University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Day in the Life

When universities talk about study abroad or students show their travel experiences on Facebook, one always sees the amazing sights, the incredible trips, and expensive meals that they experience. While these things are truly AMAZING and a big part of studying abroad, what does the daily life of a study abroad student look like? Well at least for students studying in southern France, here is what a day in the life!

Tuesday

8h30—Get up to get ready for the day. (If I’m ambitious or have later classes, jogging around Aix fits into this routine too.) Showers are no more than 10 minutes because of water costs, and breakfast consists of tea, fruit, and bread with jam and Nutella. (Nutella is as popular in France as peanut-butter is in the U.S.)

9h30—Leave for a 20-minute walk to school (Science Po-Aix). The cobblestone streets and sidewalks are narrow and spotted with dogs’ “business.” But the weather is always beautiful and the fresh markets on either side of the route make it worth-while.

10h00—First class of the day starts (Ethics and Politics). It really starts about 15 minutes later as the professor saunters in from his/her last class. They will continue to lecture to the class for the next 2 hours, but that is the only time the class will meet for the week.

12h00—Walk to a nearby shop to grab lunch—a fresh fruit cup, Panini, Vietnamese noodle dish, crêpe, or couscous are the most popular choices. Students do also bring their lunches, but it is not as common as in the U.S.

12h30—French-English Conversation Lunch. French students from the international student association host an hour-long time over lunch to practice speaking French and English. We may talk about St. Patrick’s Day with the Irish students, play charades, or eat dessert brought back from a weekend trip to Florence.

14h00 (2pm)—Second class starts (International Organizations). This is a fourth-year class which makes it harder to understand. But it provides a perfect opportunity to get to know some French students and ask them to help you with notes; they are always very friendly and accommodating.

16h00—Get some homework done in the library.

17h00—Volunteer for an hour and a half. I work with one of many after-school programs where younger kids come to do their homework until their parents pick them up after work. Volunteers come to help the students with their work from math to grammar to English. You can guess which subject is my favorite to tutor.

19h00—Return home for dinner. I am living with a “host mom”—a retired woman from Paris –who has an apartment in Aix. There are 2 bedrooms for me and my roommate, and we have the opportunity to be immersed in the French culture even when coming home. In our contract, our host mom makes dinners for us. Dinners can be traditional French meals like quiche or croque madame, or they can be more traditional meals that we would eat at home like ravioli or French fries. The evening meals are bigger and longer; we start with a salad, then the main dish, followed by cheese and bread, and finally dessert. The French tend to take more time to eat, so we talk about our days and get impromptu grammar lessons over our meals.

20h25—Watch a French soap opera. One of the most popular shows in France is a soap opera called Plus Belle La Vie which is filmed in Marseille. Our host mom enthusiastically follows this show, and honestly, has gotten me and my roommate hooked on it as well. It’s our “after-dinner activity” when we can bond with our host mom. It is also extremely useful for practicing French comprehension.

21h00—Time to Work. Though we do not have a lot of it, we do need to take some time to do homework, from practicing phonetics to researching and writing articles about French culture. This is also a great time to Skype family and friends, who are 7 hours behind, or write blogs!

0h00—Go to bed and start the cycle again!

I hope this has given you a nice glimpse into what it is that we do over here.
Until next time!