Spending a semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence was an incredible, eye-opening experience. From the on-campus college life I had in Poughkeepsie to the small city of Aix-en-Provence with dozens of universities in the same place, it gave me a completely different perspective. The city was flooded with students the entire semester, from locals to students from different French regions to the swarm of Americans. It was so diverse yet still completely southern French.
While I went to an American university, I made a point to get out there, meet new people and be as involved in the community as I possibly could. Through my French culture course, I was given the opportunity to volunteer in English classes at the Aix-Marseille “FAC” in Aix. Before and between classes, I would either go to the FAC classrooms, meet at cafes, or proofread online to do whatever I could to help students with their English assignments. This volunteer work definitely shaped and enhanced my study abroad experience. It was the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in the community and engage with French students. I made a ton of new French friends, I was able to practice my French in a real setting, and I was able to give back when I felt Aix was offering me so much to learn.
I would highly recommend that anyone going abroad look into volunteer work in their community. Not only is it fulfilling to give back, but it truly helps in adjusting to the new experience as well as giving you the opportunity to make new friends. I am still really close with the friends I made through my volunteer work, and a couple of them even plan to come visit me in the States! Never underestimate how much pushing yourself to get involved can impact your experiences.
Camille Norton is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, during the Spring 2019 semester. She is currently a student at Marist College.
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