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 Back to Summary Ali Mckinney- Student Profile

Stanford in Paris, Spring 2010-11
MAJOR: Public Policy
ADVISOR: Bruce Owen

 

One of the first things that caught my eye when I received my Stanford acceptance materials was the BOSP pamphlet. As I leafed through the pages, I couldn’t help but feel captivated by the glossy photos of Stanford students lingering over coffee at picturesque French cafés, gazing up at the L’Arc de Triomphe illuminated against the night sky, and wandering through cathedrals with soaring ceilings. I could envision becoming a part of similar pictures, and it seemed that I had already made up my mind to apply to study in Paris without initially understanding what drew me to the experience.

Maybe it was the thrill of living in a bustling foreign city, so different from the New Hampshire town in which I’d grown up. Maybe it was a result of the travel bug I’d developed after two whirlwind tours of Europe in high school. Maybe it was a desire to expand my horizons and achieve goals I’d subconsciously set for myself – to improve my French, learn about subjects I’d never had the chance to study, and open myself up to a new and different culture. Or, more likely, I think, it was for a combination of all of these reasons that I embraced the idea of Stanford in Paris, eager to learn more when I arrived at Stanford.

Maybe it was the thrill of living in a bustling foreign city, so different from the New Hampshire town in which I’d grown up. Maybe it was a result of the travel bug I’d developed after two whirlwind tours of Europe in high school. Maybe it was a desire to expand my horizons and achieve goals I’d subconsciously set for myself – to improve my French, learn about subjects I’d never had the chance to study, and open myself up to a new and different culture.

My interest in studying abroad in Paris only strengthened during my time on the Farm. One of the first things I noticed as a freshman at Stanford was the emphasis placed by students, faculty, and staff on the abroad experience. As I talked to upperclassmen who endorsed the experience, it became clear how much of an impact these students’ abroad experiences had had on them. Many mentioned that it had been a growing experience, defining not only their four years at Stanford, but also introducing them to new interests and future goals.

These conversations elevated my expectations and, when I found out that I was accepted into the program, encouraged me to take advantage of all the opportunities the Paris Program offered, such as the mentorship program, countless cultural events, and the popular language partner program. Talking to alumni helped prepare me to make a lasting connecting with my new city and make the most out of this incredible experience.

As I talked to upperclassmen who endorsed the experience, it became clear how much of an impact these students’ abroad experiences had had on them. Many mentioned that it had been a growing experience, defining not only their four years at Stanford, but also introducing them to new interests and future goals.

Paris itself met and surpassed all my expectations. When I arrived, the first thing I quickly discovered was that every moment of my daily life at BOSP Paris, not just my classroom hours, constituted my learning experience. From the moment I stepped off the plane, and found myself trying to remember the phrase, “My baggage is lost,” to learning to appreciate modern art, I found that the entire city of Paris, and even all of France itself, became my classroom. I felt like I was learning in the best possible way- by becoming immersed in the language, culture, and history, and simply by living in Paris and opening myself up to new experiences.

Even my more formal courses seemed like completely different types of learning than I was used to back at Stanford. Being in Paris allowed me to explore subjects I might not have considered taking otherwise, including architecture and art history. However, rather than learn about these topics from secondhand sources, as would have been inevitable on the Farm, I discovered that Paris itself offered me a living textbook. In our architecture class, we stood in front of the famous and intricate metalwork of Paris metro signs, learning about art nouveau, and toured the majestic Opera Garnier as we heard intriguing stories about the architect. In my art history class, we wandered through the seemingly endless Louvre week after week, analyzing the individual brushstrokes and vivid colors of the original paintings, as they sat right before us. In my history class, we discussed not only historical French-American relations, but also what we noticed and felt in our day to day interactions in Paris. Rather than being simply a tourist, the BOSP experience allowed me to enjoy an incredible journey of living as a Parisian and learning by experiencing.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, and found myself trying to remember the phrase, “My baggage is lost,” to learning to appreciate modern art, I found that the entire city of Paris, and even all of France itself, became my classroom.

Most of all, however, I appreciated how well my abroad experience enhanced my education and has been relevant to my current major and future goals. Although I didn’t take any official public policy courses while in Paris, experiencing French politics through our trip to Le Sénat and reading French newspapers, for instance, will allow me to apply more global perspectives to classes I will take in my major this year.

It is easy for me to see how the BOSP Paris experience can be valuable to any major, whether techie or fuzzy, through the broader skill bases I acquired and the opportunities Stanford in Paris offered for internships, mentor programs, courses, and other extracurricular activities.

I appreciated how well my abroad experience enhanced my education and has been relevant to my current major and future goals. Although I didn’t take any official public policy courses while in Paris, experiencing French politics through our trip to Le Sénat and reading French newspapers, for instance, will allow me to apply more global perspectives to classes I will take in my major this year.

As I tutored high school students in French as part of my summer job, I found myself looking through their textbook, seeing familiar sights, and missing Paris. I know that one day, I will return to explore more of France, but until then, I am looking forward to talking with you, sharing my experience, and helping you make the most of your BOSP adventure!

 

 

 

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