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Immersion

I am used to hearing about being immersed in a culture is the best way to learn the language. It is, trust me. I didn’t really understand the magnitude of this statement until after being in France for four months. I can say that I have truly improved my French as well as experienced French life here. Though, I’m not nearly at the level of where I thought or wanted to be, I can get by with the French I do know. Or as the French would say, “Je me débrouille en français.”
 I was able to go to a Maitre Gims concert in Marseille. He’s a great rapper, singer, and performer! I was also able to practice my French. T’was a good night!

I would say that if you have any fears of studying abroad, talk with someone who has gone before, they could help ease your concerns, but you should definitely work towards studying abroad. I mean, why not? I would also say to those excited: you are in for a treat!

Here's my advice as a study abroad veteran:

When you're thinking about going, allow yourself to be flexible. I didn’t know until five months before I was leaving that I was going to be in France for the fall semester. But what helped me was telling people what I wanted, which led to them giving me ideas of the different options I could pursue. Before I knew it, I was exiting the Marseille airport to start my semester in Aix-en-Provence! Even when I got here, my expectations of the school, the weather, traveling, and several other things all changed. It all worked out very well!

 I also couldn’t leave Aix before climbing Mont Sainte Victoire. Although, it was a super challenging climb, it was so worth it!

Of course, there things that I wished I had done differently like getting involved in the Aix community earlier-on, but I lived and I learned. I had an excellent homestay experience, so many great memories with wonderful people, amazing trips to different places in surrounding countries, and even learned some lessons. For me, this was the best way to end off my undergraduate career and I am looking forward to the next stage of my life in the “real world.” One thing I know for sure is that traveling will definitely be a part of that next stage.

 The CEA program organized a soap making activity for us. This history of soap making is very important and interesting to the Provence region in France.

One thing that I have had to improve is my ability to communicate (in French as well as English). I am introverted by nature, but I do like to get to know people. My problem was (and still is) connecting beyond just the basic small talk. It can be challenging, but I challenge you: be curious and get to know people. You have thoughts and opinions, so don’t be afraid to express them respectfully. When you feel more comfortable with yourself, so will other people and then you end up having substantive, four hour long conversations with them! Whether it is people in your program, your classes, or a café owner, try making the first move. Just talk to them! You may not get along great with everyone, but at least try it out.
 One of the best ways to learn about a place is to visit the cafes. I’ve been to at least four different cafes. This Anti-cafe is cozy and welcoming.

Being immersed doesn’t always mean that you are comfortable. In fact, I would say that you should become a person who is comfortable being uncomfortable. But allow yourself to experience something different from your norm. For me, this has been an experience that I cannot and will not ever forget. And I am so grateful.
 Christmas time in Aix is so much fun and I’ve thoroughly enjoying myself.

Eberechi O. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a senior studying International Studies at University of Michigan.

Eberechi Ogbuaku is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at University of Michigan.
 
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