Bienvenu en France! Past Review

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/18/2018 to 01/11/2019 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to live in France! Being in Aix taught me the ways of the French (both the good and bad). I got to do a lot of traveling, both in France and around Europe, and gained a second family that I will be staying in touch with. I feel way more confident speaking French. I had to fight for these things but it feels worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academic rigor of this program is intense because of its immersive nature. Since the majority of your classes are at a French university, you need to be strong in your language skills to succeed. Difficulties arose from navigating the French educational system, which is very disorganized and a totally different style of learning than what American colleges stress. The program did offer support, which was useful, with a tutor available to meet with students one and one. I did most of my learning outside the classroom. The universities are almost impossible to deal with (examples that happened to me or other students): the hours and location of one of a class switched one month into the semester, a midterm exam scheduled for the Saturday of the university's fall break, and courses randomly cancelled or added for a makeup a different day of the week, the professor emailing students to come in an hour early for the first day of class.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The majority of participants in the program took issues with either the Director and/or the Assistant Director. Neither were particularly warm and welcoming, and students often wouldn't approach them with problems or issues because the condescending tone they adopted with students. It depended on the situation, but I never found meeting with them to be particularly helpful- in terms of issues with classes or help finding a cultural activity. Also had issues of administrative staff committing micro-aggressions against students of color- consistently confusing the two Latina students in the program or the two black students in the program (both of which look nothing alike). I wish I had been more comfortable approaching them and am confused as to how there are so many positive reviews about the program administration.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was the absolute best part of my experience in France! Without them, I would have had a really hard time. The program is very intentional about where they place students, and holds host families to a high standard, which I really appreciated. It was because of my host family that I felt at home and my French improved.

* Food:

French food is so good! Very heavy but you can always find other options to eat.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I did not feel very integrated with local culture as the program did not end up helping me find a cultural activity. It was hard to make French friends, which would have helped with cultural integration. What helped me the most was being really close with my host family

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Access to healthcare was easy and affordable. When I needed to go to the doctor, the director referred me to someone. Although I did not seek it out, mental health care could be a different story. The bilingual therapist that works with the program left students with a bad impression during the program's orientation.

* Safety:

Aix felt super safe to me, I felt a lot more at ease than I ever do in Paris. Would walk back home alone to my host family late at night and never had any problems.

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

I honestly don't think Wellesley's French Department would have approved me doing another program. I think I would choose WIA again because of the amazing connection I made with my host family, but without them, I think my experience would have been totally different. I had heard incredible things about this program even before coming to Wellesley, but it didn't live up to my expectations. I am still thankful for my time here because it really pushed me to grow and be resilient, as well as improving my French.


* 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)

Stipend helped to cover food, which was nice. We also had access to a cultural stipend of 200 euros, but it was up to the assistant director to approve our activity for funding- I wish there were clearer guidelines about what counts as I found her approving/denying to be kind of arbitrary.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100 ? (if I wasn't traveling)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Shopping at the open air markets in Aix.


* 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

The program really emphasizes you to speak French all of the time, especially when the group is doing something together or you are at Tavan (the program center). Language immersion is the focal point of this program.

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? 300 level French class at Wellesley
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? You have to commit to French, as lots of people in Aix know English and will respond to you in English if they hear you speak. Advocate for yourself and ask to speak French, even among American students from the program. It is ok to speak a little English each day so you don't lose your sanity!

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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host family
  • Stipend
  • Traduction class
* What could be improved?
  • Program staff
  • Program activities (need to do things young people like to do- like going to a football match instead of an outdated band with the program's money)
  • Cost effectiveness (we had to pay the price of Wellesley tuition but I have no idea what the money goes to, we should have gotten more in return for the amount we paid)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How difficult it is to navigate the French university system- if you do not come in with an adequate level of French, it is going to be very difficult. Even with my intermediate/advanced French I had a hard time. Because of administrative factors you can't control, there is a chance you could fail a class. The program needs to shift to offering more in-house classes or internship placements for credit to guarantee that students have some stability with classes and/or are learning something relevant. Also the program staff - students from past semesters had a different assistant director who was closer to our age, and had a really positive relationship. I wish I would gave known how different it would be for our semester.