My clothes are neatly folded in drawers, my photo collages are set up, and my desk is equipped with new school supplies.  Aix-en-Provence is officially my new home.  I’ll admit that the first night was the hardest; instead of getting dinner in the dining hall and spending time with my friends in Boston, I sat in my room and began to question why I came here in the first place.  I had a grand total of two phone numbers in my new French phone and I didn’t want to leave my apartment for fear of getting lost in the city.  I knew that I should embrace my new French life, but I mostly just felt lonely.  Why hadn’t I stayed in Boston or gone to Australia with three of my best friends? 

These questions were quickly answered as my week continued.  I met other students who come from schools and cities all over the country, I tried out new restaurants in town, and I began to get a feel for where I was.  Before leaving home, my mom’s boss told me about his experience traveling abroad and insisted that this would be the best experience of my life.  As he said, this is the first and only time that I’ll be entirely alone in a brand new place.  I saw this as terrifying, but he reminded me that it’s also very exciting.  In just a week, my French has already improved and I’m beginning to remember why I’ve loved this language since I was 13 years old.

The first week of classes here wasn’t so different from what I’ve experienced at BC. I met my new professors, went over course descriptions and assignments, and got a general feel for what each class would entail.  This semester, I’m taking Photography, Creative Nonfiction, French Cinema, French Literature, Contemporary French Civilization, and Comparative Education.  Three of these classes are in French so between school and my homestay, my language skills should improve a lot in the next few months. 

The course load here seems a bit less demanding than what I'm used to BC and I think that’s the intention of the professors. They don’t want us stuck inside doing homework during our time here; rather, we should be out exploring the city and learning first-hand about the new culture we’ve fallen into. Both my photography and creative writing courses include going out into the city and finding inspiration in what we see around us. I think that this is the best way to get the most out of our study abroad experiences. Although I’ve already begun working through my homework assignments, it doesn’t feel like I’m actually in school here. 

I'm starting to see many cultural differences here, but I'll start with just one: school supplies. In this subject, I have to admit that I’m a bit of a snob.  My annual trip to Staples is one of my favorite parts of going back to school.  Post-its, specific types of pens, and notebooks with college-ruled lines and built-in folders are all must-haves for me.  I decided to forego this shopping trip back home, assuming I could get the same supplies here.  I was wrong. I walked into Monoprix and looked through the various notebooks. For some strange reason, they all have tiny horizontal lines flying across the pages and vertical lines creating little boxes.  I considered having my parents ship me “normal” notebooks, but eventually admitted to myself that I was being ridiculous. I never would have thought that something as minor as notebook lines would throw me off here. There are plenty of other differences that are much more important but I'll save that for another post! 

            

            

            
 


Comments

Laurie Farren
09/19/2012 5:07am

Just wanted to wish you the best Meagan! I'm enjoying reading of your adventures......keep em coming!!

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