AUCP students have a lot in common. Whether they’re studying in Aix or in Marseille, they share a passion for all things French, a commitment to go the extra mile to reach French fluency, the desire to become part of the local community and to create lasting friendships in France, they come from top American universities and are often among the brightest in their class.
And while they share a lot, each one is unique. Today, we’d like you to meet Annalise. This is part of an on-going series on Le Blog designed to introduce you to current AUCP students, and to show you how, despite their many similarities, they each have their own unique way of living with and like the French at the AUCP.
Ryan is an AUCP full-year student who comes to us from Linfield College, in Oregon. A French and International Business major, Ryan is part of the Delta Rho chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and on the Linfield swim team.
Bonjour Ryan! For starters, how would you sum up your time at the AUCP?
I’ve been here since September, so nearly six months now. Man, time flies… I have to admit that I came here without really knowing what to expect. I wasn’t aware at all of extent of the once in a lifetime integration opportunities available through the AUCP. After all, how often do you get the opportunity to be welcomed into the home of someone from another culture and really experience life in a new paradigm? For me, that’s honestly one of the most value-adding aspects of life here in France. But I knew about that before I came. What I didn’t know is that the AUCP also integrates us into service learning environments as well as local interest clubs! For me, I chose a club of “footing,” or jogging in English and have learned so much as a result, in particular the phrase “avoir des courbatures,” or to be sore.
Originally, I was only supposed to spend one semester at the AUCP, before moving across town to another program in Aix due to certain courses offered there. Now, Aix being a relatively small university town, there is a certain cross-pollination between all of the major universities here on Friday and Saturday nights. As I began to meet more and more of the students from other programs, especially the one that I had planned to transfer to, I didn’t see the type of progress in nor commitment to the language that I was hoping for. And that was what really decided it for me. So, I stayed at the AUCP and worked with the wonderful staff here to make things work and was able to find the courses that I needed through a partnership with Sciences Po, a local French Grande Ecole.
Can you tell us a little bit about your French language partner?
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have just one language partner… In fact, I’ve come to develop friendships with a whole host of language partners here at the AUCP. As for my paired language partner, we actually have a class together on Thursday afternoons along with two other language partners from last semester, Thibault and Sarane. Sometimes we’ll grab some food or coffee before or after class depending on how busy we all are.
Then there’s Thomas, who was a language partner last semester, and this semester he’s one of the AUCP students’ host brothers. When I go out, I’m sure to see Thomas around town. Like I said, Aix is a relatively small town and it’s always fun to run into friends. And then there’s Laurent, who is actually the language partner of the student currently living with my host family from last semester (I changed after first semester to accommodate the incoming class). Laurent and I run together from time to time or go and grab dinner. All depends on what sounds fun!
What are you doing for your community service?
My first semester, I volunteered at the Ecole Saint Joseph, a local elementary and middle school nearby. I helped a middle school English teacher with students who wanted extra class time and practice with English. It was a good learning experience, especially for students pursuing a career in teaching!
This semester, I wanted to try something new, so I just started visiting Henri, an 87-year old who doesn’t look, nor act, his age. He has a ton of energy. With Henri, on rit! We talk, eat lunch together, or whatever…the idea is really just to spend time with him. He’s so interesting and has a lot to say. His oral history is amazing! Between surving the Nazi occupation of France and a marked career in architecture, he has some amazing stories to tell! I think the importance of the community service aspect is the fact that we get to meet people that we wouldn’t normally meet in a study abroad experience.
What club or personal interest activity did you choose?
For my club I chose to join, “Aix Athlétisme,” a local running and fitness club. I was shocked by how welcoming everyone was. I had so many people remember my name even though it was only mentioned once! The club meets every Tuesday and Thursday with about 80 or so attendees, so for a vast majority of 80 people to remember your name, that’s no small thing. Depending on your training goals, the coaches propose a different work out for 10k, semi-marathon or marathon endurance. As for me, I’m hoping to participate in the semi-marathon in Marseille on March 20th, but being injured at the moment, we’ll see.
What is your favorite class so far?
I can’t answer that question; it’s too hard to choose! I know all of the professors so well and enjoy being in class with each of them for different reasons. In fact, I’d say it’s really the professors that make the classes. They’re all so approachable and take the extra effort to get to know the students at a personal level. Well, it’s hard not to when most of my classes have been less than 10 people! Having taken classes in sociology, oenology, literature, history and even translation, I am very content with my progress here in France.
And finally, can you tell us about your host family?
My first semester, I lived with the Béguins, a delightful couple with two sons who have grown up and now have families of their own. I suppose they are what you would call a more “traditional” host family. Living with Martine and Philippe was great and I was, at first, very sorry to change families after the first semester. I really miss the feast of seafood on Sunday afternoons and the fig tree next to the pétanque court from the summertime. But we still keep in touch and I await impatiently the better weather to come back so that Philippe and I can rekindle our pétanque rivalry.
For my second semester, I moved closer to the center of town with a slightly smaller host family of Pascal and Churchill the cat. I was still sad about moving until I tasted Pascal’s cooking, Mon Dieu! That dude knows his way around the kitchen. I remember well when our program director here said to me about changing families, “Trust me, you won’t regret it.” And I don’t, not one bit. Pascal is more along the lines of a host brother and we get along so well. Dinner’s at 9pm and Top Chef’s on the télé Monday nights! He isn’t the type of guy that you’d think would be super strict with the language, but he is, and it has helped me so much. His corrections have smoothed out a lot of the mistakes in my everyday language and I’m so thankful that he takes the time to explain my grammar errors to me. Oops, hang on a sec… Churchill’s meowing at me again. He must want some more tuna.