Saoirse Cipko

Video provided by Saoirse Cipko

Name: Saoirse Cipko


Where did you go? What did you do?

I participated in the La Rochelle Study Tour 2018.

The La Rochelle study tour is unique compared with other exchanges in the sense that it offers numerous excursions within the town and surrounding area, as well as a homestay experience. I had an excellent instructor, Dr. Julie Tarif, and the two courses were highly engaging. Professor Tarif also expertly arranged our class excursions to help us to get to know the region and the local population. Class outings consisted of bike trips along the ocean, boat rides, a tour of a Roman amphitheater, visits to the most extraordinary live-action theme park I have ever been to, Puy de Fou, and the aquarium, painting classes with a local artist, an opportunity to personally interview artists from an abundance of different styles, an excursion to the historical village of Brouage (birthplace of Samuel de Champlain), an inspection of an impressive 18th-century ship, a stop at a restaurant sampling authentic French cuisine, among others!

At what point in your academic career did you go?

I participated in the program in my third year of study in Bachelor of Education program at the University of Alberta.

Why did you go?

Firstly, the program was appealing as it appeared to offer a stimulating environment to be fully immersed in the French language and culture. The pace of the study tour also allowed me to accelerate my program, as I completed six credits of senior French courses in a month which were directly credited to my program.

What delighted you about your experience?

The town of La Rochelle is exquisite. Delicate cobblestone streets are lined with stunning architecture dating mainly from the 14th and 16th centuries and the town's "sky line" consists of three distinct ancient towers and a clock gate ornately carved with images of the sea. In the residential area, whitewashed houses contrasted by bright green and blue shutters are prominent and pathways are filled with the vibrant colours of hollyhocks, lavender, and rose vines. Gorgeous poppy fields and lush, sandy beaches are scattered around the town -- the city truly is its own paradise.

The size of La Rochelle is also ideal for a student. There is an abundance of activities to do within the city and surrounding areas. A person I befriended through the program and I created a "bucket list" of activities we wanted to do during our time in La Rochelle, Our afternoons and weekends were spent visiting every museum and gallery in town, attending events such as art exhibitions and music festivals, visiting the charming nearby island "Île de Ré," sampling the astonishing flavors of gelato from the locally run shop Chez Ernest, taking bike rides along the shore, lounging in the lush botanical garden, and basking in the sun on golden beaches.

How did the experience influence you?

I recently completed my undergraduate degree in education with a minor in French. Participating in the La Rochelle study tour provided me with the valuable opportunity to be fully immersed in the language, which was immensely beneficial to my French language fluency.

What advice do you have for other Arts undergraduate students who are considering a study abroad option?

Participate in the La Rochelle study tour! It is an opportunity of a lifetime and an enrichment experience like no other.