I'd do it all over again! Past Review

By (French Language Teacher Education., Indiana University of Pennsylvania) - abroad from 01/21/2013 to 05/18/2013 with

CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
What didn't I gain? I went to another country, and not only learned about another culture and language, but also about myself. I've discovered more about what I want out of life and how I'm going to achieve all of these new goals I have for myself. Worthwhile? Yes. God yes. It was the best experience of my life.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Honestly, here's what needs to be said about a classroom educational experience in France: it is NOTHING like America. And that's both good and bad. Overall, I had an amazing experience. All of the professors are native French and just listening to them I found that I could learn a lot about the fluidity and "quirks" of the language. I absolutely adored my language and grammar teacher, however I can't say as much for my other teachers. Rather than a discussion it's a lecture, you will be told a very specific thing, and would be wise to remember it EXACTLY for any and all upcoming tests. (Even if it's an opinion of the teacher!) And that's just how it works there. Work wise and homework, I didn't have a lot of outside work. But that doesn't mean you don't use what you learn in the classroom. You quickly come to understand that everyday life outside the comfort zone of English thinking mind is the real test of what you've learned. I found that if you didn't want to volunteer information/questions, that was fine. I didn't feel the need to overly push myself in the classroom because I considered those lessons to be the foundation and background of what I learned while being outside and talking to people.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The whole semester I kept telling my roommates how much we had lucked out with our apartment! 8 Place des Augustins! 5 roommates, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, terrace, livingroom, eat-in kitchen, laundry. *siiiigh* CEA does an amazing job with pairing people up who get along. My 3 roommates became best friends and then sisters to me. They're what got me through all of the homesickness and cravings for American food. The apartment was a large, 4 story walk-up (be prepared to work those calf muscles!), with warm colored walls, a tiled floor, and welcoming Buddha statue at the top of the stairs. CEA was great with taking care of us as well. Anytime there was a problem, we were just a phone call away from a solution. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that the larger bathroom had no door...only a heavy red curtain... Yeah, you get pretty close pretty quickly with your roommates because of that... For myself and my other roommates that apartment was a safe place where everyone spoke English and we could rest our fatigued translating minds at night. That place was home.

* Food:

Loved everything. Going out to a restaurant and ordering food was so much fun! When reading the menu there's bound to be a word you don't know and it's like you're getting a surprise when your meal finally arrives! CEA offered so many opportunities for their students to get out and get a taste of Aix! I've had fondu at "La Louge", frog legs (delicious BTW!) at "Carrefour Cafe", and an amazing French dinner at "Mas de la Pyramid" (with Loulou!). But there's also the market every Saturday morning, so many fruits, vegetables, cheeses, honey, meats, pastries, breads, just everything! And it's all fresh, cheap, and delicious! Aix en Provence has so many restaurants and so many opportunities to try new foods, that your tastebuds will seriously miss it when you return home!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This depended on my day. Feeling integrated into a culture is such a personal thing. I don't think I was mentally prepared for how vulnerable I was in the beginning. When you step into another country, YOU'RE the foreigner. It feels like everyone is in this exclusive club and you're just looking for a way to get in, but you'll come to realize that you're never really a part of that club. And that's okay. There is no room for guile or pretense when you're the foreigner; everything else is already so different and so new that you can't be anyone but yourself. You'll find yourself emotionally and mentally stripped of all pretenses. But it's a very liberating experience. I can personally say that I found out more about myself in my time spent in France than I have in the last 22 years of my life. You find your place in their world. You'll see a lot of the same vendors and shopkeepers, and eventually they nod about you in acknowledgement. You become comfortable enough to start a conversation, to joke and laugh, and you make friends. You find yourself in the market on a bright and beautiful Saturday morning arguing with the ever ancient M. Bernard that he's only overcharging you for the strawberries because you're American; his wrinkled eyes light up as he tries to hold back a smile and comments about your American wit, but you get the strawberries for a reasonable price. And if you don't find that you're coming a part of the world around you, then CEA is right there. I don't know how many times it was just so good to talk to Vivienne about a problem and have her walk me through it step-by-step. And the weekly happy hours at Carrefour Cafe, when there was 30 of us all in a room being loud and American, that was a regular and comfort-zone kind of thing. Becoming integrated with the local culture is all about the person and their personality and ability to handle new things. I myself miss the medieval city that had become like a home to me.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

If you were sick they took care of you. If you just needed medicine and couldn't function enough to get out of bed, they wrote down your symptoms and brought you medicine. You were never without a mother-like figure there.

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The exchange rate was what really hurt me. Went to pull 100 euros out of an ATM and really it was the equivalent of $135. There are cheap places to shop, but it wasn't until I had been there for about 2 months that I had really found them.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Depends. Some weeks $100 (60 euros) and other weeks I got by on 30 euros
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Any time I wanted to buy something and I had the money, knew I shouldn't spend it, but really wanted to just because, I asked myself two things: 1. Is this something I could get in the US? If yes, then don't buy it! 2. Is it really worth that price? (I always tricked myself into thinking that no matter what it was in euros that it was twice that in USD. Like 30 euros, $60. Which actually wasn't too far off)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 400 level course; I was intermediate mid
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Talk to the locals!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The roommates who became sisters to me
  • The food!
  • Every day life
* What could be improved?
  • Having a door for the bathroom...
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known how hard it was going to be to leave at the end...I would've extended my trip!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Histoire de France

Course Department: History
Instructor: M. Thomas
Instruction Language: French
Comments: This class was not challenging until a test was presented. This professor decides to teach lessons that have absolutely NOTHING to do with the tests. I was a level 3 student, he repeatedly told the class that he wouldn't lower his standards of teaching to our levels of thinking. The first exam was a philosophical French text, which the class had an hour and a half to not only comprehend, but also to answer 11 questions about. (I would've had problems with this text in English!) If the class average was 7/20, then you're obviously doing something wrong. I never once raised my hand in this class. For those that did, he often laughed or looked annoyed for the interruption of his lecturing rant. When multiple students complained about the unfairness of his exams he offered an extra credit option, during the last week of classes (when everyone was busy packing, studying, and/or already gone), and the students had to pay 10 euros to enter the establishment on which we were to do the extra credit. It was utterly ridiculous.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Lanque Francaise

Course Department:
Instructor: Mme Degras
Instruction Language: French
Comments: I miss this incredible woman and this class so much already!! I've been studying French for 8 years and never have I had a more fulfilling and satisfying experience. Madame Degras made the classroom fun! We learned through poems, songs, textbooks, repeated oral exercises, and games! She took a group of 18 students and improved their oral, listening, and writing skills so much! I wouldn't say the class was challenging because the professor made it such a safe and open environment. I wasn't afraid to make mistakes or ask questions because she encouraged it! She's really a "go-with-the-flow" kind of teacher. We had homework we would have to prepare, and then once that was done, she would questions about our lives and then relate them to relative or current events of the area and France. There was no set routine, but that was what made it such a great classroom to learn in! I volunteered a lot in this class. She allows the class to be goofy, creative, and even encourages laughter and several "petite pause"s for the students to refresh their minds. I can't rave enough about this professor! She made the students into a family and the classroom into a home all while teaching and bettering us!
Credit Transfer Issues: