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My Take on the French Cultural Experience and Studying Abroad

January 02, 2024
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

How Study Abroad Shaped Me 

Other than being a major requirement, studying abroad with CEA CAPA gave me the opportunity to open my mind and perspective to different cultures in the world whether it was personally, socially, or even in a business view. Having the opportunity to experience this not only opened up my perception of French culture, but also allowed me to experience and fully understand being on my own in what felt like another world. 

How does CEA CAPA connect with French Culture? 

Having chosen this program, the office in CEA CAPA provided many opportunities for engaging in the French language, exploring cities, trying different food abroad, and increasing our intercultural awareness. After we arrived in France, CEA CAPA explained what culture shock is. Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they’re suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. Explaining the differences of how life in the U.S. and France differ allows for the opportunity of understanding the cultural aspects of the host destination.

A fountain with a statue in the middle of it


Some experiences CEA CAPA gave us in the program were: a mini cheese tasting when we first arrived, traveling to nearby cities, making perfume in the perfume capital of France (Grasse), baking Tarte Tatin (a French apple tarte), engaging in classes such as cooking and pottery, as well as olive oil tasting and crepe making. These CEA CAPA excursions broadened my understanding of the French language, cuisine, and lifestyle which all contributed to their culture. 

Cheese and a knife

Cheese tasting!

Food on a plate

Tarte Tatin.

Academics Abroad 

a person reading a book

How did my academics balance out with the laid back French lifestyle? In France they have a work life balance unlike in the U.S, so was this implemented in my academics? Everything depends on the courses you choose. My schedule was spread out and easy going either starting my day at 10 a.m. or 5 p.m. With how calm my host city was, I easily balanced out my work between classes or weekends in between travels.

people kayaking in water near mountains

Weekend travels.

The one thing I enjoyed most about my academics abroad over my academic courses at my home institution is the lecture and presentation style. Teachers are more engaging with students and make class interesting. It wasn’t test heavy nor heavy with work. I had the opportunity to research and learn new things. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging, obviously teachers are still going to push you because they know your potential. Leaving France I do have to say that my two favorite classes I took were in France; Business Ethics, and Wine and Food pairing. These courses introduced me to how business works in the U.S. vs. France, and the different varieties of French wines and food. 

Deep Dive into Aix-en-Provence 

A white obelisk in front of a large building

Exploring landmarks around the city.

The Culture

What was it like being in a small French city compared to a major one like Paris? Aix-en-Provence's host culture is like a lively and sophisticated chat between the past and present, where charming cobblestone streets echo with the tales of ancient Roman roots while cafés hum with the vibrant energy of modern Provencal life.

Two people sitting on a fountain

Making friends in France.

By engaging in French culture, my friends and I often hung out at a little café called Aixpresso (get it because we're in AIX and espresso). In doing so we became friendly with a waiter that works there, Batiste. As our friendship started to build with him, we started to do “le bis' with him which is a form of greeting your friends where you kiss their cheeks. Having a French local friend allowed us to experience things we couldn't do without a local. This experience improved our speaking skills in the French language as he didn’t speak English. Overall, we departed with a polaroid photo of us at Aixpresso to leave our memory there. 

A group of friends posing for a picture near a river and historic building

Identity and Study Abroad 

For me leaving home was somewhat nerve racking. I was scared of having FOMO from not being at school with my friends, not knowing anyone in the program, and missing out on my Greek Life experiences. Being away from this though, led me to become a more individual person. Going out and experiencing things on my own such as going to museums, cooking myself meals, and exploring more parts of the city on my own.

A person walking down a street

Walking through the French streets.

Studying abroad also encourages self discovery, you realize the things you enjoy more when you're not around the comfort of things at home. For me it made me realize how much I value my family, as well as how much I enjoy going out and doing new things in regards to museums, exhibitions, and attractions. I’ll always miss and cherish this experience, but it’ll also always be with me as now my time here has become part of my identity

Valeria Cimmarotta is an International Business major as well as a Marketing major, with a French minor at the University of Delaware. Valeria is an alumni insider who studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France during the Fall ‘23 semester. 

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