Thank you to all for keeping up with my blog the past few weeks. You've had a chance to read all of my wonderful adventures, and now I'd like you to SEE my experiences through the lens of my iPhone. 

From the moment I arrived in France until my last day of class I have taken daily video clips. This project really captures all of the highlights of this life-changing trip. Thanks again for your support and enjoy the video! 

<3
 
 
The last week at IAU was so bittersweet. I was sad things were coming to an end with my time here at IAU, and was also happy to see my family and other relatives at the end of the week for an extended vacation in another part of France!
On the Tuesday before finals, IAU put together a big picnic for all the students and their host family’s to come to as a wrap up for the term. It was a great opportunity to spend time with my host family, as well as see my friends and meet their host families. The whole group was set up under a large willow tree with different multi-colored picnic blankets and big picnic baskets for each family. My host family brought a bunch of different food to feast on, and even packed our favorite snack – paprika chips!  
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Emily and I!
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*Correction* : Megan's all-time favorite food
PictureThis is my professor's catchphrase
On the day before finals, my portfolio was due for class. It was semi-stressful to print 18 images when four other people were in the same position. On top of that, our photography class’s printer happened to run out of ink. In fact, the ink that was low could not be bought in any of the stores in Aix. After much frustration, another printer that produced less quality images was used (lucky for me I actually woke up early for once and didn’t run into the ink problem!). That afternoon, all five of us ‘showed off’ our portfolios in front of the class and let our professor look over them one last time. It was very cool to see the patterns that some people had while shooting or editing. Some focused on architecture more as oppose to others that shot more flowers and people. And some edited their images with much definition and contrast while others kept the photos softer. I loved going through the images and seeing the progress that everyone made from our first assignment, Light, to our last assignment, Still Life. Everyone’s images turned out beautiful, despite the printer problem. As well as all the knowledge I learned from my class, I also now have a nice souvenir to take home and show to everyone!

In addition, my photography class was invited to the Atelier Marchutz School's art exhibition to show one of our favorite images from the course. So along with the painting students and sculpture students of IAU, us photography students were able to present our work too! It was a lot of fun to mingle and see the other students' incredible work!
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At the art exhibition!
By Friday, my family and extended family (grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins) had all arrived in Aix-en-Provence! My host family was so kind to invite my mom and brother over to eat lunch with us! I was so happy that my family had the opportunity to meet my new family that I’ve grown close with during the past three weeks. And for nine people at their house, there was definitely more than enough food! Both Catherine and Hervé are wonderful cooks! But, after the lunch was finished, Megan and I had to scoot to take our photography exam. It was refreshing to take an exam and actually know everything on it! I learned so much during these past three weeks, so the fourteen – yes fourteen – page exam was a breeze. 
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<3 Photography class <3
After the exam, my friends and I decided to make the most of this night because it was our last few hours together! Me and five other girls (Megan, Meghan, Cameron, Kayley, and Jenna) all dressed up and went to a nice outdoor restaurant for dinner.  It was the perfect restaurant to relax and reminisce about the past weeks here in Aix. Afterwards we grabbed some gelato and headed to La Rotonde (the huge fountain in the center of Aix). Now, I heard through the grapevine that this was tradition, or maybe it’s just something crazy that us girls wanted to do, but we decided as our last night here in Aix to go all out and do something crazy! So what did we do? We jumped in La Rotonde! Fully clothed and fully illegal, we all splashed in without a care. I mean we’ve run into problems with the law once already, what were the odds it’d happen again?? By that time it was pretty late, so we all said our farewells and well wishes for the future. I’m so happy I met these lovely ladies and plan to keep in touch for a long time!
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Last dinner together!
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Before the fountain
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After the fountain!
For the past week now, I’ve been on the western side of France. In the past few days I’ve been in caves, castles, and canoes - having my breath taken away by the views and the scenery. France is such a gorgeous country with so much here historically, culturally, educationally, and aesthetically. As my time here starts to wrap up, I wish nothing more but to visit again soon. I will definitely be bringing a lot back from France including friendships, cultural experiences, and extra pounds in my suitcase.  This whole experience has definitely changed my perspective in life and hope to hold onto that for as long as I live. 

<3 
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Courtesy of Meghan Farrell
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Courtesy of Meghan Farrell
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Courtesy of Meghan Farrell
 
 
Okay so... IAU is the best! And I'm NOT just saying that. 

I'm in one course this term - photography. And I absolutely love it! I've always loved taking photos/videos with my iPhone. But now I know the difference between a good image and a GREAT image! Oh, and I've learned how to actually use my - well, my mom's - Canon too! Between the lighting, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed; there are lot of things that go into preparing a photograph.  Then, once the photograph has been made (not taken), there's the editing, sizing, and printing (but I won't bore you with all the details!). 

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Photographed by Ashley Raedy
My class is pretty small. There's my professor, Leslie. She is super cool and artsy and so much fun to be around! Then there are four other students; Megan, Meghan, Cameron, and Ian. Small, right?!  But, because it's so tiny, we all know each other really well and it's like we're just hanging out - not going to school. During class, we either have a lecture, photo shoot, critiques, or time to edit/print upstairs. The photo shoots are split up between the six assignments over the course of three weeks (light, line & pattern, texture, portraiture, street photography, and still life). 
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Photographed by Ashley Raedy
Because of this class, I can no longer walk down the street the same way. Wherever I look, I'm now saying to myself "That has great repetition!" or "This would be a really cool angle" or "That's PERFECT lighting!". I just can't help myself. 

Yesterday, my class (minus Cameron) had a field study in Arles, where a huge art exhibition (Les Rencontres d'Arles) is happening. My class and I went to several different exhibitions, but my favorite was one with photographs by Miguel Ángel Rojas. Much of his work incorporated areas of poverty, and had a darker tone. As my class and I looked around at the many images, my professor pulled me aside to look at one in specific. During our first photo shoot as a class, I shot an image of a little boy taking his shoes off at a fountain from the waist down (it's illegal in France to take photographs of faces without permission). Well, right there in the exhibition was a photograph very similar to the one I took! I guess you could say my inspiration came from Miguel Ángel Rojas, unknowingly!    
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Photographed by Miguel Ángel Rojas
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Photographed by Ashley Raedy
After viewing many photographs by various photographers, Megan, Meghan, Ian, and I ventured up to the amphitheater. We could see the whole city of Arles from way up there! It was breath-taking! 
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At the top of the amphitheater with the city of Arles is behind us!
We also stumbled upon the very cafe that Van Gogh painted in his piece, Le Café la Nuit! 
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The cafe with Van Gogh's painting on the right side
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Le Cafe La Nuit
I have one more week of class and plan to make the most of it! If you wish to see more of the images I've *made* these past few weeks, there's a separate blog for the photography class! Just click on the link below to view them :)  

http://www.photographyinprovence.blogspot.fr

<3

 
 
What a weekend! I must still have the traveler’s bug, because I took a vacation within my vacation. It was great! We almost lost a wallet, nearly pick-pocketed, and could have gone to jail! Oh, wait… let me explain:
PictureHUGE yachts in the harbor where we ate lunch
Megan, Meghan, Cameron, and I took a girls trip to the French Riviera. The weekend started off with catching a bus at 6:30am on Friday. I don’t remember the last time I woke up before 7:00am! We were all so glad that we took the early train because we ended up having the whole day in Monaco. The first thing we did was grab lunch; I had a crepe, of course. As we walked along the harbor, we noticed a big event going on in the center of town: Les Longines Global Champions Tour of Monaco! An international jumping competition was going on right at our very feet! The admission was free, so naturally we went in and took a seat. We ended up watching for at least an hour! It was incredible! 

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Jumping International Competition
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The competition
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There were even a horse mannequin!
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Had so much fun watching!
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Perfect seats
After, we made our way up to Le Casino de Monte Carlo. Two security officers came up to me and said “18 or older” (Do I really look THAT young???). Anyway, we went in and the casino was unreal! I mean there was a bar made of diamonds! I played the Black Jack machine and though I went held on for awhile, ended up regretting wasting 10€. Oh well, there are definitely worse ways to lose money...
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Back of le Casino de Monte Carlo
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Decoration or someone's actual car? What do you think??
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Front of le Casino de Monte Carlo
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In the afternoon, Meghan suggested that we take the train to Cap D'Ail; and what a great decision! There wasn't much of a beach, so we decided to explore instead. We walked along the edge of the cliff near the water and it was GORGEOUS! All along the shore there wasn't sand, but rather stones. It was like a massage for me feet! Thunderclouds rolled in suddenly, so we took shelter and ordered some drinks at a nearby restaurant. 

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Cameron, Megan, and Meghan
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Giving our feet a nice "massage"
When the rain passed, we decided to move on to Nice. But finding the train stop was a complete mess. You would’ve thought we would have learned our lesson to remember how to get back. I think I need to start carrying a little bag of cereal to drop behind me whenever I go places now! But after asking some people, meeting new friends, and going waaaay past the train stop; we finally found it. 
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The yellow mansion on top of the hill (where the red arrow is) was were we were lost. I took this picture at the train stop...
Onto Nice (pronounced "Neese"). When the four of us got off the train at Nice Ville, we had to then take a tram six stops north to where our shuttle from the hostel would come pick us up. To buy a ticket for the tram, you needed to use a ticket machine. We all tried purchasing a ticket, but the machine didn’t accept cash and denied our American cards. We were out of luck. When the tram rolled around, we noticed that no one else had a ticket when boarding the tram, so decided to just get on and hope for the best. Success! We got to the stop and checked into our hostel. Everything was great there; friendly people, a room for just the four of us that locked, and even a free breakfast for tomorrow. But there was one tiny little thing that set us all off laughing while Cameron had her ‘diva moment’: Hair. On the beds. On the pillows. In the shower. On the floor. Everywhere. I have to admit, it was pretty gross but hey, it’s a hostel. 
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Hair EVERYWHERE
By that time it was getting pretty late, so we cleaned up and headed out to the Old Town of Nice for dinner. We settled at a fun, crowded, outdoor restaurant and it was absolutely wonderful! We ordered drinks and the four of us talked and talked and talked! We didn’t even notice that it took an hour for our food to come and didn’t begin eating until 23:30! It was a very relaxing meal. We went out just for a bit after so that we could catch the last shuttle to the hostel of the night. To get back, we had to take the tram again. Again, we had to pass due to the ticket machines. We had no problem earlier in the day, so we figured, no problem now right? WRONG! At the first stop that the tram came to, the door opened and twenty police officers flooded our car! They demanded to see our ticket, and when we said we didn’t have one, they demanded for our ID. More than half of our car was escorted off, along with at least thirty more from the other cards, due to the fact that no one had a ticket. The police officer that had our passports walked out of sight, making us nervous. It was at least ten minutes of confusion, anxiety, and annoyance, until the officer reappeared. Our IDs were handed off to a strict-looking older man who said “48€”. All four of us tried explaining our situation and the whole time he kept saying “48€”. When we said we didn’t have the cash and couldn’t afford this, he pointed to the ATM across the street. We still hesitated and didn’t know what to do. Then he said something I’ll never forget in my entire life; “Bank. Or Jail”. All of us just looked at each other out of pure shock. While still so confused about this whole ordeal, the officer grabbed his walkie-talkie and said “OK, police…” And at that moment we shoved the money into his face. So we bought a pass that should’ve been 1€, for 48€ instead. Cool. The whole way back to the hostel was full of so much confusion, and anger, and feelings of unfairness. But what’s done is done.       
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Not happy campers
PictureVillefranche
The next morning (Saturday), we packed our things and went to beach at Villefranche (city number four: are you keeping count?). On the way to the train station, Cameron caught a pick-pocketer! Whether it was the Grace of God or just a woman’s intuition, she actually caught the woman in action. We all decided that Nice is not so nice. Villefranche was lovely though! The beach was somewhat crowded and full of strange occurrences. The day started off with a pigeon walking across Cameron’s back while she tanned. Then moved on to watching a man spray sunscreen in his long golden locks. Which then on too much PDA. Meanwhile, a little girl was spotted peeing in the rocks. And the day summed up with two intelligent little boys making a stream through the pebbles of the spilling sewage water. The things that went on were, indeed, very odd. I’m not quite sure what I thought about Villefranche after all of that!

From Villefranche, the four of us headed to Cannes. Another student from IAU, Elizabeth, met us at our hotel that night. We all got ready and went for dinner (late, again) at this outdoor pub. Elizabeth and I split the BEST pizza ever! It was called a Margarete pizza (it really was just a cheese pizza). But it was so good!! After dinner, Meghan, Cameron and I met the sweetest girl, Océane. She showed all of us the 80’s Music Festival that was going on by the water of Cannes. I think we were the only ones dancing at the concert! Later that night, we said our goodbyes to our new friend, and I slept the best I had in several days. 
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Okay so there were a few olives too
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From left to right: Elizabeth, me, Cameron, Océane, Megan, and Meghan
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There was no bathroom in the hotel room. Just a clear shower in the wide open. Odd...
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Gorgeous beach of Cannes
The next morning, we spent the entire day at the beach in Cannes. I tanned a lot with a little bit of sunburn, unfortunately. The beach was sandy, and the water an appropriate temperature for once! In my opinion, I liked the beach at Cannes more and had a lot of fun in the water. After at least five hours at the beach, we caught the next train to Marseille and then the bus to back home.
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Sister pic!
PictureFinally found a place with guacamole!!
The excitement doesn’t end there though! Because we were all starving, we went straight to a Tapas restaurant and grabbed some food. When it was time to pay, Meghan realized she didn’t have her wallet. Anywhere. Just as any normal person would do, she freaked and ran back to the bus station. Fortunately she knew exactly where she left it: above the seats on the bus. And after much worry on everyone’s part, she found the right bus and found her wallet!! That was a very close call! 


Now although I went into much detail of the mishaps that occurred this weekend, I had SO much fun this weekend! One of my most favorite parts of the weekend was that we had absolutely no plans, and no schedule, whatsoever. I don’t remember the last time I traveled without having anything or any place to be. It was a very relaxing way to travel. I also really liked that I had no Wifi during the whole weekend. So the only time I communicated was to talk with my friends. And we talked ALL DAY LONG. And we laughed ALL DAY LONG. And that’s all you really need in life: someone to talk to and someone to laugh with. 

<3
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Mes amies <3
 
 
So much has happened since my last blog! I’ve met many great people; from the man who made me a delicious sandwich for lunch, to the welcoming staff at IAU, to the wonderful friends I’ve made and hope to keep in touch long after my trip here. But there is a story I must tell before the craziness of weekend sets in. Yesterday morning before my afternoon class, I went on a trip to ‘Les Calanques’ in Cassis with my sister, Megan, and two friends I met, Vera and Meghan (two Megan/Meghan’s, confusing, I know!). 
In order to get to Cassis, we had to take a bus from Aix-en-Provence to Aubagne, and then another bus from Aubagne to Cassis. No problem right? Well… getting there wasn’t the problem for us. We arrived with few issues and actually had a lovely time at the beach by the Mediterranean. It was very breathtaking with the hot sun, crystal clear water, and smooth stoned beach. 
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However, on the way back to the bus stop, we had quite a bit of difficulty. Much to our surprise, the bus stop we got off at wasn’t the one we were able to board to get back to Aubagne. The bus stops form a loop in and out of Cassis. With an hour to spare until our bus was to arrive to take us back home, we walked on to try and find the correct bus stop. After much uphill walking and no sight of another bus stop, we began to lack confidence. So I spotted a man working in the yard a few feet above the street and decided to ask him for directions. Fortunately, I knew exactly how to ask politely thanks to Polly Platt’s French or Foe. According to this book I read before I departed for France this summer, the 10 magic words to use if help from a stranger is needed are “Excusez-moi de vous déranger Madame/Monsieur, mais j’ai un problème”.  Of course, after saying “Bonjour, Monsieur” first, I quickly noticed the change in his body language. The minute I said those ten words, he crouched down to be eye level with me and smiled while pointing in the direction of the bus stop. I was very grateful and the four of us were on our way. 

Unfortunately, my friends and I were still lost so I did have to use the ten magic words again with a construction worker who helped us further. And then once at the bus stop, realizing that we were at the wrong one when our bus passed us. But we finally made it on the bus (after scrambling to catch it at the next stop). Although we almost missed the bus, I was so thrilled and delighted that I was able to communicate with the strangers on the street. People here are reserved but friendly, the environment is chaotic but exciting, and the food is exotic but delicious. Please don’t ever make me leave <3 

 
 
Bonjour tout le monde!! 
PictureMegan and I waiting in the airport

It didn’t hit me when I was still packing ten minutes before I left for the airport; it didn’t hit me when I watched Wreck-It Ralph over the Atlantic Ocean; and it didn’t even hit me when I stepped off the plane and saw a huge “Bienvenue en France” sign in the airport. But, when I had my first bite of a real French Nutella crepe… that's when it hit me - I'm in FRANCE!!

Megan and I arrived in Aix-en-Provence safe and sound on late Saturday afternoon. What pleasantly surprised me was when I rode the escalator down to the baggage claim; I saw a man and woman holding a sign saying “Megan and Ashley Raedy”. Our host parents came to the airport to pick us up!! Madame and Monsieur are super nice and friendly and even helped us get our luggage from the belt. I spoke some French to them and came to find out they speak very good English, which was a sigh of relief for Megan. 

 


When we arrived at their house right in center of Aix, Taia, their dog, greeted us at the door. She reminds me of Snowy, the little white terrier from the French cartoon series, Les Aventures de Tintin. I loved watching that show in my middle school French class. In fact, my whole room is covered in posters from this cartoon series! Can you see the similarities??

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Snowy
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Taia
After a home cooked meal of various delicious pizzas and a walk around the city with my host family, Megan and I passed out and slept for not eight, or nine, or even ten hours. Oh no, we were out for fourteen hours!! I woke up the next day around 1 in the afternoon, after my host family left for a prior engagement. So Sunday afternoon consisted helping Megan, or “helping” I should say, learn French. My host family has a swimming pool (which is not common at all) so we vegged outside in the sun. Of course we constantly watched for bird droppings because Megan was fortunate enough to get a present from one of the pigeons within the first ten minutes of arriving at the house!
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Megan learning the conjugations
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My host mom already knows me so well! Before they left, she laid out two large jars of Nutella for lunch :)
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I hung out with the French Harry Potter all afternoon <3
That night, Mme took Megan and I into the center of Aix to meet up with her friend who was also hosting students at IAU. One of the girls, Vera, met up with us and together we watched the festivities of Le Feu de la Saint Jean. This is a Catholic tradition that has to do with the summer solstice, which was just a few days ago. There was music and dancing all night until the big lighting of the fire in the middle of Aix by La Fontaine de la Rotonde. Megan and I were as close as we could possibly get, right next to the metal rails that the police set up. It was a chilly night with the wind blowing down from the north, but as soon as the pile of branches went up in flames, I was très chaud! (I have a really cool video of when the wind pushed the flames right towards Megan and I!). The night went on with lots of celebration, and eventually Megan and I meandered our way back home. 

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People crowded the streets with torches of fire in hand. The mayor of Aix is standing off-centered in the silver!
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Avant
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Après
Today was orientation. It consisted of a lot of learning, a lot of walking, and a lot of remembering of all the information from the day. It made me really excited for the first day of class tomorrow as well as the rest of this week!! More on that to come for sure :)

À bientôt mes amis!
-Ashley 

 
 
Today is the day! I am about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life! And the most exciting thing about this adventure is that I'm not experiencing it by myself. I will be traveling abroad with my sister, Megan! Although she doesn't speak any French other than "bonjour" or "fromage", I think she'll be fine with her multilingual background and maybe a little help from me :) Not much time left before I go, but I'll be sure to post again real soon!
À bientôt!
-Ashley
 
 
As I sit here writing this entry, there are a hundred things running through my head as I begin to prepare for my trip to Aix-en-Provence in nearly one month.  Just to name a few, I need to make a few appointments, buy travel-size EVERYTHING, and of course, there’s the daunting task of figuring out what to pack. 
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My soon-to-be jam packed suitcase
To make packing a bit less stressful, I like to turn on French pop music for some inspiration. I like to listen to Annie Villeneuve and Carla Bruni, but the song that always seems to be stuck in my head is Zou Bisou Bisou! The music relaxes me and at the same time, excites me to soon be surrounded by the French language!
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One thing I have already done in preparation for my trip was that I bought a EuroRail pass. While I’m beyond excited to be going to Aix-en-Provence, I plan on experiencing other places in Europe as well! Maybe I’ll head up to Paris and hike the Eiffel Tower or go over to Italy and eat some pizza! Who knows?! The EuroRail makes it easy for me to just hop on a train and go, which is exactly what I need. I always think spontaneous adventures are the best ones! 


While at the Institute of American Universities, I’ll be taking a photography class.  I’ve never taken one before, but where’s a better place to take it than in Aix with the ocean so near and the endless fields of beautiful lavender???  I’m really into nature photography and hope to improve while studying abroad! 
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-Some of my most recent work-
But I’ll have to say, the one thing I’m most excited about is the chance to meet so many new people! I can’t wait to meet my host family as well as all the new faces I’ll see studying with me. This is going to be an adventure of a lifetime and I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be attending IAU this summer! 


Until next time!
-Ashley (: