In your “normal life” do you dance, workout or hike? Are you an accomplished artist or a sports fanatic? There is no reason why you should put your favorite activity on hold during your time abroad. Au contraire! At the AUCP, cultivating your personal interest activity is part of the program! And the AUCP subsidizes your choice of club, team, or cultural endeavor for up to 150€, giving students a large range of possibilities.
As an integral part of French Practicum, participation in a personal interest activity offers one more way for AUCP students to immerse themselves in the French community and gain valuable intercultural learning experiences as a result — in France and in French.
Here is a spotlight on a few of the available opportunities:
Look at Provence through another eye! A lens, that is. Both digital and film photography classes are available in the area, all you need to bring is your camera. Not only can you learn more about camera techniques (in French!!) and meet other budding photographers, you also can commemorate your semester or year with some wonderful souvenirs – in addition to your selfies.
« I had never taken a film photography class before, so my photography class was an eye-opener. As someone who is used to taking digital photographs, working in a darkroom and literally seeing my photograph develop was cathartic. I also learned a lot of French vocabulary by analyzing what was going on in my photos and in the critiques. I’m planning on continuing film photography when I get back home. » – Sara, Grinnell College
Soccer (or football) is one of France’s most popular sports. There are a number of club soccer teams in the Aix-Marseille region. Passionate soccer players can join club soccer teams, or even try out to play with a local university team during their semester or year. The choice is yours.
« Playing soccer with Aix Université women’s soccer club is one of my favorite parts of the program. The women I play with are older than me, but they are so nice and really funny. Even better? The games we play are on a field in Aix, with a view of the Mont Sainte-Victoire! » Gaby, Muhlenberg College
What better way to experience French culture than through dance? After all, ballet and much of dance terminology is French. Numerous dance studios exist in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, often offering student discounts. Both beginners and experienced students alike can participate in many different kinds of dance, : ballet, modern, jazz, and even Irish dancing!
« As an avid dancer, I was nervous about not being able to continue dancing for the four months that I would be in France. However, I was just as nervous to put myself out there and seek out a dance studio. The fact that the AUCP required a club forced me to look for dance classes, and I absolutely don’t regret it. I made many friends and learned a lot about dance classroom culture à la française. » – Danielle, Muhlenberg College
Running, or « footing », as the French call it, is a common student activity. But often, students run alone! Running clubs allow students to meet other locals passionate about running, discover new city running routes and maintain a physical activity during a semester that is bound to be filled with wine, bread and cheese! Students can even enter local 5K, 10K and marathon races.
« Jogging with French people was not only positive for my health and well being, but it was surprisingly helpful for my language skills. While jogging, I learned a lot of phrases, small talk and slang. I loved it! » – Abigail, Linfield College
Local hiking clubs organize weekly outings in the diverse Provençal natural landscape. Whether the hikers explore the Calanques of Marseille or the Mount Sainte Victoire Aix, each hike is an opportunity to see Provence in a different light. And, what better way to pass the time than to speak with your fellow hikers!
« I had a fabulous time in my hiking club. It’s a great way to see more of the region from a new perspective. And, it was the perfect opportunity to meet other French people and practice speaking with them! » – Tara, Williams College
Are you a choir geek or an accomplished singer? Either way, you’re in luck, because music is a universal language. That said, you better practice your solfège (sol-fa scale), because the French use do, ré, mi instead of the notes that you musicians may be used to. Choir is a fantastic opportunity to meet other French locals passionate about music – and there are several amateur choirs that rehearse in the area. Audition, and you’ll be good to go for a musical semester.
« I joined Provence’s Regional Choir in Aix-en-Provence. Rehearsals were every Wednesday evening, and I met a lot of really interesting French music lovers. We even did a few works that I had already sung before in my university choir, and the choir had a few concerts in the area (my host mom came!) . I enjoyed learning the musical terminology, working with such talented people, and being able to continue doing something I loved while abroad. » – Sam, Fordham University
Ever dreamed of taking on Mike Tyson? Well, maybe that’s a little unrealistic, but former AUCP students have learned to box at a local gym. Whether you’re a beginning boxer or a boxing champ back home, it’s an opportunity to stay in shape and gain in self confidence. Fists up!
« I took up boxing. The gym I went to was truly a community where everyone knew one another. By the end of the semester, I had learned a new sport in another language, boxed in a real fight for the first time, and felt like part of a community. It was one of the highlights of my experience. » – Natalie, Grinnell College
Rock and Salsa Dancing
The university across the street from the AUCP in Aix gives free salsa dancing classes to all! The association proposes weekly classes, followed by an hour of « free dance ». No need to have any dance experience, the class is open to all levels. It’s a surefire way to meet other French university students looking for a free weekly activity, and is often a favorite activity for Aix students. Numerous opportunities for salsa classes also exist in Marseille, a city that has a thriving salsa scene.
« I absolutely adored my salsa class, which led me to become comfortable speaking French with complete strangers. And, I was able to learn plenty of different dance steps and mannerisms depending on my partner, » – Amanda, Colby College
Long story short? Continue to do what you love while abroad, or try something completely new and different. And, meet French people with common interests in the process. In both Aix and Marseille, two vibrant and lively cities, there’s no shortage of activities available.
For more information on the personal interest activity/club aspect of program and the other opportunities for French integration and cultural learning provided by the AUCP in form of the French Practicum, visit the Immersion section on the AUCP website.