My time in Arles is an experience that I will never forget! Every day felt like a new adventure in Arles! I learned so much about what I am capable of and grew throughout the process. I returned with a new perspective, an open mind, and a desire to continue to learn about the world, as well as wonderful memories and connections from my summer.
The IES program is amazingly well run! I encountered very few problems but felt support at every moment of my journey, before and during my program. The staff in Arles is wonderful! Every time I had a question, about the culture, a French word, or which café to go to, I could count on the staff for answers. I felt that they really cared about us! The professors as well were great! I had amazing discussions in class and each professor connected what we were learning in the classroom to what we were experiencing. Everyone was extremely willing to help us, understanding the challenge of living our lives completely in French, but also challenged us to keep speaking at all times. It was difficult at first, but definitely is worth it!
One of the best parts of the trip was my host family! By living with a host family, I was completely immersed in the French culture and language. My host family was so sweet and helpful. I learned things every day from them, whether about French politics or a new word. My host mom always checked in with me about my day. I loved chatting with her. I explored Arles and other parts of the region with them. They took me to a beach and a vineyard in the mountains. Participating in daily life with my host family gave me a sense of comfort while I was so far away from my own home, but also served as one of the main places of opening my eyes to the French culture and wonderful French people!
On a typical day in the program, I attended two classes. On many of the days, you'll have language lunches, where you eat lunch at different restaurants around the town with the professors and the directors, which helps improve your French even more! On Fridays, the program takes you to different places in Provence. You'll have 3 dinners a week with host families and breakfast every day, but I ate with my family more than that (it depends on the family).
I absolutely loved Arles! The town is small, but lively and beautiful! It is full of history, from Roman ruins to VanGogh sites, as well as cultural events and modern festivals (a huge photography festival every summer). Everyone is sweet and many people know each other. Even though there are many tourists during the day, the town has a strong local culture. I spent many days wandering around the town, exploring new sites, finding my favorite cafes and bookstores. Some of my favorite moments are the conversations I had with people. I chatted with the owner of a hat shop on the center's street every day by the end of the program and even attended a folk dance class with some local residents. You can easily travel from Arles (I went to Barcelona for a weekend, many people go to Paris), but there Arles itself has so much to offer. It will always have a special place in my heart and I would love to return one day!
I would recommend this program! If you go, as the French say, profitez-bien (profit well) from the experience! It will be unforgettable!