Monday, May 16, 2011

Aix-en-Provence, France, *Lindsay Mueller

Where did you study abroad?

For how long? (and why did you choose that length?)
10 months, I chose to study for a year because I had heard from so many people that they regretted not staying for a whole year after being there for a semester.

Which program?
California State University International Programs

Pre-departure preparations
Before I left, I talked to a lot of people who were in the same town I was in the year before to see what would be best to bring. I was told to buy mascara, nail polish remover, and basically stock up on stuff that would be more expensive to buy in France. I probably started packing my stuff about a month ahead of time, I was so excited. I got a international drivers license before thinking I might drive for some reason (don’t get one, you wont need it even if you do drive). I brought two large suitcases, a big carry-on backpack, and a small duffle bag. TOO much stuff! Bring one large suitcase if you can, you WILL buy a ton of stuff, no matter what you think.

Beginning experiences and feelings upon arrival?
culture shock? excitement? nervous?
I was nervous and excited. I didn’t experience any culture shock because I already had been to France multiple times and knew what to expect. For the first week at least, I couldn’t believe I was finally there and was only nervous for my classes to start, since they were all in French.

Overall experience
I loved meeting so many new people everywhere I went. I made a lot of really close friends throughout the year that I still keep in close contact with. I also loved being able to pack up my stuff and be in another country within an hour. Lastly, I had a lot of free time, which was the best part. Living the “European” life and being able to sit around coffee shops and do nothing but enjoy talking to other people.

Any difficulties? (cultural, language, etc)
The biggest difficulty for me was living with another French girl. I was excited at the beginning to be able to practice my French and be able to hopefully cook with her/meet a lot of other French people. But, we were kind of opposites and it didn’t quite work out as I’d hoped. The language barrier was hard at times too. A lot of people would automatically recognize my accent and start speaking to me in English. By the middle of the year though, it was so rewarding when that finally went away.

Information about Aix (best places to go, watch out for, etc..)
Best places in Aix: Bulldog Burger, Book in Bar, the big market every Tues, Thurs, and Sat. Jacobs (bread!!), l’unique (drinks), Wohoo (fun international/French student hangout), Crepes a go-go. Renior (theatre).. There are so many more places…

Smaller, tri-weekly market
Larger Farmer's Market with incredible food!
Farmer's Market
un petit-déjeuner

What you learned?
I learned SO much.. just about myself too. I came back with a different view of my University, but in a good way. I think I gained a lot of patience (the French can be hard to deal with) and I learned to take some time for myself in my busy schedule here back in the states. It was hard adjusting back to this lifestyle, but you will get used to it.

Any advice you’d give to a prospective study abroad student?
Go for a year! You will regret it if you only go for a semester or a summer. You just start to get used to things and start to make close friendships after the first semester. The second semester was definitely a lot more enjoyable and the weather was better. Also, don’t be shy. I was way too shy to speak French in the beginning and put myself out there, which was a big mistake. In order to really get a good grasp on the language, you have to just speak it and get over the fact that you are probably going to be horrible at it (in comparison to the French). Lastly, live it up and enjoy every minute of it, it will be over before you know it!

Lindsay Mueller is a student at Cal Poly SLO

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