A ‘oui’ Leap of Faith

One senior's plan to study abroad in France


University of Paris-Sorbonne, photo courtesy of Flickr.com

For most high school students, senior year revolves around the college admissions process, and it’s often not as simple as just applying to schools they’re interested in. Students must also apply for scholarships, financial aid, federal grants, housing, etc. The entire process can be quite stressful. Tuition in itself can be overwhelming, as the average student debt in America has reached $30,000. The national average for college tuition in the U.S is about $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. However, these are just the averages for public universities. Many private schools and ivy leagues, like Stevens and MIT, can cost upwards of $70,000 per year!

In the EU, college is a vastly different experience. University is often either free or around $200 per semester for citizens. Private research universities are more expensive, averaging around $17,000, but this is rarely the case. The average tuition for foreign students studying in Europe is about 5,160 EUR per year, which is equivalent to $5,794 USD. This figure is not inclusive of housing, but on average those costs are about $700 to $1000 more per month.

For financial reasons and a myriad of other benefits, many American students are choosing to go to university abroad. After some soul searching and a bit of panic, I’ve also decided to take the leap and go to school in France!

Studying abroad can be incredibly intimidating. Not only do you have to adjust to living in a foreign country and speaking a different language, but you also have to manage the mundane stresses of school, work, and everyday life. You are leaving behind all of the comforts that you’re most familiar with: your family and friends, your home, your town, your favorite restaurant or park or beach front. You must adjust to living hundreds–sometimes thousands–of miles away. You need to be fluent enough to manage everyday activities like ordering coffee or asking for directions. More importantly, fluency enables you to better understand your professors, make friends, schedule doctors appointments, get an apartment, find a job, (I could go on, but you get the picture).

So yes, while studying abroad truly is a dream come true and I’ll be saving thousands of dollars while I pursue my degree, it isn’t easy.

In order to prepare for these upcoming trials of going to school so far away from home, I’ve decided to go to OCC for a year. This will allow me to continue my studies while I save up enough money to move. Being financially stable is a necessity! There are many stories of students having to leave only a few months after arriving because they had run out of funds. In France, and most other european countries, foreign students also need to prove they’re financially stable enough to support themselves for at least two semesters while they attend university. The requirements for admission are also different than the requirements for American schools, so I’ll also need to focus on obtaining those. I’ll need to go to the French embassy in New York City to apply for a French student visa which will allow me to live and work in France while I attend school.  I will also need to earn at least a B2 (on a scale of A1 to C3) on the TCF exam, which proves I’m fluent enough to take courses in French.

Tuition at my dream school, le Paris-Sorbonne, is about $5,500 per year (factoring in the cost of admission fees and textbooks, I’ll be spending about $6,500 per year). After financial aid and scholarships, my tuition will be about $4000 a year. The cost of living can be relatively low depending on your lifestyle habits. After a bit of research, I’ve estimated that a small apartment in the 5th arrondissement will cost me around $800 per month. Many apartments are pet friendly too, which is a must because I can’t imagine living without my cat Haku.

While the affordable tuition isn’t my main motivation for studying abroad, it’s definitely influenced my decision. France has been at the top of my “countries-I-need-to-travel-to” list, and I’m so excited for the opportunity to live there. I have always been drawn to foreign places and cultures, and I know travel will always play a significant role in my life because I don’t think I could live happily without it! Whether you’re going to school a few miles from home or halfway across the county, don’t forget to explore. If you have a strong sense of wanderlust, look into your school’s study abroad programs, and don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone!