The Best Five Months of My Life Past Review

By (University of South Carolina - Columbia) - abroad from 01/05/2015 to 04/18/2015 with

CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Again....BEST TIME OF MY LIFE. I realized while abroad that just like when learning languages, you have to work hard in life for what you love. Working hard for those things will always be worthwhile! Always!

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.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The CEA staff are very good at their jobs. Not only are they very organized, but they are also such genuinely nice people. They made all of our trips around southern France so much fun and very educational.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My homestay family was a perfect match. They were a family of three, and some of the warmest and most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. They taught me everything there is to know about French cuisine and also helped me to improve my French tremendously. I still keep in touch with them!

* Food:

Aix is filled with many delicious restaurants and cafes. They have every type of food you could ask for, ranging from classic French cuisine to Thai. My favorite bakery was Jacobs where you could get a fresh and hot baguette for 75 centine!!!! SO yummy! I probably ate there four days each week.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with a host family really made this semester abroad extra special and I learned a lot more about the French culture and language by doing so. My classes were also taught at the same schools that French students attended as well as students from all over the world. Aix also has a great night life that will immerse you into their charming culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Aix is a very safe city! I never felt unsafe, even when I would be out and about at two in the morning.

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

Like I stated above, my time spent in Aix en Provence through CEA and a couple weeks of traveling afterwards were the best five months of my life. I could relive that experience five times over and would still know that I chose the right program. However, if I were to go back and change anything it would have been my confidence level while in France. I was quite often very nervous to speak with French natives and I should not have been. They appreciate anyone who tries to learn about their language and culture!

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)

Aix has very affordable food options! Since I lived with a host family I did not have to prepare breakfast or dinner, but I did eat lunch everyday around town. However, it was never more than 6 or 7 euros!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 65 euros
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? It is a really good idea to make a budget for yourself. Go into your program knowing how much you have and plan accordingly. If you plan on taking trips while abroad (I strongly suggest you do so! My favorite trip was to Portugal) plan ahead and try to buy your plane tickets as early as possible! Ryan Air and EasyJet have the best deals!

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

All of my classes were taught in French!

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? 300 level
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Listen to music and watch French TV shows! Also, go talk to some natives at coffee shops! Baristas love to talk :)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • My improvement in the French language
  • My host family
  • The charm of Aix
* What could be improved?
  • The length of the program...can it be longer please!? Five months is not long enough!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Collect a small item from every place you go to and put them all in a jar (preferably one that you buy from the grocery that contained something you had never tried before)! It's the best homemade souvenir possible :)