There’s money in your pocket and travel on your mind. With only a limited amount of time abroad with CEA, it seems that everyone’s goal is to visit as many places in Europe while they’re here. While it is an admirable goal to want to hit every country ever in just over a month, it is one that you should drop immediately. Instead, sit still.
This is incredibly difficult for the incredibly excited. You want to go everywhere and do everything and take those Instagram-worthy photos so everyone back home knows just how far and wide you’ve traveled and how cultured you’ve become, etc. But this is the biggest mistake students make when studying abroad.
I’m not saying don’t go exploring other countries -- you definitely won’t regret it, I’m sure -- just remember that you chose the region you’re in for a reason. Cultural immersion doesn’t occur when you spend two days travelling to a country halfway across the world only to spend a day there. Immersion occurs when you explore where you live.
Don’t be someone who goes places to say they’ve been; someone who goes to take a picture and leaves. Be the person who explores for the sake of exploring and learning and pure amusement.
| The view from the dam just before starting
the hike up Mont de Sainte Victoire.
I haven’t left the south of France since I arrived and I have little desire to while here. It’s not because I don’t want to explore other countries; I definitely do. But adopting the mindset that you have to see all of Europe while you’re here means you’re assuming you’re never going to get the chance to leave the U.S. again -- and I don’t want to think that way.
To me, the only experience I won’t have again is the one that CEA is offering me now, in the south of France. The area may be small but so are the little things that make me love it. I can go on excursions and visit this place and that but I’m going to remember the little things, not the places when all is said and done.
These are the little things:
1. Having a French girl actually bump into me because she was so engaged in her book that she couldn't stop just to walk. Upon discovering that that book was my beloved Harry Potter, in French, I felt as though I’d made in instant friend with a stranger I’ll never talk to again.
2. The way my host mom’s face lights up when she sees how happy I am that she’s made my favorite tomato tarte yet again. It is not an exaggeration that food can, single-handedly, bring the world together.
3. The second my tired, dusty body hit the water in the crystal clear dam after half running/half dying up Mont de Sainte Victoire on the hottest day in Aix. With my head bobbing up and down, smiling like a lunatic, as I watched the remaining friends jump in, it all became worth it.
4. Hearing the first note to a familiar song in the wine cellar of a tiny restaurant. Accompanied by a friend and 15 other French people who are as content with the peacefulness as you are on an otherwise crazy Friday night.
| This was not the traditional "concert" we'd been told to
look for but it was hard to be disappointed at the
unexpectedness of it all.
Ferris Bueller said it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Stop thinking about the next place you’re going to visit for a second, study abroaders, and enjoy the one you’re in.
Faith Schweikert is a Summer 2015 CEA MOJO studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a second year at the University of Virginia.
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