Friday, May 6, 2011

Aix-en-Provence, France, *Lindsay Rodriguez

Where did you study abroad? 
Aix-en-Provence, France

For how long? (and why did you choose that length?)
one year.. I knew a semester wouldn't be long enough to really dive into the culture and get the full experience based on what others had told me. Plus, I thought why not leave home for the longest period possible?

Which program?
CSU IP program at SFSU

Pre-departure preparations
The only preparation really was just taking care of the Visa which was neither fun nor simple. Be sure to do that a bit in advance if possible. Oh yeah I guess I worked to save quite a bit to travel and enjoy my time there. Thats not a bad idea, either. :)

Beginning experiences and feelings upon arrival?
I was so excited. I arrived full of energy and hope for the year ahead and honestly, I wasn't nervous or afraid but more in awe of everything I was seeing and the culture around me. It felt so easy to just find a place amongst this new lifestyle; things felt relaxed, much slower, the weather was warm, the city was beautiful. It was way far too easy to adapt to feel any culture shock in the negative sense. Literally I felt like I was waking up in a dream the first month or so that I was there. Meeting all the other CSU students was awesome.. we all had such a good time together those first couple weeks in the hotel when we began our language program. I feel like nobody should be afraid of the beginning but prepare yourself for the pain at the end; unfortunately leaving is a bit harder.

Best part
The people you meet and the places you see, of course. Food wasn't bad either :) There is no other experience where you are just thrown literally into another culture and have to sort yourself out. You meet some amazing friends, have the best travel stories and most people I know came out of the year with much more confidence than when they left.

Any difficulties? (cultural, language, etc)
Like I explained, I felt that upon arrival it was really a pleasure to be amongst a totally different culture from our own. As the winter sets in, times get a little more rough I think as the thrill of arrival wears off and I started to face the difficulty of really finding good french friends.. I had a few but the americans all stuck close to eachother.. in fact, all the english speakers did. It's not negative it's just natural. With time, if you lose this hesitation or get yourself a language partner who wants to learn english, you'll break through and notice nobody cares, you're learning after all. The biggest difficulty I experienced actually was coming back home. Spending a year of nothing but traveling and learning and meeting amazing people and returning to the place you know so well was extremely difficult.. it feels like the adventure is coming to an end. On the positive side, you have the opportunity to reunite with your friends and family of course and learn even more about your own culture from a whole different viewpoint.

Information about Aix-en-Provence (best places to go, watch out for, etc..)
Aix is such a tiny place that all the clubs and bars and all that are in the same area. You'll discover it all on your own within a few weeks. One of the most memorable events I went to was this outdoor festival called "Aires Libres" in Arles at the end of August or beginning of september.  Oh and be sure to go to the markets everyday.. the big ones near Palais de Justice are awesome but the little ones are amazing as well.. they have the cheapest and freshest produce of anywhere and the farmers are some of the nicest people I ever encountered in Aix.

Any advice you’d give to a prospective study abroad student?
Aix is definitely a wonderful little city but I would really encourage you to make some french friends or any international friends who have a car or who leave the city from time to time.  Its one regret I had to not explore more of the regions close by and to be fearless in meeting the natives, whether or not my French was perfect upon arrival.  Just go out as much as possible, try to make as many contacts with frenchies and other internationals and you're going to have some of the most unforgettable memories with these people the rest of your life.  You'll have a friend in every country of the world waiting to welcome you next time you travel.  I dont know anyone who regrets studying abroad.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Lindsay, I hope you could feature an article that talks about your study french in france too. :)