Linfield’s study abroad opportunity to Aix is unique because they pay for pre-orientation (called early start), which means you arrive a week prior to the first day of class. Over that week you can take a cooking class, go wine tasting, visit nearby monuments, get a tour of town, and get extra French practice. I highly enjoyed my time at early start and met most of my friends here during that time. I especially appreciated the information we received regarding French and American cultural differences.
During pre-orientation, IAU Dean Leigh Smith said his advice for us was to get a perspective on American politics and to form that opinion now. Everyone from your French friends and host families to your professors want to know exactly what is going on in the United States. One professor, and head of the school of Business and International Relations, then reminded us of the prevalence of American politics and the power of our elections on other nations. He is an Arab Muslim and a journalist. He described how recent policies and statements from the United States government had impacted his and his family’s life. He reiterated the statement made by the dean: have an educated opinion. Understand how interconnected we all are.
During the study abroad orientation put on by IPO last year, we role played what it would be like to be asked about American politics so we had a semi-prepared response. I was reminded of this at early start. People are going to expect you to be an expert on American politics even if you aren’t.
Last weekend I was in Nice for the Carnival de Nice. The carnival is a 160 year old tradition that celebrates the city. It involves a massive parade with floats and entertainers. This year the theme was cinema. The culmination of the parade, the curtain closer, was a massive float of Donald Trump styled after Pennywise the clown from “It.” In his hand he held a figurine of French president Emmanuel Macron. Running underneath the float were entertainers wearing costumes of paper boats. The boats were made out of executive orders and international agreements Trump has either made or bowed out of. Marching alongside the Trump clown, were various dictators also dressed as Pennywise but not as large. Directly preceding this was a float of Russian president Vladimir Putin carrying what appeared to be Trump (dressed in drag) in his arms over the Kremlin.
It’s humbling to watch the president of your country act as the punchline of a joke while crowds of French people around you laugh. And he will be. American students studying abroad should anticipate this and know how they to appropriately react.
It has been exceptionally cold for the typical winter in southern France. Or so I’m told. I’ve found it rather mild without too much rain. To poorly paraphrase a French saying “it can’t be a Saturday without sun,” so most days have some sun. The wind here is notorious. They call it the mistral and it blows down the river from the alps. There is a plethora of urban legends about the mistral. Some say that in the 1600’s people who had committed a crime while it was windy would blame the wind saying it made them do it. It was like an insanity plea. They also say that the wind only blows for an odd number of days. I have not necessarily found that to be true. The decent weather has made me want to spend all day in one of the lovely parks, but alas school is an essential component of this process.
At Linfield I study journalism and international relations. While I am in Aix, I am primarily focusing on the international relations component. IAU, the program here in Aix, has a school specifically for business and international relations. This means that there are many other students who are IR majors here, and the IR classes are strong. I am taking classes on monotheistic religions, the history of French colonialism in North Africa, the European Union, and refugees and immigrants into the EU. I am also taking a French class which is required for every IAU student. I am excited to learn more about France’s role in the European Union and about their policies on refugees and immigration. I think that a lot of students believe that the classes you take abroad are easier than the ones at your home university. This is not necessarily true. Classes are just as intense when you’re abroad. Some consider it more challenging, because while taking classes in a different setting than you’re used to, you’re also growing accustomed to a new culture and a new country. My advice would still be to challenge yourself with classes. The course offerings at your location are as unique as the location, and offer a new perspective on things you’re learning about.
When I first came to college I knew I wanted to do something continuously during my time at Linfield that would challenge me. I decided that that challenge would be learning French. I believe that learning a new language is one of the most beneficial things you can do no matter your major or career. It allows you to connect with new people and places on a deeper level.
Studying abroad factored strongly into my plan to learn another language, and I’m appreciative of how easy Linfield made this process. The importance placed on international study was one of the reasons I was drawn to this school. After speaking with my French professors and other students, I decided that Aix en Provence was where I wanted to study. It’s location in the sunny south of France was appealing, as well as the numerous courses on international relations offered at the university. I also liked the appeal of the home stay because I felt like this was a great way to improve my French outside of the classroom.
The hardest part about studying abroad so far has been the visa application process. I was not prepared for how long it would be or how many steps there were. There were multiple application processes that all seemed to ask me the same questions. Getting my visa involved me going to San Francisco to officially submit my application and be finger-printed. The location of the office that you go to depends on where you live. For most west coast residents San Francisco is where you will be going. My advice for anyone about to go through the visa process is to do everything immediately and quickly. Have extra copies of everything and make check lists for each step you need to do. Also have about $300 saved up for the fees affiliated with the process. This is much more than I ended up actually spending, but it accounts for any issues or mistakes arising. I hope this information helps future students navigate this process.