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            Ever since I received my visa for France, I have been feeling a crazy combination of excitement and apprehension and nervousness, but mostly I just want to get there already! Once the stressfulness of my Consulate visit was over with, the reality of this trip set in. How am I going to pack four months worth of my stuff into one suitcase with a weight limit when normally I can barely fit a weekend’s worth of stuff into that limited of a space? How am I going to navigate my way through a foreign country when I often forget where I’m going on my way to class? What if I never get over jet lag? What is my host family going to be like? Questions like this pop up into my head at least 30 times a day, and I just have to keep reminding myself that everything is going to be okay.

            My Consulate visit was a breeze, and I credit that to my organization to the point of obsession. I checked, double checked, and triple checked, and then triple checked again, my folder to make sure that I had everything that the list required, in the same order, and that I had at least three copies of everything. I arrived at the Consulate an hour and a half before my appointment, they let me in 30 minutes before, and I was out before the time I was even scheduled for. Everything was super easy, apart from trying to figure out how to scan my fingerprints, and the people were extremely friendly, so it was overall a pleasant experience for me.

            A week later I received my visa in the mail, and that’s when the panic set in. Since then, I have constantly been on Google, as well as talking to my friends who previously attended a semester abroad at IAU, trying to figure out the best things and ways to pack, what I should and should not bring, the best places to go, the worst places to go, what basic French I should know, how the culture is different, and what I shouldn’t do to make myself stand out as an obvious tourist, though I think for me that is somewhat inevitable. Everything I have been told has just made me more and more excited.

            Although I am excited, I have a serious problem, and it is called over packing. A weekend away somewhere means a suitcase filled to the brim, so when my dad told me one suitcase with a weight limit was what I had to work with, it came as a very harsh reality check. Everyday I stare at my closet, trying to weed out the clothes that I will not be bringing with me, though I just want to bring everything I have. Although I cannot bring my beloved two pound Hunters, I will be bringing a jar or two of peanut butter for the days that I just need a small taste of America. As well, I will be bringing a hiking backpack for travel, since I do not want to be lugging around a huge suitcase with me from city to city and country to country; I will already look touristy enough. While I may not be happy that I can’t ship my whole closet over to France, packing lightly will be a good life lesson for this serial over-packer.

            From what I have heard and seen, I imagine Aix-en-Provence to be a beautiful little city, very different from Paris. I am anticipating lots of delicious food, wonderful sights, and people who help force me to learn French by not speaking English to me. I want to be as immersed into the culture of France as I can be by the time I leave, and I feel like Aix-en-Provence is one of the perfect places for me to do so. I have heard nothing but great things about the area and how beautiful it is, and while I am anxious beyond belief, I could not be more excited that I will be there soon. I have been counting down the days ever since I received my acceptance to IAU, and I cannot believe it is almost time for me to arrive…France here I come!