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Aix: My Home from Home

 Parc de La Torse, Aix en Provence

Back home, I always used to meet my parents and my little siblings at church every Sunday morning. For the first time in a long time, after my first week in Aix, I went to mass on Sunday without my family there to greet me. No row of girls sitting all in a line next to Mom and Dad, no gleeful glance from my littlest sister upon spotting me walk in. At that moment, I missed the familiar. I missed home! But here I was, in an absolutely beautiful–not-to-mention ancient–French cathedral, with great, big tapestries hanging on the stone walls, an enormous organ bellowing behind me, and a beautifully lit altar before me. This was home! It was unfamiliar, and yet so familiar. I had said when I left the States that I wanted to be stretched and challenged, that I wanted to come out of myself by being around different people, immersed in a different culture. I’ve been finding that, yes, I’m discovering more about myself after being removed from the familiar, precisely by learning about what is dear to me, what is home, since I’ve been away from it. It seems that this is when you really know something–when you’re removed from it. What is dear to you is made clear, whether it be what you left behind or what you’re discovering anew.
 My street: Rue Cardinale, Aix en Provence

It’s easy to feel homesick, disoriented, maybe even misplaced when you start your study abroad program. You miss things from back home, but now you have to adapt to this new home. Maybe it hasn’t become a real home yet, but fret not! How can you make this new place a home away from home? So often we have chances to take leaps of faith, to come out of our comfort zone entirely; and it can be terrifying, but almost always pays off. Why not talk to those kids after class instead of leaving right away, or explore your city and discover your favorite spots, or just walk around and get lost? Sometimes wandering is the best way to discover, the quickest route to new surprises. And above all, it’s so crucial to put your fears aside—of fitting in, of adapting perfectly to this new place, of never making a single embarrassing blunder. Enjoy it all right now, in the moment, and don’t worry about looking silly.
 Book market, Aix en Provence

Slowly but surely I can feel Aix becoming my home from home. I want it to become familiar, so that I feel like I belong, but I don’t want to lose the sense of wonder that comes when you see or experience something unfamiliar. Maybe that’s an even more important bit of truth–that things which are dear to us, even though they may be familiar, should never be marveled at any less. Wonder is such a gift, and it is very present now, as I’m still uncovering new secrets and ways of life in Aix. But should it ever fade, even when I become more accustomed to it? My family and friends are the most familiar things on earth, and yet, being apart from them, I am filled with more wonder at the gift of them. You will also start to become familiar with things in your city: daily happenings, ways of life, even just little spots here and there that you love to visit. But as your city becomes more and more like home, never forget the many gifts that it will always offer.

Home from home; this is Aix! I am beginning to love it dearly, my town of water, town of art.

Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.


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