||To choose Paris as a destination to study French involves getting to know life in a huge city with people who are proud of their city,” observes Gaby Billing, Head of Marketing and Direct Sales at language school chain, Eurocentres. With a branch located in the very middle of this vibrant metropolis, Eurocentres offers, she says, “the perfect perspective to discover Paris, not only by its most famous museums and monuments, but also by being surrounded by Parisians [going about] their daily lives”.
Part of the city’s historic core, the Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter) is home to the prestigious Sorbonne University (one of the oldest universities in Europe) as well as Eurocentres’ Paris branch. An area once frequented by some of the world’s greatest writers and philosophers, it still attracts a steady stream of students looking to put the world to rights over a café crème. According to Delphine Crevelle, Marketing and Operations Manager at Escapade Paris, part of Education en France, the Latin Quarter is also central to Parisian nightlife. Students often meet at St Michel Fountain, she says, before hitting the many clubs, bars and discos in the surrounding area.
Paris boasts a number of different neighbourhoods that are each unique in character and style and students are sure to find a personality that best suits them. For example, Escapade Paris is situated in the historical and bourgeois district of Le Marais. According to Crevelle, the type of student that walks through their door, “wants to discover the real Parisian life, something they may have seen in movies or read in books, the lights, the glamour, all that makes Paris”, she says. The area manages to combine a thriving Jewish community with chic fashion designers and a lively gay scene. Walking through Le Marais, students will almost certainly stumble across Place des Vosges, arguably one of Paris’s most beautiful squares and the perfect place to people-watch over an al fresco lunch.
EF Paris, meanwhile, is situated in Les Grands Boulevard, perhaps one of the lesser known areas of this thriving capital. The characteristically wide sidewalks are dotted with theatres, clubs and cafés providing the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by. According to School Director, Alix Lallement, students will “literally be in the heart of French culture and civilization” there.
Meanwhile, Fréderic Houben, Coordinator at Langue Onze, suggests students explore alternative districts like Belleville (a multi-ethnic area and home to one of the city’s two Chinatowns), Canal Saint Martin (where large parts of the film Amelie were shot) and Bastille (an unpretentious district full of good bars and restaurants). Crevelle agrees and notes that exploring the area thoroughly is the “best way to discover lots of hidden treasures”. The hilly Montmatre is particularly delightful, she says. “[It is] a nice area to go, day or night, with the cafés, restaurants, back-alleys and the Place du Tertre, where artists are painting or sketching,” she enthuses. This is also the location for the sumptuous Moulin Rouge cabaret and, perched on the hill top, the impressive Sacré Coeur Basilica a 19th Century church which dominates the skyline. The views from its dome tower are particularly enchanting.
It’s hard to fight the allure of bigger attractions, however. “Of course students who come for the first time to Paris will go to the Eiffel Tower, visit monuments (Arc de Triomphe) and museums (Louvre, Musée d’Orsay),” attests Crevelle and most would argue that they are well worth queuing up for.
Visitors can avoid the queues for the iconic tower, however, by taking the stairs! There are approximately 600 steps to the second level the third and final floor is only accessible by lift. If that doesn’t appeal, says Lallement, students can play football in the park underneath the iron giant instead.
Instead of the Louvre, Crevelle recommends students sample other galleries such as the Grand Palais, the Musèe Carnevalet, the Palais de Tokyo or the new Musèe du Quai Branly. A free all-night festival called Nuit Blanche in early October celebrates art from sunset to sunrise, enabling students to view the Mona Lisa at four o’clock in the morning should the need arise!
Lallement adds that another way to enjoy some of Paris’s many attractions is on a tour boat which cruises up and down the River Seine. Taking in most of what Paris has to offer (the Eiffel Tower; Notre-Dame Cathedral; the Musée d’Orsay; the Louvre and Les Invalides Napoleon’s burial site), the tours last around an hour with some tour companies offering lunch and dinner options.
It’s no secret that the French enjoy their food and students looking for authentic L’Escargots [snails] or Cuisse de Grenouilles [frogs’ legs] will certainly find restaurants specialising in fine French delicacies. “Eating snails or frogs’ legs is an absolutely unique experience,” says Billing. “A good charming restaurant could surprise you with a delicious dinner and a charming atmosphere,” she adds. John McNulty, a professor at EICAR Paris International Film School, meanwhile, likens looking for a good and inexpensive restaurant in Paris, minus the tourists, as a bit of a lottery. “But a good rule of thumb is to never eat in a touristy area and beware when the menu is in English!” he says. McNulty suggests that students buy the annual Paris Pas Cher a guide to going out. “This helps navigate the good restaurants that are also inexpensive,” he observes.
Owing to the curriculum at EICAR, students benefit from the school’s relationship with the Cinémathèque Française, which contains one of the largest archives of films in the world. “[It] not only provides students with a great place to do research, watch and read about films, but is also home for great retrospectives,” he says. Their Curiosity and Culture programme inspires students to visit the many theatre and art house cinemas the city has become synonymous with. He concludes, “The learning curve is fast and most of our students, when they start getting a handle on the language, discover a whole new city”.
“For many students Paris is the city to be or to have been to once they are back home. To be able to say that you have studied in Paris gives a 19-year-old a status of being grown up; a 35-year- old the status of standing in the middle of life; a 50-year-old the status of being young of heart. But Paris is more, Paris is shopping, going out, art, music, dining and wining. [Students are surprised] that the French are not so unfriendly as they thought, especially when our students are in a host family. The thing to do now is travel the Dutch way through Paris with Velib: by bicycle! I have been to Paris about 30 times in my life, just walking through the city I still discover places I’ve never seen. But the time of the year is also important. The last time it was around Christmas, there was a Christmas market on the Champs Elysées and the Eiffel Tower was shining in a blue light: Paris keeps surprising you!”
Renée van Rongen, Tricolore, Netherlands
“Students like the French capital because it offers breathtaking monuments, beautiful architecture, charming café-bistros, fantastic entertainments and chic boutiques on the Champs-Élysées. They choose to go there because because Paris is a world famous centre of art, fashion, cuisine and culture. Students enjoy spending time in Le Quartier Latin, walking up and down Les Champs-Élysées and visiting all the famous museums. I am from Paris and I love the city! My favourite highlight is Le Quartier Latin.”
Arlette Rechsteiner, Azics Intercâmbio Cultural, Brazil
“Paris is a romantic city full of creative people, many fantastic museums, cultural events and so on. Additionally Paris has good flight connections to many German airports with direct flights.”
Nina Schulz, Studiosus Reisen München, Germany