Best Semester of My Life!!! Past Review

By (Language and International Trade, Clemson University) - abroad from 01/27/0012 to 05/20/0012 with

Institute for American Universities (IAU): The School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Aix-en-Provence, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It has been almost 6 months since I returned from Aix, and I still think about it on a daily basis!! Studying abroad in Aix through IAU was definitely the best decision I have ever made. I saw so many incredible cities in Europe, but was always happy to return to Aix at the end of each trip. It is a beautiful city, has great people, amazing atmosphere and was everything I could have imagined and more!! I feel much more confident, and most importantly will now always have a 2nd home in the south of France! IAU was the perfect program. The teachers were awesome and the student body was small enough that I knew almost everyone in the program by name after the first month. Aix is also a very outdoorsy city--everyone is always outside at a cafe or in a park, hiking Mont Sainte-Victoire, and just enjoying the sunshine. Basically, there are no words to accurately describe how incredible my experience was...SO GO TO AIX and experience it for yourself!!!

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.

Teachers were awesome, classes required effort but were not too hard. The program definitely understood that you were studying abroad, and that having time to go out and experience the culture/travel was just as important as taking classes.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everyone was SO helpful and friendly! They knew almost all of the students by name, and spoke to you when you ran into them around town. Always willing to help and always took the time to make sure that you were enjoying your time in Aix.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My roommate and I were so lucky! We lived right in the heart of Aix (not the norm, unfortunately) with an older lady and her grown daughter. We each had our own rooms that were cleaned each week, and were served a delicious dinner and breakfast 6 days a week.

* Food:

Amazing. Just amazing. Occasionally I had to eat things that I wasn't a huge fan of, but overall it was very good! Lots of meat and vegetables...what I would consider comfort food!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Aix is a French college town (which I was not aware of prior to my arrival) so we were surrounded by college students everywhere we went, which made it easier to fit in. At first we definitely were a little alienated by being in a new culture, but it took no time to fall into a routine and by April I almost felt that I identified with the local Aixois more than I did with the many American tourists that arrived once the weather warmed up!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had no major issues with healthcare other than catching a cold a week or 2 after arrival in Aix. French pharmacies were a little intimidating, but IAU was very helpful as usual with health issues and my friends that had to visit a doctor while there had no problems at all!

* Safety:

Aix is SO safe. I never felt at risk, but would still advise not going anywhere by yourself at night, watching your purse, etc. Those are basic rules for anywhere in Europe though!

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


* 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)

Generally I spent 100-200 euros a week. There are a lot of cheap options in Aix (markets and bakeries everywhere!) where I usually bought my lunch. Eating breakfast and dinner at home definitely helped with expenses. The only thing that really added up was if you went out a lot (a pint of beer is usually about 5 euros=$7). Most of my 100-200/week usually went towards trips that I took on the weekends. Without travel I probably spent around 50 euros a week (about $70).

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Definitely get a summer/part-time job now and start saving! Be sure to utilize cheap travel options such as RyanAir and EasyJets for flights, for hostels, and buy the Carte 12-25 for trains (definitely worth the price in the long run!). Also don't worry about counting your money while you are there...I CANNOT stress enough that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so you don't want to look back and wish you had gone somewhere that you didn't visit because you didn't think you should spend the money!!! You can always pay your parents back when you get home!!


* 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

3 of my 5 classes were taught in French. While at home my host mother would only speak to us in French unless she was telling us something important that she didn't want us to misunderstand. Everyone was very patient though, and I feel that my French improved exponentially while in Aix.

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 classes (400 is highest level)
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Having a prior knowledge of the language is definitely not necessary. I was far from being fluent when I left for France, but came home feeling much more confident in the language and have already seen positive benefits from it in my French classes this semester. I had friends at IAU who hadn't taken French since high school but could hold a conversation in French by the end of May. Practicing on a daily basis is definitely essential to learning the language, but it definitely depends on how bad you want to learn the language. Try to meet local students while there because they are usually just as eager to practice their English, as you are to practice French.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Aix is a beautiful city that was small enough to not overwhelm you, but big enough to not be boring. We never had problems finding new things to do.
  • The students were a very diverse, but awesome group. We all bonded so quickly and had the time of our lives. We all still keep in touch through a Facebook group even 6 months after returning to the US!
  • The Aixois lifestyle. So laid back and relaxing. Great food and great wine...everything moves at a slower pace, but still a very fun city!!
* What could be improved?
  • Increased advertising. EVERYONE needs to go to Aix and study abroad through IAU!!!!
  • Longer program!! No one was ready to leave after 4 short months in paradise.
  • More financial aid. Scholarships are available but very competitive...definitely worth the cost, but my bank account is suffering this semester because of last semester!!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I'd known how valuable living with a host family is. I was very nervous about living with a stranger--honestly I was completely opposed to the idea--but after arrival I quickly figured out that it was better (and cheaper!) than living on my own. My roommate and I just had to be respectful of her few rules (don't make a lot of noise late at night, don't take what isn't ours, etc) and she basically gave us complete freedom to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Also, I wish I had known not to overpack! You definitely learn how to live on the bare minimum, and I took a lot of stuff that I ended up not even needing that seemed like necessities while I was packing.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'