Aix-en-Provence, France: The most expensive yet rewarding vacation of my life Past Review

By (French, Augustana College, Sioux Falls) for

CISabroad (Center for International Studies): Semester at Aix-en-Provence

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience has definitely been worth-while, but not in the adventurous, best time of my life, kind of way. I have been faced with many challenges like living with a woman with whom I don't get along very well, not having the money to really enjoy my time here and experience everything I want, among other things. But I feel as though I have become a better person because of these challenges and I have a more realistic view of the world and other cultures. I have also become a better traveler and feel more comfortable doing things on my own. My language skills have also improved, which was my main goal by coming here.

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.

I have found my classes here to be easier than the ones at my home university, but that doesn't mean I'm not learning a great deal. I do not spend much time at all doing homework, but the classes are filled with information that is useful and inspiring. The lack of homework has also given me the opportunity to explore the region, check up with friends and family, and simply soak in my surroundings.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Aside from my disappointment in how much English was spoken while I was at school, the administration was quite organized and helpful. They did everything they could to help out with finding extracurricular activities or to answer questions about classes.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The institute found the housing arrangements for each student. I loved the location and feel of the apartments I ended up with, but my relationship with my host-mother was horrible. It was just the two of us in my house, there was no internet, and there were many misunderstandings because she knew very little English and I am by no means fluent in French. I never felt at home here and it was my biggest disappointment about my experience here in France. I believe it was a simple personality clash, but it was enough that I never really felt comfortable going "home".

* Food:

The home-stay came with breakfast every morning and dinner 6 days a week. Breakfast was pretty standard as fruit and cereal or bread w/ Nutella. Dinners were whatever my host-mom made, some were better than others, but it was disappointing to never have a say in what was going to be served. Lunch can get quite expensive, but there are some cheap and delicious options close to school. Pizza Capri, for example, has a quarter of a pizza for 2-4 Euro. You may not think it will fill you up, but give it 5 minutes and it does. Crepes a-Go-Go is wonderful and on Le Cours Mirabeau. The portions are huge and not the expensive.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Traveling was absolutely amazing but quite expensive, especially for a student on a tight budget. Simply getting out of the city to do some hiking was one of my favorite things to do. Arles and Avignon were close by and full of history and things to see. If you buy the Cartreize (a bus pass), it makes traveling through Provence a lot cheaper at only 2 Euro/travel day. The excursion to Nice/Cannes was also spectacular, especially because it's only a week after the program starts, so you're still in awe at being in a new country!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

The city was pretty safe. Luckily I lived in Centre Ville, so I never really felt threatened because there were always other people around. However, many of the students lived a lot farther away and I don't think it was safe for them to walk home alone after dark. Many of them got a taxi or made sure to walk in groups. I don't know much about the healthcare because I haven't needed it yet, but I have confidence that if I do need it, the Program Administrators would be very knowledgeable and willing to help. As for vaccines, I believe I just needed those that are standard for traveling to western Europe.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Most of my disappointment in the program came from the fact that all of the students at the institution spoke with each other in English. However, outside of the Institute, it was pretty much a requirement to speak French, especially for me because my host mom knew very little English. One could get by without knowing much French, but if you really wanted to engage with locals, it was necessary.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The city
  • The people
* What could be improved?
  • More French in normal conversation between students
  • Home-stay equality
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Understand that the level of education might be a disappointment from what you're used to, but that just means you have more time to explore and learn from the city, not the classroom. Be wary of the host-stay. It seems great on paper, but if you don't fit well with the family you get, you may never feel at home here. If you want to be in a city and close to the country, then Aix is for you. Much smaller than Paris, but still plenty of things to do. If you honestly don't feel comfortable spending a lot of money, France in general may not be the country for you.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Advanced French II

Course Department: FRE 307
Instructor: Roger-Fix
Instruction Language: French
Comments: The course was not necessarily challenging, but it has been a nice review and extension on my previous knowledge. Since the professor is French, she was able to teach us many idiomatic expressions that I would have been less likely to learn at my home institution, but are very useful for life in France.
Credit Transfer Issues: I had no problems getting the credits to transfer.
Course Name/Rating:

Contemporary French Civilizaiton

Course Department: FRE 331
Instructor: Croise
Instruction Language: French
Comments: The course readings in the first half of the semester were somewhat challenging, but we went through them extensively in class, so this was not a problem, overall. The teacher was very engaging and well-prepared. There were many students in the class, which made it hard to participate as much as I do at my home institution.
Credit Transfer Issues: I had no problems transferring the credits.
Course Name/Rating:

Human development in a Cultural Context

Course Department: PSY 304
Instructor: Martin
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Although I had taken a development course at my home institution, I still learned a GREAT deal in this course. The professor was very knowledgeable and we discussed many of the classic thinkers in depth. This class was great, even though the majority of the homework I had came from this class.
Credit Transfer Issues: I had no problems transferring this course.
Course Name/Rating:

Art in the 20th Century

Course Department: ART 386/FRE 486
Instructor: Roux
Instruction Language: French
Comments: Because so few students signed up for the course, it turned into a seminar that meant once a week. This was slightly disappointing for me because we lost many days during which we could have learned a great deal more from the professor. She was very knowledgeable and well-prepared, and was more concerned with our ability to think about the art and form our own opinions than memorizing dates of creation and titles. It is a fun class.
Credit Transfer Issues: I had no problems transferring the credits.
Course Name/Rating:

Cultural Approach to the Other

Course Department: FRE/LIT 424
Instructor: Cros
Instruction Language: French
Comments: This course was quite useful for learning about life: how to look at yourself, others, and your surroundings. The readings were difficult, but there was no pressure to understand them immediately, which made for a safe learning environment. The course did force creativity, but it was fun. The instructor was very enthusiastic and well-prepared.
Credit Transfer Issues: I had no problems transferring my credits.


Dear Karissa_340, Our staff here at CISabroad are sorry to hear about your host mother and your housing situation. We always want our students to feel at home with family members, even is communication is basic. Sincerely, The staff at CISabroad

deleted-1509531057cis March 16, 2012