La vie (á Aix) est belle. Past Review

By (Sociology and Anthropology., Fairfield University) - abroad from 01/17/2014 to 05/18/2014 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 was absolutely worthwhile and definitely the best and most rewarding experience of my life so far. I gained so much from my time in Aix with my host family, the people at IAU, and everything that Aix has to offer as a city.

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.

Though the classes were definitely structured differently than I was used to, I learned a lot about each of my course subjects, especially through hands-on experiences and excursions. We were able to view what it was we were learning outside the classroom, where it actually happened.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

IAU was very helpful whether it was for a classroom, or personal struggle. I think that it was a very personal administration, where you didn't just know the staff because you had a problem, or you got into some type of trouble. Because of the size of the program, you could get to know the administration and they were very helpful with the transition into studying abroad.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host experience was absolutely incredible, and I miss my host mom everyday! She was an older lady, and her kindness, patience, and sense of humor made my housemate and I feel right at home. She included us in small family birthdays, and taught us some of her recipes of dishes that we liked. I believe that she is one of the key factors of why my experience abroad was so amazing.

* Food:

My host mom made our breakfast and dinner everyday, except for her day off on Saturdays. Breakfast was set out every morning, where we could make our own coffee and toast, and each dinner meal was very different to what I was used to (because I am a very picky eater), but I was so glad that I tried everything she made, because I learned how much food I actually do like that I thought I hadn't. For lunches, we were on our own, but that is how a) I taught myself to budget, and b) tried new things.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

By the time I left Aix-en-Provence, I felt that it was a place I could call my home. Not only with my friends I had made at IAU, but with the city itself. Certain boulangeries knew what I wanted before I could even tell them, and I went to the same marché sellers who began to know me by face as well. I began to speak more and more french without struggles, and I felt as if I had gotten a true cultural and social experience in Aix.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I personally was never in need of more than a little bit of over the counter medicine for the common cold, but a friend who was very sick for a few weeks said that the health care was immediate, efficient, and that she was well taken care of -- much faster than you would find in a walk-in clinic at home. In addition, I believe it was IAU that helped her in the first place to get to a doctor.

* Safety:

I felt very safe in Aix. Though it is a city, the overall feel to Aix is that it is a secure place. I didn't have to keep my money in a secret compartment under 2 layers like I would in a big tourist city. My only advice would be don't do anything that is unsafe in ANY place such as walk alone at night, or keep valuable items out of your reach, etc. Using common sense and being as careful as you would in any other place was enough for me to feel safe.

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)

I think that you can live on a student budget if you really take the time and effort to actually budget out your weeks. It is hard in a new place, because you want to try and do everything, but because Aix is an expensive place to live, you really need to budget it out.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? about 35-40 euros
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I would say to allow yourself one or two nice meals a week, and the rest try and save as much money as you can on food because when you travel, or go to the market to buy souvenirs you're going to wish you hadn't spent all your money on pasta. For example, a demi-baguette costs about 40 cents, a wedge of brie about 2 euros, and an apple is about 30 cents. The cheese will last you the week, plus 70 cents a day is practically nothing.


* 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

There was frequent encouragement to use our French, and we were using it on a daily basis with the people in shops, the marché, and especially our host families. Having that reinforcement at home was very helpful.

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? Intermediate French II
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? I would say to speak as much French as possible with your host family, even if they speak English. In addition, speak with other students with the programs offered through IAU, or that you happen to meet in your time abroad -- I made a friend with whom I would speak French, and she would speak English and it helped us out a lot.

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
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 Host Family
  • The Culture of Aix
  • My Professors
* What could be improved?
  • More time after exams before the program ends
  • Grade transfer (communicated to both students and professors)
  • More conversation taught in French classes
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how fast 4 months was going to go, and I would have prepared better to make sure I experience even more things especially in places very close to Aix.