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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Frugal Son still in Paris: How to Do An Abroad Program the Frugal Way

Is it bad to be jealous of your child? Well, I always wanted to spend a semester in France, but my college only had one slot--for a French major. So I asked my French teacher if I could be a French major and he said NON, because I wasn't fluent in French.

To fit with my frugal theme, let me point out that for many of these abroad programs, you pay your home school's tuition and fees. If you are on scholarship--merit or need-based--that money applies. If you are paying $50,000/year for a private school, well, that's what you are paying to do the abroad program. It seems to me that if one is not eligible for massive amounts of need-aid, then one should go to the state school and do the abroad program from there.

THEN you can transfer, if you so desire,to your fancy college. Last year, I read an article about how Columbia University (fancy college par excellence) wouldn't take the transfer credits from a student who, on his own, spent a year in England or Scotland. The price was much lower than Columbia's, maybe half or less. Columbia spokespeople argued, unconvincingly, that they weren't sure of the quality of the program. YEAH-right.

Excerpt from email:

Breakfast this morning was really crowded. I think about 30 Germans came in last night so the cave was full to the brim. I took my tray up to the courtyard and ate en terasse. Or en plein air. It was cloudy this morning and since the sun had barely started coming up at 8am it was really quite chilly especially since it was breezy. First I walked to Hotel de Cluny and, while sitting in the park typing up this letter, I discovered some very tenuous free internet from the McDonald’s across the street. Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished up this letter yet so I didn’t send it. From Cluny, I walked to Rue Mouffetard which is where I am right now. What a splendid place. There are at least three fromageries, a couple poissoneries, and tons of fruit and veggie venders. I was planning on just eating my left over President on left over bread for lunch (I had a bit but it really has gone a bit too far since I wasn’t able to refrigerate it) but I think I’m going to have to buy something here. There is a little crottin of raw milk chevre for just a euro and maybe I’ll buy a couple figs because they look so good. I love figs. Must be because of my name. On the way in I bought a Yop which, for the money, is actually one of the better ways of nourishing oneself with 585 calories per bottle. Also, there is another boucherie here and watching the guys actually cut and prepare the meat is great. Man, I’m not sure if French people actually shop at places like R. Mouffetard but it sure is idyllic and I like to imagine them doing so. I’m going to buy 4 or 5 figs (I hope the shopkeeper doesn’t scorn my miniature purchase) and the little crottin of chevre and then I’m just going to sit down and be happy. Well, time for me to go look longingly at the langoustines and huitres and snails and beautiful sardines. I’m dying for a kitchen, even one with just a single, lousy electric burner.

By the way, you guys could definitely live here. Just sell your 202 square meter house for say, $350,000 (225,800 euros) and then you can buy a 29 square meter apartment (with miniature kitchen, living room, bedroom, and toilet) on the 4th floor sans acenseur in the 18th arron. for just 350,000 euros! DO IT. Well, I’m off to peruse R. Mouffetard a bit more and be jealous of every French person I see.

What do you think? Should we buy the teeny apartment in Paris?


Duchesse said...

Awww, honey. Wire him enough to EAT a few three course meals; get off the Mouff'- it's crammed with cheap student fare- you can do a lot better a few streets or metro stops away:

Brasserie Balzar (Le Balzar)
49 rue des Écoles 75005
(Metro: Cluny-le-Sorbonne , Maubert Mutualite)

Aux Charpentiers
10, rue Mabillon 75006

14, rue des Fosses-Saint-Bernard 75005
(Metro: Jussieu, Cardinal-Lemoine)

Duchesse said...

One more recommendation:

Dinner: Chez Christophe
8 rue Descartes 75005 PARIS 01 43 26 72 49

He is dear, he knows good food, tell him to eat in Paris! Or dip into your savings so he can. Picnics are fun but to be there and eat no real meals is a false economy.

Suzy said...

well I was gonna say what the heck go for it if you really want to live there! I mean, you only live once and the small space probably wouldn't be that big of a deal if you're living where you want to be out walking and seeing things (not like living at home vegged out in front of the tv)until that sans acenseur made me curious enough - seems like sans means 'without' so I looked it up and amidst all the french definitions the word 'elevator' stood out so if that's without an elevator then no way! I mean, now when I'm 42 wouldn't be such a bad deal for getting in some exercise but boy that's a lot of climbing when I'm 70! Or in a wheelchair! Don't they have any cute one story cottages with a cute garden?!

FB @ said...

Am totally NOT jealous of France or French living at all.

Living in Paris seems like a dream for most but would probably be a nightmare for us in every single aspect including the culture.

I hear their economy is tanking, the EUR has really screwed every country in Europe in terms of conversion and affordability of life... except England (kept their pounds) and Germany (who pushed for the EUR conversion in the first place).

I would never ever buy anything in Paris, because the only thing worth buying would be an actual house in Paris proper which would cost millions of Euros and not in the Parisian suburbs like my friends, who commute to Paris via train because they live so far away..

one friend bought a small condo in a suburb of Paris for 300,000 EUR. Isn't that crazy? Almost half a million and the location sucks and is tiny..

I'd stick to just visiting the city of lights once in a while.

@Suzy: As for buying a small cute little cottage, you're talking a lot of Euros if you want it in the middle of Paris. Your best bet would be to pay through the nose in the South of France for what you're imagining or choose a different country.

Suzy said...

@FB Well I'd have to pick an English speaking country LOL because my french is extremely limited! hmm maybe Scotland!

Shelley said...

I love visiting Paris (and London). We've been several times. My first trip to France was to do the 13K race between Paris and Versailles. I remember the start at the Eiffel Tower and the end with all the gold buildings but not much in between, I'm afraid.

When I moved to Newcastle England I had to adjust big time to the sheer density of people. It's even worse of course in London and the view from the Eiffel Tower looks down on an ant hill. I think it's a far better idea to visit than to move there. I used to work with a man whose wife was French and they had a second home; he called it their 'closet in Paris'.

There are lots of house swaps on the internet. I've not done one, but it might be an interesting thing to try.

having read the next post, I think your son is wise beyond his years, knowing his priorities so well. Good on him for being so smart. Well done you for having raised him to be that way.

Funny about Money said...

I've not looked at living space in Paris, but I do recall that London was outrageous, and for your money you got similarly squalid digs.

However, once you got outside the city, prices came down to more or less within reason and housing was much more livable. Our friends at the U of London lived in Tunbridge. Their house was similar to any middle-class American home: three bedrooms, a real bathroom, a nice kitchen with a normal-size refrigerator.

In London, our flat -- a third-story walk-up in a 17th-century firetrap -- had a teeny galley kitchen with an under-the-counter icebox. The only hot water wasn' came from a wall-mounted water tank that provided about two gallons of warmish water. There was no shower. To bathe, you drew as much warm water as you could get into the bathtub and tried, shivering, to get yourself clean. The only heat came from an electric fire -- a portable heater of the sort we would call a "towel warmer." Price was so obscene I can't even remember what we paid...the amount that comes to mind is 300 pounds a week.

Harboring a daydream that someday I'd like to live in the south of France, I've looked at online real estate ads for housing in the French provinces. In some areas you see places that look affordable. Accommodations are very different from what Americans have come to expect. We'd have a lot of getting-used-to to do!

My extremely frugal English neighbor says prices on the Continent are now completely out of hand. Her brother has a house in the French countryside -- many Brits own or rent vacation and retirement homes there. She says it's pretty much unaffordable now.