The worn golden buildings of Aix still call to me from time to time. I look at pictures of Aix Centre-Ville and I long for fresh baguettes on my walk home from school and cobblestones clicking underneath my feet. It is amazing and saddening to think that it has already been a year since French culture and language surrounded me. I miss the fresh food at the markets and the uncertainty of life in a place with a language so different than my own. Studying abroad in France developed a greater independence in my own life and a change in comfort levels that allows me to go out and try new things. One of the biggest things study abroad has given me is the idea that I can travel and live anywhere. There is so much more out there than the United States and it would be a shame to not go out and see it.
I recommend taking advantage of the closeness of the countries in Europe and travel to small cities around the continent. The small cities are the best way to get a look at real local life and the delights of small-town Europe. Learn how to say greetings and ‘thank you’ in the language of the countries you visit, because the local people appreciate the effort. Taking public transportation in a foreign country is not as hard as it sounds. Look online for tips about public transportation before you leave. Lastly, Google Translate is the best way to understand where to go and what to order when everything is in a different language.
My time studying abroad has impacted this last year immeasurably. In my classes, countries are no longer just names on a textbook page. I can see the reality of the language, culture, and politics behind the definitions. I have a newfound respect for news about other countries, because I feel more connected to them. I notice the differences between Americans and Europeans in ways I did not before, and how biased and untrue many assumptions are about other countries. It is easy to think you know a place because of all the movies you’ve seen, and the books you’ve read, but nothing compares to the humbling feeling of hearing the local language all around, and not having a clue where to go or what they are saying.
Ashleigh Litcofsky is a CEA Alumni Insider who studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, during the Spring 2019 semester. She is currently a student at Emmanuel College - Boston.
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