Something for Everyone July 02, 2014

By (Applied Economics and Mangement, Cornell University) - abroad from 01/20/2014 to 05/18/2014 with

IAU College Study Abroad: The School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Aix-en-Provence, France

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a bit of French and a bit about French culture. Aix and I guess France as a whole is a first-world Western place like the US but the way of life is so different it might as well be on another planet. Experiences in the classroom and around town certainly shaped my career and life ambitions. But bring those Euros... sheesh it cannot be understated how expensive this spot is.

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 professors were overqualified and brought the dishes to the table, but they were also pretty easygoing and aware that much of the learning is out of the classroom. You could learn quite a lot if you wanted to and make it just by if you were so inclined. Shout out to the profs Margaux, Fabre, Jamai, Pam (Morton). And the man who missed me, Charles Potter

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Real helpful and personable, even with stuff not having to do with the program such as travel, interviews + other stuff from back in the US. Program's small and cozy, so you get to know the staff well.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Host families are a great way to integrate into French culture and learn the language. But sometimes there can be a difference in personalities that prohibits any type of cultural exchange or learning to occur. Overall, it's a coin flip depending on what kind of family you get. Aix is a small town and its hard to get the absolute best host families, so don't blame the administration.

* Food:

Pretty legit. French baguettes and cheese + all of the fresh foodstuffs from the market are what you dream of. French dining etiquette and the order in which they serve food is also very interesting coming from the US. You get 6 dinners and 7 breakfasts, which is a shame because lunch is the big meal in France and you might be hungry if you're on a budget. Definitely have to economize here. The host served good and healthy food but an American can sometimes find his or herself hungry with French portion sizes. I didn't try out the Aix food scene because the prices were prohibitive but if you ever head to one of those "schwarma" places. I'm going to recommend you grab Algerian sauce and put it on whatever you get. Pro tip for the financially challenged: There's a little boulangerie on your left side when you're walking up past the cathedral from IAU that has 2.50 euro tuna sandwich foot-longs.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made some half hearted attempts to integrate by playing sports with French people but found out I hung out with my American classmates a lot. I would suggest maybe taking classes at Aix-Marseille if the French level is up to par and going to "La Cave" dinners every Tuesday in the basement of the Cathedral organized by Aix international students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Can't comment on this but I think other students found it satisfactory.

* Safety:

They warned us a lot about safety throughout the semester, particularly for girls, but I found it was pretty safe. Centre-ville is really well lit and so is the first 50m outside of it. There's a late-night bus you can pay like 20 euros a semester for that some students took.

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

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)

I'm probably on the higher end. But beware it is super expensive in this town in any case, probably equal to or just below Paris.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $300 including breaks and trips. You can probably survive on 20 euros a week?
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I probably spent more than other students but Aix is definitely expensive nonetheless. I went around $5500 total. I'd say my lunch budget was average but I splurged on breaks and took weekend trips around Europe 3/4 weeks of the month.

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

Classes were in English.

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? One semester of French 101
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? Do a home stay, make French friends and talk to them at least once a week if not more, do activities around town and maybe take a class at Aix-Marseille. Don't hang around Manning all day!

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Direct Enrollment

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?
  • Two breaks to travel, program-organized excursions around southern France (Hollaback George!)
  • Very supportive and overqualified faculty + administration. Learned a lot even when I didn't want to.
  • My peers were great.
* What could be improved?
  • Host family selection process
  • Orientation was virtually nonexistent. The Early Start Program could easily fill this role were it mandatory for all students.
  • A club and activities fair earlier in the semester to get students involved in Aix life.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How quickly time flies when every aspect of life is a new, exciting challenge - plan your weekends in advance too. How important it was to make efforts to integrate into the culture. How to get that argent.