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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

How to Learn French Abroad
By:Fiona Miller

Going abroad to learn French can be one of the most exciting times in your life. With high culture, world-renowned art museums, beautiful architecture, and delicious food, its no wonder you're looking to study French abroad. However, there are several important things to remember before you pack up your bags and board your flight to France or any of its DOM-TOMs.

Learning French Abroad

Decide where you want to study. France has world-class universities and its cities are extremely diverse. Paris is the epicenter, but if you're looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, you could choose to study in the mountainous Grenoble or relax on the beaches of Cannes during your off time. You can also study French in a DOM-TOM (short for départements d'outre-mer and territoires d'outre-mer), all of which are legally part of France. The DOM-TOMs consist of Caribbean Guadaloupe and Martinique, African Réunion, and South American French Guiana. Some Americans also decide to study French in Montreal for a cheaper alternative. Remember, no matter where you go, you'll have a culturally rich experience but you will learn French slightly differently in each place, just as people in the US, Canada, and Britain speak English a little differently in each region.

Examine study abroad programs and decide on one. There are tons of programs out there for students wishing to learn French. Most French universities offer a course of study for foreign students coming to France and its DOM-TOMs to learn French. These programs are rigorous, and you can expect to study just as much as a university student in the United States. You can contact the schools independently or go through an established study-abroad program. Studyabroad.com offers wonderful resources for beginning your search. Remember, if you are seeking credit transfer to your home university or high school, it is important to talk to your academic adviser. Taking courses that the school does not approve of may delay graduation and result in a loss of credits.

Figure out your finances. If you are planning to work in the European Union, you will have to gain employment before you enter. Your work will need to provide an invitation from your employer in order to work there legally. If you do not plan to work while in France, you will likely have to provide proof of income (around 400 euros per month) from a family member or study grant, or prove that you have sufficient savings. Keep abreast of the exchange rate and the cost of living in France. AmericansinFrance.net provides great information on what to expect as far as the cost of items.

Purchase your plane ticket before applying for your visa. Explore several websites before you make your decision; some student-oriented sites offer deep discounts for students and teachers. Many international airline carriers also offer incentives for those under 25 to travel. In France, you can get a Carte de Jeunesse, which makes it cheaper for those under 25 to travel by rail.

Apply for your visa. France and Italy are two EU countries that will require that you have a short-stay visa even if you are staying in the country for fewer than 90 days. Go to the website for the French Embassy (see resources), click on "Going to France" and then click on "Visas." Select the consulate closest to you. Some may require that you apply for your visa in person, while others allow you to mail in your request. Give them a call if they do not have specific instructions.

Do some research into French attitudes about your home country; also research local French customs. For example, many Americans can be very loud when they're out in public places, whereas the French are more subdued and generally find such behavior obnoxious. You are an ambassador for your country, whether you like it or not, and want to leave a good impression on those you encounter abroad.

Enjoy your stay in France or the other DOM-TOMs. Have fun, but not too much fun. Remember, you are there to study!

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