La Ciotat, France

La Ciotat 

La Ciotat, the birthplace of moving picture cinema… and Bocci Ball. On my second week here we took a group excursion with the entire school to the wonderful coastal not-so-sleepy retirement village of La Ciotat. Upon first sight, we thought La Ciotat appeared like a small beautiful city by the sea, but seemingly un-busy. With more young people opting to live in the big cities, France’s rural populations like La Ciotat are aging. However, when we arrived that morning at ten we found the city to be a veritable hub of activity. There were people swimming across the bay right past several large group water aerobic classes. On the boardwalk, there were all ages of electric scooters, bikes, and joggers making their way home from the market with groceries hung on each handlebar. And yes, there was an entire park filled with organized Bocci ballplayers. 

As we traversed the town, our guides pointed out several important places like the Eden Theater, where the Lumiere brothers showed the first-ever moving picture of a train entering the La Ciotat station. Having shown the first film ever to an audience means we saw the first and oldest movie theater in the world. Next, we saw the routine morning market and stopped by to get some lunch materials such as baguettes, cheeses, and fresh produce. 

The beach we swam at in La Ciotat. Calanque and Parc du Mugel (France)
The beach we swam at in La Ciotat. Calanque and Parc du Mugel (France)

After the market, we went up the coast a short way by bus and hiked out to this rocky beachfront. Although lacking in sandy beaches to lay on, it made up for it with several tall rock out-croppings to dive off. As someone from the rainy, freezing north-west coast jumping into relatively warm-salty crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean was almost as shocking as jumping into the 50 F (10 C) waters back in Oregon. The sea was so calm that we could see down to all the reflective gray fish swimming just meters below us. We spent our time cheering each other on as we dove from cliffs and exploring the inlet. 

 I am embarrassed to say that our very apparent American enthusiasm must have unfortunately overpowered the other more reserved French beach-goers where we swam that day. This is the case with almost anywhere we go as a large group, especially because many of the students don’t speak much French. The stark contrast of American English being spoken enthusiastically between one another is quite harsh on the ears when compared to the subtle tones of most French conversationalists.

It is not just the language though, during orientation we were told that the French are often less reserved in certain public settings where other countries’ social conventions would have them be more outgoing. Although, it is important to remember this distinction is only a generalized observation and not the rule. It is all part of the cultural exchange experience, where we gain perspective of our place in the world while understanding someone else’s. 

G

View of city La Ciotat from le Sémaphore du Bec de l'Aigle lookout point (France)
View of city La Ciotat from le Sémaphore du Bec de l’Aigle lookout point (France)                                                                                                                                                                                      On our way, our bus driver took us on a scenic route out of town up a winding road that led to a beautiful lookout where we could see several towns, beautiful mountains, and the horizon of the Mediterranean. 

Grace

 

 

 

Returning to the States

Hello everyone!

I have been back from France for about two weeks now and the transition has been a little difficult. It was hard to pack, study for finals, and say bye to the friends I grew so close with over the 4 month period. I felt as if I was just getting used to living in France when I left. As soon as I landed in San Francisco I was reminiscent of hearing people speaking in French.

It was not only difficult to leave, but also being back home. The time change was rough and so was getting back into my American life. I had feelings of sadness and still think back to cultural values France has that I wish were in the States. For example, I miss the restaurant culture and being able to walk everywhere. I loved how I could practice and better my French everywhere I went. I missed the unfamiliarity of it all.  Being home caused me to take a step back and truly reflect on the best experience of my life. I was able to travel to so many places for cheap, find something new to love, and meet new people from everywhere. Being back to the states, I was almost upset about how comfortable and easy my life had suddenly become.  Everyone speaks English and is overly kind, this is very different from France. Besides this, I also now have an appreciation for the States. There were certain values and lifestyles that differed from what I enjoyed in the U.S. In the States, I actually do enjoy how kind and willing to help civilians are. The culture of how to treat strangers is very different from France. Also, I enjoy the values of individuality. In France, you are French before anything else. In the U.S. there is more freedom in creating who you want to be and represent.

Although upset upon returning, I think I am readjusting well. By having friends and family consistently around and distracting me, it is easier to get back into my old routines and life. Studying in France changed my life in so many ways. Being able to go outside of my comfort zone like that was beneficial for my future and who I am today. It has even made me consider different routes for my continuation of education. I could do grad school in Europe or take a gap year teaching English in a French-speaking country. The possibilities are endless and going abroad helped me realize this.

I am glad to have been given this opportunity. I would not have changed a second of it. I am more excited than ever for my future and can not wait to be out of my comfort zone again. I will miss my experience in France but I also now have a new appreciation for the States. Going back to Linfield will be quite the transition, but I can not wait to see all my friends and be at my favorite school!

Sierra Miller

New Continent, New Experiences

As sad as it is, I have completed my last large travel while abroad. This past weekend I went to Fez, Morocco. I knew before coming to Aix that I wanted to travel to Morocco, I just did not know how excellent it was going to be. Being that Morocco is an Arabic speaking country with a very different culture from Europe overall, it was an experience unlike anything else. I feel very lucky to be able to experience so many different cultures and ways of life within a two-hour flight. The Moroccan people in Fez were nothing but welcoming. When my friends and I made it to our Airbnb, we were greeted with tea and great suggestions of what to do around Fez.

View of the city of Fez from my Airbnb  Painted wood work of circles and flowers in my AIrbnbPanoramic view of Fez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day one, we walked through the maze of the old city of Medina. There are endless thin, busy streets with artisan shops and food. Every street had its unique twist. If you paid enough attention, you could find art on every street. From the mosaics of tile to the woodwork of balconies, there was always something to see and admire. Being here gave me a great opportunity to purchase nice souvenirs for others at a cheap price.

We also did a cooking class in someone’s home. We learned how to make couscous and vegetable Tajine. We ended up staying way past the end of our class to talk to our new friend Yassine and his mother Maria. We learned all about Moroccan culture and got to listen to Arabic music he and his mother enjoyed.  This was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Donkeys going through the streets of Medina  Pottery shop with Tagines in the front; lots of decorative plates and blowls on the walls.Before we cooked the vegetable TagineMadrasa in Fez. Looking out over a balcony to balconies across the street.  Madrasa in Fez

Day two, we explored the outskirts and the new city. We were able to see the Jewish quarter, get beautiful panoramic views of the city, and learn more history of Morocco. We also ended up going back into the Medina to appreciate more of the architecture of the mosques, schools, and palaces. We visited the blue arc and a rainbow art street where there were more, unique artisans selling their products.

Men working in a pottery shope.  Man cutting beautiful painted tilesA large loom with right blue yarn.Rainbow street of art - paintings, rugs and many other types of artwork hanging on both sides of the street.  Looking out over the last place where they produce leather in medevial style

Studying in France has allowed me to take courses involving the culture and history of immigrants from the Maghrib (Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco) to France. By taking my courses in Muslim Presence in Europe, French Colonialism in North Africa, and my friend taking Islamic Art, we were able to get more than expected out of our trip. We were able to better appreciate the art and culture while teaching each other about what we were seeing and experiencing. We were able to learn and witness more of the religion of Muslims. We were also in the only city of Morocco where geometric art continued after the rule of the Ottoman Empire. This type of art can be seen from as old as the 14th century to the present day.

Out of all the places I have been in so far, this was the most culturally immersive. I was not only doing tourist things but also mingling with locals and furthering what I have learned in my courses. Fez was vibrant in culture, people, and art. I hope to come back to Morocco in the near future and explore more of what the country has to offer.

Student in the Al-Attarine Madrasa with a fountain in front.

Art in Al-Attarine Madrasa  The Blue Arc - surrounded by blue art work on the walls above and around it.

As-salam,

Sierra

December in Aix

Hello from Aix!

It is finally December here in the south of France and I could not be happier. Don’t get me wrong, France is lovely. But at this point, I miss home so much that all I want to do is go back to Oregon and resume my normal life…

Town Square in the evening Christmas Tree

For this blog post, I want to give you an honest update of the past three months here and get some things off my chest that I have been holding back.

For those of you who don’t know, I came here to study wine. I enrolled in a Global Wine Studies Certificate program that was supposed to provide a unique wine-based education that I could not obtain at Linfield. I chose to take classes that I felt were closely aligned with my interests, namely the Food and Wine Paring for the Sommelier class, and the Wine Marketing and Analysis class. As a Wine Studies and Marketing double major, this seems like it would be a great fit, right?

I am so sad to say this, but I am very disappointed in this program. I don’t want to get into it too much, but needless to say, I feel frustrated that the program was marketed to me as one thing and hasn’t fulfilled those expectations at all. I’ve learned over the past month that the program experienced a substantial shift in structure right before the semester started, which left IAU scrambling to find a professor to fill the newfound void. The ramifications of this hastened hiring fell directly on the students, and unfortunately has resulted in a very dissatisfying semester.

I personally have been extremely discouraged with the situation and have wanted to say something but I feared I would come off as an “entitled American student that was just complaining.” I went back and forth trying to decide if saying something was the right thing to do, if the school would take me seriously or not, and whether or not I was the only student felt the way I did.

I finally decided that I couldn’t take it any longer, and I spoke up to the Administration. This turned out to be a good move that brought me an immense sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and it lifted the weight off my shoulders that I had been carrying around since the middle of September. It feels great when you are able to speak up for yourself in a professional, articulate, and genuine way. However, I am very remorseful that I don’t have better things to say about this program. There are some redeeming aspects and I have learned plenty of new information. But I came all this way for a niche wine education and I do not feel like I have received that.

At the end of the day, I hope that the purpose of this study abroad experience reveals itself to me sooner rather than later. I feel like the challenges I have faced are not often talked about, and I would love to share the nitty-gritty of daily life with anyone who wants to listen… but I won’t bore my readers with that!

I hope the best for other study abroad students, both those who are currently overseas as well as those who are gearing up to go. There are always things to learn, but sometime things go wrong that are out of your control. My best advice for you if you find yourself in this situation is to take it day-by-day and remember that it is all temporary.

Homemade hot wine English Christmas Carols at the Cathedral in AixPicture of Cassidy sitting on a bench

Hope you are well,

-Cassidy

Happy Thanksgiving from Aix!

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving from Aix!

This year I learned that Thanksgiving is huge in France! There is canned pumpkin, fresh cranberries, 20-pound turkeys and Stove Top box stuffing everywhere you turn!

Just kidding.

Thanksgiving is as big in France as Bastille Day is in America. This means that when your host family comes to you and wants to celebrate Thanksgiving just like an American, you have to be prepared to get crafty. This year, the actual holiday of Thanksgiving passed just like any other Thursday of the week. Which, if you know me at all, you know that I am a Thanksgiving fanatic! I love to cook, eat, and nap… it is the perfect day! I never imagined that I would live through the 4th Thursday in November without a heaping plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, ect…

But alas, I got to celebrate the holiday after all! On the Saturday, November 30th, my host mom invited 13 of her friends over to our comfy little apartment and I showed them how to celebrate like an American. This may sound all well and good, but there is so much more to the story than the festivities of Saturday at 1:00pm.

It all began 2 weeks before the big day. I compiled a list of recipes for my host mom to look over, and we patch-worked a menu together that she felt her friends would enjoy. It wasn’t until much later that I realized she was deciding on recipes that she has never heard of! But luckily, when it comes to Thanksgiving food, it is hard to choose the “wrong” dish, right?

We meditated on that menu for a week, making changes almost every night until we ended up with the perfect line up. Meanwhile, I worked on decorations for the big day…

A menu for thanksgiving dinner a list of things to do each day before thanksgiving

My host mom went food shopping every day after work for the next week. Mind you, she was didn’t know what any of these recipes looked or tasted like! But after a few phone calls, translations, and Google searches, we finally ended up with everything we needed. The cooking commenced on Wednesday when I cut up the bread for the stuffing.

On Thursday, I decided to prepare the turkey… the biggest we could find was a 7-pounder from the local butcher. Now I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but this may have been one of the most disturbing things I have ever done. Why? Because when you are expecting a Butterball Turkey that has been de-feathered, cleaned, and trimmed, and you get a bird that, in short, “needs more attention,” it’s an emotional experience! I was so unprepared for the task at hand and was so queasy that I almost had to stop. I was plucking feathers from the legs with my fingers, cutting off excess pieces of the bird, and literally crying through the whole process from the realization of what I was doing.. And the smell. Don’t even get me started. I rubbed garlic butter under the skin seasoned the top of the bird with fresh herb salt and put it back in the fridge. WHEW!

Once I collected myself (lol) I started on the cranberry sauce, using only dried cranberries since fresh cranberries apparently DO NOT EXIST in France. The same can be said for pumpkin puree. I had to solicit Zach’s help in bringing out 2 cans when he visited me during Fall Break!

On Friday, I got home after class, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work! I started with homemade mushroom soup for the green bean casserole, then made stuffed mushrooms with sausage, white wine, and cream cheese, and then began working on the pies. I made a pumpkin, of course, and my momma’s apple pie! (I quickly realized that we were at a shortage of baking vessels for these pies. However, through a little Macgyvering, I made it work!) I finished the dessert menu with a batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies.

When my host mom came home, we finished up the dishes: creamed corn, marinade for the pork, maple-glazed carrots, and extra gravy. We then spent the remaining hours of the night putting up the decorations, rearranging the living room only to rearrange it all back to the way it was, and cleaning the apartment.

banner across the window that says Happy Thanksgiving Fall decorations on the wall to celebrate Thanksgiving

On Saturday, we woke up around 8:00, and tackled the most challenging task of all…Baking everything with the sometimes-working and unpredictable oven. This took some serious finessing, but we stayed calm and remained faithful. Guests started to arrive a little after 1, and by 1:45, all 13 of us were squeezed around the dining table with all of the food displayed as a buffet. It was all warm, the turkey was moist, and I was thrilled. Though there was a language barrier, I was happy to find that everyone loved the food and EVERYONE went back for seconds and thirds. I even got asked to share a few recipes!

side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner keeping warm on the kitchen stove desserts for Thanksgiving spread out on a table Marielle and i in the kitchen

For those of you who have cooked Thanksgiving dinner, you know that a direct byproduct of the delicious food is the mountain of dishes that lie in wait in the kitchen. Perhaps the best nightcap to this episode of “Thanksgiving in France: a Parody” is that the kitchen sink was clogged AND the dishwasher died. Every last dish ended up being washed in the bathtub…!

dirty dishes in the kitchen after making Thanksgiving dinnerdirty dishes being washed in the bath tub after Thanksgiving dinner.

Overall, this was one of the most rewarding, enjoyable, and fun experiences I have had in my time here… and of course it involves cooking. I was talking to my host mom after all of our guests left, and she told me that I changed her friends’ opinions of American cuisine. In retrospect, this is all I could have hoped to do!

 

Hope you are well,

-Cassidy

Weekend in Amsterdam and More!

The second half of the semester is getting crazy with projects and last-minute work. Balancing work and travel has been very difficult lately. Something that happened by chance but I am thankful for is that I had every other weekend in Aix. Although Europe is perfect for traveling at a low price, Aix is beautiful and has so much to offer.

Something I have learned while being here is that no matter what you do, even if it is staying in town, everything is great! After all, I am in France.  Staying in Aix is equally as enjoyable as discovering a new place. I wish I got to know the city I live in a little bit more as my time closes here. Do not feel pressured to travel every weekend if it is too tiring or you simply do not have the means, Aix has more to offer than you think!

A narrow street in Aix, France, with windows lined with greenery    A historic building in Aix, France, with statuary along the top

On a different topic, last weekend my travels took me to Amsterdam! This city was different from any other I have been to in Europe. The differences culturally, gastronomically, and linguistically were insane. Amsterdam is known for its obscure buildings, beautiful canals, bicyclists, and much more. This was one of my favorite destinations because of its uniqueness.

One must do in Amsterdam is renting bikes and riding through one of their beautiful parks. My friends and I rented bikes for an entire day for only eight euros! Although it can be stressful to ride through the center of the city, you get used to the chaos quickly and enjoy the beautiful scenery you stride past. A unique and quite delicious pastry is a stroopwafel. At the Albert Cuyp Market, there is a stand where they freshly make these pastries for only two euros.

Of course, the most famous thing to do here is to visit the Anne Frank house. I did not know that in order to get guaranteed tickets, they need to be purchased two months or more in advance. 20% of remaining tickets are open for purchase at 9 am day off, but are almost impossible to get. Long story short, plan/buy ahead if there is a popular attraction you NEED to see! Amsterdam had so many museums and unique free activities/shops. I would strongly recommend trying to plan a weekend here if you are looking for something unconventional and fun!

My friends and I on our rented bikes

Windmill in Amsterdam    Stroopwafel

Sunset over the canals    fountain in a park of Amsterdam

Typical buildings in Amsterdam on a canal lined with barges

Onto my current home of Aix. They recently have finished setting up the lights for the holiday season. They changed the usual clothes market to a Christmas market(although, the clothes market still goes on, just on a different street). They set up little white home-like shops with diverse, local products! The items being sold can be for Christmas gifts or just souvenirs in general. The shops are individual and fun. They also sell hot cider, beignets, and the French version of churros. It has been fun to buy hot cider with a pastry and watch the bustle of people go through the market. The lights are beautiful and I am so happy to be able to celebrate a portion of the season in Europe where they really do go all out.

On the topic of holidays, I spent my first holiday away from home here–Thanksgiving. I think everyone experienced a little bit of homesickness, but IAU tried to make it less intense. The school decorated the main hall and provided us with an, as close as it can get in France, Thanksgiving dinner. It was actually very nice to have a large free meal with the friends I have made and share our traditions at home. IAU and Aix has provided me with a great environment and community. I am thankful to be able to be here and be able to travel the way I have.

Thanksgiving dinner from IAU: potatoes, gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing and green beans    Lights shaped like trees on the Rotonde in Aix

 

Happy Holidays,

Sierra

Autumn in Aix

Hello from Aix!

It has been awhile since I posted an update, which is good because I have a lot of information to share! So, here is what I have been up to in the last few weeks…

The week after midterms was IAU’s Fall Break. This was such a fun and exciting time for me, especially considering how mellow and calm my daily routine has become. It all started when my host parents came home with Pepa, an 8-week old Shih Tzu puppy! Are you a fan of Shih Tzus? To be honest, I wasn’t either (haha) but after meeting Pepa and experiencing her joyful and goofy personality, I have been converted! She’s adorable!

Pepa, a Shih Tzu puppy

The fun continued on Saturday when my boyfriend Zach (shoutout dude!!) flew out of the country for the first time to spend the week with me! IT. WAS. AWESOME. I got to show him the apartment I live in, he met my host parents, he met Pepa (?), I showed him the university, the bakery I go to, the stores I like to shop at, and the beauty of the surrounding area. Then, we rented a car and drove to Lyon, France for one night, then to Switzerland for three nights, then to Italy for three days, and finally, we spent a night in Monaco! We laughed so much, drove over 1800km, ate like champs, played cards in every country, and explored with so much joy and contentment for the moment. Saying goodbye to him was hard, but it marked the exact halfway point before I return home!

Zach and I eating French croissantsMe at the Leaning Tower of Pisa

(If you are planning to study abroad in the future, I strongly suggest that you find out if and when your program offers a break and make preparations in advance to take full advantage of your “free” week. Most students that I talked to had grand plans of traveling all over the place, especially because it is so inexpensive in Europe compared to in the United States. Make a list of the top 3 or 4 cities that you want to see and just do it! Or wing it like Zach and I did… Either way, I truly believe that some of the best memories from studying abroad will occur in this week. Just be careful not to be overly ambitious when you are making plans because traveling is EXHAUSTING.)

The weekend following Fall Break, my host family went out of town for the long weekend (November 11th is Armistice Day in Europe, and the entire country of France takes the day off…) and is and left me in charge of the house and of Pepa for three days! I was excited for the peace and quiet for a few days, and spent my time working on homework, talking to my family back in the states, taking Pepa on walks, and COOKING! I had a blast buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the market and coming back to the apartment to cook lunches and dinners for myself. I made a silky butternut squash soup to pair with a Sancerre (white wine) from the Loire Valley, and let me tell you, it was delicious! If you are at all interested, here is the recipe I wrote for the soup! (Serving: 2 hearty bowls)

Homemade butternut squash soup

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 med-large butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil (again)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup bacon, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (again)
  • 1 oz. goat cheese
  • Heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Begin by heating your oven to 400°F. Peel the butternut squash, slice in half to remove the seeds, and then cube. Toss in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and allow time to cool.
  2. In a stock pot on the stove set over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is up to temperature, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2-3      minutes. Transfer the roasted squash to the pot and cook for 3 minutes, adding the salt, pepper, nutmeg and maple syrup.
  3. Transfer the items in the stock pot to a blender along with the chicken stock. Blend for 2-3 minutes, stirring to make sure that the soup is smooth throughout. Then, transfer the soup back to the stock pot, taste, and make adjustments as necessary. (You may need to add more stock, depending on what consistency you want the soup to be!) Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the soup to cook for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes! Add the bacon pieces and minced garlic to a frying pan and cook over medium-high heat until the bacon is browned and crispy. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess grease.
  5. Finally, prepare the dish. Drizzle a ring of cream around the center of the hot soup and top with the bacon pieces, goat cheese and a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence!
  6. ENJOY!:)

Anyways, I hope you are doing well… Thank you for taking the time to read all of this, it is fun to share my time here with you!

Town Square in Aix-en-Provence

Until next time,

-Cassidy

 

Fall Break

It has been an active week and a half for me in Europe! At IAU there is a week break after midterms and this is the time when most people go out and travel as much as possible. There are an infinite amount of options and I have friends who were able to hit four countries while only spending $350 in travel and stay. Personally, I took an even cheaper option and went to a few spots with my parents. Although I at first thought I would feel like I was missing out on what my friends were doing, I loved having them come and see where I live. It was also particularly exciting because it was their first time out of the country.

We started our vacation in Paris and saw all the main tourist attractions. We went to the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and many other must-see spots. We stayed a little bit outside of central Paris, but I have this app(that I strongly recommend getting) called “Transit”. It shows you all public transportation routes to where ever you want to go. For us, a 4-day metro pass was well worth it and got us all over the city. A fun activity we did was a boat tour on the river. We did this at night which was an interesting perspective of this beautiful city. Seeing the tower glimmer on the river was a unique experience. My parents also put a lock on the famous bridge of love in front of the tower which was once-in-a-lifetime for them.

View of the Eiffel Tower from Pont d'Alma A bridge in Paris in front of a large tower.

Selfie with my parents outside of l'Arc de Triumph

Next stop, we went to Rome for a few days. Again, their metro system was super easy and takes you to every tourist spot. My dad’s personal favorite from this trip was the Colosseum and Roman Ruins. It was fascinating to see such an old structure and how it had changed over time. There was so much history to take in and the views were wonderful! We also went to the Vatican and Spanish Steps. These were beautiful places as well. I wish we had spent more time in Rome!

Roman Ruins in Rome, ItalyMe outside of the Vatican standing in front of a large fountain.  Ceiling art in the Vatican depicting angels.

The Roman Colosseum

After this, we returned to Aix so they could see where I live. My parents enjoyed the market with fresh produce and cheap clothing one street over! We also visited Avignon for the day to see le Palais de Pape, and just like that, they had to go back home. My favorite part of this whole break was watching a slight culture shock come from my parents. There were a lot of things that they did not expect from Europe or Europeans. They were constantly asking questions and pondering why certain things are the way they are. Fortunately, I was more prepped for certain culture differences so it was fun to watch and explain to my parents the “why” and the “how”.  Feeling more like a “local” was a cool experience and I am glad my parents got to share an experience like this with me!

View from the top of Palais de Pape

Sierra

Beaucoup de Vin! (an update from Aix)

Hello from Aix!

Is time moving as fast for you as it is for me? It is already MIDTERMS here at IAU! How did that happen so fast?!

Since my last post, I feel like I made some big strides in the right direction and I am excited to share them with you… A few weeks ago, I travelled to Nice and watched the sunrise from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Last weekend, I spent three days in Bordeaux where I got to see the new wine museum, Cite de Vin, go wine tasting at a beautiful vineyard in St. Emilion, and indulge in some of the most delicious pastries in the world while sitting next to the Garonne river.

I have been learning more and more French every day, and finally know enough to hold (rather short) conversations with my French host family. I go to the market and find fresh vegetables, meats, and cheeses to use for dinner, I go into wine shops and buy wines that I have never heard of, and I’ve been baking cakes and cookies with my host mom, converting every “cup,” “pound,” and “teaspoon” into grams. Needless to say, I am learning so much!

Pastries in Bordeaux
Delicious Pastries in Bordeaux
Cite de Vin wine museum in Bordeaux, France
Cite de Vin Wine Museum in Bordeaux

Speaking of learning, I have been wanting to write about the Wine Studies Certificate and overall wine education I am receiving here for some time now. For those of you who do not know, Linfield’s Wine Studies department has partnered with IAU to provide an opportunity for students to travel to Aix-en-Provence, France for one semester to study wine. At the end of the semester, the student emerges with a Global Wine Studies Certificate. Ergo, “Hello from Aix!” ?

My curriculum consists of a Biochemistry and Chemistry of Wine course, a Wine Marketing course, a Food and Wine Pairing for the Sommelier course, and a French language class that, oddly enough, is kind of like a wine course in its practical application when I go to the local wine shop and speak with the French wine steward!

French Class having picnic outside
French Class Having Picnic from Market

Other classes that IAU offers for the certificate are an International Wine Trade course, an Overview of Wine course, and a course on Major Wine Regions and Economics.

Overall, the education here is wonderful. Why? Because the topic at hand is an integral part of the French culture and way of life. It is everywhere, inside and outside of the classroom, and therefore it is truly an immersive field of study. If you are a wine studies student who has taken the 200 level wine courses from Linfield and is planning on travelling to Aix to obtain the Global Wine Studies Certificate, you will most likely find that there is a considerable amount of overlap on the information shared when you get to IAU. However, I believe that this is nothing but a testament to Linfield’s wine education – it is thorough, relevant, and comprehensive on a global scale. It makes me feel good knowing that the information we are receiving in the classrooms in McMinnville, Oregon is the same as the information they share some 5,600 miles away in Provence, France.

Overall, if you are considering this program, would like to learn more about wine from a global perspective, or are looking to solidify your foundational knowledge of wine, I recommend this program. However, if you are looking for something more intense and challenging, I might recommend considering other options. The course work here has been straightforward and the homework is minimal (knock on wood…)! This allows for ample time to explore, reflect, and enjoy where you are for three short months of your life.

I hope you are well, I will check back in after midterms are over!

 

Take care,

Cassidy

Selfie of Cassidy by Mediterranean Sea
Selfie by the Mediterranean Sea in Nice, France

From Bonjour to Buongiorno

This past weekend was eventful, to say the least. My roommates and I wanted to see Venice before we left, but staying there was too expensive. In the long run, it was cheaper to stay in Milan and take a three-hour train to Venice. We flew into Milan on a Friday and hit the ground running. My friends and I went straight to our ADORABLE Airbnb and went to the Duomo in central Milan. This building is insane. The Duomo is a cathedral church with extensive details both on the inside and out. I could stand there for hours and find something new to look at every few seconds. Milan is not a place I thought of going, but I am glad I did. There is a lot of architecture, kind people, and great food.

Courtyard of our Airbnb
Courtyard of our Airbnb
My roommates and I in front of the Duomo
My roommates and I in front of the Duomo

  

We took a train early Saturday to Venice. I had a general idea of what Venice would be like, but it beat my expectations. My roommates and I stepped off the train and our jaws quite literally dropped. The canals had a unique blue color with colorful buildings surrounding it. The city was busy, but there were sections of the city less explored that were equally as beautiful. When trying to find the location of our gondola reservations, the GPS took us off the beaten path. We found a really good, small gelato shop and were able to look at the canals with less population. Concerning the gondola ride, my roommates and I originally were not going to do this because it is so expensive but then we found one for $30 instead of $85+ per person. The only thing with this is that the gondola is filled with 6 people. I personally did not mind a few strangers in the same boat as me, I found the experience outweighed the addition of a few extra people. Another section of Venice that was stunning was Saint Marco Square. This building was also beautiful in a unique way. It had peaks of gold and a unique structure. If you find yourself in Venice, do not miss out on seeing this!

Gelato infront of Venice canals
Gelato infront of Venice canals
View on gondola ride
View on gondola ride
Saint Marx Square
Saint Marx Square
My roommates and I on a gondola in Venice.
My roommates and I on a gondola in Venice.

 

Something I would suggest before going anywhere is to learn basic phrases in the native language such as “hello”, “thank you”, etc. Even though 9 out of 10 times a person knows English, natives appreciate the effort. Another pro tip, triple check the departure time of your transportation! My roommates and I were having a nice dinner in Venice and thought our train left at 8:30 pm when in reality it left at 8:00 pm. We thought we were so prepared being at the station over 30 minutes early when suddenly it hit us. When I saw the big clock say 8, the connection was finally made. We RAN to the platform and, like a scene of a movie, saw the tail lights of the train slowly leaving. We got lucky because another train was going back to Milan 15 minutes after that, but if there was not, we would have had to sleep in the train station or pay for an expensive room. Long story short, always triple check and never be too sure.  Luck was in our favor, but that will not always be the case!

Sierra