Taylor Anctil (May)

Taylor’s reflections on his time in France.

What stereotypes did you have about your study abroad destination? Were those confirmed or negated?

My study abroad destination was Aix-en-Provence, France. It is located at the mouth of the Rhone Valley in Southern France and about 35 minutes north of Marseille. My only thoughts and impressions of prior to studying in Aix were based solely on a brief stop-over we had there in the spring of 2011 with my high school.

We stopped at the end of the Cours Mirabeau or Rotonde, (as is commonly referred to), and then proceeded to walk up and down that famous thoroughfare. I was struck by the gracefulness of the street and the style and beauty of the inhabitants walking along it. When I returned four years later, nothing much had changed.

I had heard before getting to Aix that it was expensive, it was. I had also heard that the people there were uptight and “bourgeois”, and this was not true. I met some incredibly friendly and incredibly humble people in Aix, and I was taken aback by their generosity and “joie de vivre”. (The reason I was taken aback was that I had been expecting to encounter more of a negative and unreactive people.)

Some folk in Aix fit the stereotypes perpetuated about them in the United States: cold and distant, but I found the number of warm and friendly people outnumbered their frigid counterparts. And nowhere did I see a man or woman wearing a beret or holding garlic bulbs.

Did traveling/studying abroad make you think any differently about your identity or your place in the world? What did you learn about yourself?

The answer is yes.  I finally managed to cut loose a bit and to have a good time. Until I went abroad I think most people would have said that I was an uptight fellow and a rule-follower. I rarely went out, and hardly ever did a drink pass my lips.

Travelling abroad pushed me to reinvent myself and to discover new ways of interacting with people, and in doing so I finally managed to get really comfortable with myself. I learned that there is more to life than studying and following the rules. I learned that already too many wonderful experiences had passed me by because I was too afraid or wracked by Christian guilt to take ahold of them.

I learned what it means to be in a relationship with another person and how much it can hurt when that relationship ends. There were quite a few firsts during my stay in France, and not a single one had to do with school. I fully appreciate how we humans are social creatures and how important the social aspect is to our lives.

When it comes to my place in the world… I cannot answer and I will not presume to even think that I will ever be able to answer that question. I am going to keep on living and trying not to worry about my place in the world. I want to be present and live in the moment and not worry about how I will be viewed, but rather how I am viewed.

What do you miss/think you’ll miss most from abroad?

What I miss most already from being abroad are the friends I made, both American and French. When I left France, I was at that point where friends had just become good friends and I was completely comfortable around them and them around me. I had to leave them all and that is what has upset me and will continue to upset me probable for the rest of the summer and into the next school year.

The reason being is that I will be on campus this summer and will not have many people my age to pal around with and go out with, and because all of my really good friends graduated this year, so I will not have them when the school year resumes in the fall.

There is also the matter of the lack of a night life in Farmville. In France I lived about fifteen minutes from Bar Street and I would frequently go out with my friends to get drinks and go dancing.

Oh well, c’est la vie, but I have decided not to dwell. France was France, and Farmville is Farmville and if I try to compare the two, all that will result are sad feelings on my part. Frankly, just sitting here and writing about all the things I will miss is putting me down a bit.

I think most of the world would agree that France is a gastronome’s heaven and from personal experience now I will concur with this widely-held opinion. I will miss the markets of Aix, filled with fresh, local produce replete with vitamins and taste! Yesterday, in a quick sojourn to Walmart for badly needed necessities… I happened to stop in the produce section… I was saddened by the sight of the limp spinach and sorry carrots which filled the shelves of probably one of the smallest departments in the store, and shocked at the prices. For the same amount of money I could have purchased at the market in Aix beautiful, fresher and far more delicious produce.

There are most likely things that will only occur to me after I finish this entry, but lastly I will miss the French person’s mentality on life. They actually take the time to enjoy their lives. They are not nearly as rushed or stressed out, or anxious as their American counterparts seem to be. It is a lifestyle that I have gotten used to living, and I only hope that I can keep up the lifestyle now that I am back in the United States.

What’s your general advice for students preparing to go abroad?  How about for students going on your study abroad program?

 My general advice to students getting ready to go abroad is to save as much money as possible before you leave. You will save a considerable amount and you will think that “this is surely enough”, but it will not be. It is terribly expensive to study abroad and having financial worries will negatively affect your experience. [Editor’s note: How much you will want to spend varies greatly upon the program’s location and your own interests — something to discuss with the Director of Global Education and Study Abroad as you select your program.]

My next piece of advice is be careful of the people you will meet who will be studying with the same program as you. Frequently we become used to certain types of individuals because that is what we are used to at our home institutions, but study abroad programs are a melting pot of people. I had students from at least twenty-five different states and who knows how many different universities and it is impossible to know every single place. My advice is be careful whom you trust and get to know.

For the students going on my program, IAU, my advice is to make friends with French people. The program is filled with Americans and as anybody is wont to do, we tend to speak English together. So if you want to really practice and develop your French speaking skills you really have to get out and push yourselves into French circles. Join a rugby or soccer team, go dancing and meet folk that way, join the social clubs that pair up students… there are a lot of ways to get out there and I highly encourage each one. Otherwise you will have spent one third of a year and will have nothing to show for it except colorful memories narrated by American voices.

 

 

 

What’s the best thing about being home?  What’s the hardest?

The best thing about being home is that I am once again with the people whom I love and that I will be spending the entire summer with them. Furthermore, I will be spending the summer in such a relaxed and unchanging place as Farmville. I find that I am under little stress here because there is not all that much actually going on to make me uncomfortable. All of my days are ordered and planned out and that can be comforting.

This regularity, if not monotony, is what makes being back home the hardest. The life I lived in France was so spontaneous, so colorful and crazy in some ways that it seems as if it could have been a dream. I have been back for a week and so little has changed and I am living my life exactly how I did before I left that if I wanted do pretend… I could pretend that I never left the United States. But I did leave, and I have changed.

What makes it so hard is that I am no longer the same person who boarded a plane at the beginning of January. Things have changed dramatically for me, views have shifted, opinions altered and I am finding it hard to step neatly back into the frame I was used to living in before I left. If I were the same person, it would be easy to quietly pick up the life I had led just prior to studying abroad.

I am sure it is just a matter of adjustment, but all the same, I will miss the night life and the constant chatter of my friends and the hustle and bustle of a culture interested in good food and good conversation.

 

Taylor Anctil (March)

Here are some pictures from my travels!

Day in Cassis

TA day in Cassis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top of Cassis

TA top of Cassis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip to Hungary

TA Hungary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chateau Bas and Global Wine Studies Students

TA IAU Global Wine Studies students at Chateau Bas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Fontain du Vaucuse

TA La Fontain du Vaucuse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taylor Anctil (March)

I have yet to encounter a dish that I have not enjoyed during my stay in France. As cliché as this may sound… I have to say that my favorite dish is ratatouille. My host mother makes it quite frequently and it is my favorite because of the taste and because of its versatility. One can use it as a sauce for pasta or as a side for the plate.

It is really easy to prepare and I have made sure to learn it so I can bring it back home with me. All you need is equal parts diced: eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, tomato, then an onion or two, some garlic and spices: basil, parsley salt and pepper. Then add water to just cover the vegetables and you simmer until all the vegetable are tender.

Well, if I am being frankly honest with myself, the thing which I have accomplished which makes me proud is I have managed to overcome my fear of girls. It is not a fear really but rather an apprehension of going on dates and nervousness when it comes to anything romantic. I am proud to say that I have summoned up the courage to ask a few girls out for drinks and seeing as it was rather enjoyable I have decided that I had been most foolish to not start sooner!

Now, not every date was for romantic intentions, often it was just to get to know another person better. I have really enjoyed the afternoons I have spent with the French students at the local university. They were all really friendly and great people to talk to. They offer insights into the culture and new perspectives on how to view the world.

That really is one of the things I am most happy about, that I had the courage to ask these girls for some of their time and they said yes.

I in fact have not changed how I spend my free time. First of all I define free time as the time when I am not engaged in academic pursuits or spending time with friends in a social setting. Free time for me is when I am entirely at my own disposal. Therefore in that regards little has changed in the manner I pass the time.

I have picked up writing though. Before I left Mr. Burns gave me a journal as a Christmas present ads since then I have filled it with thoughts, experiences, wishful thinking, and escape plans. I grew so loquacious that I have since started a new one and I think I will keep on journaling. It focuses the day and it is nice to put down concretely that stuff that just kind of floats around in my head.

Another of my favorite pursuits is to just sit in a café with a coffee or beer and spend the time reading. It is something that I really cannot do in the United States and I relish the opportunity to sit out in the sun and just be in the world, but perfectly at my ease. There is hustle and bustle all around me on the Cours Mirabeau, but I am at my leisure with my book.

I am making progress with the language. It is for that reason that I am most irritated at having to leave soon. I have finally reached a point where I am comfortable enough in Aix and in my language abilities to be able to participate in the city more. So the trouble is, now I that I have reached that point… I go. Oh well, C’est la vie!

My school is an American school… and my host mother is English… so I have had to really push myself to get away from English speakers. To that end I sing in the choir at church, go out with French girls, joined the bridge group and a youth group. I have surrounded myself with activities that involve no English and force me to speak only French.

Such antics and activities have not come without their slip-ups and gaffs. I think the most embarrassing which did not get pointed out to me until much later was the misuse of the verb jouir. The verb jouir means to ejaculate, and I had thought it meant to enjoy. So there I was… with a bunch of church choir members and I was trying to explain how much I enjoyed singing with them the last couple weeks.

Well once I learned the meaning of this word. The sentence ran along these lines: “I have ejaculated these past weeks while we have sung together. Pretty ridiculous, however I do think it is a good verb to know.

While studying in Aix, I am taking five classes. So within the classroom I am learning about International Relations, The European Union, Wine, French Grammar and Culture. The latter two are taught in French.

I enjoy immensely all of my classes. My professors are engaging and because I am on another continent it is interesting to hear a European’s view on foreign relations and how one has democratic participation in supranational organizations.

I have learned about the different characteristics of wine varietals. So what grapes give what flavors and how the soil composition of the vineyards affects the flavors of the grapes. I think that as a gentleman a proper cultivation of a knowledge pertaining to wine and spirits is necessary, so to that end I have been pursuing my education in the bars and cafés of Aix-en-Provence.

This is the education that one cannot receive in a classroom. The lesson in drinking culture and the flavors of different cocktails and drinks has to be experienced first-hand. Naturally, social skills and cultural exchanges occur at these places of revelry and fun. It is my personal opinion that I have made the most growth in this arena: the area of social interaction and confidence in meeting new people and getting along with them.

I go out in the evening. That has to be the biggest difference between my studying in Aix and at Hampden-Sydney. Part of it is that I have much fewer responsibilities over here. Back home I have several jobs, I am a resident advisor, and the course load is much more rigorous and time consuming, (and also there is nowhere to go out to in Farmville). Here is Aix there are several night clubs, lots of bars and cafes, less schoolwork and no work, therefore I can afford to go out and stay up a bit late each night. Over here I average going out twice a week, back at home it would be there rare event if I went out twice a week.

I need to mention that my mindset has changed too. I no longer think it is a bad thing to stay out late. It is no longer a bad thing to cut loose and dance a little every once in a while. Everybody thinks that the French are uptight, but it was the French who helped me realize that I was the uptight one, and it was time for me to change.

I will be coming back home with a new appreciation of what I have at school and with my adoptive family on campus, but also a little bit changed. I was one of the worst skeptics of the life changing experience that studying abroad purportedly caused. And now I think I have to be one of the largest proponents. I have not fundamentally changed I think, but important life values and views have shifted, and broadened to be more encompassing and welcoming. I do not know, it is still too early, I need to write back after a year or two to be able to tell for sure.

We use two buildings. The first is the main hall and it is a converted chapel. It was a penitent chapel and it was the place that prisoners and political mal-doers were taken to confess their sins, pray and reflect after being tortured at the Hotel de Ville around the corner. It is entirely stone and, (all of old Aix is stone) and I have the opinion that one can still smell the incense used for all of those centuries. I think that the stone must have soaked in the smell and now it quietly seeps out to lend an air of tranquility and somberness to the place. I do not care for the building as a place of instruction because I think the feel of the building stifles class participation and talking because the building still holds a sort of reverence.

The other building is called Manning hall and it is a converted personal residence. Sometimes, if I am not paying particular attention to the lecture, I like to imagine what the different rooms once were. Manning Hall has a grand front door and a big spiral staircase that goes up three floors and the building is tiles in these hexagonal tiles which are very popular in southern France for paving floors. I love the building because there is a secret staircase which goes up the back and I like using it and getting around that way. It brings a smile to my face every time I use it. The whole building is a puzzle because some of the rooms are only accessible through others. It is great fun to have class in this building.

Taylor Anctil (Provence, Jan 25.)

Hello everybody, it’s Taylor S. Anctil reporting from Provence, France. I chose to come to France because I thought it was high time I took my study of the French culture and language seriously. I chose the IAU College program because it offered several courses that would contribute to my major and because I would be residing with a French family.

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During my time in France, I am most especially looking forward to exploring all of the nearby villages. I already have my bus pass and my travel companion, therefore I shall be reporting back soon with inside knowledge of all the neat spots to visit and out-of-the-way places.

There is really not all that much that I am nervous about. My rather gung ho personality and way of facing the world leave little time to think and get nervous about the experience itself. If I had to choose something, I would say that I am most nervous about my inability to speak with French women—my inability to speak French fluently, that is. I can communicate well enough with my host family and my teachers, but as soon as I go into a store or café, I get so flustered and mixed up that you can hardly get two coherent sentences out of me! The girls are just so pretty and speak so quickly that I hardly know on which to place my concentration: the girls or the language.

I mentioned earlier, my goals are to study the French culture, learn the language, eat, drink, and be as merry as possible (and squeeze a few classes in as well). I want to be so comfortable by the end of my stay here that I am mistaken for a local—that would be the best goal to achieve.

Studying Abroad in Paris

by Joseph P. Andriano ’10

When I exit my apartment building every morning, it is quite clear I am no longer in Farmville, VA.  I make a quick left off my street, and I am on the hustling and bustling Avenue de la Grande Armee.  This road runs under the Arc de Triomphe, and on the other side of the Arc is the very famous Champs Elysees.  I quickly enter the Paris Metro, a world with countless people each doing his own thing.  The Parisians keep very much to themselves, and they do not make eye contact with each other.  It is amazing to turn on your I-pod, pronounced “e-pod” here, and to have a great sound track by which to watch all the different people on the Metro.  I love having unlimited access to the Metro; it is truly amazing.  I ride it to and from school and then wherever else my day takes me.

The French have very interesting cultural differences, and contrary to the typical stereotype, they are some of the nicest people.  When I first met my host family, it was quite comical.  I was exhausted from my trip and struggling for the right words.  I definitely doubted my French skills, and I realized I had a ton to learn but that was why I came here.  I sat down for dinner a few times with my host family when I noticed that they always placed their bread on the table, not on their plates. They also were very particular about always using forks and knives while eating, and this goes for anything.  One night my host mom made pizza.  I watched for a minute as they carefully dissected it with fork and knife.  However, this was where I drew the line; I mean, hey, I have culture too.  I picked it up, folded it, and ate it like it was made to be eaten.  They thought it was funny.  Also trust me, they love their baguettes; they always have a fresh one for dinner.  They also eat one for breakfast; beaucoup de bread.  In the Metro, I have been hit by a baguette or two by people on their way home.

The French care very much about the environment, and it makes me think about our habits in the United States.  My host family only uses lights at night, air dries their clothes, recycles almost everything, and keeps their heat very low.

One of the first nights I was there, I walked in a little store near my apartment and, when I entered, I said “Bonjour” to the owner, who replied “Bonsoir.”  I was confused at first, but they change their greeting at some point in the afternoon.  However, I think it confuses them sometimes, too.  It really has been such a great experience living with a host family.  Each night I have dinner with them, and we talk about all kinds of things in French, and it has really helped improve my language skills.  The French love to talk about politics, especially American politics.  They always want to know who I think will win the American election, Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton.  I tell them John McCain.  Learning another language can be such a brain tease, and there are definitely times when I catch myself saying ridiculous things.  I definitely understand why people trying to learn English sound the way they do.

There are literally too many things to see in Paris, but I started with the obvious ones.  The first time I laid eyes on la tour Eiffel overlooking the Seine, I would have to say I was a bit disappointed.  It looks like a hunk of metal, but it grew on me, especially when it is lit up at night.  I pass it everyday on the way to school from the Metro, and I later found out the French did not like it at first either.  When it was first built, it was called the “Wire Asparagus.”  An amazing monument is l’Arc de Triomphe, conceived by Napoleon I.  The workmanship on the monument is incredible.  In my opinion, the most amazing building architecturally in Paris, is the Opera.  The stone and marble work inside is like nothing I have ever seen before.

Paris is amazing, and it is incredible that from my doorstep I could easily throw a baseball and hit anything you would ever need, a place to get your haircut, a grocery store, bank, multiple car and motorcycle dealerships, countless restaurants and cafes, a couple discotheques, etc.  After living most of my life in pretty small towns, from time to time, all of the people can be overwhelming; however, I have absolutely loved the experience, and I am sure that when I leave here, I will miss so many things about Paris.

July 2008

Study Abroad 2003-2004

During the 2003-2004 academic year, 72 Hampden-Sydney students studied abroad in 11 different countries. The length of study ran from a full academic year to May Term courses and ranged from Europe to Central America to Australia and New Zealand.

On September 2, many of the participants gathered in the Parents & Friends Lounge and several shared stories of their adventures.

G. W. Zuban ’06 of Chesterfield, VA, studied at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, for the Spring Semester 2004.
G.W. chose St. Andrews because of its solid academic reputation and it because is substantially larger than Hampden-Sydney College but not in an urban environment. Early on, he could not find a building where one of his classes was held and stopped another student and asked directions; it turned out to be Prince William, who gave him directions.

Full Story…

Forrest Smith ’06 of Farmville, VA, spent the academic year at University of Glasgow.
He arrived the end of August. Forrest called it a “surreal experience.” “I always wanted to go to Scotland, and I threw myself into the culture. First, I tried haggis. It is a brilliant dish; I loved it. With haggis and a pint of Guinness you can’t go wrong. The people of Scotland are warm and friendly; if you ask directions, they don’t just give you directions they take you there.”
“The university experience was like independent study. Professors are very approachable but you are largely on your own. There is much reading. The routine is paper, project, exam, and go home.”
The rugged terrain is just as it would have been 400 or 500 years ago. This was the Scotland I went to see, and I was not disappointed. I traveled to Loch Ness and Loch Lomond and took 3- or 4-hour hikes on trails up the mountains. Scotland is so very green.

Jordan Gaul ’05, of West Chester, PA, spent the academic year at St. Catherines College, Oxford University, England.
“At Oxford there were no tests, study was entirely independent, lectures were optional, but evaluations were intense and individualized. It was the most thorough and rewarding system I have ever had the opportunity to study under.”

Full Story…

 

Mathew Anderson ’06 of Staunton, VA, spent his junior year in Paris on the Sweet Briar College Program.
“It was the best decision I have made thus far; of the 95 in the program, 10 were men.”
“We began with a month in Tours and then moved to Paris, where I lived with a host family and attended the Sorbonne. The Sorbonne is extremely different form Hampden-Sydney – huge classes, little support – a different experience.”
“Sweet Briar was great about side trips. We went to Monet’s Garden a Giverny and the American Cemetery at Normandy. I spent Christmas in Brussels. All the guys in the program decided to go to Sweden, and we found a 19 Euro plane fare to Stockholm. Several of us took a 16-day spring-break trip to Morocco including riding camels across the Sahara for two days. It was a phenomenal trip, so very different from anything I had ever seen. The skies and colors of Morocco are beyond belief.”
“Paris is a gift. It is all the sparkle and all the life you could hope for. Last year was the best year ever.”

Joseph Yarborough ’06, of Golf Shores, AL, spent the spring semester at James Cook University in Cairnes, Australia. He took courses in management, psychology, and aboriginal culture.
“I went with Mike Vassar (’06 of Midlothian, VA). Our study abroad conditions were that it was warm and everybody spoke English, and we found the right place.”
“In Australia what you learn above the surface is nothing to what you can learn under the water; diving with a whale is like being with a dinosaur.
We took a 3,000-mile 16-day road trip from Cairnes to Sidney. Up in the rain forests, there are trees that take a hundred years to grow. On the beaches the views are breathtaking. There are gorges with waterfalls that shake the earth. At Barron Bay are the prettiest sunsets you will ever see.”
“It was great experience. Anyone who gets a chance to study abound, just go for it.”

Monti Mercer ’06 of Fairfax, VA, took the May Term course in tropical biology in Costa Rica.

Full Story…

Daniel Gordon ’05 of Burke, VA, studied abroad in Grenoble, France, for two months last summer as part of the requirements for his French major.
“Grenoble is not a tourist town and most foreigners there are students. It is well located and I visited Paris, Verdun, Normandy, Dijon, and Monaco.”
“It was an experience everyone should have. I hope to return to spend a year.”

May Term in France

by Joe Webb ’03
Photos by Professor Bob Blackman 

From May 26 to June 13, fourteen HSC students, including myself, spent May Term in Paris with Professors Joan E. McRae, Ray Kleinlein of Davidson College (husband of Professor McRae), and Bob Blackman. The purpose of this May Term experience was to learn that the French really do not despise Americans, only the rude ones. With that in mind, everyone got the chance to learn about French culture, history, and art. 

 

The culture part, which was taught by our fearless leader, Dr. Joan E. McRae, was a means to experience the ways of the French. We were encouraged to use as much French as we possibly knew in our dealings with the locals in places like the train station, the cafes, and the post office. The French really appreciated our effort, and they provided us with the best possible hospitality, and we enjoyed our stay. We experienced some of the fine French wines and foods that cannot be purchased in the United States. We also got a good understanding of French labor unions and their willingness to go on strike to press their demands. While we were in Paris, the metro workers exercised that right to strike, which resulted in the trains not running as often.

From Professor Ray Kleinlein, we viewed and came to understand some of the best of the art in which the French take a great deal of pride. We saw some of the principal works of Monet, Inges, and David at Versailles, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Pompedieu, and other great museums. It was clear that when major events changed the political, social, or cultural life of their hexagon-shaped nation, French artists had something to say about it in their art. 

 As for the history, Dr. Bob Blackman shared his knowledge of France from the Revolution of 1789 to the 1960s. To complement our readings, we visited many historical sites including Omaha Beach in Normandy. France has a number of fascinating and controversial historical figures such as the Bourbon Kings, Napolean Bonaparte, and Charles de Gaulle.

Overall, May Term in Paris was a huge success. On behalf of the students who participated, I would personally like to thank Professors McRae, Kleinlein, and Blackman for their patience and efforts to make the experience an outstanding one. From this experience, I personally learned that the French can and always will be friends of the United States as long as we speak and walk softly within the realms of their great nation. After all, let’s not forget that they helped us to become a nation free of British rule.

C. Thomas Hogge ’02 is studying this semester in Aix-en-Provence

Italy beckons like a beacon of wine and culture. Spain has the allure of siestas and festivals. And France spreads itself before eager travelers, a crepuscular carpet of Bordeaux and Camembert.

Students in the IAU (Institute of American Universities) program live predominantly with local French families. The arrangement is one that offers both a warm and welcoming environment to students, whether they are seasoned travelers or are in France for the first time. Indeed, for some students the prospect of living away from their families is entirely new, and the added distance of the Atlantic Ocean is certainly a cause for trepidation. But whether a student lives with a single parent or a family of five, he or she is immediately welcomed as a member of the host family and can begin focusing on enjoying his abroad experience rather than adjusting to a rather frightening situation.

But, of course, there are adjustments to be made as well. The French do things differently than people in the States, and every event, from eating dinner with one’s host family to buying bread at the local boulangerie, is an experience that leaves an indelible impression on the student.

The French eat late. For most students, nightly meals with host families rarely begin before 8:00 p.m. And the meal frequently lasts well into the night, as dinner is used as a time for communication and companionship that lingers over several courses and several glasses of wine. It is true: French cuisine is delicious in every sense of the word. Though taste-tests of various cheeses might leave your stomach thinking otherwise, consuming the best of Provençal cuisine is certainly a treat. An exhaustive list of meals would be far too lengthy to provide, and would interrupt completion of this article by intense cravings for food, but the gastronomical experience of France is one that is worth having.

The French also think, and drive, and walk, and talk, and gesture, and do pretty much everything involving interaction with people, differently than those Stateside. Smiling at passers-by is rare, and almost immediately highlights the one smiling as a tourist. Such greetings are, however, bestowed liberally on acquaintances passed in the streets, with the traditional kissing of cheeks – a custom that varies in number of kisses according to region, age, and relationship. And conversations among those accidental interlocutors in the streets are accompanied by a maximum of gesture and expression likely to make the topic of choice apparent to a number of onlookers. And passing people in the streets is an inevitability, but the starkly different concept of personal space makes dodging cyclists, dogs, and any number of motor-operated vehicles a necessity. But were it not for the masses of people, young and old, perched outside of any number of cafes chatting and observing life pass by hours at a time, surely the streets would be impassable. These details of daily life, while generalized from specific instances, can speak quite well for the culture at large and, for the purpose of revealing an underlying experience for those studying abroad, must do so.

Apart from cultural and culinary lessons there is much that Aix offers the budding artist. Once the stomping grounds of famed painter Paul Cézanne, who was born and raised just a short distance from the American Institute, Aix is filled with art. From the painters and performers who grace the crowded streets of the city center, to the more removed L’Ecole de Marchutz, an art studio in which many IAU students find themselves for more than six hours a week, the city displays an outpouring of visual art. Stepping off the streets, one might visit the Musée Granet, marveling at various works dating to the early beginnings of art in Europe, or the Musée de Vielle Aix, a historically retrospective treatment of the beginnings of this ancient city.

Even more inspiration for all things artistic might be garnered from a jaunt through the many markets that everyday fill sections of the city with flowers, fresh produce, and even wholesale, flea market goods at the marché au puces. There is certainly something spiritual in an early morning walk to class that begins with mountains of apples, veritable fields of flowers, and the shouted French colloquialisms of vendors. Even avoiding reminders of the abundance of canine companions that the French seem to love so dearly becomes something of a romantic promenade, leading one through the streets of a city whose inhabitants retain so much of their history and simple lifestyles, despite the obviously growing influx of a more modern life and younger students, French and foreign alike.

But even with lectures on Marc Chagall – given in French, of course – and visits by renowned author Toni Morrison and a panel of speakers placing an English professor at Washington and Lee next to Amy Tan, of Joy Luck Club fame, it is usually difficult to find a large number of American students walking the streets of Aix on any given weekend. Let loose in Europe, with its convenient transportation systems, most Americans, this budding journalist included, feel obligated to explore and engage with all that this part of the world has to offer. The obligation is especially reinforced by the advantages of a recently completed TGV line – train à grande vitesse, translation, a really fast train – that carries travelers from Aix to Paris in a mere three hours.

It is at such a time that one is compelled to reflect on the words of Kundera, a German philosopher, who said “life is elsewhere.” Regardless of where that elsewhere might have been found for him, the implications of his words should be obvious. There are lessons to be learned and lives to be lived, and the best way to learn and live is to go elsewhere.