Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because I had heard about how great a city Aix is from students who had gone there the year before. My other option would have been Paris, but I knew I wanted the more laid-back vibes that the south of France provides. I also knew that I wanted to go to a French-speaking country in order to improve my French conversational skills.
Describe your favorite class abroad. I loved our professor Claude who teaches a course just for the Americans in our program. He teaches Theater and Improvisation. We got up on stage and performed silly skits and learned a lot of new vocab, but it was low pressure. I also like my class called Initiation a l'histoire du christianisme (Intro to the history of Christianity). I had two professors for this course who were both engaging and would actually write notes on the board so it was easier to follow.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in a cute two bedroom apartment near the center of the city. I lived with my friend Christina who I had known before our program. My apartment was small and charming, and since we were at top of the building (four floors), we had a lovely view of the streets around us.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? If you are trying to really learn or improve your language skills, truly immerse yourself. Get involved in sports, church, language exchanges, etc... I played for the Aix-Marseille Universite soccer team and met some really wonderful girls who invited me to their apartment for pizza. This helped me learn a lot of vocab and colloquial phrases that I would never learn in class. Also, on your first day in each class, make sure you speak to at least one non-foreign student. This is so important, not only to practice conversation, but to have someone who can re-explain to you what your professor said rapidly. One girl let me compare notes with her and I found out that I had misunderstood so much, so without her I might not have passed my class!
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My favorite times were shopping for food at the Saturday markets and then going to the park for a picnic with my friends. One of our French friends took us around the market and helped us select great cheeses, fruit, and pastries. It was fun having a native speaker take you around and show you the ropes to French eating.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? I was selfishly surprised that the French students could care less about the fact that I was from America. When I meet a foreign student at IU, I love asking them questions about their country and their culture. In Aix, there are so many Americans that I think the French students are tired of us, so they never asked me questions about American culture.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I didn't feel as if I experienced culture shock in Aix. However, returning home was hard because I thought I would be able to endlessly share my stories and facts about French culture, but most friends and family members would just ask me how it was a drop the subject. So it was great to reconnect with Americans from my program to reminisce once I returned to Bloomington.
“If I could do it over, I would…” Speak more French. I spent a lot of time with my American friends, which I don't regret because they made for awesome travel buddies. But I would have had us hangout with more French students and drop the English speaking.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? In general, going abroad was so important to me because I learned so much about political issues and views in different countries. I learned about the tension between southern France and Northern African immigrants. In Morocco, I learned more about Islam and gender roles. I also learned a lot more about European history while traveling.