Life is wonderful in Aix! December 22, 2018

By (Soka University of America) - abroad from 12/10/2018 to 12/15/2018 with

CEA: Aix-en-Provence, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I really enjoyed my language course because I was in such a diverse class, which gave me such a distinct experience. There were students from at least four different countries, from youth to middle-aged students who were all there to learn French for different reasons, not just to study abroad. It made me open my eyes and feel even more grateful for the amazing opportunity and choice to study abroad.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The institution is bureaucratically inefficient. It took them about two months for our student ID cards to be given to us. This was a combination of last-minute communication regarding the 90 euro additional fee by the French government, the confusing website to pay the fee, and the constant broken state of the machine used to create the IDs. Since we received our ID cards so late, we were unable to register for sports or clubs, which made it more difficult to feel connected to the university, Aix-Marseille Université since SUFLE (the institute for students learning French) is a little isolated from the rest of campus and the majority of French students. The language-placement tests were not standard. During the test, you are placed in a classroom in which other students are also being tested. The placement results rest entirely on the professor who happens to test you; I was even asked what level I would prefer to be placed in, which was really confusing for me, as I personally think that I shouldn't be the one choosing my level. When I wanted to switch levels, it was incredibly difficult to do so because the change had to happen between professors; the secretaries could not help you at all. You had to ask your professor to ask the professor in the level you wanted to switch into to see if they had space in their class. You are not able to choose when your classes start or end; you are simply assigned to a level and a group within that level. The two classes you are able to choose, your electives, are very limited depending on the level you're placed in. The course description is very limited and does not accurately reflect the course itself. The difficulty level varies tremendously on the professors. I loved my primary language course, but my electives for techniques of writing was everything but techniques of writing; most of the class was improvised it seemed and there was no syllabi.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The on-site administration is wonderful. They're always available and readily accessible. They will help you with whatever you need and help improve your experience drastically. We only received accurate and streamlined information from them, which was super helpful.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my host family. They made me feel like home and like I was part of their family. They made me feel safe and welcomed. I never felt like I was intruding. It was a very positive experience and it really helped improve my language skills drastically.

* Food:

I only put a lower-rating because I was not fully aware of the eating arrangement schedule until after I had arrived. We do not have dinners with our host families on Friday and Saturday. Although this allowed me to discover many new restaurants, it only increased my expenses.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt that by the end of the program I had started to become familiar with places locals frequented and was comfortable enough with my French to finally want to reach out to people, but it's overall really hard to meet and become friends with other French students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had a cold during my program. I was directed to a doctor for a walk-in appointment. The wait time is a little bit long, but nothing too drastic, only about an hour or a little over an hour at most. The consult itself is brief, but the doctor assigned me medicine that helped me almost immediately. The cost of antibiotics was not expensive.

* Safety:

Aix overall is really safe. I have been able to walk home really late at night as a girl and been completely safe. The only uncomfortableness faced as a woman is the catcalling, which is even more so present with the groups of construction workers hanging out (Aix is currently under construction).

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

I loved studying abroad in Aix. It's such a beautiful city with a strong history and breathtaking architecture. The center is very walkable and accessible. The Cours Mirabeau is the most iconic promenade street where a market takes place in the morning to mid-afternoon. In every corner, you can find amazing, ornate fountains of all shapes and sizes. A fun way to get acquainted with the city is to walk around and find as many fountains as you can! These fountains can then serve as rendez-vous places or points of reference so you don't get lost during the first few weeks. What I loved the most about living in Aix was able to experience life in Provence. Through CEA excursions, I was able to discover many beautiful, small villages nearby that show the calm, rural life in various areas in Provence. One of my favorite experiences was visiting the village of Trets during their garlic festival. We were able to dance and interact with the locals, which really helped with language acquisition. These small villages are hidden wonders. Aix's wonderful program advisers have very detailed handouts explaining transportation to several of these villages, their history, and things to do and see. If they do no have a handout for a specific location, they will go out of their way to help you research. I really enjoyed my language course because I was in such a diverse class, which gave me such a distinct experience. There were students from at least four different countries, from youth to middle-aged students who were all there to learn French for different reasons, not just to study abroad. It made me open my eyes and feel even more grateful for the amazing opportunity and choice to study abroad. I felt at home with host family. By the end of the program, it was very hard to say goodbye.

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)

It is possible to live on a student budget in Aix, but it is very, very difficult. You have to keep a strict look at your finances and really limit yourself, which is hard to do when traveling because there are always unexpected expenses that arise. For example, I had to purchase a new camera during my time abroad because I lost my camera. You can't really anticipate these things happenings super well. The cost of living is pretty expensive in Aix, so the cheapest meal is either a croissant or a kebab. There are a few restaurants that do offer discounts or menus for students such as Columbus Café.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $200
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make a budget and keep track of it every day so you can see where you are spending money excessively and thus where you can cut. If you really don't need that espresso, let it go, it might save you money in the long run if you continue to do that for a few weeks. Eat at cheap restaurants like the kebab shops.

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

I spoke mostly in English with other girls from the english university section of my program since some of them had just begun to learn French that semester and had great difficulties communicating so we would speak in English to be able to still get to know each other.

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? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Four semesters of french; 200
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? Visit small villages, especially on market days! Very often, in these villages very few people speak English, which forces you to speak French. Don't be afraid to make mistakes! The worst way to learn is by not speaking.

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

  • 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?
  • Program Advisers
  • Excursions & Cultural Engagement Activities
  • Location
* What could be improved?
  • Host Institution
  • Socializing with french students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would have liked to know just how expensive Aix was so I would have done more budgeting at the beginning. I also would have loved to have been more prepared for the downturns of study abroad.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!