I loved studying abroad in Aix. It's such a beautiful city with a strong history and breathtaking architecture. The center is very walkable and accessible. The Cours Mirabeau is the most iconic promenade street where a market takes place in the morning to mid-afternoon. In every corner, you can find amazing, ornate fountains of all shapes and sizes. A fun way to get acquainted with the city is to walk around and find as many fountains as you can! These fountains can then serve as rendez-vous places or points of reference so you don't get lost during the first few weeks.
What I loved the most about living in Aix was able to experience life in Provence. Through CEA excursions, I was able to discover many beautiful, small villages nearby that show the calm, rural life in various areas in Provence. One of my favorite experiences was visiting the village of Trets during their garlic festival. We were able to dance and interact with the locals, which really helped with language acquisition. These small villages are hidden wonders. Aix's wonderful program advisers have very detailed handouts explaining transportation to several of these villages, their history, and things to do and see. If they do no have a handout for a specific location, they will go out of their way to help you research.
Although I had a few issues with the host institution, as I will elaborate on later, I really enjoyed my language course because I was in such a diverse class, which gave me such a distinct experience. There were students from at least four different countries, from youth to middle-aged students who were all there to learn French for different reasons, not just to study abroad. It made me open my eyes and feel even more grateful for the amazing opportunity and choice to study abroad.
I felt at home with host family. By the end of the program, it was very hard to say goodbye.
What would you improve about this program?
I absolutely loved this program. The only thing that I would improve would be the host institution for CEA Aix-en-Provence, SUFLE.
The institution is bureaucratically inefficient. It took them about two months for our student ID cards to be given to us. This was a combination of last-minute communication regarding the 90 euro additional fee by the French government, the confusing website to pay the fee, and the constant broken state of the machine used to create the IDs. Since we received our ID cards so late, we were unable to register for sports or clubs, which made it more difficult to feel connected to the university, Aix-Marseille Université since SUFLE (the institute for students learning French) is a little isolated from the rest of campus and the majority of French students.
The language-placement tests were not standard. During the test, you are placed in a classroom in which other students are also being tested. The placement results rest entirely on the professor who happens to test you; I was even asked what level I would prefer to be placed in, which was really confusing for me, as I personally think that I shouldn't be the one choosing my level. When I wanted to switch levels, it was incredibly difficult to do so because the change had to happen between professors; the secretaries could not help you at all. You had to ask your professor to ask the professor in the level you wanted to switch into to see if they had space in their class.
You are not able to choose when your classes start or end; you are simply assigned to a level and a group within that level. The two classes you are able to choose, your electives, are very limited depending on the level you're placed in. The course description is very limited and does not accurately reflect the course itself. The difficulty level varies tremendously on the professors. I loved my primary language course, but my electives for techniques of writing was everything but techniques of writing; most of the class was improvised it seemed and there was no syllabi.
Overall, I loved the program, but there were aspects of the institution itself that were not ideal and for that reason I would not give the program a 10 even though everything else would qualify to give it a ten.