Friday, March 28, 2008


In terms of the language aspect, hat was the hardest part about moving to a foreign-language-speaking country? What would you recommend to us, knowing what you do now?

What did you do over the summer to prepare and retain your language skills? Is there anything you wish you had done prior to leaving?

Did you ever feel like you could speak not a word more of French? What did you do?

How do you recommend tackling the coursework in French—any tips, shortcuts, etc.?

What are a few (5-10) French words or phrases that you did not know upon arrival, or that you had to learn the hard way, that you recommend we be familiar with?

Travel Leisure

1) What are the best airlines to use in France?

2) How many breaks are there in the school year that would allow students to have travel time?

3) How many group trips  does the Aix program provide?  Where? 

4) Is the TGV always the cheapest way to travel in France?

5) Is the Euro rail pass worth the money or is the TGV pass sufficient?

6) Are leisure travel trips cheaper when booked as a group?

7) What are some tips for car rentals in France for short trips?

8) Ho much is a bus ride to Marseille?

9) What are you recommendations for places to travel to in Europe.

10) Do you guys have any good travel tips/tricks for students on a budget?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


1. What are some of the student organization offered? Are they cultural, political, community service, or just fun oriented?

2. What kind of sports teams can you join, and is there anything like the Intramural program at UM?

3. Are there any student dance groups? Do people just go to clubs to dance?

4. Are there any festivals of music and art?

5. What do you have to say about performances like music or plays?

6. Can one see any museums or art galleries in Aix?

Questions about meeting French people

1. Realistically how easy is it to make friends in class?
2. What are the best school activities for meeting people?
3. What are some cultural things to be aware of before talking to a French person, like little things that might really throw them off even though I might not be at all aware that I am doing them?
4. Are there certain places in town that are good for meeting people? Where do most students hang out?
5. In general, how have you found the French students to be in Aix? Are they friendly, more distant, etc?

Health Questions

1) What is the University Health System like? What services do they provide and are these services covered by tuition or insurance of any kind?

2) What are the University's policies on giving medication? Is it available the same way it is at U of M?

3) How much are everyday medications, such as aspirin, tums, etc? Is it better to buy those in the U.S.?

4) Are the University counselors/psychologists readily available? Are visits covered by insurance?

5) Have there been any major problems with people getting sick (flu, etc.)?

6) What options are there for healthy eating and exercise? Anything we should avoid?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Collaborative Map of Aix

Here is a collaborative mapping tool that might be useful for placing dorm, apartment, shopping, transportation markers on the map of Aix-en-Provence. You can also add descriptive text, websites, images, audio, and video to the marker. I have placed a couple markers as an illustration.

Map is in the right margin for your convenience. It is easiest to view and add markers in the full screen mode so click the Open Map link beneath the map (margin) for best results.

•The map is public to view but you will need to login with a password (see Dominique) to add a marker.
•The interface is pretty self explanatory.
Open Map and click Add Marker. Login.
•Type address or find the location on the map yourself.
•There is a Legend at the bottom and a List of Markers in the thin blue strip on the right (hide/show).
•To edit a marker, click on the Title in the info bubble.
•To delete a marker, click on the Advanced > Markers > Delete

Open Map

Philomena - UM Language Resource Center
working with Dominique on blog setup

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


1- Did you bring a laptop to Aix? Is it necessary to bring your own, or are there ample computer labs for student use? Either way, what do you recommend?

2- How much work do you do as a student on your computer? Are there lots of papers that are required to be typed, or is it mostly handwritten, or do you have a choice?

3- Did you buy a printer there, or is there easy access to printers?

4- Can you just buy a converter, or is it necessary to buy a European charger from the computer's maker? (I know with Macs, you just change the end piece of the plug...)

5- Is there wireless internet in the dorms? Lounges? Nearby cafés? What is the computer policy for most cafés? Is it like the US, where it isn't usually necessary to buy anything to use their wireless, or is that considered rude?

6- Where would you go for tech support? Is there something just for students, at a discounted rate? Are there Apple stores in Aix?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Brandon's Aix Expectations

1. Speak near fluent French.

2. Complete my major: French and Francophone Studies

3. Flourish as a person by being immersed in a culture other than the USA

4) Make international connections and friendships


1) What would you consider to be a sufficient amount of money one should bring to Aix in order to pay for: please consider that 1 euro = $1.55
- leisure travel (surrounding countries)
- food
- school books
- laundry
- buses

2) How do you set up a bank account in France?

3) Is the dorm residence worth the price or are apartments (more expensive) actually worth the added expense?

4) What are some good savings tips that you guys might have for entering Aix "08-09" students?

5) Is the price for a simple café or coke in Aix approximately 6 euros?

6) Is is true that there are NO free refills on drinks in restaurants in and around Aix?

Monday, March 17, 2008


I want to study in Aix to:
1. develop a fluency in French
2. become more self-confident
3. meet new people
4. have the opportunity to travel around France and Europe
5. become immersed in daily life in France and fall into a routine
6. learn from a different perspective


1. How did you get to Aix? (Did you fly directly to Paris and then take the train?)
2. Did you purchase a one-way ticket?
3. Did you get any student deals?
4. Do you have any advice on the easiest and cheapest way to get there?
5. About how much were your arrival costs?
6. Did you travel/book tickets with anyone else from the group?

Re: March 16th post

1. Are there cafeterias for people living in the dorms?
Yes, there is a cafeteria called Les Gazelles, that is only a few minutes from the dorms. For only a few euros, you get a couple dishes, a piece of fruit, yogurt, and a small piece of bread. Compared to UM dorm food, it's a little disappointing, and, if you're vegetarian, there's really no point in even going there.

2. How accessible are the grocery stores? This pertains to hours, location, etc.
There are a few grocery stores. Monoprix is on the Cours Mirabeau. It's a little more expensive than the others, but it's very clean, and it's open until 9 p.m. every day (closed on Sunday). There is a Casino store that is about 10 minutes from the dorms that is open until 8 p.m. (also closed on Sundays). There's also a store called ED that is a bit further away, but much cheaper. I believe that it is also closed on Sundays (almost everything in Aix is).

3. Do students tend to eat out or buy food and eat it at home?
I think most people go grocery shopping pretty frequently - even in the dorms it's not difficult to prepare lunches and dinners (and it's much cheaper); however, Aix has some pretty great restaurants, so it's fun to also go out once in a while.

4. Approximately how much money would you say you spend on food per week?
It really varies depending on how often you go out to eat and what type of groceries you buy. Be prepared to spend a bit more money on groceries here than in the U.S. - if you typically buy $25 worth of groceries, it'll probably be more like 30-35 euros here - there's really no way you can spend money very efficiently here - it's just a very expensive city.

5. What are some local dishes that you recommend?
Aix has some great boulangeries and patisseries. Crepes-a-Go-Go is a town favorite for crepes. Paul has amazing patisseries, and there are great sandwich places - if you like falafel, fries, or sandwiches, you will love the town. Aix also has a few sushi places, some pasta places, and a bunch of pizza places.

6. What are some of the best and cheapest restaurants in town?
You can pretty much always buy a sandwich anywhere in town for under 5 euro any day of the week - Snack Samos, L'Authentique, and small stands like La Fringale are all right in town and open fairly late. There's also a pasta places, Mezzo Pasta, that is near the IEP that has great pasta for around 5 euro.

Housing Questions

Here's my response to the questions about housing.

1. In my personal opinion, it's better to live in the cité universitaire (the dorms) than an apartment. for the following reasons:
a) It is much, much cheaper to live in the dorms: You pay 140 euro per month for a single room in the cité universitaire, as opposed to the 300-600 euro per month you will pay to live in an apartment. While it is true that the apartments can be a lot nicer (most of them are furnished and some come with ovens) and a lot bigger, I personally don't think the extra comfort is worth it when you consider how many plane tickets to foreign countries that money could buy.

b) You will hear more french on a daily basis if you live in the cité universitaire. In theory, if you wanted to live in an apartment, you could look for a french-speaking roommate. But in reality, the chances of finding one are very slim, because when you arrive in Aix, most french and francophone students will have already signed a housing contract. However, in the cité u, you will definitely meet at least a few native francophones. It's true that there are a lot of foreign students at the cité U, some of whom don't speak french very well. But it's also true that a lot of the foreign students are from countries like Morocco, Sénégal, and Guadeloupe, so they've grown up speaking french their entire lives. In fact, the best friend I've made here is from Bénin, and I met him because he worked for the dorm.

2. French dorms are very, very different from American dorms. The rooms are much smaller, however, there's a lot of shelf and storage space, so if you pack wisely you shouldn't have a problem. Another difference: you will have a sink AND a bidet in your room. What you do with your bidet is up to you--personally, I let my towel drip dry over it.

Unlike American dorms, there's no RA, and there isn't even really a front desk staff in your building. There's a night watchman who guards the building from about 9pm to 6am, and a staff of femmes de ménage. Every weekday, the femme de ménage for your hall will knock on your door to see if you're sick or not. If you say "ça va", she goes away; if you say nothing or if you're not there, she'll enter your room for about 2 seconds to see if anyone's there. I know this sounds like a gross invasion of privacy, but honestly, she doesn't do anything in your room. It's a cultural difference you have to get used to if you want to live in the dorms.

3. As far as common areas go, there really aren't any. There's a salle de télévision in one of the dorms, and a main entrance area, but that's about it.

A part from that, you'll notice that the bathrooms are unisex. And, like many toilets in France, there aren't toilet seats and there isn't toilet paper, so you'll need to keep your own stash.

As far as other facilities go, each hall has a small community kitchen composed of four hot plates, a large sink, and refrigerator lockers. There is a student cafeteria, but it isn't located inside the dorm you'll be staying at (the Cité Universitaire de Cuques)--it's about a block away, near another set of dorms called les Gazelles.

In one of the buildings at Cuques, there's a place where you can do your laundry. There's also one salle d'internet, but most of the time the computers are broken. In the rare case that the computers are working, there's usually an ungodly long line for them.

4. The apartments are located in the center of the historic district of Aix, near the shops, most grocery stores, clubs, bars, and the IEP. The dorms are further out, near the fac des lettres and the Parc Jourdan. There is one grocery store relatively close to the dorms--the big Casino. In general, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the dorms to the center of town.

5. Your dorm will come furnished with a lamp, a desk, a mattress, and two chairs. It also comes with a blanket and a pillow, but both are kind of uncomfortable, so I'd recommend bringing your own stuff. Similarly, the apartments are usually entirely furnished. Most apartments should also come with cooking gear. Although the dorms do not provide you with any pots or pans, you can rent a kitchen set for the year for 15 euro. You will also have an opportunity to get free stuff left over from this year's students at the program office at the beginning of the year.

6. Like I already said, it is a lot easier to meet francophone people if you live in the dorms, so naturally, you're more likely to be fluent a the end of the year if you stayed at the cité u than if you stayed in an apartment. It's all relative, though. If you don't make an effort to talk to people, you could very well spend the entire year in Aix without making any native francophone friends--regardless of whether or not you stayed in the dorms.

I don't have any pictures of my room at the moment, but I can upload some relatively soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Response to "Phones"

Short version:
1. Bring your own phone if you can (unlock it first). If you can't, it's not a big deal.
2. Buy a SIM card (or phone) at Bouyges, and use their prepaid card, La Carte Nomad. It gives you twice as many minutes as the regular Bouyges prepaid cards and Orange's cards. The catch is that they erase your minutes twice as fast, but you can avoid this buy recharging your minutes before time runs out.
3. Definitely not necessary to have a land-line if there isn't one already set up. If there is, it might be worth checking out, but having a cell phone is definitely useful, and texting is crucial since it's much cheaper than calling.

Long version:
I've had two experiences with getting a phone in France. The first time, I brought my own phone and I still had to buy a SIM card, which I think was about 15-20 euros. In order to do this 1. you have to make sure your phone is compatible with their carriers and 2. call your phone company to get a release code, enabling your phone to still function if you put in a different SIM card. For my second time, the code wouldn't seem to work, so I had to get a phone. I think the cheapest ones are about 40 euros or so, and they come with a SIM card, so it's not really that much more expensive if can't use your american phone. The program runs these informational sessions, and one of them is with a phone store called The Phone House, and they will talk to you about what types of things are available. There are a lot of stores like this one all over town, and you can buy a phone at any of them - they're all pretty much the same. You can take a contract, but you can only do this for a minimum of one year, and there's a lot of forms to fill out, and I think you need to give them bank information (which you have for a couple weeks after you get there), so it is easier and quicker to buy prepaid cards. You can buy the cards at most dealers of your carrier, and even at the ED (the supermarket) I tink they sell them. The two main carriers are Bouyges (pronounced boig) and Orange... who both offer prepaid cards for a standard flat rate, 10 centimes a text message, and 50 centimes a minute to talk (I know, it's expensive, but keep in mind that you don't pay when someone calls you). Additionally, they do erase your minutes if you do not use them during a certain duration of time (that depends on which card you buy), but if you buy a new card before time expires, your old minutes will accumulate and will not be wasted. However, I found that Bouyges had an option for a prepaid card (called the La Carte Nomad) that charges you half that per minute (25 centimes), and texts are still the same, but the catch is that they erase your minutes in half the amount of time (but you get twice as many minutes). I think it ran for 25 euros, it lasted four weeks, and gave me 80 minutes or its equivalent in SMSs. I found it normally lasted me about 4 weeks and it wasn't too expensive, so I'd recommend that.

That's quite a lot of information for such a seemingly little question, but it can be really confusing, so I hope this'll help.


I want to go to Aix because I can:

1. Master French in order to use it efficiently, as well as become familiar with the culture in which I see myself working with in the future.

2. Have personal growth and independence

3. Acquire a new perspective on World affairs by shaping my own views

4. Enhance my path for a career by doing what I love with a wider international perspective

5. Travel France and Europe and study the foreign European culture

6. Network with people from around the world


1. Is it better to buy a cellphone there rather than keep a cellphone purchased in the U.S.?

2. What are the best prices for services or phones, and where can they be purchased?

3. Is it necessary to have a land line phone in the dorm or apartment?


Goals & Expecations:
1) To become completely fluent in French
2) To discover new aspects of my personality
3) To determine if I want to live in France at some point in my life
4) To gain a full knowledge of French culture and lifestyles
5) To learn to adjust well to new sitautions and countries
6) To complete my French major as much as possible

Housing Questions

General Housing Questions....
1) Is it better to live in the University dorms or to find an apartment? What are the pros and cons of those two options (cost, location, convenience, safety, etc)?

2) What are the differences between French University dorms and American University dorms?

3) What facilities (bathrooms, kitchens, common areas) do the dorms have?

4) Where are the apartments located? Dorms?

5) What furnishings need to be brought for the dorms? And for the apartments?

6) If living in a dorm, is it more difficult to interact with native French speakers? Which option is better for becoming fluent in French?

*If possible, if anyone has pictures of the dorms and the aparments, could you post those either on the blog or on Facebook (or simply give us a link to the photos)? That would be a great help!

Why I Want to Study in Aix

1. To bring myself as close as possible to fluency in French.
2. To better understand French culture and the French worldview
3. To experience a very different lifestyle.
4. To ass legitimate practice and support to my French degree.
5. To practice living independently.
1. Are there cafeterias for people living in the dorms?

2. How accessible are the grocery stores? This pertains to hours, location, etc.

3. Do students tend to eat out or buy food and eat it at home?

4. Approximately how much money would you say you spend on food per week?

5. What are some local dishes that you recommend?

6. What are some of the best and cheapest restaurants in town?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why I want to study in Aix...

- To perfect (as much as is possible) my French speaking, writing, and listening comprehension skills
- To become bi-cultural and fluent in the French way of life
- To see if I would eventually like to live in France for an extended period of time (>5 years) or permanently
- To get to know a different part of France (other than Paris and the "tourist spots") and its specific culture and people
- To make connections with France and Aix natives as well as students from all over the world
- To become a more out-going and conversationally dynamic person
- To study French art history (and hopefully earn credit towards a minor) in France and be able to visit the museums while doing so
- To travel through Europe!
- The food! The wine! The fashion! The markets!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Welcome to UMich in Aix Blog

We are the UMich students who are planning on studying in Aix next fall, are currently in Aix, or have returned from Aix. Students who are leaving this fall will ask questions to those who are currently in Aix and to those who have returned!