Great people, great program Past Review

By (History, Vanderbilt University) - abroad from 09/04/2013 to 12/13/2013 with

Vanderbilt University: Aix-en-Provence - Vanderbilt Center

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Although I'd taken French on and off through high school and college, the first time I felt like it would come back to me quickly, even if I hadn't been using it regularly, was after my semester in Aix. Across the board, I improved my understanding of the language and culture. Perhaps even more valuable was the confidence I gained in my ability to live on my own and make my way in the world, thanks to the considerable independence the program granted. The semester constituted a welcome escape from the routine in my time at college.

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.

While the semester certainly wasn't as academically challenging as those I became accustomed to at university (in part because I took a below-average class load), it wasn't a "free pass" either. I had a couple courses where I had to put in pretty substantial work to earn the good grades I hoped for. That said, I appreciated the fact that the professors didn't drown us in work. They clearly understood that a key aspect of study abroad is actually experiencing another country and its culture; they actively encouraged us to use our free time to get out and immerse ourselves in the region--not just in our textbooks.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

With very few exceptions, the administration was superb. The in-country director and staff are devoted to the program, have numerous connections within the town and surrounding region, and are both friendly and easy to access--they work in the same center where classes are held.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

For a college kid, this is about as good as it gets. I shared a flat with two other Americans and a French student. It was quite spacious, adequately furnished, and--best of all--right in the medieval town center. We were a 5-10 minute walk from the VIF center, close to numerous restaurants and shops, and literally less than a hundred meters from one of the sites for a farmers' market held three mornings per week.

* Food:

Disclaimer: I'm pretty easy with regards to food. Still, I thought my hosts made great meals.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living in apartments with mostly other Americans as opposed to staying with a host family, in most cases you'll end up sacrificing a bit in terms of integration into the local culture in exchange for greater personal freedom (e.g., my suitemates and I, alas, typically spoke English amongst ourselves). That said, the program encourages you to dive into the language and culture both inside and outside the classroom, and if you take it upon yourself to get out of your comfort zone, it's easy to do.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Aix is about as safe a city as you'll find.

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)

A lot of this depends on the person. If you're generally buying groceries and cooking for yourself, not dropping a ton of money going out, and not traveling over the weekends, you can get by pretty easily on $100/week. If you're eating out, going out, and traveling a lot, you'll be spending quite a bit more.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? France is not cheap. If at all possible, come with at least a bit of money saved up so you can splurge on the occasional nice dinner out, tourist attraction, etc.


* 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

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 Language and Grammar

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Substantial degree of independence
  • Host family dinners
  • Program excursions and opportunities for personal travel
* What could be improved?
  • I suppose it would have been nice to have a couple more fans in the apartments for the hot weather
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Actively seek out opportunities to use French outside of a strictly academic setting from Day 1. You can't learn unless you make mistakes, and people are happy to help you out if you give them the chance!

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!