The Town and The University

Aix-en-Provence is located approximately 30 kilometers north of Marseille and the Mediterranean coast. The region is famous for its Gallo-Roman ruins, picturesque hillside villages, beautiful abbeys, and lively markets. Its natural beauty and pleasant climate make it an ideal location for hiking and other outdoor activities. Aix lies at the foot of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, immortalized by Paul Cézanne, a native of Aix. The population of Aix is close to 145,000.

Wellesley-in- Aix participants generally appreciate the informal nature and openness of the Provençal people; the relaxed pace of daily life in Aix; and proximity to major sites, such as the spectacular coastal cliffs or calanques between Marseille and Cassis, the Roman arenas in Arles and Orange, and World Heritage sites like Avignon. The sunny climate and easy access to Spain, Italy and North Africa also make southern France a desirable place to live and provides an interesting contrast to Paris and the north. 

All Wellesley-in-Aix students are enrolled at Aix-Marseille University (AMU) and/or the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po-Aix). Aix-Marseille University is the largest university in France and second only to the University of Paris in the areas of French literature, history, linguistics and neuroscience, for example. AMU also houses the Center for Mediterranean Studies, among other research centers. 

Cultural Activities

Aix is a city rich in literary, cultural and artistic events, particularly in 2013 with the designation of Marseille-Provence as the Capitale européenne de la culture or MP 2013.  Aix’s annual summer opera festival attracts distinguished performers and audiences from all over the world. The city also boasts a music school, the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, named for a composer and Aix native and is home to choreographer Anjelin Preljocaj’s renowned Pavillon Noir theatre. The Grand Théâtre de Provence features opera performances, concerts, and classical and contemporary plays throughout the year. The annual Festival Tous Courts competition in December brings together producers and aficionados of short feature films from all over the world.

In addition to the many cultural and artistic events, sports like hiking, kayaking and biking, among others, are also popular in the Aix region. We encourage students to join a club or team and to take advantage of organized activities like hiking, yoga and dance classes or cooking and wine-tasting classes.  Joining a chorus or musical group, being part of sports team, taking pottery or photography lessons, or doing volunteer work, for example, are excellent ways to meet French people and improve your language skills while having fun. Individual cultural stipends allow WIA students to be reimbursed for activities of their choice in French.

Once students are acclimated in Aix, they frequently enjoy exploring nearby cities and regions easily accessible by train or bus, such as Marseille, Nice, Lyon, Grenoble, and Montpellier. Each semester, the program organizes a weekend trip to a nearby region as well as a few day trips in Provence and other group activities. Destinations have included Lyon, Arles and the Camargue, the island of Porquerolles, Avignon and les Baux de Provence, the villages of Gordes and Roussillon, and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of trips organized by Sciences Po or other student groups.

In recent years, WIA students have been selected to assist with Aix’s annual short-film festival in December, the Festival tous courts, or have volunteered with the local Red Cross, for example. On-site staff can offer guidance to students interested in pursuing their own volunteer and internship opportunities. 

Housing, Meals & Transportation

All housing is organized and managed by the program. Students fill out a questionnaire and final placements are confirmed upon students’ arrival in France. The majority of WIA participants opt to live in homestays and highly recommend this option, which provides daily interaction and conversation with French hosts. All hosts are carefully selected by on-site staff. Students in homestays have their own rooms, wireless access, and daily breakfast and most evening meals are provided.
WIA has a very limited number of single rooms in a private student residence hall for French students in central Aix. These rooms are equipped with a private bathroom and kitchenette and wireless access. WIA provides linens, cooking utensils and dishes. We cannot guarantee this option to all interested students, however.
A limited number of apartments is also available by request. These may include a studio (for one person) or a 2-room apartment shared with another WIA student. All include a fully-equipped kitchen and wireless access. Dishes, sheets, and towels are provided by the program, but students are responsible for cooking meals, doing laundry (in laundromats) and cleaning the apartments.
All students receive a monthly allowance for lunches. Students living in apartments or the residence hall receive extra funds for food, cleaning supplies, laundry costs, etc.
The program provides bus passes to all students regardless of where they live, and reimburses occasional taxis for students who live farther away from the city center as well as transportation costs to get to classes in Marseille.

Centre Wellesley

The WIA program is headquartered in a converted house located in a residential area about a 10-minute walk from the town center. It is open during regular business hours, and onsite staff are available daily.

The center includes a small library and large common room, a computer room with printers, a fully-equipped kitchen, and an outdoor terrace for student use. Free wireless access is available at the center and in the outdoor area. Students may drop by at their convenience to pick up mail, eat lunch, use the library or printers, work with the program tutor, and speak with staff. Group tutorials, occasional lectures, and group meetings are held in the common room.

On-Site Staff

The Wellesley-in-Aix staff includes a full-time permanent resident director and program assistant who are available to assist students with all academic, administrative and practical matters. The resident director is the primary emergency contact person on site, handles all academic issues and acts as the liaison between the program and university partners in Aix as well as with the French department and Office of International Studies at Wellesley. 

Sophie & Monique

Dr. Monique Fecteau is the resident director of Wellesley-in-Aix. A longtime resident of France, she holds a doctorate in French and Second Language Acquisition from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She has taught in several universities in the U.S. and directed numerous U.S. programs in France since 1987, notably in Paris and Dijon.

Sophie Bussenius, assistant to the Director, is a dual French-U.S. citizen and holds a degree in English from the University of Provence (now AMU). A native of Aix, she has worked with students enrolled in U.S. programs in Aix for over ten years.