Alumni Spotlight: Christina Barry

Christina Barry is from Leominster, MA and is a rising senior at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT studying Sociology with a minor in Theatre. She studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France!

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Why did you decide to study abroad with IAU College?

Christina: IAU College is affiliated with many universities and colleges in the United States, my home university included. I was choosing between IAU and CIE’s program in Paris. I knew I wanted to study in France, but I was drawn to both cities for different reasons and I was feeling unsure about what I wanted.

After looking further into the program in Aix, I realized that it was exactly what I was looking for: a small program, with small classes, in a small city, with a big culture. I am glad that I trusted my gut and went with IAU, because it was a place I got to know very well, and came to see as a second home.

What made this ​​study abroad experience unique and special?

Christina: I think that my experience in Aix at IAU was very unique, because of it’s encouragement to stay with a host family. Many of my friends with whom I visited in other places abroad were in apartments. Though there were many pro’s to living on your own, I felt that my experience living with my host mom was very special.

I built a bond with both her, as well as my housemate, and they are both people I know I will be in touch with for a very long time. Being with a host, I was able to get to know Aix from someone who had lived there her whole life, and she told us many stories of Aix’s history, as well as her own. She not only taught us to know and love her city, but welcomed us into her home and helped us feel like it was ours as well.

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What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

Christina: The best place I visited outside of Aix was definitely Galway, Ireland. I think that because it had the same type of small-town and culture filled environment, but in a completely different way, was why I liked it so much. Beginning from my bus ride to from the airport, all the way to our last stop at a bar before I went home, everyone I encountered in Ireland was extremely friendly and went out of their way to help.

Not only was the town itself amazing, but surrounding areas included sights such as the Cliffs of Moher, and the Burren Way. Socially, and culturally, I had a great time here, and if you have the opportunity to visit Ireland, Galway’s a great place!

Describe your program socially and academically.

Christina: IAU academically was a great program, because classes are geared towards learning about the environment we are living in. The history of our class topics literally happened right in the South of France, or in surrounding areas. For example, I had an art history class that covered artists who made their career right in Aix, Arles, Antibes, Marseille, and more places just hours away. Because of proximity, we were able to visit some of these places and witness the views that we had seen in so many paintings.

In my science class, we were learning about the Ecology and Geology of the Mediterranean Basin. Because of this, we were able to visit the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis, as well as Montagne Sainte-Victoire – two amazing geological landmarks right in and outside of Aix.

I could go on about my other classes as well, but what I’m trying to say is that what I liked best was that the academics could be seen outside of the classroom and it was helpful not only in our studies, but made what we were learning that much more relevant and interesting.

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IAU socially was also something that was a strong point. I got to meet amazing people from all over the US through my classes, and also through trips we took or gatherings that were provided as a program. We took three program excursions to Nice, Marseille, and the Luberon Valley. Each time, I was able to hang out with, and get to know, a different group of people. This made me feel more comfortable talking to different people in a social environment on the weekends or asking if people wanted to hang out.

We also had different social gatherings provided by IAU, in which I was able to converse with people I hadn’t before. I found the social life in Aix to be that much more fun because of the people I was with, and I think that the size of our program, plus the opportunities we had to get to know one another helped to make me feel comfortable.

Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?

Christina: My best photo was taken as part of a photo project, and interestingly enough, it is of the ground in Aix outside of the Cathedral St. Sauveur. The ground doesn’t seem like it would serve as a good photo in any situation, but I think it helps represent what my time abroad meant to me.

I think my most valuable lesson abroad was on perspective, and changing the way I look at things. Not everything is as it seems, and therefore we must look at everything with the desire to understand and to learn more about it. In this photo, you can see that this is a picture of the ground with some left over rain.

However, in the puddle, you can see one of the infamous tall yellow buildings that are all over the city and are uniquely Aix. This simple, and unintentionally abstract, photo of Aix is how I took the experience as a whole. You can either look at it and simply see a picture of the ground, or you can see a city and an unforgettable 4 months. I choose to see the latter.