Wow, where do I begin? Hmmm…. Well, I suppose I’ll start off by saying that Aix-en-Provence, France is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve been back on American soil for just two days now and am still in awe that the last four months I lived were not just a dream, but were reality.
I arrived in France at the end of August, completely exhausted from the long journey and wondering to myself why I decided to spend a semester abroad where I was going to have to take my classes in a foreign language and learn to live off of baguettes and cheese. I can happily say that it did not take long until I had completely fallen in love with the language and the French cuisine. Each day, my comprehension and speaking skills improved while my pallet also augmented. As much as I missed peanut butter and milk shakes from Cook Out, I must say that I now miss the fresh fruit stands, the daily outdoor markets and the fresh Mediterranean fish more.
In France, if you want to get somewhere, you walk. I lived in an apartment with my host mom and housemate about a mile uphill (no exaggeration) from my university’s campus. I can now say that I have incredible calf muscles. In all seriousness though, I learned to love my time spent walking, exploring and getting plenty of fresh air. I can also say that the view from my apartment was completely worth the long trek!
Just outside of Aix-en-Provence is a 18km mountain ridge with a hike that leads to a prominent peak at 1011m/3317ft (seen from my apartment) known as Mont Sainte-Victoire. At the summit is a chapel and large cross that can be seen from miles away. I first did the hike with my brother who visited me over Fall break. I became so enthralled by the view that I proceeded to hike it another three times over the course of the semester.
November 13, 2015 came with a sudden shock. On the day of the attacks in Paris, I had just arrived in London for a long weekend with a few friends, but soon found out about the horrific events. Being in Europe during that time was almost surreal. Not only was the nation of France devastated, but all of Europe was thrown into confusion and dismay. However, the European Union took great strides to establish a sense of security and to bring hope.
(National Gallery, London, photo taken the night after the Paris attacks)
Leaving France and saying goodbye to the close friends whom I made was very difficult. However, my transition back to the U.S. was made much easier, as I got to spend Christmas in Germany with one of my closest friends—an exchange student who became dear to my family during my junior year of high school. I stayed at her house with her family and experienced a real German Christmas, which, fun fact, is celebrated on Christmas Eve.
The last four months have truly been an incredible journey. Flying back home and looking out into the vast distance, I thought of all of the experiences that I never could have imagined having, but that are now memories that I could never imagine living without. Vive la France! And God bless the U.S.A.!
Michelle Rudd, Class of 2018