Everything You Need to Know about Orientation and the Semester Calendar

Emma Shaughnessy
September 30, 2016

So far, IES Abroad is proving to be a very good program provider, and the Paris French Studies program is extremely well organized. I thought that orientation was very helpful, although I thought that it kind of lasted longer than it needed to. I feel like most of the questions I had about studying abroad and the program itself, such as questions about housing and courses, were really not answered until I was in the midst of filling out a ton of online forms for IES Abroad. If you’re curious about what orientation is like, here are photos of the complete orientation schedule:



Here are some particularly important and/or fun parts of orientation (as are also indicated on the orientation schedule in the photos):


  • We were given information about how we could rent French cell phones and/or SIM cards from IES Abroad (or not, if we had our usual cell phones on international plans and were satisfied with that). The technology is a little too complicated for me to completely understand, but participants don’t have a phone plan during their semester abroad, but rather they buy credit each month (or maybe for a three month period? Again, I’m kind of confused by it all…) so that they can make calls and such. For safety purposes, IES Abroad requires that you always have a working cell phone with you that is charged and turned on. IES Abroad also does periodic “phone drills,” where you have to respond to a text saying your name, location, and whether you’re okay. This way, you get to practice the protocol in case an actual emergency occurs. The member of the IES Abroad staff who told us about this said that this was how the staff ensured that everyone was safe during the November 2015 Paris attacks.


  • We were given information about host family and homestay etiquette and some cultural differences in this area.


  • We were given information about all of the fun optional field trips that IES Abroad leads over the course of the semester. This semester, the field trips are to Normandy (overnight), Giverny, Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Reims. We actually went to Normandy towards the end of orientation, and I just recently went on the trip to Giverny, and both excursions were so much fun!


  • We took intensive French classes. Based on an online placement test that we took at some point over the summer, we were placed in an intensive French class, which we stay in for the semester if we find that it is the right level for us. Each intensive French class met about five times during orientation. After orientation, when classes had officially started, we took a test on what we had learned during the intensive orientation French classes, and if after getting this test back we found that we did not do very well, we could choose to move to a lower level French class.


  • Each person met individually with an academic advisor at the IES Abroad Center to officially register for classes. At some point over the summer, we filled out an online “preregistration” form. If you’re someone who is currently taking an outside course at a French university, like me, then you were probably frustrated by the fact that at French universities (and maybe universities in other European countries, I’m not sure), the course catalog and times that each course meets are actually not figured out and released until right before classes start! This was super annoying to me because as an American student, I am used to selecting my courses up to a year in advance and thus having a lot of time to reflect on my choices. As a French major at my college, I am required to take at least one outside course at a French university, in addition to at least four courses at the IES Abroad center.


  • People who have internships had an informational meeting and also met individually with the internship coordinator at IES Abroad. I am actually going to be participating in an internship during my semester abroad, and there is a corresponding internship seminar course to go along with this. I am still in the process of figuring out where I’ll be interning.


  • We took an optional tour of street art in part of the 11th arrondissement and the Belleville neighborhood, which was really cool.


  • We were given a presentation by an outside speaker about diversity in France and how the subject of race is thought of and discussed differently in France compared to in the U.S.


  • We could go to a public library, Bibliothèque Aimé Césaire, to see what it is like. I didn’t do this, but some other people said that it seems like a nice place to do work.


  • An American speaker who runs his own wine company in Paris (which runs tours, fun events, etc.) and who also studied abroad for a whole year through this program came in and talked to us about different types of wines and cheeses, as well as the different cultural attitudes surrounding wine and alcohol in general in France compared to the U.S. Then we got to have a wine and cheese tasting. It was very well-attended. The speaker also happens to be the professor of the internship seminar that I’m taking.


  • We took a field trip to Normandy for two days, which was a ton of fun!


Also, if you’d like to get a better idea of what the semester looks like as a whole, here are photos of the complete calendar of academics, IES Abroad events, etc. for the semester:



I hope that this information is helpful to anyone who is considering the Paris French Studies program! I am absolutely loving it so far!


“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” -Clifton Fadiman

Emma Shaughnessy

<p>My name is Emma, and I am very excited to be studying abroad in Paris this fall! I am from Washington, DC and a student at Gettysburg College, where I am a psychology and French double major. I love to sing, play guitar and piano, and write songs. I am also passionate about writing and photography.</p>

2016 Fall
Home University:
Gettysburg College
Explore Blogs