Life in Aix: New Experiences and Great Culture Past Review

By (Psychology/French, Wellesley College) for

Wellesley College: Aix-en-Provence - Wellesley-in-Aix

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
While abroad I decided to change one of my majors to French, although I do not expect to pursue a career in this department. I really came to appreciate the French lifestyle and culture, and the American education system while I was abroad. I loved my experience, loved all the things I saw and new places I got to go. It was a great semester!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was very skewed; we had almost no work for most of the semester, and then were expected to regurgitate all the information we had learned over the course of the semester at the end. Some classes also had a midterm evaluation. The grading system (grades out of 20, a 15 is generally considered an A) was strange but something I got used to. The teaching method was not ideal, in my opinion: strictly lecture-based, meaning that in most of my classes I was sitting for three or four hours at a time just listening to the professor and taking notes. I did not find it very conducive to my learning.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our program did a great job of making sure we had everything we need. It was very well-organized and I never felt as though I was going to be unprepared for something. Our director had a thorough knowledge of both France and the American higher education system. The program size was nice and small and felt personal.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I expected to be living in an independent apartment in the town as requested; however, I was placed in an apartment adjoined to a host family's home a little bit outside of town. This was not very convenient, as I had a far walk into town (or a short bus ride, although the bus schedule was not always easy to work with) and the space was small. However, I appreciated being able to get to know my host family and have dinner with them every once in a while, and to practice my French with them.

* Food:

The quality of food was great, and I didn't really need to make any dietary accommodations. I loved going to the open market almost every day and buying fresh food to cook, I would definitely recommend that!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I loved all the field trips that were planned by my program. When we were in Paris we went to Normandy, which was beautiful. From Aix we went to Arles, Roussillon, Gourdes and other places in the south of France, all of which were beautiful and I really felt like I was getting a good overview of France, not just the main cities where we were (Paris and Aix/Marseille).

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I never encountered the local healthcare system, but I know a few friends who went to one of the doctors who was recommended by our director, and found him helpful. In terms of safety, I found the town to be fairly safe, although was sometimes a little uneasy walking home late at night, because the buses stopped at 9pm (something I found extremely inconvenient) and I lived a mile or so outside town. I never really thought anything dangerous would happen in town, until at the end of the semester one of my friends got mugged in a public park in the middle of the day. That was a little shocking, and made me realize that it might not have been as safe a town as we all assumed.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About 100 euros per week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Living in Europe is expensive, but I found it useful to put aside a certain amount of money to spend each week, and use only that.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 225 (The French Press)
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I practiced French with my fellow American students who were there with me, and with the French friends I made. I also got a lot of practice just interacting with the general public on a day-to-day basis.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The setting
  • The thorough guidance we were provided
  • The trips we took
* What could be improved?
  • The academics
  • The slightly authoritarian system of the program
  • The transportation for students living outside town
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? A student who would benefit from this program is a student who is fairly independent and likes to take advantage of new situations and explore. I would tell students to take advantage of weekends and free time to explore the city they are in, and other new cities or countries around them.