The Town and The University

Aix-en-Provence lies in the south of France, approximately 30 kilometers north of Marseille and the Mediterranean coast. The region is famous for its Gallo-Roman ruins, picturesque villages and colorful markets, abbeys and churches, and also its natural beauty and pleasant climate that make it an ideal location for outdoor activities. Aix lies at the foot of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, the subject of numerous paintings by Paul Cézanne, a native of Aix. The population of Aix is close to 145,000, including about 40,000 students.

Wellesley-in-Aix participants generally appreciate the informal nature and openness of the Provençal people; the relaxed pace of daily life; and opportunities to visit local sites and towns, such as the Palais des Papes in Avignon, the spectacular seaside cliffs or calanques between Marseille and Cassis, the Roman arenas in Arles and Orange. The mild, sunny climate and proximity to Spain, Italy and North Africa also contribute to making southern France and Aix a highly desirable place to live and study.

Following a consolidation of three separate branches, Aix-Marseille University recently became the largest university in France. It is second only to the University of Paris in the areas of French literature, history, and linguistics and also houses the Center for Mediterranean Studies. Wellesley-in-Aix students are registered in AMU’s humanities and social science division or Faculté des Lettres, Langues et Sciences sociales et humaines and take the same courses and exams as their French peers. Students majoring in political science, economics or international relations may enroll in selected classes at Sciences-Po Aix and complete their courseload with AMU courses.

Students in the full-year program take a minimum of eight credits during the academic year, and fall or spring participants must take at least four credits which corresponds to 4 to 6 courses depending on the number of weekly contact hours.  All students receive Wellesley College course credits and a transcript for their study in France.

Students are free to choose courses across departments and disciplines and may enroll in first-, second- or third-year classes depending upon their academic  interests, prior courses taken in specific disciplines, and their French skills. We strongly recommend that students select at least one or two courses from among the program's core offerings (see below). Students who have met only the minimal French requirement for participation in the program may be required to enroll in the Atelier de langue orale et écrite which includes grammar review and continued work on speaking and writing skills.

Note: Wellesley students who wish to fulfill the French department's translation requirement for the major in French are advised to take the translation course offered each semester in Aix (the equivalent of French 308 at Wellesley). These two language courses are taught by AMU professors and open only to WIA students.

Final selection of courses is made in Aix after consultation with the Resident Director who acts as the academic advisor and primary interlocutor between WIA and the local universities.

Each year the program pre-selects a small number of core courses from the university's curriculum and organizes an additional weekly hour of small-group instruction (cours de soutien) with university professors who provide additional assistance with French methodology and opportunities for  class discussion.

In 2012-13, core program courses included:

•                Traduction littéraire (for WIA students)

•                Atelier de langue orale et écrite (for WIA students)

•                Littérature française du Moyen-Age

•                Afrique-Europe: Décolonisations comparées

Sciences-Po Aix

Students majoring in political science or international relations who have advanced French skills and are highly motivated may enroll in up to 2 lecture courses per semester at Sciences-Po in Aix. These lecture courses meet two hours per week and earn ½ credit.  Students interested in taking courses at Sciences-Po must be able to work independently and also be prepared to take oral exams in French at the end of the semester. Certain courses are designed specifically for international students, but WIA participants are expected to take classes with French students and exclusively in French. All assignments must also be in French.

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.

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 team or taking pottery or photography lessons, for example, are excellent ways to meet French people and improve your language skills while having fun.

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, and Montpellier. Each semester, the program organizes a few day trips and other group activities. These have included trips to the island of Porquerolles, the port town of Cassis, les Baux de Provence, the villages of Gordes and Roussillon, Martigues, and hikes up Sainte-Victoire or kayaking in the calanques. Occasional weekend trips have been organized in other regions, such as Burgundy and the Dordogne. The university also organizes occasional day trips for international students, and we urge students to take advantage of these.

Program staff can also assist and support students in finding extracurricular activities during the semester. In recent years, WIA students have participated in the organization of Aix’s annual short-film festival or Festival tous courts in December, and resourceful individuals have also secured summer internships and done volunteer work.

Room & Board

All housing is arranged and managed by the program, and final placements are made upon students’ arrival in France. The majority of recent WIA participants have opted to live in homestays in order to have daily conversation and contact with French hosts who are carefully selected by the on-site staff. 

Students in homestays have their own rooms, wifi access in the home and take breakfast and six evening meals per week with hosts. A limited number of apartments in or near the center of Aix are also available; these are shared with one other WIA student and consist of a bedroom with twin beds and living room area, fully equipped kitchens, and wireless access. Dishes, sheets and towels are all provided, but students are responsible for cooking meals, doing laundry (in laundromats) and cleaning the apartments which are inspected regularly by on-site staff.

All students receive a monthly allowance for lunches. Students living in apartments receive additional funds for other meals, cleaning supplies, laundry costs, etc.  The program provides bus passes and transportation stipends to students who live outside the center and/or must travel to Marseille weekly for certain classes.

In addition, all students may be reimbursed up to a certain amount every semester for cultural activities or memberships in clubs that involve regular interaction with locals and opportunities to speak French, e.g.,  sports teams, dance or yoga classes. Students living in apartments are strongly encouraged to sign up with a local association called Bienvenue en famille aux étudiants étrangers (BFEE) that matches them with host families who invite them to dinner or to participate in an activity.

Centre Wellesley

The WIA program is headquartered in a converted private home located in a residential area about a 10-minute walk from the center near the Pavillon Vendôme and the Ecole Supérieure d’Art. The center is open during regular business hours, and the resident director and staff are available daily.

The center includes a small library and common room, a computer room with two computers and printers, a fully equipped kitchen and an outdoor terrace for student use. Free wireless access is available at the center, and participants are encouraged to bring their laptops.

Students may drop by at their convenience on weekdays to pick up mail and packages, eat lunch or use the library in between university classes, use the computers, work with the program tutor and speak with the staff. Occasional lectures and group meetings are held in the library space.

On-Site Staff

The Wellesley-in-Aix staff includes a full-time permanent resident director and program assistant and a part-time student worker who are available to assist students with all academic and administrative 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. The staff manages all housing, organizes group activities and outings, and assists students with all matters.

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.