I’ve been abroad for almost six weeks now, and Nice is really feeling like home. Here are three of my biggest takeaways from the past few weeks of my study abroad experience:
- Be prepared to be frustrated.
If you asked me if I’m homesick, I would say no. However, I sometimes miss a few things about my home in New York. No matter where I am in the U.S., I am always able to find my favorite snack foods, like peanut butter. In France, most people do not snack during the day, and most of the processed snack foods I like to keep on hand are not available here or are very hard to find. This forces me to look for healthier alternatives like fruit, or to minimize my snacking altogether, which is probably for the best.
When I go from New York to Pittsburgh, I always miss the pizza from home. I think no matter where I am, I always miss some of the little things that are familiar to me, but I just have to improvise. I’ve realized it is better to look for alternatives than to keep thinking about what is not available. When in France, do as the French do.
- It’s okay to be lost.
Last week, I had a class field trip to one of the big perfumeries in a town called Grasse. The university did not arrange transportation for us to get to Parfumerie Molinard, so my friend and I had ourselves a little adventure. We took a midterm that morning, then caught a ride to Grasse early in the afternoon with a friend from our class. We rode in a small red Jeep that made me feel as though I was going on a safari ride, not to a little town in the mountains. The trip from Sophia Antipolis to Grasse took about 20 minutes. As we ascended from the valley, we saw stunning panoramic views of the region. When we arrived in Grasse, my friend and I got dropped off on the main street of the town, where we walked around for a few hours, visited a farmers’ market, and ate lunch. Just as we were getting ready to walk to Molinard to meet our class later that afternoon, our friend who had dropped us off gave us a call. “Hey, I think I left you very far from Molinard…I don’t know if it’s walkable.” I checked the map again and realized the address I had put into the GPS was for a perfume store, not the factory, which was on the outskirts of town. Thankfully, in the era of digital technology, we were able to call an Uber and we arrived only a few minutes late. Our commute home was a bit more stressful, and we ended up waiting for a bus for 40 minutes, not knowing exactly where we were or if the bus was really going to come. It was a long day with a lot of unknowns, but we were able to see a few different towns in the region and a lot of beautiful views.
- Don’t get too comfortable.
There are a few things that make me a bit uncomfortable, like being in a new place without a map, hanging out in a large group of new people, and needing to pay extra attention to understand what people are saying to me in French. However, I would much rather have a little bit of anxiety if it means I can discover a new town or region, make new friends, and practice speaking French. I’m here to fully experience the culture, to learn, and to have fun, which I can’t do if I don’t step out of my comfort zone.