An Update from Aix

Bonjour!

I cannot believe that I have already been in Aix-en-Provence for almost a month! At times, it feels like I just stepped off the plane and got into the tiny, orange Citroen waiting for me outside of the Marseille Airport. Other times, I feel as though I have lived here for months – I have my routine, I am making friends, and I even know a few store owners in town!

Multi-storied apartment houses with allies inbetween.

However, it was not an easy road for me to achieve the comfort level and joy I have today.

The first three days after I arrived in Aix may have been the hardest three days of my life. The homesickness, anxiety, and confusion I felt were so powerful and at times, they were completely debilitating. At the time, I wanted to go home more than anything in the world.

I only say this because I promised to be totally honest in my blogs. I am not trying to deter future study abroad students, and I certainly do not want anyone to think that Aix isn’t a wonderful place to live. I just want to highlight the fact that if you are not mentally prepared enough to leave your home, your family, and your life as you know it and being again somewhere completely foreign, it will hit you like a ton of bricks… and boy does that hurt.

However, I have discovered that the key is to take it one day at a time. After the first three days, things really started to turn around for me. The Institute for American Universities (IAU) was so supportive, empathetic, informative and helpful. They understood exactly what I was enduring, and they could assure me that I was going to be OK. (Which reminds me, if you are planning to go to IAU, I highly recommend participating in the Early Start Program. It presents you with an opportunity to learn about the school, the city, and to explore the surrounding towns… it also happens to be a great time to get your homesick/shock-induced meltdowns out and over with before classes begin! Wahoo!!)

As a group, the Early Start Program took us to the Mediterranean Sea, to Chateau du Seuil (a winery), to a cooking class, to the city of Avignon, to the city of Beau de Provence, on a hike to Lac Zola, and to the wonderful food and clothing market on the Cours Mirabeau in Aix’s city center. In retrospect, the week and a half after we arrived in Aix could not have been choreographed any better. All of the activities served as a welcomed distraction from the slew of emotions I was experiencing, and by the end of the week, I felt like myself again. Additionally, I was eager to get started with classes and begin establishing a routine! Everyday got a little easier, I felt less and less overwhelmed, and I could feel my excitement for this incredible opportunity building up inside of me.

Cassidy with green trees in the background.

As of today, I am writing you from a small café in the city center. I have a hot lemon lavender tea, a freshly baked baguette, fresh raspberry jam from the market, and the sun is shining on my face. I am SO happy!

What a whirlwind of emotions, right?!  But what is the good without some bad? I’m a firm believer that there is balance in everything, and that there is something beneficial to take away from both the happy and the sad times. I have learned a lot about myself, how to have patience, how to endure the hard times, how to lean on the people that you love, and how to live and learn without giving up and going home.

One last (unrelated) thing. THIS TOWN HAS EYES. Literally! There are plastic googly eyes all over the city on signs, posters, and even the trees! I don’t know if you knew that the French had this kind of humor, but I am here to report that they do! While this succeeds to makes me smile everyday on my walk to and from school, it also reminds me to be observant – to keep my head up, my eyes open and to be present in the moment.

Googly eyes that are on street signs throughout the city of Aix.
Googly eyes that are on street signs throughout the city of Aix.

Until next time!

-Cassidy

Daily Life Abroad in Vienna

There’s a certain appeal to studying abroad that is unlike anything else. It’s an opportunity to study in another country where you might not know the language and cultural customs. It’s an exhilarating experience that one can remember for a lifetime

But what about daily life abroad?

What people sometimes forget to remember is that in the cities they study abroad or travel to, people are living regular, normal lives, just as one would in the United States.

four Linfield students in sitting on a ledge with Schönbrunn in the far background
The four of us playing tourist while at Schönbrunn

When you study abroad, you tend to be a mix of both a tourist and a local.  An expat. 

There are certain cues one can look for to know that you’re a fully assimilated Viennese. If you roll your eyes at the fact that the U-Bahn (subway) is more than 4 minutes away or stare at someone way longer than you should without smiling; congratulations, you’re officially Viennese.

Döner kebab, a pita filled with meat, lettuce, onions, and sauces
Every Viennese has their favorite döner kebab spot

So when I’m not in the Alps of Austria or visiting neighboring counties, I’m living a regular, normal life as a student in the city of Vienna. 

My day begins with breakfast, usually something small, unlike the big American breakfast we are used to. From there, I make the journey to the institute, an approximately 26 min ride on the U-Bahn. 

In the early morning hours, it’s easy to distinguish the local from a tourist on the U-Bahn. A local usually rushes down the escalator, knowing exactly down to the minute what time their usual train comes. A tourist stops suddenly in their tracks, hoping to take a better look at the Google Maps on their phone. 

a map of the subway lines of Vienna
The Vienna U-Bahn system

Once at school, I attend my classes with a lunch break in between. I usually bring yesterday’s leftovers or make a sandwich.

After that, I take the same subway lines, U1 and U3, as in the morning but in reverse.

At home I get my homework done for the next day, relax, and await dinner with my host family. The fact that I live with an Austrian family also adds to this feeling of normalcy. My family is quite multicultural, as the dishes can range from traditional Austrian to Iranian. 

We sit at the dinner table where I try my best to follow along to their conversation in their fast and letter swallowed German. Though my host mom is nice enough to recap what is said in English after. 

a cut open Austrian dumpling filled with an apricot on a plate
Traditional Austrian dumplings filled with apricots made by my host mom

Especially being in the center of Europe, it can be tempting to escape to a new country every weekend. But it’s also good to remember that you picked that specific country to study abroad in for a reason.

If you decide to study abroad (which you definitely should) appreciate the country and city you are in. Take in the culture of the area and live among the people. But most of all, enjoy your time abroad. 

Bis bald!

Rosario

Classes and Weekend Adventures

I have finished my first full week of classes at IAU and it has been surprisingly nice to have a routine. It was intimidating at first to walk into a new environment such as this, but it has not been as different as I expected. Class sizes are small and the professors are very personable–just like at Linfield! I was told from previous students that the workload would be small, and although it is not suffocating, there is still a decent amount. What I have found to be really cool about IAU are the staff themselves. They are very diverse and have unique stories of how they ended up where they are today. I have teachers from all over the world, not just France. This is enriching in understanding the cultural diversity that is in Southern France. I have professors from the local city of Marseille and others from outside of Europe such as Iran and Morocco.

On a side note involving school, I would recommend bringing certain school supplies to France if you are as particular as I am. I brought my folders and some pencils but no paper because my professor told me how nice it was here. The quality is great, but it is almost impossible to find lined paper. There is mainly grid paper in France that is longer than standard paper in the U.S. This is because children learn how to write with it and from there they do not switch. The paper is also cheaper in the states. It is not super-inconvenient, but I would have liked someone to tell me that beforehand.

The weekend of September 14th there was a trip associated with IAU to Monaco. You pay for the bus fare, but the rest is provided. We made stops to the palace, Monte Carlo, and a perfumery. There was a good amount of free time at each stop, but I would not do this again just because there are limitations to what can be done and one day is not enough for travel. Although, this is something easy, cheap, and fun if you have a short weekend with a class excursion. Monaco was beautiful and full of color. If you are feeling tight on money but still want to go places, know that IAU sets up fun and cheap trips such as this. (It was only 30 euros!)

Cathedral St. Pierre, Monaco
Cathedral St. Pierre, Monaco
Cathedra Sainte Pierre, Monaco
Cathedral St. Pierre, Monaco
Monaco
Monaco

The weekend of September 21st, I went on my first excursion with my Prehistoric Art and Archaeology course. At IAU they have educational excursions for courses that you are enrolled in. It was seemingly an inconvenience because of wanting to travel with friends on the weekend, but it was actually beneficial in multiple ways. For this trip specifically, we went to the recreation of la Grotte Lascaux (Lascaux Cave). In this cave there was prehistoric art created more than 400,000 years ago. The art was technical and beautiful. It was fascinating to see these creations and try to understand why humans would go into these dark, dangerous caves to create the art. There is no way of knowing why because there was no written language yet, but the theories were fascinating. This experience was also beneficial because I would not have gone to this cave nor this part of France without this push. My advice would be to take advantage of these FREE trips and take everything you can out of it. We also decided to go as close as we could to the actual cave which ended up having beautiful scenery.

Pont d'Arc
Pont d’Arc is a natural bridge over a river that was important for migration/hunting. It is near the site of the actual cave of Lascaux.

Sierra

Chuseok Weekend

This year, Chuseok weekend landed on Friday, September 13th. This holiday is also known as Korean Thanksgiving and it’s celebrated for three days. The day before was Thursday the 12th, and the day after was Saturday the 14th.  Me and my friends used this four day weekend to check a few things off out “bucket list” of tourist attractions.

One of the first things we did was check out Gwangjang Market. This was recommended to us by one of our Korean friends that said it was a great place to shop around a bit and had a lot of great food options. Throughout the market there various Korean foods like mandu which are Korean dumplings. Plus fried chicken, bindae-tteok (Korean fried pancake), fishcake,  gimbap (rice rolls, Korean sushi), and live squid! Although my friends and I were feeling adventurous, we weren’t feeling THAT adventurous. We decided to eat dumplings from Yoonsun Cho’s stand. You might recognize the name if you’ve watch Netflix’s Street Food. Yoonsun Cho and her famous dishes were featured for the episode that Netflix did regarding street food in Korea. And reputation upheld, her dumplings were delicious in flavor and as was her dumpling soup.

Gwangjang Market, a market of delicious food, drinks, and a famous trourist attarctions.
The entrance of Gwangjang Market.
Manduguk (Korean Dumlping Soup)
Yoonsun Cho’s Korean Dumlping soup.
The small banner by the dumlping stand.
Netflix’s Street Food banner at Yoonsun Cho’s dumpling stand.

The next thing my friends and I did was visit the Sky Tower, or also known as Lotte World Tower.  Now that I look back on it, its kind of funny. We thought that because it was a holiday weekend that this attraction was going to be relatively empty. Well after making some stops at arcade, shopping, and getting distracted immensely we finally found the line for the tower. Unfortunately, it was a two hour wait. Every foreigner must have thought what we thought and headed to the Tower on that weekend for the same reasons. So, my friends and I decided to actually go on the tower another time, and watch the view from the outside.

Lotte World Tower
Lit up Lotte world Tower.
My friends and I behind the tower, and large cat.
Behind my friends and I, the tower and a large Cat.

Chuseok weekend was unlike my other weekends. There was a lot packed into four days and come that Sunday I was exhausted. But, it was well worth it. It also started to rain a bit during this weekend, it made me smile and think of home.

Diana Naranjo

Hello, Seville

My flight to Spain left early the morning of September 1 and I wasn’t on it. Instead, I was lying in bed with a swollen face and bloody gauze shoved into the back corners of my mouth, recovering from an emergency wisdom tooth surgery. A few days before I was supposed to leave for Spain my dentist advised me to check in with my oral surgeon, just to make sure everything was okay before I left the country. Everything wasn’t. “Hmmm…so you’ll be in Spain for three weeks? You should be okay to get your teeth out in about a month,” my oral surgeon said, after telling me all my wisdom teeth had erupted and should be removed as soon as possible. “No, I’ll be gone almost four months,” I said.

View
First view of Spain!

I scheduled a last-minute appointment to have the surgery and changed my flight to a week later. Fortunately, the surgery went well and I had almost fully recovered by the time I left. After traveling on three flights and testing out all the seating options in the Madrid airport during my 6-hour layover, I arrived at my host family’s apartment late Sunday night. “I think it’s here,” I told the taxi driver, a little disoriented after driving through a maze of twisty, cobblestone streets. “Bienvenido, mi hija,” my host mom, Loli, greeted me, as she ran down the stairs to meet me. I’m 5’3″ and I towered over her as she hugged me. She then began hauling my giant suitcase, which probably weighed more than she did, up the stairs.

Luckily, I didn’t feel very overwhelmed despite my late arrival. It may sound strange, but I can best describe Seville as a happy city. The streets are always full of people, walking, biking, eating, shopping, laughing, chatting, singing…it’s also pretty normal to see people giving impromptu guitar concerts or flamenco performances in the middle of the sidewalk. The only unpleasant thing that’s happened was when my host brother, disguised in his motorcycle gear and helmet, greeted me as I was arriving home. I jumped and nearly screamed because I didn’t recognize him, but we laughed about it after.

My exchange program has taken us on quite a few visits to famous sites in Seville: Real Alcázar, Catedral de Sevilla, las Setas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Mercado de Triana (where the Spanish Inquisition began) and we took a boat trip along the Río Guadalquivir. Some of us also visited Cádiz last weekend and swam in the ocean–the warmest and saltiest ocean I’ve been in.

I also started training with a swim team here since I’m a member of Linfield’s team and wanted to continue practicing while abroad. I’d been in touch with the swim coach from Club Náutico Sevilla over the summer, so I showed up at the pool to check it out a couple days after I arrived. “You can sign up later. Bring your stuff and start practicing with us tomorrow,” he told me. I met what felt like everyone at Club Náutico the next day: the guy at the gate chatted wanted to chat New York and was disappointed when I said I’d never been . The lifeguards told me never to buy snacks at the pool. “Son malísimas,” they said. A couple of elderly ladies sunbathing asked me if I was from Germany. The coach dove into the pool, floated on his back, then got out and introduced me to the whole team. The practice was very similar to any other team I’ve trained with, except for that the  sunbathing ladies jumped into our lanes to cool off in the middle of the set. No one seemed to notice. The laid-back atmosphere surprised me a little, but I enjoyed it. But it seems like that’s just Spain, relaxed yet full of energy.

Pool
Club Náutico pool

Hasta pronto,

Anne

5-year Dual Degree Program Introduction

Hello from Portugal! For those that do not know, Linfield has partnered with a school in Europe to offer a dual degree program that allows students to finish their bachelor’s degree while completing their master’s degree in Europe. The best part… it’s a master’s in wine, in Europe, and I have never been. Could it get any better?

The uniqueness with this program, on top of expediting your masters, is you get to study within at least four different countries. I am currently in my second week in Vila Real, Portugal at a University nicknamed UTAD. Next term will be Italy, the following: France, and then I get to choose where to do my thesis work. Throughout the semesters are study trips to different areas as well; for example this term I’ll be spending a week studying in Spain.

The set-up of this program is new and very exciting, but of course, with anything new comes opportunities for improvement. I have not started school yet, instead I had orientation for a week and now working in a wine cellar through an internship I was placed at through part of my schooling. Happy to say, I think I picked the right career path for me because I am truly loving the hard and labor intensive work.

I’ll actually start school in October and will write more personally and informative then, because I haven’t had any real down time yet, but for now I need to go taste wine with coworkers and prepare for work in the morning.

Cheers,

Emma Anderson

Beijing Baby!

Me at Weiming Lake
Standing at Weiming Lake on Peking University’s campus

Sometimes I still have to pinch myself. I can’t believe I am actually living in Beijing.

I arrived in Beijing about two weeks ago. After a short flight from PDX to San Francisco, it was about thirteen hours to get to Beijing. On the flight, I sat by an incredibly friendly Chinese man who I conversed with in Chinese. I’ve only been studying Chinese for two years and overcoming my language insecurities was something that I really hoped I could do through this experience. I was surprised at how easily I slipped into conversational Chinese with a complete stranger, and even though my language skills are nowhere near perfect, I discovered that it doesn’t really matter. A desire to learn and a leap of faith, those things are universal, and I’ve learned that people appreciate you trying, even if you’re not a pro yet!

Weiming Lake on Peking University's campus
Weiming Lake on Peking University’s campus
Boya Pagoda on Peking University's campus
Boya Pagoda on Peking University’s campus
Street on Peking U's campus
Street on campus

The first week came and went in a blink. After taking a written and oral placement exam, we were put into classes. I am currently in 311, with four other students from University of Denver. The program I’ve enrolled in with the China Studies Institute (CSI) at Peking University feels very familiar to Linfield in that the class sizes are small, each student gets personalized attention, and you are able build strong relationships inside and outside the classroom. Peking University, commonly called “Bei Da” (a shortened form of Beijing Daxue, the Chinese name 北京大学) is often referred to as “the Harvard of the East”. The university itself is massive, with around 40,000 students on its campus, however, our program is isolated in that only students enrolled in CSI attend our classes. Despite this, we still get plenty of time to interact with Chinese students since we live right on campus.

The program here is rigorous, but I think I’ve finally gotten used to my schedule. Monday through Thursday I have one-on-one sessions with two Chinese graduate students from 9:20-10:50 am, and after lunch I have a comprehensive class and oral/speaking class from 1:00-4:20pm. On Fridays we have biweekly tests or language practicums.

A picture of our language pledge
The immersion track language pledge

Oh, did I mention? All of us in the language immersion program have also pledged to speak only Chinese from Monday 12am to Friday at 12:30 pm. Call us crazy? 我同意 (I agree). On the upside, I definitely see the progress! My language skills, especially my listening comprehension skills, have improved immensely!

 

CSI students on our off campus tour
CSI students on our off campus tour

It hasn’t been all classroom time though, I’ve been able to explore the city every weekend. My favorite place to go is Wudaokou (五道口). This Beijing neighborhood is very popular among foreigners, also called “waiguoren” (外国人). There are tons of clubs, bars, and restaurants that cater towards, or are owned by foreigners. My friends and I are a fan of a restaurant called Pyro Pizza. It’s a pizza parlor in the heart of the neighborhood that is almost always packed. One of the owners, Josh, is from Las Vegas. He  came to China with the simple goal of traveling around a bit, maybe seeing the sites and eating some authentic Chinese food, and he loved it so much that he’s been in Beijing ever since.

Exploring Beijing
Exploring Beijing

Besides this neighborhood, we’ve explored beautiful, cultural sites here with our program. The China Studies Institute plans excursions for us every weekend, and this weekend we are going to the Great Wall! We have already been to the Summer Palace (颐和园)and the Temple of Heaven (天坛公园). At the Temple of Heaven, we had an assignment to interview retired people exercising at the park.

At the Temple of Heaven
At the Temple of Heaven

 

At the Temple of Heaven
At the Temple of Heaven

Many of them were Beijing natives, and regularly come to the Temple of Heaven to practice tai chi, or use the equipment. After the Temple of Heaven, we went to Hong Qiao Market (红桥市场), which is a bartering market. Bartering could definitely qualify as a national sport here, and we were able to sharpen our skills with the shopkeepers for a couple hours.

At the Summer Palace with Sarah
Sarah and I at the Summer Palace
At the Summer Palace
CSI students at the Summer Palace
Friends at the Summer Palace
Sarah, Wil, Thomas, Benji and I at the Summer Palace!

It has been go, go, go, since I touched down in Beijing, and yet I feel as though my writing cannot properly convey my experience. Every day is a new experience. I’ve made the best of friends here with students from all over the country, and I can’t wait to see what other amazing opportunities are in store for me.

Friends at the Temple of Heaven
Will, Sarah and I at the Temple of Heaven
Friends eating Hot Pot
Eating hot pot (火锅) with Benji and Sarah
CSI students waiting to leave for the Temple of Heaven
CSI students on our way to the Temple of Heaven

 

A week on the North Island!

Kia Ora!

At 7 am after mid-terms week we finally got to leave for our mid-semester break! Juliet, Juliet’s flatmate Victoria, another girl from their complex and I were finally leaving for the north island for a week off of school. Our flight took about 2 hours to arrive in Auckland which we all slept through since we’ve been busy with mid-terms. When we got to Auckland we took a bus to our Air B&B to check into our room. Our room was in an apartment building and was really nice with a balcony that had views of the city. We then went to pizza for lunch and got groceries for the rest of our time in Auckland. The rest of the day was spent exploring the city and hanging out together.

Karekare falls part 1
Karekare falls with a blue pool that continues to flow into the next waterfall.

The next day we went to black sand beaches and waterfalls. Our first stop was the Karekare beach and waterfalls. We walked along the beach for a while admiring the black sand then hiked to the waterfalls. The first waterfall had a little blue pool of water and continued to the next waterfall. The next waterfall was much bigger and beautiful. We were the only ones there for about 20 minutes so we got to enjoy the waterfall and the scenery without others. We then hiked back to the car and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch with oranges, trail mix and salsa lime chips made in New Zealand.

Karekare falls part 2
Karekare Falls

The next stop was Piha Beach and Lion Rock. It was really windy at Piha but the sun came out and it was beautiful! We walked along the beach to Lion’s Rock and decided to hike up the rock to the top. However, to get to Lion’s Rock we had to cross an inlet of water that was really cold! We all rolled up our pants and removed our shoes to cross but Victoria wouldn’t cross since it was cold so Juliet carried her across the water on her back! The climb to the top was steep but the views were so worth it and we had great views of the black sand.

View of Piha Beach
View of Piha Beach from the top of Lion’s Rock.

After Piha Beach, we went to Bethells Beach. We parked in the wrong car park and had to hike through sand dunes and thick brush to actually get to the beach. When we finally got to the beach it started raining and storming. We still walked to the other end of the beach looking for the cave that we were supposed to be able to walk through but realized it was high tide and we couldn’t reach the cave. We stayed long enough to see the sky turn pink and then went back to our Air B&B where we made breakfast burritos for dinner and played cards and watched a movie. For dessert, we went and got rolled ice cream. The ice cream shop also had crapes so I got a strawberry sugar crape with caramel rolled ice cream and whip cream on top!

Hobbiton
Posing in front of Bag End!

The next morning we woke up early and drove to the Hobbiton movie set! One of the cheesy reasons I chose to study abroad in New Zealand was because of the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings movies being filmed here. Since they are some of my favorite movies the movie set was a must-see for me. The movie set wasn’t a let down either, it was so much fun!! We had an awesome tour guide who told us all about the filming techniques used and we only had 9 people in our tour giving us lots of time to look around and take pictures. This was a highlight of not only spring break but my whole study abroad experience so far! I would recommend everyone to visit Hobbiton even if you haven’t seen the movies because it is such a New Zealand tourist attraction.

That same day we also did a tour in the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The best part of that tour was when we left it was dark outside so the cave walls were covered in glow worms! The next day of our trip we flew to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.  In Wellington, we visited the zoo and saw a Kiwi bird, the national bird, and kangaroos. While there we also rode the Wellington cable car, walked along Cuba street, went shopping for souvenirs, and ate at a really nice Italian restaurant where I ordered a calzone that was so big and delicious! We stayed in a hostel while at Wellington which was not nearly as nice as our Air B&B. We got two rooms that had bunk beds and the bathrooms were pretty gross so we bought crocs to use as shower shoes.

Wellington
Wellington Cable Car with a view of the city

Our final day of being on the north island we had to get up at 4 a.m. to go to the airport. We flew to Christchurch where we had a 12-hour layover until we flew back to Dunedin. In Christchurch, we went downtown to a coffee shop and explored the botanical gardens. We went back to the airport early and ate dinner there before finally flying back. It felt so nice to sleep in my own bed and sleep in the next morning. The last event our mid-semester break was on Sunday when Juliet ran a half-marathon! We all went to cheer her on at the finish line and then went out to get pizza afterward!

Sincerely,

Caitlyn

An Aix-citing week in Aix-en-Provence

It has been a week and a half since being in France and I can already say it has been one of the best experiences. The trip here was long, but be prepared to hit the ground running. When picked up from the airport I was immediately immersed in the French language. Although drained, I was speaking to my host mom in French the whole way home.

The living dynamic in Aix is different from what I expected. I have three housemates and live with a retired couple. We are in a large two-story home with a bathroom the four of us share. I have found that every homestay is different. Some people live in small apartments in the city while others live in more of a suburb-like neighborhood. It is important is to come in with no expectations of the living conditions nor the relationship you will have with your homestay. Some have bonded easily with their homestay family while others have distant hosts. Stay open-minded and eventually you will be settled in. IAU is very accommodating and does the most to make sure the stay is comfortable. For example, all four of us living in the house are vegetarian and our homestay parents cook THE BEST food for our needs.

The early start program is the best way to get adjusted and make friends before school starts. IAU had many activities and practical french classes to help with cultural adjustment. There are also excursions to places such as a vineyard and the beach. This is a great time to make friends and get a taste for the variety of beauty that France has. During class, there are small trips to the market as well. There are food, clothes, and flower markets. I would highly recommend trying the cantaloupe and tomatoes. The produce in general is a lot better than what is in the U.S. and not badly priced. This week of orientation has also helped a lot with my navigation of the city. At first it seems overwhelming and all the streets are the same, but it becomes easy after the week. The early start participants grow close to each other very quickly and it is nice to have friends before school even starts. Early start was well worth it and I am glad Linfield required it.

On a Sunday we had free, my friends and I climbed up Mount Sainte-Victoire and swam in a lake. There were wild goats and beautiful scenery. It is something free and easy to do for the day. There are infinite trails and the scenery is amazing.

The best advice I can give for the first week in Aix is to be open-minded and willing to get out of your comfort zone. There is a lot of socialization and activities that are draining, but well worth it. I have already made great friends and have experienced so much that Aix and France have to offer. The French culture is different but in the best kind of way. Have no expectations, go with the flow and you are bound to have an Aix-citing week in Aix!

A typical street in Aix
A typical street in Aix
Made friends with goats on Sainte-Victoire
Made friends with goats on Sainte-Victoire
Sainte-Victoire
Sainte-Victoire
Spices at the market
Spices at the market
Fresh offerings at the market.
Fresh offerings at the market.

Sierra

In the Center of it All

Two people standing in front of a sign that reads: AAIE since 1926
Kara and Delanie on their first day of school

The first weeks in Vienna were spent playing tourist. We went to most of the major museums, which we got into free through a card we got from our institute. We also spent this time at the Austro-American Institute of Education working on our conversational German.

4 people sitting behind a table with cooking supplies on it to make palatschinken
Learning a language the best way, through making palatschinken (Austrian crepes) 

Now, we have a whole month dedicated to German grammar, along with our main Austrian history, politics, and culture courses. All the German has been in preparation for our placement test, which we will take in October at the University of Vienna. From there, we will be placed in appropriate level courses to continue our German language learning journey. 

One of the perks of studying in Austria is its proximity to everything, it is in the center of Europe! The first trip we took as a group was a day trip to the nearby city of Bratislava, Slovakia. It was about a 1-hour bus ride, and it was amazing to see the difference 60 km east made.

Three people in front of a sculpture coming out of a manhole
Built in 1997, this “man at work” has been busy looking up women’s skirts, as told by our tour guide

When we got to Bratislava, the first obvious difference was the language, Slovak. I tried to order a latte and a chocolate větrník and somehow ended up ordering two of the pastry. But it was the best mistake of my life because they were delicious.

The most exciting thing about our trip was the traditional Slovakian food tour we had planned. It was a perfect mix of history and culture. We tried various dishes and drinks, although my favorite drink was Kofola, a cola-like drink now produced in the Czech Republic. 

A glass of kofola
Kofola, a popular eastern European drink

All the food was also amazing, but my favorites were bryndzové pirohy (pierogies stuffed with bryndza) and Kapustnica (cabbage soup). 

Three traditional Slovakian dishes on a table
The last course of our food tour was the biggest one, we were not able to finish it

Bratislava has definitely been added to our weekend getaway list, especially because of its close proximity. Up next we have a trip to Budapest and a study trip to Prague.

Tschüss (or as the Austrians say) Baba, 

Rosario