Intensive, challenging, and amazing program in Aix Past Review

By (French and Psychology, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/01/2018 to 05/10/2018 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was incredibly worthwhile. I learned how to manage conflict and advocate for myself. I learned how to stay cool while I had to give a presentation in French to a bunch of other French people. It boosted my confidence. I made some amazing friends; everyone on the program was hardworking, interesting, and just lovely people to be around.

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.

One of the reasons I chose this program was that I could choose the difficulty of the courses I wanted to take. We were directly enrolled in Aix-Marseille University (which is the local university in Aix), and had direct access to literally any class we wanted to take. This was so cool; I took two psychology classes at the senior level with other French students, participated in the discussion sections and made some French friends. I loved that we were allowed to take any course our heart desired. I took another course on Oral Practices (presenting oral works), and this was such a good way to improve my French skills (in front of native French speakers). I loved the Translation class I took that was provided by Wellesley. It was the perfect amount of challenging and was truly a joy. The program made a tutor available to all of us and had regular check-ins to make sure we were doing ok. It was also incredibly interesting to see the inside of the French University system.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Monique and Magali are simply the best! There's a whole house in the center of Aix that acts as the program "center", and program participants often float in and out to cook meals, have lunch, or to just hang out and do work. It's only French-speaking inside the center! There were always tons of resources, pamphlets, books, etc. scattered around and Magali/Monique's doors were always open to talk. It was lovely always having a little house we could just drop into whenever we wanted.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a studio apartment right in the center of Aix. I had lived with host families before so I wanted a bit more of an independent feel this time. I had a nice little kitchen and bathroom with a shower. It was quite tiny but it was all I needed. I was right next to the bus station which was INCREDIBLY helpful, especially when there's a direct bus that goes from this bus station to the airport in Marseille. Insanely convenient when you get home on a 12am flight and don't want to walk a mile to get home. The only thing I didn't love is that it was a it loud (it's right on a main road), and very bright. But other than that, I loved my little studio.

* Food:

It's France, so the food pretty much couldn't get any better. I went to the markets to do my grocery shopping, as there's an outdoor food market pretty much every day. We all received a cultural stipend each month to spend on activities/food/etc. As someone who didn't live in a host family I received quite a bit more money for food. Everything was super fresh and buying organically is often cheaper. My apartment was also right next to a delicious bakery that I ate many croissants at!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Monique and Magali always encouraged us to make friends at school and participate in activities. There were English/French nights at the local cafe where you could meet up and speak whatever language you want. There's also a cafe called anticafe that had lots of cool events all the time. I loved going to the markets and the little parks. I'd say I felt quite integrated into the French culture but Aix is a total student/tourist city so there's a LOT of people all the time, and it can be hard to find friends in a huge crowd like that, especially at school.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to get a refill on some medication and I went right to a doctor and it was only 25$ for the visit. He rewrote my prescription and I got it filled insanely quickly. Such is the healthcare system in France :) Monique/Magali had lots of advice about where you could go (docs, etc.) and who to see. The program also provided weekly group therapy sessions with Chantal, and these were amazing and super helpful.

* Safety:

Aix is safe for the most part, but men in the south of France act different than they do here in the US. So be careful walking around Marseille or Aix at night, especially if they sense you're a foreigner. No major run-ins but be wary of cat-calling.

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

Everything was just so well thought out in the program. A ton of support, lots of check-ins, and lots of resources distributed to us (group therapy, cultural stipend, cultural allocation for whole semester, group trips, individual check-ins...). Monique and Magali are just so loving and amazing at their job; they've been at it a long time. I love how immersed they wanted us to be, and it truly was that type of experience.


* 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's quite easy if you're good at not spending your money all the time. You could easily spend 50 euros at a market for a weeks food. And we didn't go out to eat all that often, just for drinks or maybe to a cafe (which aren't that expensive).

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 75
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Too good to go!!!! It's a phone application that is AMAZING. Restaurants/cafes/etc. put themselves on too good to go, and you can buy a little share early in the day (say, for 3 dollars). You then go at a set time during closing time to pick up 3-4 portions of whatever they didn't sell during the day. I once picked up 5 delicious baguettes for 1.50 euros. So definitely check out the app!! It's amazing food and incredibly cheap. Also the Fromagerie has a great deal for wine/aperos outside on the terrace.


* 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 actually we're allowed to speak English during program events/at the program office. We took a language test at the beginning and end of the program to evaluate our progression in French.

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? A junior/senior level French course.
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? Speak speak speak! Go to meet ups where you can speak French. If any of your program friends have French friends, hang out with them!! That's the best way to improve, to have casual hangouts and just speak French!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • Classes
  • Program participants/directors
  • Aix
* What could be improved?
  • Accessibility to musical instruments
  • Aix (it's dirty, large homeless population, large crowds/touristy)
  • One of the classes I took that was provided by program
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The sheer amount of resources and support given by the program. I truly appreciated that and it made me so grateful throughout my entire stay. It was so nice knowing Monique and Magali were watching out for us an had our back. I really felt like I was a part of something in that group of people. I also wish I had known though the amount of French practice you miss out on when you don't live with a host family. It sounds obvious but it truly is an astonishing drop in conversation time when you live alone. Just something to consider.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.