Why did you choose this program?
I started learning French in high school and completely fell in love with the language and French culture. Because of this, I chose to minor in French in college in order to continue to improve my language skills. The Aix program was the perfect choice for me, as it was a full-immersion French program that would allow me to take classes in French alongside other French university students. Also, I really wanted to experience life in the beautiful south of France, and Aix was perfectly situated to allow me to explore the region.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad.
My favorite class in France was a class called “Languages of the World.” This is one of the classes that I took through Aix-Marseille University with a French professor and other French students. As a linguistics major, this class was really interesting to me because it was centered around the relationships between languages and language families. Also, contrary to the stereotype of French professors, I had a very understanding professor, who was always willing to answer my questions after class. Overall, this class was a great introduction to the French university system.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program?
For the Aix program, one can choose between living in an apartment and living with a host family. I chose to live in a small studio apartment on my own. The apartment was tiny, but it was situated in the center square of town, so there was always something going on outside my window, which I really loved. For the most part, the apartments that IU students lived in on the program were very close to the center of Aix.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students?
I think the best advice for going abroad is to plan for things to go wrong. When you’re abroad, you're going to face many situations that are unexpected and sometimes not exactly favorable, but if you remain flexible, you’ll be able to bounce back faster and even learn to enjoy the inconveniences. Honestly, some of my most fun memories happened when things didn’t go exactly according to plan, and even if I could go back and fix every little mistake or every problem I faced, I wouldn’t.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad?
One of my best memories from France was taking a bus down to a small town on the coast called Cassis and taking a 20 euro boat ride around the beautiful cliffs and sea coves that dot the Southern coast of France. Small beaches are hidden within the cliffs, and they are some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Another standout happened when some of my friends and I planned a ski trip to the Alps. Our plans often went wrong, but it was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever taken, and skiing in the Alps was one major activity ticked off of my bucket list.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program?
One of the things I was really surprised about was how easy it was to travel around the region surrounding Aix. The bus system (although not always on schedule) was pretty reliable, and by virtue of being under 26 years old, it only cost 2 euro to ride the regional buses per 24 hours. So, any day trips I took around the region were always super cheap and it allowed me to see way more of the region than I would have otherwise seen.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock.
Surprisingly, I think I had an easier time adapting to living in France than I did adapting to living at home again. For me, it was very difficult to adapt back to the normal, slower pace of life that I have here from the constant activity that I had while abroad. Also, one of my favorite things to do while abroad was to travel and discover new things just by hopping on a bus or on a cheap flight, and it was hard to accept that I don’t have those same opportunities back in Indiana.
“If I could do it over, I would…”
If I could do it over, I would try to be more present in the moment, and stop sweating the little things. My time abroad went by so fast, and I wish that I had taken advantage of it more while I was there.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad?
I didn’t know how rewarding it would feel to know that I have the ability to adapt to life in a new country and culture, or how much self-confidence I would gain from that knowledge. Not everything is easy when you study abroad, but it’s through the challenges and overcoming them that you learn the most about yourself.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left?
Enjoy every second of it, even when you feel homesick or down. Home will always be there, but this opportunity only comes once.
What was your greatest challenge?
For me, the greatest challenge was being away from my family and friends. I am very close to my family, and the idea of being away from them so long was daunting. However, thanks to modern technology, they were only ever a phone call or facetime away. Also, once I was there, the other students that I was friends with became an important source of support for me, and I made an effort to focus on all the new experiences around me instead of thinking about what I was missing at home.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn?
French people are not as snobby or rude as they are stereotypically portrayed to be, at least, not in Aix. People always say that French people don’t like Americans, and that they won’t bother to talk to you if you are one, but that was not like my experience in France at all. Most of the people that I met in France were very welcoming, and they greatly appreciated the fact that I was trying to learn their language and was interested in their culture. If you put effort into learning French and understanding the culture, the people there will be very willing to befriend you and help out.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad?
The scholarships page on the overseas website was very useful to me when I was looking for scholarships.Using the website, I was able to find scholarships to apply to through the International Studies department and the Hutton Honors College. Also, I partly chose this program because I knew that the financial aid and scholarships that I receive for tuition at IU could also be applied to the program, and because it offered an in-state tuition rate.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities?
I would definitely recommend that students find out whether their specific academic department offers any study abroad scholarships, because this proved very helpful to me, and I was not aware that departments did this until I was already applying to the programs.