Friday, February 24, 2017

Tomber Amoureux

Bonjour tout le monde!            

I suppose since this an honest blog, I should share the truth about something that’s happened to me. I fell in love. I know, I’m too young, I’m overseas, and long-distance relationships don’t work; but, it happened without me even realizing it. Since I am sure that this is so recent and strange, I will tell you a little bit my special “someone” and how it happened.

 I feel in love with Aix-en-Provence. I seriously love the place I am, the people I am with, and everything in between. I realized it today when I was walking home, I was just looking around and I was totally dumbstruck on the beauty and the loveliness of Aix. Firstly, like I have said before, the design of the town and architect are unlike anything in the U.S. Because most people walk rather than take some other type of transportation, you are surrounded by people walking in the middle of these alley-sized streets. Also, you see a lot more of history and culture shown thought the beauty and structure of the town.

  Everything here feels like a mix, or at least how I would imagine, of a large town with my small home town. It is a large size with a lot of people, shops, stores, and buildings. These stores are not large chains; on the contrary, they are small locally-owned and operated stores. With smaller places for indoor and outdoor seating. Aix also has an outdoor flower and produce market every day, and an outdoor clothes market three days a week, which add to the small town feel.
Besides the design, accessibility, comfortably, I also enjoy how much I am learning about the French culture and language. For some of you who may already know, most people in Aix only speak French. Quickly, I learned that in order to communicate, at all, knowing these phrases would be extremely important. As I learn more about this culture in my French class and everywhere else, I can instantly apply it. There are not many classes where the lesson you learn can immediately be used on a daily basis. Being able to have such real life application to my studies really makes me more excited and motivated to actively learn in that class.
 So alas, yes, I am in love. Although it may not be with a person, the town of Aix has my heart. Being in a city that is beautiful, fun, safe, exciting, and wonderful, I could not imagine being anywhere else. I am very happy and excited to see what these next few months have to offer, and I hope through my blogs and random thoughts, you too, will understand how I fell in love with studying abroad, and Aix-en-Provence!

P.S- These pictures of form the past weekend on our Religion 311 class (Early Christinanity in Europe) excusion- we visited basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la -Sainte -Baume.

Á la semaine prochaine! 

This is the view from our hike to Mary Magdalene's cave. 

This is the view from the top of our hike to Mary Magdalene's cave. 

Another view from the cave. 

Here is inside of Mary Magdalene's cave.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mes Sentiments

Bonjour tout le monde!

This week I decided to try to express how I'm feeling about France since I have been here for a month. Although it sounds like an odd topic, I feel it is important to share my experiences and thoughts I have about the past month and months going forward. For those who have studied abroad, or are considering it, I think the hardest part about studying abroad is how you deal with it. I know it sounds weird and harsh to say “deal with it,” but the most challenging and rewarding parts about studying abroad are how you handle the adventure, because it is completely different than anything else.

To understand it as I do, here is my reality check: you are going to study abroad in a different country, most likely with little to no people that you know. That means you are going on a lot of uncharted territory. Of course in the months before hand, you are preparing yourself, financially and physically, but you cannot prepare yourself emotions for how you will respond to this new place. However, taking these challenges and unfamiliar circumstances, I also believe that is the best part of studying abroad. With that being said, the first two times that studying abroad truly felt “real” to me was the instant I stepped on the plane, and the instant I got to Aix.

When I first got on the plane I was pressed with the mixed feelings of “holy cow is this happening” and “okay Melissa, just focus on making it to Aix.” With these two conflicting feelings of excitement and focus on safe travels, due to the fact I was now all alone, I could not truly prepare myself for my arrival. When I arrived in Aix, all of the sudden the emotion of “holy cow this is happening” kicked in. I looked all around me and was faced with familiar constructs (buildings, sidewalks, people, etc.,), yet nothing like it does in the states.

So how did I feel? Unreal is the best word I can describe it. Everywhere I go, is something so different and spectacular, yet I am almost getting used to all these amazing new things that are not in the states. Getting used to these things is a little scary, because I know when I come back I will be in for a huge culture shock. All of the sudden, the idea of traveling to England, Spain, or anywhere else in Europe is second nature. My new friends I have met within a month feel like family. The school I go to seems like my home. The markets, stores, and bakeries I buy my food at seem normal. Even my French, which is not the best, is starting to come more natural. Yet, when I take a step back and look at it, it seems completely surreal and unimaginable that I am doing all these things.

Even though I miss familiar faces, it is not as hard, especially with modern technology, I do not feel like I am away from home. It is easy to keep up with everything happen in my town, state, in country; yet, sometimes I am faced with the reality that I do not have the familiar faces of friends, roommates, and family that I can visit in person. Although I definitely miss my friends, I am immediately focused on how fortunate I am to get to experience a country, especially France of all places! C'est tout!

P.S The following pictures are from last week in Paris.

À la semaine prochaine !

A stretch of The Lourve in Paris, France.

The Opera House in Paris, France

The Lafayette in Paris, France.

My fellow tourists for the weekend :)

Me by the Notre Dame. 

We went to this art showcase, and I thought the staircase looked very cool. 

My friends and I by the Eiffel Tour.

Another picture by the Eiffel Tour. 


The view from Sacré-cœur

Me standing on top of the city.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Un jour typique

Bonjour tout le monde!

Other the past weeks, some of my friends and family have been asking me about what a typical day/week looks like, so I decided to give you a general idea on what an average week looks like for me. Although there are many variations, either through excursions, cultural activities, or just hanging out, this are the usually unchangeable things that I have going on. However, just writing about the things that happen does not compare to the people and views that I see. I also must point out that it is pretty crazy for me to think that I have only been here for four weeks. It is nice to have a routine, but also unimaginable that after four weeks, this place in the South of France is starting to feel like home!

Day 1 (Monday): Because most likely the past weekend I was traveling and got home late, or was doing homework late, I get up around ten because class does not start until twelve on Mondays. On my way to class, I grab a noisette at Paul and then go to class until three. After my class, I do homework either in a café, the basement of our school buildings, or my apartment. For supper, I have a baguette with an egg, and then go to volleyball practice at eight with some French students from another school.

Day 2 (Tuesday): Tuesdays start off with an eight-thirty class. Although the class is super early, I am almost getting used to getting up that early. A positive side of this, is that I am done with my classes super early and I have time to finish the classes that I did finish before the weekend. After grabbing a sandwich with some friends, I work out at the gym. I do have one another class on Tuesday, and that is my wine class, which is easy and fun.

Day 3 (Wednesday): This day is probably my least favorite day of the week. The main reason is because I have classes from nine until three, with only a two-hour break. Although I do enjoy most of the classes I have, it is just a lot of hours spent in a classroom. After my classes and homework, I may meet friends for supper, a volleyball game with other French students, or do another culture activity that my school or that CEA hosts!

Day 4 (Thursday): This day is probably the easiest day for me besides the weekend. I have one class, starting at eight-thirty, and afterwards I am free for the day. I may either workout, do homework, go to a café, or just relax. I also tend to go to the marchè to get some fruits, vegetables, and bread. On Thursday nights, we have a thing called “Café Hour” which is when CEA students meet up at this restaurant just to chat and meet people.

Day 5 (Friday): This day is most exciting. Because I am usually trying to get ready for my trip and finishing my classes, this day is most exciting and stressful. I get done with classes at twelve, so afterward I finish packing, last minute homework, and head to whatever bus station, train, or airport I need to begin my travels.

Day 6 and 7 (Saturday and Sunday): Most likely you can guarantee that on a weekend, my friends and I will be going somewhere. So far we have been to Cassis, Lyon, Paris, and the Alps! Because the amount of variation between weekends and places, I will just stay that in changes by place, time, and people.

This is just a general idea of the things that I do. This area is always full of surprises through the new places and things that I learn about each day. I am posting this early because this weekend I will be in Paris and will not get back until late on Sunday. Bon week-end!

À la semaine prochaine!

This is at my favorite Boulangerie in Aix.

This is the view from my apartment.

Cour Mirabeau.

Just the view I have on my walk to school.

4 Dauphins fountains

This is one of the buildings that I have classes in.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Bonjour tout le monde!

Following about what I said last week, when talking about differences, I think it is important to mention that there are similarities as well. I did want to point out the differences to create a picture of how I see the world on a daily basis, but these are not the only things that define people.  Yes, there are things that stand out from different cultures, subtle or not, but they are not the only factors when considering the nature of a person and place. An important thing to never forget is that with differences, there are similarities. There are a million and one ways in which the women I see in France and similar to me, and that is just as important as what stands out.

Along with this idea of focusing and grouping others on their differences, we are given stereotypes. Although I tend not to think much about stereotypes, nor do I choose to do my judgment of people based on a larger view, I still believe I must refute a common stereotype I have heard. Probably the most common stereotype I have heard from people, is that French people are rude. I find this statement hard to grasp, especially since I do not think people, more importantly French people, are just rude to everyone.

When coming into contact with people’s attitudes, the way someone acts towards use, is most likely a reciprocal on how you acted on them. Of course, you could be a sweet as a peach to someone and they could just be rude back, but basing an entire country on that is preposterous. After being here for a couple of weeks, I have learned that the possibly reason that we may think French people are rude are for two reasons. The first one is the language. We are in their country, so when we just assume that everyone knows English, it is like someone coming to America and speaking a foreign language. Of course English is a more prevalent language, but it is kinder to speak the native tongue, and not assume that everyone has to speak ours.

Another reason some people might think that French people are rude, is because they are not as open as Americans are. This is not good or bad, it just is. They do not trust people as much, so when someone is being kind to them, they thought may appear, “why are you being nice to me?” Therefore, I would not call their attitudes rude, just more hesitant, and there is nothing wrong with that. Actually, in the south of France, where I am now, I find the people here to be very pleasant. However, I do have to convey some stereotypes that are true. France has the best crepes. Actually, the best baguettes, croissants, pizza, tarts, basically anything that is a carbohydrate. I have to admit, that these rumors are true. Of course this is merely my opinion, and I am sure there are differentiating ones from different people. However, if you don’t believe me, come see for yourself!

Lastly, I thought I would give a recap of this past week! A week ago today, I visited Lyon, France with some friends from my school. We had an awesome time exploring Lyon in a peaceful and quiet season. Also, this weekend, we went to the French Alps to do some skiing, snowboarding, and hanging out! It has been a great three weeks, and I cannot wait for the weeks after!

À la semaine prochaine! 

The Ferris wheel in Lyon, France.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourière in Lyon.

My friends and I conquering the French Alps.

One of the highest views on the Alps.

Making sure I can prove that I skied in the French Alps.