I want to kind of give a brief summary of things that I learned, enjoyed, etc while studying abroad in France. And by brief, I mean that this will be a long-winded post that many people will not be able to mull through. But whatever. I even tried to prepare and write something on the plane. It was cute and insightful and even included some awesome doodles about needing more coffee and such, but I left it on the plane. :(
So. A few things.
The first thing I want to say is that study abroad is everything and nothing that you think it is/will be/whatever. It's more in almost every way and less is other ways. For example, if you're taking 14 hours of class a week (like I did), in the middle of the day during prime wine-drinking hours, then you're going to miss out on some stuff. I felt like I didn't get to explore the town as much and try all the quaint cafés and restaurants like so many of my peers did every day... while I was in class... dying. With that being said, I didn't spend as much money, so it was actually secretly helpful.
Also, I feel like when people (aka me) go study in Europe or some place surrounded by other fantastic countries and cultures, they have all of these plans to travel every weekend and do this and do that and journal every night and take pictures of everything they ate and update the world via their blog (oops). But then you get there. And it's just kind of different. You get busy. Busy taking in the wonderful city you're living in and then you're completely exhausted at the end of each day after taking classes in French and trying to communicate with others in a language that isn't your own. AND THEN, you go home and have to speak more French. It's one of the most tiring and fabulous experiences that I have ever had. But, I stopped writing in my journal after a few short weeks and found it nearly impossible to keep a blog of my adventures. And traveling to Italy and Spain and Switz and this and that. Yeah. Right. I made it to Barcelona, Spain. Money gets tight and you get tired and then you realize that the city you're living in is pretty spectacular so you don't really HAVE to go to all these different places. Blah blah blah.
Besides those two minor things, studying abroad was the best thing I have ever done. I met some great people from all over the country that I actually liked. No fake friends, just love. Look out West Coast Friendz! I'll be seeing you! And my host mother was amazing. I cried when I left her because she was the sweetest thing the world has ever seen.
Lastly, being away from everyone and everything allows you to think a lot. I guess one could even say that it give a person the opportunity to do some soul searching. It was really beneficial (sometimes scary) to be left alone with my thoughts... without a phone... or people who speak the same language as me... or anything. It's just different and kind of refreshing - at times.
So, everyone. If you have the opportunity to study abroad - do it. You get to meet people, learn and experience a new culture, explore an amazing country and many other things. You might come away from it all finding out that you love olives and strawberries and goat cheese (because that's me) or you might do something crazy - like find yourself. Who knows! But honestly, I would recommend studying abroad to any breathing person that has the means to do so. It is an unforgettable experience.
AND. You should choose this program. People always go to big cities like Paris and Lyon and so on. But being able to study in a city like Aix felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was so quaint and comforting. Aix is one of those towns that you picture when you think of France. It doesn't have that huge/fast/crowded feeling that Paris and Lyon have, which is why it is perfect. Moreover, the neighboring areas you visit with the university excursions are utterly breath-taking.
Seriously people. Save up some cash and go somewhere. Learning doesn't have to be done in a school. Experience different cultures and different countries. Stop waiting. No more excuses. Just do it. You won't regret it.
I don't even know where to start. They last two days have been, well, interesting. The flight was fine and everything. But as soon as you leave that friendly British Airways cabin, everything changes. You have to go through customs and now you're in this country where English is not the first language and it is terrifying. Absolutely frightening.
BUT. The guy at customs was nice. He said my name was pretty, or at least that's what it sounded like he said. Then I went to baggage claim and made friends with the cutest 2-year-old ever. She waved at me and then took my hand and tried to steal me away. I would have let her, but I decided that wouldn't be the best thing to do. She also tried to carry my way-too-heavy bag. But she was precious and made my arrival to Marseille a little easier.
After baggage claim I found my host mom! She is the absolute best. She talks super fast and I can't understand a word she says, but she seems nice enough. And her place is precious. I absolutely adore it. I have a double bed, too, which I've been told is kind of rare. So thank you!
Last night my host mamma invited a friend over and we ate dinner and drank wine and ate cheese. How perfect, right? I went to bed pretty early on and ended up sleeping forever. Breakfast the next morning consisted of bread, nutella, jam and honey. Madame Josy (my host momma) had tea. In a bowl. So I poured my milk. In a bowl. And then we drank from bowls. I had to ask her because I didn't know what to do. She knows that breakfast in France is much different than breakfast in America, but she didn't know we drank from glasses for breakfast rather than bowls. It was awesome and cute. I think I prefer to drink from bowls anyway.
Later, Josy drove me to school. We met up with another one of her friends who was completely awesome and spoke slowly so that I could understand her. I thanked her a lot for that last part. We walked around the town a bit before it was time for the open house. Aix is absolutely beautiful. You must visit sometime. All of you. When I got to the school's open house, I was super anxious. Attempting to mingle when you don't know anyone is pretty hard. But everyone was pretty friendly and nice. THANKS FELLOW CLASSMATES! YOU ALL INTIMIDATED ME INCREDIBLY BUT I'M GLAD YOU'RE NICE.
Tomorrow is orientation. So we'll see how that goes.
Basically, my two days in France has consisted of incredible kindness and such beauty. The shops are cute and the weather is magnificent. I'm trying to stay positive about my whole lack of French comprehension because I know it can only improve from this moment, right?
I will post
That's it, folks. Two weeks and I'll be on a flight to London and embarking on the biggest journey of my life thus far.
There's been so much that I have put off and it's starting to catch up with me. There's money I need and still don't have, books I need to buy, things I need to pack and I should probably get a suitcase, too.
I'm not sure why I've been procrastinating. Maybe it's because I thought something unfortunate would happen and I wouldn't be able to go. Or maybe I've been putting it off because I am actually pretty nervous about the whole thing. Or maybe I'm just weird. Whatever.
I have to get around towns that I've never been to. And deal with maps. And streets. And people. And public transportation. Oh, my! But seriously. I hate public transportation. I'm sure it's much more reliable and accurate in Europe than in the states. Annnnd hopefully no one will talk to me while I'm on the train because I just don't really like that.
TWO WEEKS. H E L P.
Alright, guyz. In the spirit of this post, here is Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks." And two pictures from their show that I saw last month, which was incredibly amazing and lovely. One of the best shows I have ever seen. Easy. Love you Grizzly Bear bbz.
I leave for Europe in less than three weeks to start my study abroad program.
Fact: I've never been out of the country. I just got a passport right before the beginning of the year, even. See! I even got this cheap, touristy case!
I've always wanted to leave the country and see what else the world has to offer other than a Southern twang, but I never made any moves towards doing so until recently.
And now it's all being set into motion. I trek to Europe in late May, then I venture to France for 6 weeks and hop around to "surrounding" towns (Barcelona and Florence, je pense). And then, once I've finished the program, I'll be traveling for another week or so. Because why not?
I'm not going to lie, but I am completely terrified. I'm going to France to pursue a French minor, and experience a part of the country I have always wanted to see.
I'm shaking in my boots that the courses will be too hard and that the French will hate how American I am.
But beyond all that, I am thrilled. I can't wait to have new experience and meet new people. To eat a ridiculous amount of carbs and bask in all the bread-y goodness. And did I mention cheese and wine? How could I forget those?
These next few months of my life are going to be amazing. I can feel it. It's going to be tiresome, being thrown into the middle of things and absorbing so much French. But I think - just maybe - I can do it.
France & senior year, here I come!
And in the spirit of all things French, or whatever. Here's my girl Yelle - "Je veux te voir"