I loved Wellesley in Aix! Past Review

By (Williams College) - abroad from 08/24/2019 to 01/11/2020 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained and learned so much. I learned how independent and resilient I am. I made wonderful friends that I will stay in touch with for years to come. I advanced my French skills immensely. I challenged myself each and every day to expand my comfort zone and take full advantage of the experience before me. I got to travel and explore beautiful cities and natural places in not only France but also Morocco, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. I had a truly wonderful semester abroad. It was most certainly worthwhile! 100%.

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.

In my experience, as well as that of the other Americans who were abroad with me, university classes in France are much less time consuming and are easier than the classes we're used to at our home institutions in the US. Due to this, the academics abroad were less rigorous than those in the United States, but this isn't the fault of the Wellesley in Aix program (hereafter referred to as WIA). However, I want to add that in addition to the courses available through the local French university (Aix Marseille University or AMU), WIA offers its own set of classes. Although these courses were still less demanding than the classes I take in the US, I found that they were more intellectually stimulating and required more work than the courses at AMU. In addition to these courses, WIA offers students the option to work with a local tutor, who can help with either WIA or AMU coursework, or with general French language and grammar questions. Célia, the tutor, was quite friendly and helpful and I greatly appreciated having her available as a resource. Furthermore, WIA asks students to take a language pledge which requests that students speak only French, even amongst themselves. During my semester abroad, my fellow students and I took this pledge very seriously, so I was able to make a lot of progress with my French. Finally, living with a host family also allowed me to further advance my French skills and gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about French culture as well. Overall, although the classes I took were certainly less rigorous and often less engaging than the classes I take in the United States, I found this semester to be nevertheless quite educational. I made a ton of progress in French and I learned a lot about French culture, education, and history.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

WIA was run very smoothly and the program clearly supports students. The woman in charge of the program lives in Aix and works very closely with the students while they're in France. She is a great resource!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I personally had a some trouble feeling fully comfortable with my host family, but I know a lot of people had great experiences with their hosts. And even in spite of the rocky moments, I'm so glad I decided to stay with a host family because I was much more immersed in the French culture and language than I would have been if I had chosen to live by myself in a student dorm. But if you're highly opposed to living with a host family, you can choose to live on your own. A few of my good friends chose this housing option and they were happy with it.

* Food:

The food with my host family was excellent and the food in France in general was delicious! I'm a vegetarian and although the French certainly like their meat, I never had a problem finding something to eat.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I must start by admitting that most of my closest friends while abroad were from among the other Americans in my program. But I did become friends with a few girls in my class at AMU. We sat together during the course's lecture, talked and texted a little outside of class and even went out for crêpes! Outside of my classes, I made a very active effort to engage with the local culture by becoming involved in various extracurricular activities, and although I never felt 100% integrated (most likely because I still struggled to comprehend everything that was said around me), I was always received very warmly and I'm so glad I made these efforts. For example, I tutored a few French students, meet weekly with a blind woman to talk with her and help her run errands, was a leader for a group of young scouts, and did a weekly language exchange with a local French woman who spoke to me in English while I spoke to her in French. In general, these efforts did help me feel relatively integrated in the local community. It's certainly possible to become engaged and WIA encourages students to do so, but ultimately it's up to you whether or not that happens.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to see a doctor when I twisted my ankle hiking. WIA had information about recommended physicians and scheduling wasn't too hard. Because I didn't have French insurance, I just paid out of pocket for the appointment, but it was only about 35 Euro I believe. At this appointment I was prescribed a cream. Picking up the prescription was easy and cheap. I also got my flu shot while in France and that was likewise relatively easy to navigate. I think the cream and flu shot (plus the administration of the flu shot) were in total less than 20 Euros, which should hopefully give you a sense of French health care prices.

* Safety:

I felt safe in Aix. I did try to avoid walking by myself late at night, but I try to avoid that in my home town too. I did get catcalled a few times while in France, but I just ignored the comments and kept walking and that put an end to the situation.

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

Yes! Yes! Yes! I had a fantastic time abroad and I think my program played a huge role in that! I was so pleased by all that I learned - both with regards to French language and French culture - and I loved being in Aix. The city's size was a lot more manageable than Paris so it really felt like a new home by the end of my time there and it's location was relatively close to the Mediterranean, beautiful mountains, and other lovely French cities.


* 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 lived with a host family so they provided me with breakfast and dinner. WIA also gives students a stipend for lunch, which they buy on their own. I think I received about 12 Euro (around $13) per day, which I found to be plenty for my food. When I ate out with friends, I spent between 6 and 13 Euro per lunch. Granted we weren't eating at fancy restaurants but we found some eating out options that were tasty and relatively cheap. You should note that WIA provides new students with a list of places recommended by past students, which will include some nice cheap finds. On perhaps the other half of day when I didn't eat out with friends, I bought food at a supermarket and made my own lunch, which was almost always cheaper than the 12 Euro WIA gave me each day, so I was able to save some of the "extra" money to spend it on other things, such as traveling. If you stay in Aix all the time, you should be able to spend very little of your own money. If you choose to travel, you're obviously choosing to add extra expenses to your experience, but even this doesn't have to break the bank. See below for some tips/notes. In addition, WIA will financially support student engagement in a few different ways. First, WIA will reimburse you for up to 200 Euro for cultural activities, such as going to another French city, seeing a French movie in theaters, or visiting a museum. Use this reimbursement! Secondly, you can also apply for the Student Access Fund, which is a grant that Wellesley will give to a few students to support an activity or project they want to do during the semester. For instance, you could use this fund to pay for a sports team's registration fee or to buy supplies for an extracurricular activity you'd like to do.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? This is really hard to estimate, but 0-5 Euro if I stayed in Aix for the weekend and maybe 50 Euro if I traveled over the weekend.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? - Traveling by train and bus is relatively cheap. Check out trainline.com, Flixbus, and Omnibus. - You don't have to eat out all the time, even if it's easier. Go to the grocery store and buy a sandwich there or make yourself a meal a few days a week. The money you'll save this way will add up. - Use AirBnB. If you split AirBnBs with friends, they often don't end up being very expensive. - Apply to any abroad scholarships your home or host university may have. - Remember that you don't need to travel every weekend. Take some time to explore the city you're in. You'll appreciate where you are more and you'll save some money if you don't dash off somewhere else every weekend.


* 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

WIA really encouraged us to speak French. All of our courses were in French and we spoke with our host families exclusively in French. And as I mentioned before, we were asked to take a language pledge that encourages the students to speak French all the time, even amongst themselves. Given that I was often with other Americans, this pledge was really important for my language progression because it resulted in me being exposed to so much more French than I otherwise would have heard or spoken.

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? I had finished all fo the introductory French classes at Williams.
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? USE THE LANGUAGE! Speak, write, read, listen in French! You won't make progress if you don't use the language. And DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. You're learning a new language. No one expects you to be perfect at it. And if you don't talk because you're scared of making mistakes, you'll never learn. At the beginning of my semester abroad, I had one of the lowest level of French out of all the students in my program and I was initially self-conscious about that, but I made myself keep listening, writing, reading, and talking in French and by the end of the semester I was amazed by the progress I had made.

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
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?
  • I felt encouraged and supported as I made progress in my French.
  • I felt encouraged and supported as I engaged with the local community and learned more about French culture.
  • I had time to travel on the weekends and during our week-long fall break.
* What could be improved?
  • This is not at all the fault of WIA but the French academic system is not particularly organized so registering for classes was difficult and frustrating and we didn't receive our final exam schedule until after Thanksgiving.
  • I think students should be told more information about final exam scheduling before they buy a round-trip ticket because the date will likely change.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known a lot more about the way final exam scheduling would go. Here are a few of the details that I wish I had known. Please note that I went abroad in the fall. - WIA offers 3 courses, all of which are very good and will finish before Christmas. - AMU courses could have their final exams either before or after Christmas. You won't get the official exam schedule until after Thanksgiving but some courses will tell you during the first week if they will have a final exam during the exam block or if international students can take the exam early so they can get home for Christmas. - If this is a priority for you, it is possible to make your schedule such that you will be completely done with your courses before Christmas.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!