My time so far in Aix-en-Provence has been quite the journey. I have only been here 6 days, but I already feel like I've been here forever. After finally landing in Marseille on the 3rd, I was greeted at baggage claim by my host dad and brother. The dad, Phil, doesn't speak much french, but luckily Sam, the son, was mostly fluent in English. They drove me from the airport to the apartment where they all live and showed me the city on the way there. When we finally arrived I was very jet lagged but was greeted cheerfully at the door by my host mom Marie, with the traditional french greeting of two kisses on the cheek. I am still getting used to that, although it may never feel normal to me. Then we all ate lunch together in their beautiful home above the fabric shop they own right in the center of Aix. I finally got to take a much needed nap, and then headed to the airport with Phil and Sam to pick up one of my other roommates, Camila. We ended up having to wait there for two hours, but when she finally arrived I was so happy to meet one of the girls I'd be living with. We got along really well right away and hung out for the rest of the night with our new family. The next day we finally explored the city, wandering around since we didn't know the streets very well yet. Then later the other student living with us finally arrived named Valentina. The three of us then went to the open house at IAU to meet other students who we ended up going out to get wine with in a huge group. It was a great start to the rest of the week, having met a lot of people already.
Monday we had orientation in the morning, in which we were introduced to all the faculty and presented with a ton of information about everything we would need to know for school. Then my two roommates and I went for lunch with another student at a Mediterranean restaurant where I ordered a taco that ended up looking more like a wrap instead. The rest of the afternoon we spent shopping and roaming around Aix again, slowly learning our way around. In the evening we ended up going to a public pool with our host family, then stopping at their friends' house in the countryside on the way back. It was another beautiful French home that had an unbelievable backyard. It felt surreal just being there at someone's home. As I've learned the French like to take their time, and we stopped again to see a baby horse on the way back out in the countryside. They took us on a backroad not many people know about passing vineyards and horses. It was a moment I think I'll remember for the rest of my trip, although it wasn't a very significant place, it was then everything kind of came together for me and I was just so happy to be in France.
Tuesday we had the incredible opportunity for all the students to visit the costal Mediterranean city of La Ciotat that was only a short bus ride away. We first stopped to see the beautiful little town and wandered around looking at all the shops and markets. We found some sandwiches, on baguettes of course, for our picnic lunch later on.
I made sure to stop and take lots of pictures of the coastline with all the pretty buildings and boats. Then we headed to a cove area that was very rocky where we stopped to eat our lunch and then swim in the ocean. Unfortunately, the water happened to be freezing cold, although that didn't stop many people from swimming anyway. After probably about 15 minutes I finally made it in the water when me and another girl I had just met decided we would jump in together and swim the 20 feet to a rocky area that was sticking out. When we made it across we were freezing but had a feeling of accomplishment for finally getting in the Mediterranean and being able to say we did. Eventually almost all the students at IAU ended up in that cove swimming and hanging out on the rocks together. It was another adventure I will definitely remember. A little while later we headed to the beach to hangout or play some pétanque, the French version of bocce ball. I ended up ordering a banana nutella crepe to eat on the beach where I unfortunately got sunburnt on my feet and back pretty bad. But on the bus ride back to Aix I thoroughly enjoyed my day.
There was a surprise at the end where the bus took us to the Calanques of Cassis which is the cliff over looking the city of Cassis. It's one of the biggest cliff slides in Europe only after those in Ireland. It was definitely the best view I had seen so far and I couldn't help taking as many pictures as I could till we had to leave.
After starting classes I'm finally beginning to form a routine and have a feeling of some normalcy here. Each day I have Crossroads in European Art at 10:30 to 12:15, then I am free to get lunch and have the afternoon off for exploring or hanging with friends. Each day I am still meeting new people and making new friends. It was a little strange coming here not knowing anyone, but since most people are in the same situation, everywhere is so friendly and open. We all came to this particular place for similar reasons and everyone gets along so well. I can tell it will be hard to leave, as it's already starting to feel like a second home here.