Ariel Dunay - 2015 Program Participant
What motivated you to apply for a study abroad program?
Studying abroad was always something I wanted to do in college, but was never sure of where to go or what to study. I had been studying French for years and while France was on the back of my mind, it just didn't seem "exotic" enough (silly, right?!) One of my friends who had studied in Paris told me about all of the weekend trips that she had gone on while abroad and how easy it is to get away. She also convinced me that France was the right just for me because my language skills would improve massively. That really solidified the idea for me!
Why did you decide on CEA?
I am a crazy planner, so I researched a ton of programs/locations in France. I had Venn diagrams and spreadsheets and everything. What sold Aix for me was the incredible reviews about the CEA Aix program from former students... and the fact that Aix-en-Provence was so beautiful.
What was your favorite part about Aix-en-Provence?
Aix is literally the perfect study abroad city. It was big enough that it didn't feel like there was no social activities, but small enough that it felt extremely safe and you saw people from school all over town. It is nestled in the heart of Provence, 30 minutes from an airport that will take you anywhere, and only five hours by TGV (train) from Paris.
What makes this particular CEA program unique?
I think that Aix is one of the smaller cities that CEA offers as a study abroad location, so that made it unique to me. We were able to go on quite a few excursions, which is something that I think makes CEA as a program provider really shine. I also studied abroad in the fall, whereas a majority of students go in the spring. Going during that time meant that the weather was a little colder, but I got to experience the holiday traditions of my country and the ones I visited. This made it very special!
What made the local CEA staff extraordinary?
Viv and Nancy! The best local site staff ever. I always felt comfortable to talk to them about anything that was happening or any issues that I had. They were always available (to a respectable degree) and helped with even the smallest of problems.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I spent so much time planning that sometimes I didn't feel like I was enjoying things enough. I had to push myself to like be in the moment and just enjoy an experience without worrying about the next thing.
Describe your average school day in Aix-en-Provence.
I would wake up around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. and make breakfast in my little kitchen in my loft apartment. I woke up before my roommate, so I had to be pretty quiet. Breakfast was usually a grapefruit and some bread (a staple in France). I always packed a snack, as my morning language class was so long that we took a snack break at the two-hour mark.
I then left my apartment and walked about 20 minutes to my campus (all my classes were in the same building). The walk took me through a pretty park and then through the bustling campus. After language class, I either got lunch with some friends from class at a bistrot or cafe, or walked home and made lunch. Depending on the day, I either headed back for my elective classes or caught the end of the market and stocked up on veggies and cheese.
In the afternoon, I would pack/plan for any upcoming weekend trips or explore my city! When my roommate got home from classes, we would either go grocery shopping and then cook together or meet up with friends and eat on the Cours Mirabeau (main street in Aix).
Apart from your studies, what did you enjoy most about your time in France?
I loved the weekend excursions that we went on with CEA. They planned everything for us. For the most part, they went smoothly and there was always cultural immersion involved.
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I lived in an apartment/loft. I absolutely LOVED my place. When I first found out about living in a student residence, I was really upset because I thought it was going to be cramped and inconvenient. I ended up loving the location, the beautiful bay windows, and the perfect size for me and my roommate. Although we didn't always have hot water and sometimes the yells from the schoolyard next to us were a little much, it felt like the perfect place. Although I would have enjoyed a homestay to improve my language skills more, living in an apartment was the perfect amount of independence.
How has your study abroad experience changed you as a person?
Most of what study abroad has given me can't be put into words, but I would say my worldview has definitely expanded. I have greater empathy for the people around me- especially things that are happening in the world. It's not to say that I was “USA-centric” before, but I think I have a greater appreciation for other countries and how international organizations work. It definitely changed me for the better!