Study Abroad: The Come Down, Part I

I, for one, can say that I wasn’t ready. After the long drawn out goodbye to France, I’ve been home all of 3(give-or-take-a-few)hours and already find myself itching to do something. Anything. How was boredom so evitable in France but so quick to find me on my floral duvet in my room in NY? I never thought I’d say this but Lilli’s crazy cultural sheets and sayings may have some truth to them: there’s a huge come down from study abroad. I guess all I keep asking myself is, “what now?”

I guess first and foremost there’s the ever-so-pressing issue of NYE: the frazzled rush to find plans, the dodging of jet lag, the futile attempts not to compare anything you’re doing here with what you could be doing across the pond in say, Aix-en-Provence, France. Then there’s the issue of having 5 days at home and 6 valises of laundry to do before repacking and heading down south (“to the land of the pines/I’m—” Sorry, small tangent). Next, the strangeness of adapting to (again) only having one cell phone. I found it very strange to not turn on my very crappy, yet reliable, portable français upon deboarding the plane today at JFK. It’s going to be strange not to pay as I go and I’m sure I will grow wistful as the soundwaves reaching my ears start to lack that obnoxious ding-ing noise that it makes when it wants to alert you to an SMS or phone call. And finally there’s the most important of all issues: what is the fate of this (a)blog? After all, I’d be lying if I said that keeping it hasn’t been entertaining, but I’d also be lying if I continued an abroad-blog from, well, not abroad. I’ve loved the comments that I’ve received – whether it be from parents, family friends, friends, or just bored readers with nothing better to do who ended up getting a good laugh. I guess we’ll see…considering the number of people who incredulously listen to the events of my day to day and marvel at the fact that MTV hasn’t yet called me for at least an hour episode of True Life because “how does this stuff even happen to you anyway?” Thus, I’m sure there will be more stories to tell. But I would like to say thanks for it while it’s on my mind – for reading and for following along.

Well, judge me for this (or not) but I’m going to go stow away my french phone for mon prochain séjour (because there’s going to be one!) and then watch some Vampire Diaries. The “what now?” now applies to Damon’s evil doings, Stefan’s search for humanity and the Bella-esque heroine who doesn’t bite her lip and actually speaks. Oh, I am coming down and hitting reality fast.

Better to have loved…

I have to continually remind myself of this idea – that it’s better to have experienced, to have seen, to have learned, to have met, to have known someone than it is to not have had that chance at all. But with the series of goodbyes and au revoir’s over the course of the past week and a half, I’m still not too sure this is making it any easier – only showing me that the pit in my stomach is a sign that the past four months were worth it. I had the chance to meet the most amazing people: 31 people at AUCP who, each in their own way, made this experience unforgettable; a host family – complete with live in host brother – who, upon closing the door to my 3rd floor apartment for the last time, really felt like an extension of my real family; a certain fun loving, green/blue-eyed boy who made me laugh simply by looking at me and saying “thanks for it” and who made me realize that having no emotions means you miss out on, well, life.

And so I’ve seen that goodbyes, in any language, just plain suck. But I’ve also come to learn that the deeper the pit in your stomach, the harder it is to fight back the tears as you walk away from the car and the more you find a smile creeping onto your face simply at the mention of a word that makes you think of “that time in Aix,” the more worth it those relationships are. It’s the stories, the too many bottles (or boxes!) of rosé, the Thursdays where you got sucked into the abyss of RoMarc’s apartment and didn’t wander out until 5am – all the while wondering “how did we stay that for that long?”; the games of “Never Have I Ever” where you really never have had a ménage-a-dix with an entire fraternity; the massive 4 scoops of gelato ice cream on the Cours Mirabeau simply because “well, we had a hard day, right?” It’s Crêpes A-Go-Go every Tuesday or seeing half of the AUCP at Book-in-Bar at any given point, at any given hour, on any given day, probably drinking tea and eating a scone; it’s talking ourselves into random purchases because, well, pourquoi pas?..then again, it’s justifying just about anything with pourquoi pas?! It’s been an envie d’ailleurs and an envie de revenir; swearing to a Sober Oktober only to jump right back into a glass of wine because, bien sûr, you can’t say no to Martine and Didier.

And as I sit here at my computer, I can’t even pick apart my memories because they all seem too fresh to harvest – to separate and put into words, into descriptions on a computer screen – they just seem like yesterday. So my stories, my mini-escapades will stay as one big film reel of souvenirs for a few days more…I have an 8 hour plane ride, after all, to sort through them. But I do see now that it’s true: It’s better to have loved. Every song ends, but we can still enjoy the music. We do things for the rush, the thrill, the story. If for nothing else, we do it for the experience. And I’m happy to have had this one, no matter how hard it is to leave.

“Prenez un peu de distance…”

And it’s when you look at things from far away that it’s easier to appreciate them. For me, it’s taken being far away from Tulane to realize just how many great things there are about it: the city in general, but more importantly the people that make it the wonderful, living, breathing thing I’m so in love with. Now, this is not a bearing on France – this place is wonderful and has done well by me – but I’m coming to see that there’s just something about a Tulane Student state of mind that is just impossible to recreate anywhere else and in any other group of people. And it’s for that that, while it’s going to be a tearful good-bye to Aix and the people who have lived it with me, I couldn’t be more excited to go back to a place where – no matter how tired you are – Thursday means F&Ms, Friday means Happy Hour, Saturday means any and all of the above and Sundays bring a day of PJs coffee, Favori’s, home work and the return to being a real human being for the next 4(ish) days (no matter what).

Pain, Fromage, Vin.

Bread, Cheese, Wine. The new, French equivalent of GTL. I don’t hate it…But when I’m not PFV-ing, I’m usually here:

That’s my room – Anna and Beary front and center on the bed.

Every night I close my shutters and leave my windows open to the sounds of les motos and the breeze through the trees. Upon waking, the shutters are opened and in rush the rays. It’s definitely a great way to wake up in the morning, albeit it’s getting colder by the day!

My typical day continues here:

Le Centre Americain – home of American University Center Provence. This gorgeous house is my new campus. That is, if you consider a garden, 5 classroom house and a pond-complete with fish-a campus.

After classes – which don’t exist for me on Tuesdays as I am continuing my unofficial, but very well-liked, Tulane tradition of easy Tuesday/Thursdays – it’s probable that I’m on the Cours Mirabeau. This gorgeous stretch of cafes and shops is the center area of Aix. “All roads descend to the Cours Mirabeau,” was one of the first directional tips that my host-mother, Marie-Claire, gave to me and it’s rang true ever since. Longchamps, Les Deux Garcons (a favorite hangout for the famed painter Paul Cezanne) and my new second home, Monoprix, are just some of the things that can be found on the stretch!

Maybe not the best shot, but the street culminates in a huge fountain (typical Europe) and roundabout with lots of crazy French drivers and lots of scurrying pedestrians. The mossy mass in the middle is, yet again, a fountain. Quelle surprise!

And after that, I take a bus home and usually settle down for some homework and, more typically, my favorite French show: N’Oubliez Pas Les Paroles – the French edition of “Don’t Forget the Words.” It’s been a great way to learn some French songs – Michel Delpeche, anyone? – and I love when Marie-Claire sings along, which is 9/10 times. Needless to say, I’m loving my time here. Even the most average of days brings a new adventure and a new experience. I think that’s it on playing catch-up. Perfect timing too because I can hear that I’m missing some embarassed contestants who forgot the words. Yup – now Marie-Claire’s singing. A bientot!

Of course, can’t forget les bon-bons! My friend Christy and I made sure to make a pit stop in this heavenly place for a free taste of a strawberry cookie and a purchase of des calissones – a type of cookie that, as far as I know, is famous in Aix. Bon appetit? Don’t mind if I do!

Bienvenue a Aix!

Finally – my first post from Aix! (Applause.) For any of you who aren’t Blackberry addicted, and thus haven’t been able to BBM me during this past week, I have no internet in my host home so blogging, Skyping and other things of that nature n’existe plus pour moi.

But I finally cracked the Tumblr code and figured out how to blog from BBerry – wahoo! Let the blogging commence…

The first week has definitely been a whirlwind – of emotions, experiences and time zone changes but I’m slowly getting used to (and falling in love with) my new surroundings. My host mother, Marie-Claire, is so nice and its getting easier everyday to have actual conversations as opposed to her talking and me nodding, smiling, and adding an occasional “oui.” Thank goodness!

As for my program, there are 32 of us that make up the American University Center Provence (AUCP) class of Fall 2010. 30 girls, 2 boys. So its basically the Tulane Freshmen class ratio but on a smaller scale in France. Other than the lovely Audrey Bowes, I didn’t know anyone before coming to school on Day 1. And making friends in French was definitely an unexpected curveball that made getting to know people much harder than its ever been for me. But, somehow, we all made it work!

And now, after a week of orienting and french reviewing, my first real day of classes starts bright and early tomorrow at 9am (ew) and I’m taking a break from my first reading assignment to sit by my sun-filled window to squint at my -2 size font and write my first reflection on Aix. Things are just getting started and I am so excited to finally find a rhythm to my day, complete with classes in French, baguettes by the mouthful and afternoon after afternoon spent in the shade of a cafe awning with an espresso by my side and a sea full of new people to watch. (Yes, I drink espresso now, Dad!) Bienvenue a Aix, readers! There is definitely more to come!


I’ve been in Paris for a little under a week now and am slowly – I’m talking snail’s pace – gaining some confidence in my French. In the words of my program, “Courage!” This is a quick update, though. Once I get my pictures onto my computer, I’ll be able to post some pictures and anecdotes – of which, Pange and I have accrued a few. And so for you, readers, “Patience!”

Tomorow I leave Paris and meet my host family and ma nouvelle ville! Aix-en-Provence, j’arrive…