Last month I shared the reasons why I decided to live France. I started in Normandy in the small city of Rouen where I spent a month-long experience to be fluent in French. It’s a beautiful medieval city with old half-timber houses and gothic architecture that takes you back hundreds of years in time but weather in October gets chilly in the north and I was ready for a taste of southern charm. I packed things up for a 5-hour train ride on the SNCF to Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. I loved how my new city rolled off my tongue so beautifully. All the reading I did about Aix told me life is always sunny here.
They were right!
My classes started early each morning at 9am at IS-Aix, an international school for people all over the world to study French. I’m an early riser anyway and most mornings I would leave the apartment by 8, stroll along Cours Mirabeau then weave in and out of the daily markets. Although temporary, I was excited to call Aix home!
The first day of class was a meet n’greet with an oral and written assignment to test our levels before we could be divided into classes. My French definitely improved when I was living in Rouen. I spoke it everyday and only wavered in English to Skype with family back home but I was still making mistakes.
Although I was (theoretically) a student back in school, IS-Aix felt like anything but school. During our first afternoon we went on a walking tour of the Old Town with George and got his tips on exploring the local spots in his own city (all in French of course!).
The staff and instructors are also on a first name basis which made the whole experience much less formal than real school and more close knit.
The school is an old historic mansion tucked away behind the bustle of the markets. It had the charm of someone’s own personal home with lush green trees and our own French terrasse to sip coffee or read Le Figaro.
The classes at IS-Aix are not based on any textbooks. Instead, there is a strong emphasis on speaking French as much as possible. We had debates about social media, gave class presentations on an article we read in the morning paper, and talked about why the pharmacies were on strike. It’s complete immersion and there is no English allowed! Two teachers are assigned per class so everyone can be exposed to different styles of French speaking and French people.
IS-Aix also has no fixed structure. The instructors spend the first morning getting to know you and learning what areas you want to improve on. They do a great job at modifying the course according to the class level and needs.
Merci Olivia, Jean-Francois et tout le personnel fantastique d’avoir m’accepté à IS-Aix en Aix-en-Provence!
Have you ever wanted to learn a new language?