Hello and welcome to my first three weeks of living in the beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence, France!
I know I have merely scratched the surface of my experience abroad, but I already feel so at home in this quaint city. Although studying abroad during a global pandemic has already (and unsurprisingly) presented unique challenges to my experience, I have already created so many wonderful memories and have never felt so many butterflies. One thing that has become apparent during my study abroad program is that everything is taken one day at a time, especially with COVID-19. However, another thing that has become apparent is the overwhelming amount of support I have from my French professors and from the staff at CEA (<3). Also – I cannot proceed with this blog post without emphasizing how nice the people in Aix are! Of course, it is always important to be polite and practice accepted behavior when living in another country, and the Aixois are beyond charming and welcoming when you do so. All while being here, I have begun building fun-loving friendships, bringing out my inner chef, reunited with a friend I haven’t seen in 5 years, become a regular at local spots, explored the sites around me, and have learned so much about the French language. So, let me tell you a little bit about it.
Exploring and Living in Aix
I live in a wonderful two-to-three-hundred-year-old apartment near the Centre Ville of Aix with my two lovely roommates. Thank you, CEA – you did a great job. Since I live so close to the center of the city, it is easy for me to regularly explore new areas of France on foot or on bus. On a day trip to Marseille, my friends and I successfully rode the bus and the metro to explore as much of the city as possible. Pro tip: look out for pick-pocketers and make sure you visit Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille! The bus system is extremely affordable and easy to use, so we expect to go on many more day/weekend trips this semester.
Along with my perfectly located apartment, we have easy access to the local farmers market, grocery stores, and specialty stores in Aix where we get the most delicious food! The produce in France is high quality and simply gorgeous. Since we don’t have homestay parents to cook for us, we have been driven to learn and share recipes in the apartment, which has resulted in some delicious dinners! I personally don’t cook that frequently at home, so it’s been really fun for me to get in the habit of creating meals that are good for me and that I enjoy eating. However, it’s also very fun and tasty when we eat out and try the local cuisine! Yum yum!
Online and In-Life Learning
A part of why I chose to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence is to ensure that I could be fully immersed into the language. I have been studying French for more than seven years and was/am desperate to become more fluent, and Aix seemed like the perfect place to avoid a location that was highly populated with English speakers. Spoiler alert: English is still a popular language that many French citizens learn, BUT they will gladly help you to practice your French if you ask them – and I ask them. I have learned vocabulary and general knowledge about pronunciation from customers and workers at grocery stores, restaurants, cafés, and bars. After all, spoken French is a crucial aspect of learning the language.
While we are currently keeping our fingers crossed that our classes go in-person soon, Zoom helps my classes be as normal as possible. Since I go to AMU for French, I am taking a core French class, a phonetics class, and two electives that are each filled with students from several different countries. Did you guys catch that? Because I’ve been attending my classes for two weeks and am still obsessed with it! It is eye opening and overall just so cool to learn French with students from different backgrounds from me. The most beautiful thing to me is that my peers and I come together from two entirely separate worlds and rely on French as a communal language to try to understand each other.
While an online layout for school has its complications and is not ideal for many of us, we have been doing it for some time now and all of my AMU professors do not disappoint and try to make our classes function as smoothly as possible. Each class is filled with interesting content that is allowing me to practice and learn what I need to advance in my French, and that was my main goal.
I hope you all enjoyed my blog post and learned a bit about my experience! I’ve been having the best time and can only imagine what wonderful lessons and experiences that the rest of this semester has in store for me. Thank you for reading!
Iliana Garcia is a CEA Spring 2021 student in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
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