Total Commitment in Aix

A photo of Tekla Carlén ’24 on a balcony in Aix-en-Provence, France

Name: Tekla Carlén ’24
Hometown: Burlingame, Calif.
Majors: Medieval and Renaissance studies and French
Program: Wellesley-in-Aix

Why Wellesley-in-Aix?

I chose this program because I wanted a language immersion program and to be able to take classes at a French university alongside French students. I decided to spend the whole year abroad because I had heard it takes a whole semester to acclimate to the new environment, which is true, and I wanted to maximize my potential to improve my French.

Where are you living, and what are your favorite activities?

I’m living in Aix-en-Provence, which is 30 minutes from the Mediterranean and Marseille, the second largest city in France. I live in a homestay with another Wellesley-in-Aix student from Williams College. We live with a French couple and their dog, and eat dinner with them four times a week. One of my favorite things to do in Aix is to work or hang out at the cafés. There are also four movie theaters within walking distance, including ones that show independent films and special releases, so I love to take advantage of that.

What has surprised you most about life in Aix?

The education system is so different! There aren’t as many specific assignments or readings, and grades are determined solely by the final exam, which is often an in-class essay—even for literature classes, which surprised me at first. While I miss the constant class discussions and take-home essays at Wellesley, I am definitely learning a valuable lesson in independence.

What other lessons have you learned from your time abroad?

Apart from independence, being in France for so long has made me more aware of my identity in general. I never really strongly identified with my American nationality in the U.S., but here, I am defined by it so often. I have also become less embarrassed to make mistakes in French. Committing 100% even if you’re not sure your grammar is perfect is important. Honestly, that applies to everything beyond speaking French, as well.

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