Wouldn't Change a Thing! February 17, 2018

By (The College of New Jersey) - abroad from 06/01/2017 to 07/15/2017 with

CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I had not really left the country before. In addition to that, I had not done a lot of traveling outside of the north eastern states. I was meeting a lot of people like me, who have had similar experiences to me. Spending an extended period of time nearly 4,000 miles away from everything I have known for the past 21 years really opened up my eyes to how big the world is and how many different walks of life of people there are. It helped to keep things in perspective and have a deeper amount of respect and understanding for people who have been raised differently than I was. This trip was absolutely worthwhile.

Review Photos

CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France Photo CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France Photo CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I took two courses: Intermediate French and Women in Politics. Intermediate French was definitely more of a challenge for me but the professor was incredibly helpful and encouraging when I get frustrated or needed extra help. Women in Politics was a bit easier but students still needed to attend class and do the assigned work. Even with the work, there was still plenty of free time at night and on weekends to explore the city and travel.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Nancy and Karen could not have been more attentive and supportive throughout the six weeks. Karen was one of the first people I met at the airport and she was incredibly welcoming and made me feel at home which is exactly what I needed since I was 4,000 miles away from home and everything I knew for the very first time. Anytime I had a question, they were always there ready to help me out. They were also two friendly faces I would recognize in the city from time to time.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a homestay convinetely located just a few minute walk away from the Cours Mirabeau (the city's Main Street) with a divorced mother and her 20 year old daughter. They both knew just a few words of English. Although this would become frustrating at times, my French improved far more than it would have had I not been living with them. It was a once in a lifetime experience to live in real French home with a french family.

* Food:

I had always heard that France has amazing food and it completely exceeded my expectations. I can't think of one bad dish I had. From the seafood to the meat to the bread and cheese, everything was so fresh. Several times, my host mom would give me a bowl of fresh fruit with dinner and it was unbelievable how fresh it tasted and how flavorful it was. The French food is probably one of the things I miss the most.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I loved the local culture and local people. Generally speaking, they were all incredibly welcoming. The ones who did not speak English were incredibly patient with us and we would use the little French we had and they used the little English they had and we could always make it work. The ones who did speak English loved to hear about our trip and what we were doing in their city. I had seldom left the United States so I loved seeing how this culture was different from the one that I was used to. They were definitely much slower paced and laid back.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I was fortunate enough to have never fallen ill or have gotten injured during my six weeks and thus never needed to utilize the country's healthcare.

* Safety:

Overall, the city is incredibly safe. Like anyone would in their home country, practice common sense. Don't walk alone at night, don't talk to people you don't know, and call someone if you feel unsafe. At the end of the Cours Mirabeau, there are taxis lined up waiting to pick people up and bring them home. Europe does have a reputation for having a lot of pickpockets. I only used bags that could be completely zipped up and would hold them close to my body. When I would sit at restaurants of cafes, I would put my bag at my feet and would put one of my legs through the handles so it would be impossible for someone to grab it. NEVER put your phone in your pocket, always have it zipped up in your bag, I, as well as no one in my program, ever had a problem with pickpockets.

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

Without a doubt, I would absolutely recommend CEA. I cannot imagine having gone abroad with any other program. From before I had even chosen a program and sent my application to after returning home, they were so helpful through everything.

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)

Not only is Aix a wealthy city, it is also a huge tourist spot. Consequently, things (dinner at a local restaurant, clothing, etc.) could be very expensive. With that being said, if you budgeted correctly and limited unnecessary spending, you can make it work on a student's budget. As with any city, there are the more expensive restaurants and stores and the ones that are on the more inexpensive side.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I do not remember exactly but a rough estimate was probably around 60 euros. If I traveled during that week or that weekend, it was probably closer to 100 euros.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I would try to save on my day-to-day lunch. On a typical day, I would to the Monoprix (like a higher end Target or Walmart) or Casino (a small grocery store) and pick up a prepackaged meal for a just a few euros. I would also try to limit the amount of times I would get a beverage with dinner or dessert. You don't need to eat macaroons every single day! This would help to save money for traveling and souvenirs. SO many places (movie theaters, museums, etc.) offered student discounts so make sure to always ask if they have one!

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

Not everyone in the city spoke English, so there were times that I had no choice but to use the little French I knew. I would estimate that it was about 50/50; half of the locals that you will encounter will speak English. You will most likely need to use it everyday but it will usually be for simple interactions, like ordering your lunch.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Second Level Beginner
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? Before you leave, practice as much as you absolutely can. Put notes on objects throughout your house or apartment of the French word for it so you become more comfortable with vocabulary. When I was bored or doing something like driving, I would take simple sentences in English and practice translating them into French in my head. This will help you to get more comfortable with the language. If you want to improve your language skills while abroad, then force yourself to speak as much French as often as you are comfortable with. For example, even if you know that someone speaks English, only speak to them in French. The only way to get better at something is by doing it!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
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?
  • Staff
  • Activities/Excursions
* What could be improved?
  • N/A
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had a deeper realization of how quickly it would fly by and what an amazing experience it would be before embarking on the trip. Although I did have the time of my life and always tried to enjoy it to the fullest, there were times that I felt like I almost took it for granted. If I could do anything differently, I would've appreciated the opportunity and how lucky I was to be there a little bit more.