When you’re getting ready to study abroad, you might have some questions about what to expect. Where will you live, what is there to do and how do you get around town? ISEP Program Officer Lindsay talked with current ISEP students at Aix-Marseille Université to share their advice and help you know what to expect!
What additional costs should I expect when I arrive?
Your first month studying abroad in France can be pricey. First of all, meal stipends can take over a month to arrive, so it’s important to budget for the first month for food, if not more. You will also need to prepare for plenty of startup costs – cost of bedding, toilet paper, paper towels, dinnerware, towels, toiletries and more. You will also have to pay 215€ for the Sécu (French Social Security/Health Insurance). You may also have to buy textbooks. While textbooks are much cheaper than in the U.S., they can run you around 50-60€. Tip from Lindsay: Budget around $650 for your first month in France, regardless of where you are going.
What are the dorms like?
You’ll be housed in single dorm rooms in housing with other French and international students. Rooms are small, but they each have their own bathrooms. Each floor has its own kitchen. There are game and music rooms as well.
How close are the dorms to campus?
This depends on where you are going. The dorms are about a 20 minute walk to the city center and the Science Po campus. For students in FEG or SUFLE, the dorms are just a short 10 minute walk. Students who walk to Sciences Po daily also have the option to take the shuttle.
Do you feel safe in Aix-en-Provence?
Aix-en-Provence is a very safe place to live. I have not felt unsafe walking around after dark, even alone. I wouldn’t recommend walking home at night from Centre Ville or the bars, but that is just a rule that as a female I follow even in the U.S. Always better to be safe than sorry! Tip from Lindsay: Aix-en-Provence is a medium sized town. While it’s extremely safe, students should always travel in pairs at night.
What is the best way to get to Paris?
You can take the Shuttle from Aix-en-Provence Centre-Ville bus station to the Aix-en-Provence TGV train station. From there, take a train for at most 120€. You can also fly from the airport in Marseille.
Explain the airport pick-up. Who and what should I look for?
If you give your on-site coordinator your arrival info, you will be picked up at the airport. Students should look for someone holding a sign that says ISEP.
Is public transportation around Aix-en-Provence easy?
In Aix, public transportation is so easy. At the tourism office, you can get a 10 voyage pass for 8€. There is a bus pass for unlimited voyages that is good for the whole year. If you are only staying for a semester, I wouldn’t suggest getting that because it is 110€ which is a bit expensive for only four months of use. You can also buy one voyage pass (1.10€) and two voyage pass (2€) on the bus.
How is the placement test for the Language & Culture Program (SUFLE)? Did you get placed in a level where you feel comfortable or challenged?
Students have noted that they have tested into levels slightly lower or higher than expected. You take a short written test at home before arriving and then an oral test upon arrival. The oral test is essentially just answering a few brief questions about where you are from, what you study, how many years you have taken French, whether or not you can understand French TV programs and more. If you feel that you have been misplaced after the first couple of classes in your level, you can always meet with the program director to discuss changing levels.
Is it easy to get to know the other students in your program?
On the first few days, you are with the other ISEP students for orientation and city tours, so it’s not hard to make friends! The people I’m with are amazing and we quickly became a family that looks out for one another. For instance, I got really sick the second week here and some of my ISEP friends checked on me and brought me soup when I couldn’t get out of bed. Everyone is experiencing the homesickness and culture shock together and it is great to have people to lean on.
Did you have to open a bank account? Was this process difficult?
Yes, you have to open a French bank account. An appointment at the bank was made for us by our host coordinator. The process was fairly simple and you just had to bring your passport and sign a few papers to get housing insurance. Everything was explained to us beforehand so we knew what to expect.
Is there good shopping and nightlife nearby?
There is a lot of shopping in town ranging from bigger stores like H&M, Zara and Sephora to small boutiques spread all throughout town. During the whole month of January, French stores hold huge sales, so I would recommend buying things like scarves and other accessories you didn’t have room for in your luggage during this time. There are also a lot of places to hang out with friends in Aix. One road that is very popular among students is called “Rue de la Verrerie” that has several places for students and is a quick walk from Centre Ville. There are also three movie theaters in town (Aix is known for being a big town for cinema!).
How big is the city?
The city is certainly not huge but it is still big enough to have a wide variety of things to do and explore. It is small enough to not feel overwhelming and if you want to get to a bigger city, Marseille is only about a 30 minute bus ride away.
Have more questions about our programs in France? Comment below or visit the ISEP France Facebook Group!
Like this Story? Also like us on Facebook.