Not a linear process, but infinitely rewarding Past Review

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/24/2019 to 01/10/2020 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I could go on forever about all I gained from this abroad experience. It was truly the most valuable part of my college years to date where I learned the most about myself and what it means to live in another culture so far from home. I grew much stronger in my French language abilities, I learned how to connect and form relationships with people who spoke another language other than my native one, I learned how to navigate another country's education system and how to balance my physical, mental and emotional health in an entirely new environment.

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.

I found classes at AMU to be less engaging than those at Wellesley because they were often 3 hours of professors lecturing without student participation. There were also hardly any assignments/assigned homework compared to what we experience back home, which was nice because it allowed me to focus on out of classroom learning, but made it a little hard to know how to structure my academics. Regardless, my french increased dramatically thanks to taking courses in my non-native language and while the material wasn't particularly challenging, this provided the academic rigor. I really enjoyed the Wellesley in house translations course I took and found this to be similar to a course I'd find at Wellesley. As far as resources go, professors were responsive and were willing to meet individually if I had questions.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The Wellesley-in-Aix director was fantastic and handled all of the administrative aspects of enrolling in a new university in a foreign country. She was super accessible in person and communicative by messages and email.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with host families which gave me a home base community and provided the opportunity to consistently practice my french. Unfortunately I had to change host families half way through the semester but the Wellesley in Aix director figured it all out for me and the process was as smooth as it possibly could have been. Additionally, because of the way the fall academic calendar works, there is one week of exams before winter break and one week of exams after (the second week of January). This time overlaps with second semester students moving in, so half way through this week of exams, I had to move out of my host family's home and live in a hotel. Luckily this was all covered financially by the program, our director found and booked the hotel for us, and I stayed with two good friends, but it was unfortunate this time overlaps poorly.

* Food:

The food in France, especially living with host families, was fantastic. I do not eat red meat and this was easily accommodated. I found myself trying many new foods that I might not have eaten in the states, simply because I lived with a family who prepared my meals, but I always had the choice to politely decline if I did not want something.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made a few friends through courses but due to large class sizes, this could be difficult. I found my community with locals by joining the university club soccer team where I was the only American and made a lot of french friends who introduced me to the local culture. Julie and Anne-Laure, the two WIA assistants, also really helped us with integrating into Aix life.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to go to the doctor three times over the course of the semester for colds, allergic reactions and things of the sort. Appointments ranged between $25-50 out of pocket. Pharmacies are around every corner as well so it's easy to get prescriptions filled.

* Safety:

I found Aix to be very safe to walk around, even late at night (i.e. post midnight).

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)

Aix is a pricier city, but one can easily save money on lunches (the only meal students must pay for themselves if they live with host families) by buying food at the supermarket and preparing it at the Wellesley in Aix center. There are also cafes and restaurants where one can pay between 5 and 10 euros for a meal and a lot of places have student discounts. The majority of my spending was not on food but on traveling.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? As far as traveling goes, I recommend doing it with friends so you can split prices of lodging (airbnbs). Also plan in advance and check prices of all modes of transportation for the cheapest option. By saving money on my lunches, I could use some of that stipend money on travels. You also get a 200 euro cultural stipend through the program so I recommend maximizing this (can be used in Aix or traveling anywhere in France).


* 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

This was a 100% immersion program where we could speak only french at the campus center and spoke it amongst ourselves even when not at the center.

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 211
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Make a pact with the other students in your program to only speak French between 10am and 8pm (or whatever hours you decide on). Find activities in Aix where you interact with local students. Journal in french, read in french, watch tv in french, etc. Surround yourself with the language. Regularly interact with your host family. Don't be afraid to make mistakes! It's a frustrating process at times but is so worth it.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
* 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?
  • The program hiking trips
  • The other students: for the friends I made and everyone's dedication to language immersion
  • The suggestions the program gave us for connecting to the local community
* What could be improved?
  • Course registration
  • Knowing exam dates earlier
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had been given more specific advise on budgeting in Aix and known that learning & mastering a language is not a linear process. Some days it feels like you can talk for hours and other days it feels like you can't get a word or thought out. This can be extremely frustrating but you need to take the hard days with a grain of salt. Getting good nights' sleep always helped minimize the harder days.