Studying Abroad is An unforgettable experience Past Review

By (Economics and French, Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/22/2014 to 12/18/2015 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I was challenged in ways I wasn't otherwise at Wellesley: by language barriers, cultural barriers, travel logistics, safety concerns, social challenges, time zones, and scheduling. All of these challenges forced me to grow and mature much faster than I otherwise would during a semester at Wellesley.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The rigor was incredible - equally as hard as Wellesley but in different ways (language was the challenge instead of sheer bulk of workload). The resources provided by the WIA program were very helpful, especially including the Langeron Cours de Soutien. I found the resources at Sciences Po Aix to be incredibly unhelpful. Communication from school-based resources was terrible if not nonexistent; important international student meetings and classes would be cancelled or moved and zero communication was sent out, and I found that aspect to be very frustrating. The school seemed to be very ill-equipped in the absence of a head of school.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I would strongly suggest staying with a host family. My language skills improved so much from staying with them, as they were not afraid to gently correct me. They also gave me several additional hours a day of practice and immersion. Also, my host mother's cooking was to die for.

* Food:

French cooking is amazing, but my host mother really made the experience incredible. She often cooked food from the "terroir," but also tried to expose me to cooking from other regions of France including her home region, Normandie. She knew what foods were in and out of season to the week, and only cooked with the freshest ingredients. She also let me help her prepare meals so I could replicate them at home.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Aix felt like the french equivalent of a college town, so there were a lot of students (a lot of whom were also American). I also found it difficult to engage socially with the students from Science Po Aix. I didn't meet a single one who was friendly and open to socializing. That said, the experience was definitely not typical of an American college town/American student life, so I enjoyed the culture of Aix nonetheless.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The pharmacies are very helpful whenever a casual illness came up (sore throat, cough, etc.) For anything more serious, it's a little more difficult to seek attention.

* Safety:

I walked home every night that I spent grabbing drinks with friends. It's about a 25 minute walk from the center of the village to the periphery, and not once did I feel as though my safety was threatened. I think it doesn't hurt to be aware at all times, but I never felt unsafe in Aix.

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 it all depends on how you choose to spend money. I think living on a budget could easily be done if one cooks entirely for themselves and doesn't travel frequently. However, I spent more than I would have otherwise on a very strict budget because I wanted to afford myself the occasional meal out and weekend trip.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I went through about 250 euro a week on personal expenses.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Cook for yourself, use the Carte Jeune if you want to travel, take advantage of budget-friendly travel sites (expedia, ryanair, airbnb), take advantage of the bourses the WIA program provides you.


* 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

We were encouraged not to speak english at all, and required not to speak english whenever congregated for an official WIA program event.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? French 211
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? Stay with a host family, try to think in the language instead of reverting to your natural language in your head, try to make an effort to speak french with your friends from home, don't spend a lot of time on your phone/skyping/connecting with english-speaking people back home.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • My host family - I formed a strong bond with them and plan to keep in touch for years - even decades to come.
  • Being with my two closest friends from home on the same program, and discovering a brand new town with them. Now that I'm back on campus, we talk about our favorite places and classes and it's like we discovered our own little world that no one else in our friend group has been to.
  • Becoming fluent in French - a 12-year goal that I finally achieved.
* What could be improved?
  • The animateurs. I found it very difficult to make friends my age, especially at science po. I think the animateurs did not put a lot of thought into their schedule of activities (what would interest the group, what times would attract the largest attendance), and it didn't help that they did not live in Aix and only attended AMU.
  • Support/communication from Science Po to international students (regarding meetings, classes, etc.)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It's going to be hard to make friends with the students at Science Po. Make more of an effort than you're comfortable making, and don't get discouraged when some of them are rude in response. Also, don't stress about classes. They will happen the way they happen and the effort you put in to earn one more point will only frustrate you. Spend some time doing an extra-curricular instead.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Géopolitique de la Méditerranée

Course Department:
Instructor: Walter Bruyère-Ostells
Instruction Language: French
Comments: Both the material and understanding the professor proved to be a challenge, but I learned a lot and found the material very useful. I've used the knowledge I acquired in this class almost every day since I left. I also found it helpful to learn about conflicts in the Middle East from a non-anglo perspective (the professor wasn't afraid to criticize the US's geopolitical endeavors, and I found that to be refreshing).
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Finance Internationale

Course Department:
Instructor: Andre Cartapanis
Instruction Language: French
Comments: The course was a great next step for those who have taken Econ 102 at Wellesley. It was not too challenging with that background. I was discouraged from taking it because it had the potential to be "too technical," but the professor started from ground zero in the sense that he explained every term and concept from the beginning without assuming any background in finance whatsoever. It was a fascinating class, and the professor provides a lot of support for his students.
Credit Transfer Issues: