the apartment for two in question was a neighborhood off of Metro Line 8, somewhere between stops Commerce and Balard. I admit to being totally unfamiliar with any stop past La Motte-Piquet Grenelle on that Metro line. The two girls who ended up there had lived in a very urban area of the US; I wonder how some small town or suburban girls would have adjust.

    As anyone who is living in Paris can attest, the price for apartments has skyrocketed, and these short-term but long-term leases are particularly vulnerable. One college administrator with another university said that his six-month lease opportunities may have increased in price 200% in the past two years.

    Since my oldest went to school in NYC, I thought I was rather well-versed in competitive rental markets. I was wrong.

    One of the obstacles I faced as a parent was trying to get the gist of how the Paris rental market worked. Some of the more knowledgeable people on this forum understood: Paris is not the land of renter rights--until one moves in, that is. Eviction of the renter is harder in Paris; therefore, just getting an apartment is more difficult.

    Interestingly enough, our rental agency made a big deal out of renter's insurance (and if you were to read leases, the onus of repair is on the tenant, not the owner, so insurance would make sense). However, our landlord really did not make a big deal out of showing her our insurance policy. That did surprise me, again because we had dissected that lease a zillion times back home. So, I'm still not sure if the insurance is a scam or not a scam. I did compare rental insurance rates since that was not time issue; we had months to find a program for that. The one the agency recommended was competitive.

    Again, some of the people on this board had a feel for "the norm" for our situation, and I'm grateful that we were able to touch ground through their conversations. It was at first difficult for us to believe that we had to burden ALL the costs of any wire transfer. We're not talking our bank fee; we're talking the landlord's deposit fee. But now that we are in the know, so to speak, we're used to that.

    Another issue: Summer abroad students tend to encounter a different scenario. Many Paris dorm rooms are vacated then, so there are opportunities to those students that just don't exist for fall/spring students. Therefore a lot of well-meaning advice was inapplicable to our daughter's situation. That said, please do keep that potential dorm space in mind if you are a summer abroad student.

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    This is quite an interesting tale, one that I've never really thought about, and most interesting indeed.

    I hope your daughter has an excellent experience. It looks as though she and you have thought things through very well indeed!

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    Probably the best post ever on Fodor's. You are a hero. Looks like you are a momma bear protecting the cub. Great story. My salute.

    I sent my daughter to Paris for a month at the Alliance Francaise last summer, 2010. She stayed at a dorm of the Cite Internationale Universitaire. I picked that up from someone on Fodor's. She wrote a blog at my encouragement, Your daughter may get a few bits of advice from it.

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    This was really interesting, thank you:)

    Our DD spent the summer studying in Paris, so it was fun see the differences. One is that she was in the dorm, but even in the summer that was very limited. We have been to Paris several times before she went, so was quite familiar with it, but living there is different. She is intent on living there at some point after she graduates. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

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    Thanks all for the kind words. I'll send your daughter's blog to mine, spaarne.

    How true that living there is so different, mms. And anyone who has rented an apartment for a short-term, Paris stay, might be in shock at the availabiity, financial and legal differences between obtaining a vacation apartment and a longterm apartment.

    The upcoming Thanksgiving stay for my husband and me was the result of one Google search. We finished all arrangements within 24 hours. This vacation apartment has a dream bathroom and a dream kitchen.

    Two blocks away, in a rather pricey place, my daughter has the typical two-burners-sink-and-teeny-frig one piece thing and a toilet that can only accomodate one tissue at a time.

    But she steps out the door, looks to the left, and there's the Eiffel Tower. She's quite happy with the two burners and bum toilet in exchange for that experience.

    I can't find the Renter's Guide I finally dug up that gave us so much great advice--I must have printed it out but not saved it to file--but the link below, although less detailed, covers the basics quite well for those who want to get a handle on how one may need to approach a longterm rental in Paris:

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    But she steps out the door, looks to the left, and there's the Eiffel Tower. She's quite happy with the two burners and bum toilet in exchange for that experience. >>

    lol, AZ, those turkish loos sound like bum toilets indeed.

    as a matter of interest, did you think about or were you offered the chance to stay with a family instead of an apartment? they seem to be very common in italy for language students; were they offered to you?

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    Just to add to the mix in case other parents are reading along, I know a fair amount about non-Italian students who come to study in Bologna, Italy. The schools are really wonderful in orienting the students about how to make the most of their stay in Bologna and Italy, but the kids do all the work when it comes to renting apartments, getting their permissi di soggiorno (legal paperwork). Most of them live with other students, because rents are very high. In Bologna, the town is full of notices of people renting rooms to students (Bologna is, after all, Europe's oldest univeristy.)

    Some of the kids opt to live with families because the food is so good. Of the ones who rent with friends have primitive kitchens, but there's plenty of cheap eats around and they prefer to be out at all hours anyway.

    Bologna is, of course, really very, very safe, and the train system is such that the kids usually spend every weekend (studies permitting) traveling to Venice, Florence, Verona, le Cinque Terre, Rome -- whatever they want to see.

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    This was the oddest thing--the kids going to Italy and Spain from her US school did not have nearly the same hoops through which to jump. Most of their paperwork was managed ahead of time. It's possible the particular programs in Italy and Spain with whom her US school is aligned with just provide better coordination than does my daughter's specific Paris school. 1/3 of the students in her school spend a semester abroad; 2/3s of the students in the school spend at least six weeks abroad, so there are many international institutions involved.

    Good questions! It's hard to remember all the thought processes along the way, and since we got to our decision about which way to go so early, I'd forgotten we had other considerations...

    She was offered the opportunity to stay with a family AND she was offered the opportunity to share an apartment with a French student who only wanted to speak French.

    Option One: Family Stay
    It just so happens she knows quite a few kids from her high school who stayed with families in France, South America, etc. Not one of them had a happy story. That option was off the table quickly. When she reported her preference not to stay with a family to the coordinator, the coordinator said, "Good--it's always a nightmare for me! These never work out." (but one of my roommates in college had a simply lovely experience, so I'm not making this in anyway a "true for all time" blanket statement; I'm just reporting what the coordinator said).

    Option Two: A French roommate
    She really did think carefully about sharing the offered (and what was good from my view, CONFIRMED) apartment with the French student because she would not have to do any leg work and it certainly would force her into speaking French quickly. I was certainly all for it! The location was excellent (not where she is living now, but in a very good residential neighborhood close to the school). But my daughter then asked me, "Why was this young woman unable to find a French roommate LAST year and THIS year, especially if the young woman had no desire to learn English? Don't you think that might indicate a social problem?" I (reluctantly) had to agree with her logic. Darn! Anyway, Option Two off the table.

    Option Three: An American roommate
    My daughter also had the option of sharing an apartment with one of the other students from her US school who speaks very minimal French. But here's the deal: that apartment was not automatically provided by the school, so chances are, given our family's more familiarity with both the language and with Paris, the onus of the apartment search would have eventually been on our shoulders anyway. I had had a hard time adjusting to the escalating costs associated with the apartment transaction, and I was involved step by step in the process. Translating those costs, those rent rules, the process to another family with whom I shared no past connection would have probably pushed me over the edge.

    And frankly, I was relieved that she felt rooming with an American would have destroyed any hopes of gaining language skills. The fact is that she will only be in Paris for around four months. By living alone, she doesn't have to explain to a fellow American why she wants to watch only the French TV stations.

    My stance is so funny when I consider my older daughter's study abroad experience. I was so happy she had roommates who spoke English--I lived in terror that she would not make it back to her apartment on any given day because her country was so unstable and the culture was so alien to hers. Of course, my oldest daughter had the luxury (if you could call it that considering her neighborhood) of staying the entire academic year there, so she had more time to soak up language.

    Anyway, the eventual decision felt right, and I think this setup is meeting my youngest daughter's personal goals well. She is getting daily interaction with French students yet also gets to meet a couple of American students for coffee or dinner whenever she likes. She is enjoying tackling stores, markets,and errands in French on her own, especially since the some of the shopkeepers have been so kindly taking the time to correct her grammar and word choice. What more could one want!

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    thanks for replying in such detail, AZ. I can well understand how you reached your decision, and of course the danger of being with a "duff" family is a big consideration. it happened in fact with two of my fellow participants at the language course in Italy that I went on earlier this year. One had a great time with her family, with terrific food, conversation and a lovely family atmosphere. The other had a horrible time with food left out for her to microwave, and no conversation or friendliness at all. What made it worse was that they were friends from the same place so that they were forever comparing notes.

    i was very pleased that I was in my little hotel where I could interact or not as i pleased!

    good luck to your daughter who by the sound of it is very well motivated to make the best of this terrific opportunity. What is she studying?

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    Annhig, your Italy story is exactly what I had known. I'm very involved in an international group here in the US, and even some of the "nice" host families I know here are rather questionable in their willingness to provide goods, services, or personal warmth. I did not give my daughter my input--I wasn't going there--but luckily she had heard enough horror stories to make an educated decision.

    She is a finance/accounting major, annhig. You know the type, she was pulling the restaurant check to towards her to add up the numbers when she was still in the sucking-your-thumb stage.

    She didn't get it from me!

    She was really tempted to do her study abroad in London because the school finance programs partnered with her school were VERY top notch, and therefore she'd actually gain extra credits and prestige rather than have to fight to get credits.

    However, she knew she'd be working the rest of her life from this coming summer to forever, and this Paris abroad placement was the last chance to get the language skills she's been exploring for so many years, from elementary school through sophomore year in college. So given that she's never goofed off and was not going to France for a club scene, my husband and I were certainly willing to underwrite this last adventure in terms of rent.

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    well, the best of luck to her. a few months in Paris can never be wasted, and who knows how this experience may help her in her future career?

    the business of the two other students was made worse because they came together to the language school as they taught at the same school and there was a distinct rivalry between them, despite their "friendship". this led to a certain "frisson" between them as I'm sure you can imagine!

    i'm undecided as to whether I would stay with a family if I repeat the language school experience

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    Fascinating to read the details of your experience, AZ - thank you for sharing them.

    DH and I spent the past summer looking over our son's shoulder as he set up postgraduate studies and full-time internship in London (he recently earned undergraduate degree in finance and "studied abroad" at LSE).

    It seemed to us as though his work visa coordination, etc. were chaotic, but your situation truly puts them in perspective - besides highlighting areas we never considered. Who knew so many "home placements" do not work out well?

    Thank you for the enlightening post, and well done!!

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    Thank you, Jespere. I hope your son has a lovely experience.

    Annhig--your description of that scenario reminds me of the disparity when we did short-term student exchanges (three weeks) between our high school with a school in England.

    My daughter moved to the living room couch for the duration, giving our guest her bedroom, thus allowing our guest not only sleeping privacy but also the sole use of one bathroom. We took our exchange student to see NYC and DC on weekends, made sure we stocked up our pantry with her favorite breakfast items and snacks, and held a dinner in her honor.

    I'd say our treatment of our guest for this stay was the norm for most of the families in the program. But...

    ...her sister on a later exchange got stuck with a family who put her in the basement in a not-so-finished gameroom. Her bed was the gameroom couch (and not the sleeper version!), and the family dog was so unhappy his prime sleeping spot had been taken, he would stand over her growling at night. She was expected to use the hall powder room upstairs on the main floor as her bathroom and was to take showers in the master bedroom bathroom by appt only.

    I think she would not have been so unhappy had her sister and others not been treated so darn well. The disparity was the kicker.

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    I wish we had had that link, kerouac! I've enjoyed reading through it, and some things are clearer. Her landlord kept telling her she could apply for housing assistance from the French government, which we could not believe. But now I see that she was both right and wrong.

    You did a service by posting this, by the way, and that is one of the reasons I started this thread: I could not believe that this forum had so few entries regarding study abroad situations, particularly ones in Paris.

    Things I noted right away...

    Housing Assistance-My daughter will not be staying long enough--and won't get her carte de sejour in time--to really benefit. But I'd say any student who is staying at least six months or more should follow up.

    Insurance--We could have gotten something for 10 Euros? Darn.

    Finding an Accomodation: Their page is extremely clear. As indicated above, I was in shock about their asking me to show bank statements or my husband's salary receipts. How helpful it would have been to have had this clarity before we dove in.

    As I said right when I started writing, I just do not understand how her otherwise EXCELLENT US school can employ a full-time study abroad coordinator who did 0 coordination for the students. I received a ton of information about "required" insurance (two types--emergency and health) for Study Abroad kids, which we all know will be useless.

    The Paris coordinator does not seem to be on task either. I told my daughter I intend to apply for either post the day she gets back here :)

    Again, thanks, Kerouac--this is exactly the type of information kids and parents need. I will post links to AUP information, too, and I will also post my daughter's packing list as soon as I get a few moments.

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    My daughter is not attending the American University of Paris (AUP), but we used a lot of their information to get a grip in the absence of any useful help from the US and French so-called coordinators:

    Here are two AUP publications:
    The Ultimate Guide to AUP Housing (which came out AFTER we leased our apartment and just before we left)--

    AUP Pre-Orientation Guide--
    This document is better than the previous versons we found earlier in the summer. It has a nice introduction into the CampusFrance/French Visa situation.

    And just in case someone has skimmed this post and missed Kerouac's useful link, here it is:
    Note that much of the information is offered in English:

    Next--packing list...

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    Because the Euro to Dollar conversion was so costly, and because FF status allowed us to check luggage for nothing, we took more household goods supplies over than we would have done if the currency exchange would have been even close. As it was, between the two of us, we had just a regular carry-ons per person, one purse per person, plus her two large rolling duffles. I'll give reviews on the luggage later.

    Clothing wise, we were unsure about her storage and she was determined to keep it small. The best advice we found regarding packing for Fall to Early Winter semester in Paris was to think of one week in September, and one week in December, and pack for just FOUR days of each of those weeks with everything that one would need, and also think about a weekend in Spain or a stay in a hostel, etc., which might include the need for a bathing suit, a sleep sac, washclothes.

    Part I. Everything but clothing (the largest part of her list)

    Fold-Up Daypack
    Good large purse
    Wallet type purse
    Two rolling duffles (one "flew" back home)

    Identity (copies in three ring binder):
    ― passport*
    ― visa ofii form*
    ― passport photos
    ― extra student id*
    ― driver’s license*
    (*copies will be uploaded online)
    ― US school required Travel insurance card
    ― US school required Health insurance card
    - "real" health insurance card (family's)

    Other Docs for bank, landlord, etc (copies in three ring binder):
    ― US university enrollment letter*
    ― French university enrollment letter*
    ― lease agreement*
    ― landlord address
    ― wire transfer receipts*
    ― apartment insurance receipt*
    (*copies were uploaded online)

    Health Records
    ― *scripts for meds
    ― *Listing of current US doctors
    ― *Recent Blood Tests
    (*copies were uploaded online)

    (*copies were uploaded online)
    ― Financial Summary
    ATM/Debit cards----
    ― CapOne ATM
    ― CapOne Debit
    ― Schwab Debit
    ― CapOne Visa
    ― American Express (Paris velib rental)

    ― $100 or more USD
    ― 100 Euros left over from last trip

    Emergency Reference
    ― printout from US Embassy:

    ― Access Paris
    ― Let’s Go Guide to Paris and/or France
    ― French dictionary
    ― Paris map(s)
    ― informational pages in 3-ring binder

    ― ethernet cable for apt
    ― iPhone/charger (just kept US number for $10 a month but will not use there as except for mp3 capabilities)
    ― gsm phone/charger
    ― earphones
    ― Kindle/charger
    ― camera/charger
    ― laptop/charger
    ― backup drive (back up before leaving!)
    ― calculator
    ― usb adaptors (actually was in apartment)
    ― wireless router (buy there) actually was in apartment
    ― power strip (buy there) actually was in apartment
    ― flashlight

    Prescription and Over the Counter medications
    - precriptions with scripts
    ― Motrin
    ― Sudafed
    ― Benadryl

    ― starter shower soap
    ― ProActive stuff
    ― toothbrush with extra head
    ― toothpaste
    ― dental floss
    ― Pantene shampoo
    ― Pantene conditioner
    ― Secret deodorant (two)
    ― tampons
    ― nail file/clippers
    ― tweezers
    ― electric razor
    ― Venus extra sensitive razors (two packs of three)
    ― earplugs
    ― sunscreen

    ― comb/brush
    ― hair ties
    ― headbands

    ― foundation (two)
    ― eyeliner
    ― mascara
    ― eye shadow
    ― concealer
    ― brushes

    School Supplies Starter
    ― journal
    ― 3 notebooks
    ― pack of notecards in
    ― notecard case
    ― small notebook
    ― zebra pens
    ― mechanical pencils
    ― post-its
    ― scotch tape
    ― stapler with staples
    ― paper clips
    ― scissors
    ― rubber bands

    ― delicates mesh wash bag
    ― Ikea big BLUE bag to carry dirty laundry in
    ― Color Catchers (2-3)
    ― Shout Wipes
    ― blow-up hangers (2)
    ― stretchy clothesline
    ― absorbent towels for drying delicates
    ― regular hangers (4)
    ― Travel Febreeze
    ― Resolve Stain Remover
    Note: The apartment ended up having a large drying rack in it. Had we known, a lot of the above would have been off the list.


    ― Ziplock bags variety pack
    ― fold up shopping bags
    ― Command Strips (about four large, six medium, six tiny)
    ― extra travel plastic bottles

    ― deck of cards
    ― travel alarm
    ― ear plugs

    ― umbrella
    ― poncho

    ― sunglasses
    ― small sewing kit
    ― safety pins
    ― allergen pillow covers
    ― sleep sac for hostel stays

    ― washcloths (2)
    ― thin beach towel
    ― pocket Kleenix

    ― first aid kit

    ― Brita personal water bottle w filters

    Please note that she left her hairdryer home. Turns out the apartment had one, but had it not, she would have just bought one there.

    Next: Clothes

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    Clothing Starting Point
    (She deleted and added as she thought through everything)

    ― restaurant acceptable light jacket or sweater
    ― fleece jacket and/or hoodie
    ― leather jacket and/or
    ― structured blazer
    ― waterproof trench with zip-out lining
    ― Scottevest and/or
    ― money belt or passport holder
    ― fleece vest (layer under trench)

    Outerwear Accessories
    ― hat
    ― scarf
    ― gloves (2 pr black cheapies)

    ― 14 panties
    ― 4-6 bras
    ― undersmoother
    ― silk underwear
    ― two pairs PJs
    ― slipper socks (2 pair)

    ― belts
    ― earrings
    ― necklaces
    ― scarves
    ― belt ring
    ― *earring closet hanger
    *similar to this, only all pockets can zip shut:

    ― New Balance athletic only for running
    ― Converse or Adidas for casual
    ― professional black
    ― black strappy heels
    ― black flats
    ― brown flats
    ― Rainbow flip-flops (around house or for beach)
    ― waterproof flipflops (hostel room and shower)
    ― ankle boots (will buy there)
    ― knee-high boots
    - rain-boots (will buy there)

    ― athletic socks (8-10 pair)
    ― black leggings 2 pair
    ― nude stockings 2 pair
    ― socks for under boots

    ― shift dress/blazer
    ― dining out dress (black wrap)
    ― clubbing dress

    ― jean skirt
    ― khaki skirt
    ― black skirt (informal?)
    ― black skirt (formal)

    ― bike shorts
    ― long-sleeved bike top
    ― bike gloves
    ― sports bras 3-4
    ― sports tops 2-4
    ― running shorts 2-3
    ― running leggings/pants 2
    ― swimsuit (lap swimming)
    ― goggles and cap
    ― swimsuit (for show)

    ― Three nice short-sleeved jean tops
    ― Three nice long-sleeved jean tops
    ― turtlenecks (1 black/1 white)
    ― 3 clubbing tops

    ― jeans 2-3
    ― black slacks
    ― other

    ― Turtleneck
    _ Cowel neck

    Again, this list was a starting point to allow deletions and additions. She had room to spare after she unpacked, and I brought one of the duffles home since she will be leaving so much of the household stuff there.

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    When my daughter spent last fall semester there, she chose the "family stay" option through her school and IES. She loved it and really lucked out with a central location.

    The home stay included another American girl in the apartment, and the host was a middle-aged woman who was to supply two evening meals a week. These dinners would have been an opportunity to hone the conversational skills, but every meal their host turned on a TV game show, and they ate watching that. At least it was in French.

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    I was just replying to another thread about using a suitcase or a backpack to use hostels in Europe, so I thought I would update my daughter's study abroad experience here as a continuation.

    The cell phone plan we used in Fall 2011 is now DEAD. We had used every possible communication method in prior trips--Lebara, Orange, telecartes, etc--and we went with Call in Europe because after the reasonable upfront fee, the rates were comparable to local SIMs and yet I would have the parental assurance that my daughter would never run out of minutes even if she had traveled to Seville. Indeed, her phone ended up being the security blanket for her entire American posse wherever she went. I feel bad that other study abroad parents will not have this assurance.

    What was great was that the included internet for the apartment made it possible to call US landlines for free.

    My daughter's "go to" luggage for weekend excursions throughout Europe was the ebags Mother Lode, which is a carry-on with backpack straps:
    With the Mother Lode bag, she was able to get on every cheapie Europe airline without checking, and what she really liked was that she could easily live out of the bag without ever unpacking on these trips because of the bright orange lining (no black hole). She knows how to pack light, and she liked it that for certain trips she could pack her laptop easily in this bag.

    She used A.Saks/Lucas large rolling duffles for the big stuff because they collapsed to nothing under her bed and added no weight to eventual airline baggage costs.

    Apt Rental Evaluation:
    We did get her security deposit back more or less. Even though her chic Parisienne landlord had been notified via pictures of how we had had to scrub that apartment before my daughter could move in; even though the landlord physically witnessed the squeaky clean manner in which my daughter left it; even though we had left beautiful throws, towels, a scale, and other things in the apartment that would act as a benefit to the landlord ; she charged my daughter for a few phone calls that must have been to cell lines, the cost of cleaning two pillows that my daughter had no idea COULD be cleaned, and some other dumb things.

    The fact that we have to look at all the decorative elements my daughter purchased for the apartment on the new rental pictures on the net drives us nuts. Still...

    ...we did get most of that deposit back (remember--it was the same as a first month and last month rent) within a week of her leaving. We had had no idea that the internet provided would give her the ability to call landlines in the US free, so that was a huge plus. A prior tenant had left a printer in the apartment, so that was ANOTHER huge plus.

    All in all...

    ...The location was absolutely perfect. By shopping so early and paying just a bit more early on, my daughter thinks she was spared a ton of aggravation. She had easy access to everything in the 7th, 15th, 6th, and 1st without even thinking about it. She purchased an "Access Paris" book and some Paris Walks types of books, and whenever she got the least little bit homesick, she made herself go out and explore some part of Paris for an hour or so.

    By NOT having an American roommate, she could easily learn as much French as much as she wanted. She tried to watch as much French TV as possible; all of her shopping was done locally in French. Still, if she needed some English, she'd drop in her local Starbucks and listen to their latest music. In actuality...

    ...she had a very hard time coming home. When she was a little girl of 7 or 8, she used to refer to Paris as her "real home", and I think she still feels this way. I knew that when she burst into tears when I picked her up at the airport when she returned to the US, it was not because she missed us (although she is the type of kid who does like her parents). Months later, she is still homesick for Paris.

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    I'm so glad that you brought this back to the top today. I hadn't seen it before, and it is full of good information. My older daughter did a semester in Rome, and we also searched for apartments and signed a lease from the US. My younger daughter is about to take off for London for 6 months for an internship, and while my older daughter shared an apartment with other American students, this time my younger daughter will be on her own. Your lists will be quite helpful. Thanks!

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