CISABROAD BLOG · February 6, 2019 · 5 Min Read
My Favorite Class Abroad | Student Blog From Aix-en-Provence

Going to school in a different country makes you feel like you’re a first-year all over again. At my home university, Jacksonville University, I can easily navigate myself anywhere. But, in Aix-en-Provence, I had to learn and readjust to the new set up. Read on to learn more about my favorite class abroad and what it’s like to study in Aix.

The University

Institut Américain Universitaire (IAU) is located in three buildings in the city center of Aix-En-Provence: Manning Hall, Centre d’Etudes Francais (CEF) and CEF 2.

Manning Hall

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Let’s begin with Manning Hall: This is where the School of Business and Humanities is located, and where my economics, literature, and phonetics lectures were. In this building, we also had access to one of IAU’s libraries and all of the administrative faculty at IAU. My favorite part of Manning was La Cave, a cavelike student space where my friends and I would come to eat lunch, do homework, and hang out between classes.


FA18_Semester_in_Aix-en-provence_Emilia_Santana_Jacksonville_University favorite class abroadCEF and CEF 2 are dedicated to French language study. CEF is where all the French lectures are taught, and we were only allowed to speak in French once we were inside. Meanwhile, I had my International Relations lectures at CEF2, and ended up spending most of my time there.

My favorite part of the building was that it is located in front of the Aix-en-Provence Cathedral, which was built thousands of years ago as a temple for Apollo.

Overall, IAU has such beautiful buildings around Centre de Ville and it’s so close to shops, restaurants, cafes, and the famous Marche.

My Favorite Class Abroad: International Relations

FA18_Semester in Aix_Emilia Vincente Santana_Jacksonville University_ favorite class abroadIf you were to ask my friends back home what comes to their mind when you say the word “politics,” I’m sure most of them would respond “Emilia.”

At Jacksonville University, I’m a Political Science major with a minor in French, so the idea of coming to France put my expectations on another level, since most of the biggest international political organizations are located in Europe. Prior to my departure, I was signing up for classes when I decided to take an International Relations (IR) class. Little did I know that it would turn out to be my favorite class abroad.

This class was so different from everything I’d done in college by far because it was led by a career diplomat, Philip Breeden, who brought a totally different dynamic to the classroom. In class, we had the chance to learn from the other side of the narrative since my professor has been active in the field. Therefore, I got to understand how all these IR theories fit into the daily workings of a country’s international relations and policies.

Another aspect I liked about the class was definitely the students. It was a small class of only 10 students, which made it very intimate and easy to discuss. I appreciated the opportunity to be surrounded by other students who share the same career goals and ideas as me. Personally, I felt inspired every day by their passion and motivation to accomplish their goals to make this world a better place through international politics.

Did You Say Field Trips?

One of my favorite memories from this class is the trip we took to Geneva in Switzerland, where we spent four days briefing international organizations based in the city.

The World Trade Organization

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At the World Trade Organization, we had a briefing with Fernando, who guided us through the organization’s goals and procedures. He gave us an insight of the Summits between the member states and the negotiations that go along with every new agreement. At the lecture, we were each assigned a country that we could represent throughout the meeting and allowed to take the floor when any concerns or questions arose.

International Environment House

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At the International Environment House, we had a three-hour briefing learning about the United Nation’s involvement in green projects around the world. We heard from specialists in each area who gladly introduced us to their projects and involvements in reversing the impacts of the environmental crisis we have been facing over the years.

International Committee of the Red Cross

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The second day, we kicked off our morning at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where we were introduced to the work offered by the ICRC to victims of war. Personally, this was one of the most sensitive briefings for me because it was hard to see the conditions that most of these victims live under due to the war fought in their country.

The United Nations

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Our final stop for the day was the United Nations. This place holds a lot of meaning to me because it’s where I want to work in the future. Walking into the Assembly Room was very overwhelming, and I definitely shed some tears.

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International Migration Center

On our last day in Geneva, a member of the International Migration Center visited us at our hotel, where we had a conversation about the migration trends and reactions to migrations around the world. The International Migration Center is another institution that I have always wanted to visit because of their incredible work in helping immigrants through state’s policies on the topic.

After a busy week, we made our way back to France and I prepared for my last IR class of the semester. It was a bittersweet moment, as I’m happy I had the opportunity to be part of the class, yet sad to be leaving such an amazing group of students and professor. However, when I look back, I’ll always be proud of all the things this course has thought me and all the amazing experiences I had.

Learn more about the CISabroad Semester in Aix-en-Provence program on the program page.

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