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Journals from American University Center of Provence, France

2010-12-10 Last day of school

Aix, December 9th2010

Tomorrow is the last day of class before finals. I can’t believe the semester is about to be over. We had some snow flakes falling down last week. Everyone was running out of class excitingly to check it out singing “let it snow, let it snow”. It lasted for three minutes and the sun came out. We had some freezing sunny days followed by the warm rain. Not only I, but also several girls at AUCP have come down with a cold. Yeah, great, right before final week!

Anyway, I have so many good stories this time that I do not know where to start. First of all, I have to admit that Book in Bar is the best book store- coffee shop in Aix. Their tea made me feel so much better this afternoon.

Before that, I was teaching ten-year-old French children in Saint-Joseph elementary school my very last time. I worn my Ao Dai, Vietnamese traditional costume, and taught them a little bit about Vietnamese culture. They were all fascinated about the lesson. Then we talked about Christmas in America. I showed them my pictures with my host family, and we sang together the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. After that we took pictures together. I was surrounded by thirty exciting angels. They seriously jumped on me to give hugs and kisses. I felt so popular. One of the girls drew me a picture as a gift, another one made me a hand-made ring, and the teacher gave me a book about Cezanne in Aix. And I have missed them already.

Yesterday, Romain took me to his home town in Manosque. It was a nice trip in a gorgeous town. Although the sun only came out for just a little bit, the temperature was just perfect. The shopping street reminded me of McMinnville and all the Christmas lights on Third Street. I also had a lovely lunch with his parents. His dad taped a video of me speaking in Vietnamese just for fun. I find it such a great idea for travelling. Then he took me to the Golden Hill to take a look from above. We were surrounded by olive trees and the whole world was at our feet. Trust me: it was the most romantic place to learn correct French pronunciation.      

In the evening, we had the talent show at AUCP. It started with the enormous art exhibition of all the student artists including Neysa, Kayla, and Chelsea. I also brought the portrait I did for my host mom just to be part of the exhibition. We also had hot wine and the thirteen desserts while enjoying all the beautiful pieces of art. Then we all came into the big class room for the performances starting with my Vietnamese dance, then four beautiful songs by Kayla and Chelsea, a little surprise form another girl and four pieces of theater. It was a great show. Linfield students at AUCP rock it. Yeah! I was a bit sad that my host mom could not come. But I had both of my language partners there for me, which made me super happy.

(According to Mai, you don’t really know her unless you have seen her dancing, especially with her Ao Dai. First of all, dancing takes a huge part of her life. Second, that is when she doesn’t hide her emotion. Third, that is her way to say how much she loves you. And the last but not least, she grew up learning that audiences are her friends and whoever on the same stage with her is family.)   

My point is, when you study abroad, you not only learn about another culture but your own one. The quest is to define yourself and who you really are. And I have finally found it this semester abroad thanks to my language partner Romain, who has asked me so many questions about how everything works in Vietnam when I was telling him about my life in the United States. Most of the time I answered I could not remember or I did not know, because I spent most of my time integrating in American culture and learning other cultures as well when I was in the States. I see it as a good thing trying to adapt to a new culture. To do so, you might have to forget your original culture and be ready to open yourself to the new world. But no worry, it is the best way to find out who you are. The idea is you have to lose yourself to be able to find it again. There will be no coming back unless you do not go.

I learned these things from Le Clézo and his giant novel which we had to read in our sociology class. I got a D and C- on my first papers with red marks everywhere saying “I don’t understand what you were trying to say”. All of us were suffering in that class, so almost everyone hated it. Nevertheless, I got an A in the last paper with the comment on top, “Très bien! You have made an enormous progress.” I could not make it without the help of a French friend. I am thinking of framing it later.

In conclusion, France is great. I love it here, but I also miss home in Hochiminh and in McMinnville. However, I am a bit worried about going back. I know by the time I leave it here, I will miss it so much as well. My college life would not be so wonderful if I had not chosen to study abroad, especially when I study abroad from studying abroad. Anyway, that is my story or the way I look at my experience in France. It is “non… rien ne rien… non… je ne regrette rien…” like Edith Piaf.

Mai Doan


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