It was an awesome first weekend! We went to with the school to nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo. the day started at 8 am meeting down town for the bus to Nice. We spent the day on the pebble beach and swimming in the amazingly blue water! It's really weird to swim because the water is so salty so your more buoyant but at the same time its more work cause its harder to move through. Around 3 we went for a hike up a hill kinda to take pictures and look around at the view! We then tried to take a tour of old nice… but then got gellato instead. It was incredible and they have every flavor you can think of. They even have beer and tobacco flavors. Gross. I got chocolate and raspberry. It was a very relaxing day. Then we got back on the bus to drive a little over a half our to our hostel in Monaco. It was absolutely beautiful! It was this huge garden with little rows of rooms.
We all showered and got ready quickly before dinner at the hostel, and then headed off to the Monte Carlo casino! To be honest, I expected the casino to be like Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods and have like a mall or other entertainment beside gambling, but it wasn't like that at all. It was a great big beautiful baroque inspired building... and that's about it. From the architecture side it was really interesting to see, but once I talked to my professor that came on the trip, she pointed out all the little details that showed it was not authentic baroque, and it was just meant to imitate, it was pretty disappointing. She said that at the time it was built, the rich basically just hired an architect out of Paris and said make this look fancy and expensive, so that's what they came up with. There wasn't any music playing except for a small live band that played very sophisticated music and there was a 10 euro cover to get to the gambling room. The drinks were around 12-20 euro and I mean it was pretty and all but I did not need to spend two hours there. It was much more sophisticated than imagined it being… I definitely was not disappointed in the experience, but it just was not what I expected.
The next day we woke up to get breakfast at the hostel and then went off to explore the city of Monaco. We watched the changing of the guards at the palace of Monaco which was interesting and then we walked around a little bit. We went into the aquarium which was amazing! We saw all the fish that are native of the Mediterranean sea. We then got to go on the roof of the aquarium for an amazing view. Everything is just so beautiful it's a lot to take in. On the way home from our trip we also stopped at the perfume factory and got a tour of how perfume is made. We were able to climb a trail to this amazing little town that I already forget what it is called. It was basically carved out of the mountain side. It was really fun to walk around and see how different life would be living in the little village.
Overall it was a very long weekend, but I had a blast. Now its back to reality... kinda!
Finally orientation day! We all met at the schools main hall were we had a folder complete with information and a itinerary for the day. We got introduced to all of the professors and faculty. There are 119 kids in the program 27 boys and 91 girls. Out of the 47 universities represented, New Haven is number 3 with 8 people! There are two schools within IAU, the "Aix center" and "Marchutz. Marchutz is for the art students, but our group of interior designers is in both kind of. The dean of the Marchutz school is very inspiring to all because of his outlook on study abroad. He wants to teach us to not just look with our eyes but to see with our eyes. There is so much to take in its almost overwhelming. He told us that our homework assignment this week is to try all the different bakeries and decide which one has the best chocolate. With so many orientation sessions, this was an extremely tiring day. They told us where to go, and where not to go in aix in terms of bars, clubs, and restaurants. They informed us all the ways to stay safe, and warned us that even though Aix is a VERY safe city, you still need to be smart especially because the language barrier can be difficult. Most kids speak french in the Aix center, but the Marchutz school does not have many kids that speak french. Today I ordered my own food in french for lunch which was very exciting! When I told my host mom at home she was very excited for me as well. At the dinner table we laughed about how in english you say cheese when you take a picture. Fromage is cheese in french and it does not work quite the same way lol.
Today was the first day of classes! Today I had French 101 at 8:30 and Painting at 11. In my french class we learned how to introduce ourselves which i already knew and how to count, ask how much money something costs, proper pronunciation of letters and numbers. I think I will learn pretty quickly in this class because I learn SO much at home. Dinner is easily my favorite part of my day. The food is absolutely delicious and its so much fun to sit down and talk while we eat. My host moms are so funny. Last night they tried to teach me the alphabet. Today in painting we got a little tour of Aix on our way to our studio. It's a hike away to say the least. But it's absolutely beautiful. I really like the professors outlook on class. I already said that kind of because our professor is the dean of marchutz but it's so amazing. We have two painting professors and both of them actually were students of IAU on the 60s and basically never left. I don't think I am ever going to leave either. It's just so beautiful here!! After class we went to the craft store which is so exciting!! I love art supplies!! After we went to the store I walked around a little and then I was really tired so I went home to relax. Anddd that's about it!
The start of my very long day was in the airport from the week I spent "on holiday" in ireland with some girls from my school. We went to check our bags as a group and almost everyone's bags were over weight which wouldn't be a big deal in the US, but, they wanted to charge us 500 euros which is about 750 dollars. Luckily, my carry on was only 5 kg over so I was able to take out a book and something else and put it in my purse to make it work. It was really frustrating to deal with first thing in the morning, but I tried to be patient. The one thing I've learned from working in the food industry is that it's easier to be nice and more helpful to people that are patient and understanding with you... and now i've learned to pack very light when traveling within europe! Anyway, the flight was quick and I slept the whole time. When I got to the airport my host mom Sylvie was there with her friend Eliza. I found out later on that their best friends and they do everything together. Sylvie does not speak a word of English so it is very difficult to communicate. Eliza speaks VERY little english, but enough to get by for now. Luckily, from taking 10 years of Spanish, so I am able to figure out what they are saying in context. it's more difficult for me when they ask a question and for me to answer it. I live in an apartment building with just Sylvie and it's absolutely adorable. I unpacked my clothes and had lunch. Later, Sylvie's daughter came over with her granddaughter Lola who is two. She is way too cute! But it's so hard to communicate with her because she only knows a little English. Sylvie wants me to only speak English to Lola so that she can learn. Marybeth, Eliza's American student arrived later that night and we all ate dinner together. It was really nice to have her there to help me speak with them. She translates for me I I don't get what their saying and I use her as a dictionary to tell them what I'm trying to say. I always try and respond in Spanish which is frustrating because I can always think of how to say it in Spanish... But it's not Spanish its French! We have really nice balconies on our apartment so it's really nice to sit and eat outside since its SO nice out! In France, it's interesting that every bathroom has a separate room for just the toilet and then another room for the shower and the sink. In my building, there is a laundry shoot type trash were we dump trash. Luckily, I don't have to wait for my water to heat up like some people do because I'm in an apartment complex. However, the shower head is not connected to the wall, you have to hold it while you try and rinse your hair. My first night I slept like a baby in my room designed for baby Lola. Our first full day, my host mom told Marybeth and I to sleep as late as we want and we will go to the beach tomorrow! Before we went to bed, we did some exploring downtown Aix. It's absolutely beautiful (and crowded) on a Saturday night. There are amazing fountains that you can drink from everywhere! I really like Marybeth, we get along really well. She is from rhode island and goes to school at bryant university. The beach near marseille was absolutely breathe taking. We had a picnic at the beach and the water was so warm. I noticed my host mom and Eliza smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink a lot of "cafe" or coffee. I don't mind. Its funny, they even brought hot cafe to the beach! I noticed that when someone smokes a cigarette in the US they smell really bad and so do all their clothes, but for some reason it's not like that here! Maybe its because they roll their own cigarettes. But Im glad they don't smoke in the house. After the beach, Marybeth and I went to IAU's open house were we met other students and then went to the local American bar by school called "wohoo" for happy hour. We went home shortly after that to eat dinner with our family. We were informed that we will eat together every night and that we were like a family and would do everything together! It's the ideal situation because we're kind of like house mates but not. We were also told we would take a "family" vacation to spain for the weekend!! Haha no big deal! Im so excited! Especially because then I will be able to translate for them... From French to Spanish!! Haha or I'll translate to English for Marybeth and she will translate it to French. We talked about everything at dinner... And they happen to think my "companion" is very beautiful ;) we are very lucky to have such great host moms. Some kids parents won't let them go out or anything. Our moms offer us wine with dinner because it's part of their culture. They also said that we can have a party eventually and we can have friends over for dinner as long as we give them notice. I'm so excited that I got matched up with Marybeth and these amazing French women!! In terms of food, everything is amazing! I have no idea most of the time what I'm about to eat but its always so good. They first night we had some kind of steak that was amazing and the next night we had a quesh. I had no idea what either of them were and I don't know how to ask even of I wanted to know. I've already eaten so many things I would normally pass up or make a face at at home. Like tomatoes. I don't like tomatoes but I've been eating them anyway cause they're apart of a lot of our meals. I'm still trying to figure everything out and it's not quite hitting me yet that I'll be in France till december... That's all for now! Au revoir!
On July 10th, I had my adventure to the French Consulate in Boston... and I say adventure for a reason. I started my long term visa process early so that the long process of getting a visa wouldn't make me an anxious mess trying to do it at the last minute. I applied to "campusFrance" which is what students have to do first before they can apply with the french consulate. It was a little bit of a process but whaaaatever. Taking the advise given to me, I immediately booked my appointment with the french consulate in Boston, as they fill up quickly. So, it’s the night before my meeting, the week after the 4th of July (chaos) and I am at my summer house gathering all my documents to bring to which was clearly spelled out in a list on the consulate website and I realize I don't have my passport. I had left it at home. Disaster. It was already 11pm and I could not drive home to get it, so I had to leave at 830 am to drive through rush hour traffic making my normal hour ride home twice as long. The traffic only making my anxiety worse, I make it to my house and back to the city. Originally, I hadn't planned to drive into Boston for the meeting cause I knew I would be anxious and that parking would be extremely hard to find. I used my iphone for directions, and I type in the address with out the zip code and it brings me to a rough part of the city. Now I get even more nervous that I'm going to be late. The consulates website is very intimidating and says that you should be a half hour early and if you're late they won't let you in. Finally figure out how to get to the address I was looking for and of course, its located in the middle of a maze of one way streets with people walking all around because its lunch time. Cutting it way to close for comfort after I drove around the city for 45 minutes looking for a parking spot and finally I parked in a huge parking garage in Copley square and then I got lost trying to walk of it! At this point I'm almost in tears because its 3 minutes of 12 and I'm running down the streets of downtown Boston trying to find the building. I finally get there at 12:05 and at the door there is a security guard and I'm crying because I thought I had missed my appointment after such a long morning because I couldn't find parking. He laughs at me and asks me why I'm crying and trying so hard to hold back the tears of frustration I say I couldn't find any parking and I've never driven in this part of the city before. He giggles some more and says he can let me in and that I didn't miss anything. It was probably one of the more anxiety ridden days of my life. So, lesson learn: Always have your passport with you. I'm glad I can laugh about it now, and it certainly was an adventure. As for pre trip thoughts, I’m honestly just anxious about packing and getting everything done in time! I don’t know how I am going to fit in saying goodbye to all my friends at school and at home and my family! Right now I’m most nervous about my flight and getting there on time with everything I need. Luckily, I’m the list queen so hopefully I wont forget anything! I’m really looking forward to getting the information about my host family. I don’t know any French, but I’m so excited to learn and struggle to interact with them. There’s so many things I’m looking forward to and so many things I feel like I’m leaving behind. Ha but not really cause I’ll come back eventually… maybe… that’s all for now!