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There are several reasons I chose to go to France for the year: to reconnect with my native culture, to attain a better grasp of the language, and to expose myself to a different way of living and learning for an extended period of time. This photo journal contains some of my favorite things about my semester abroad.
I was placed in a “home stay” for the year with a retired woman, Madame Lauzet. The apartment is conveniently situated in the Quartier Mazarin of Aix, which is only a ten-minute walk from the Institute.
This is the IEFEE (Institute Études Françaisepour Étudiants Étrangers). It is located between the two Faculté de Sciences-Politques (political science) buildings. Even though the IEFEE is only for international students, sharing a common environment with French students has been nice.
Life in the classroom is very different here. We have more classes (6-8) and they are 2-3 hours long. This allows for more classroom learning rather than just doing homework. Because there is less work outside of class (depending on your level), students have more time to explore the city and nearby areas when they aren’t in class.
Although my walk to the institute is short, it is full of many different things to see. Aix is a condensed city—the streets are very narrow, yet vendors manage to pass through with delivery trucks for all the markets. At Place Richelme there is a vegetable market every weekday. Speaking of markets…
…They are everywhere! The Saturday market opens early in the morning and takes up nearly half of the eastern side of the city. You can find food, antiques, clothes, jewelry, and more.
On Sunday mornings I attend the Église Reformée Evangélique. The church organizes a number of different Bible studies throughout the week for both French and international students, which has been a great way for me to meet other Christians.
The Cours Mirabeau is the main artery of the city. It’s very hard to get lost in Aix. Whenever I find myself disoriented I just walk down and find the CM (as we American students like to refer to it). The street stretches for about a quarter of a mile and is always alive with the hustle and bustle of city life.
As much as I love the city, there are many times when I long to be surrounded by the peacefulness of nature. Luckily, the St. Victoire (the mountain painted countless times by Paul Cezanne) is only a few miles away from Aix.
Since I can’t exactly hike the St. Victoire everyday, I spend a great deal of my time running at “Les Hameaux de la Torse,” a big park about a half a mile outside of town.
At the start of my second semester in Aix, more Gordon students arrived, and Julia Seavey moved in with Mme. Lauzet and me. It’s been great to have a roommate—someone to go out with or to chat with when I come back to the apartment.
“Book in Bar” is a British coffee shop/bookstore down the street from my apartment. I spend a lot of my time there studying, socializing with friends, or simply reading. It is such a cozy atmosphere. The walls are lined with bookshelves, and towards the front of the shop there is a little bar where you can order tea, coffee, or aperitifs. Contrary to popular belief, this shop is loved by the French locals. There is always a great mix of people with different cultural backgrounds that frequent this place.
There are newspaper stands like this one everywhere in town. I chose this picture to represent how informed the people here are. Last semester one of my classes was dedicated to current events, and each week we had to read articles and present them to other students in the class. Our professors are constantly asking us if we are up to date with the news and get frustrated if we aren’t.
At first glance, this might seem like a random photograph, (maybe it is a little). But shutters here are one of the many cultural differences between the States and France. Just about every window here has shutters so that, in the evenings, people can enjoy their privacy. Many French people have a hard time understanding how Americans can live comfortably if other people can see into our houses.
This picture was taken in a bus after a day trip to Cavalaire. With all of the nearby bus and train stations, as well as the Marseille airport, it’s very easy to travel around both France and surrounding countries.
Les Gorges du Verdon.
Right next to where this picture was taken is one of the largest canyons in France.
This is one thing in France that is consistent throughout all the regions—the food is always amazing!
This is the Rotonde, a large fountain at the end of the Cours Mirabeau. Just like the Cours itself, it’s a great reference point