Small town vibes January 10, 2023

By (Political Science and French, Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/27/2022 to 12/21/2022 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
When all is said and done, I wanted to study abroad to improve my French. That goal was accomplished. It was 100% worthwhile as I was able to improve my language skills and learn how to travel independently. This trip abroad improved my confidence and sense of independence.

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.

I thought this program was extremely academically rigorous as it was entirely in a second language. The quality of the classes were not at a Wellesley level, but that is not the program's fault, but rather the French education system. The program's assistant/tutor, Célia Bourcy, was an excellent resource.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Monique went above and beyond to ensure that all students had a satisfactory cultural experience. I wish there was more information about the general course difficulty and explanation of how they function. Monique and Célia did their best to prepare us; however, they are not students at Sciences Po or AMU in 2023. If prior students could be incorporated in the course overview, that would be an excellent resource.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I had hoped to have more interaction with a host family, but after a few bad interactions I felt unsafe and had to leave. At first, it was just some bad comments at dinner but then when I announced that I wanted to leave my host got verbally abusive. She insulted me and my reasons for leaving, it was very unprofessional and not appropriate. I'm very thankful that Monique gave me a private studio on short notice. Once I lived on my own, I felt better about my situation; however, I really missed out on a key piece of my trip (communication and daily interaction).

* Food:

I think that the food budget could be increased or at least remain consistent each month as it was hard to budget with it changing from month to month.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I often felt very isolated by the culture in Aix. I went out of my way to interact with locals but was often dismissed after they found out that a) I'm an American or b) only in Aix for the semester. I was told French people look at friendships as investments and it was clear that my short stay in Aix was not worth their time.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I enjoyed my time in Aix, but I now know I need to be in a big city. I found the people in Aix to be very conservative and not very welcoming to international students. Whenever I traveled to bigger cities in France, people were generally more accepting and that's where I made friends. I went out of my way to meet people and make friends, but I can't say that I made a single friend in Aix that I will stay in touch with. It was nice to run into familiar faces along the street, but it got old really fast. There wasn't much to do in the city on a student budget, and I put most of my money into trying to get out of Aix.


* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $150


* 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 thing I loved the most about this program was that I felt fully immersed in the language. It was 100% in French all the time.

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? 305
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? TALK TO EVERYONE. It's so easy to isolate yourself and keep to yourself in a public space, but I went out of my way to ask questions and make small talk (even though the French don't really do this).

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • Language immersion
  • Day trips
* What could be improved?
  • Academic preparation
  • Introduction to host families in advance
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew more about the Aixois. I feel like I didn't really get an introduction into how conservative the town was until I arrived. It was very hard to be immersed in the culture when the people have a reputation of being bourgois and conservative. I would also add that the typical age of the French student is something I didn't consider. A lot of my classmates were 17/18 years old which also added to the struggle of making friends. The students had their friend groups since middle school so obviously they weren't as welcoming.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'