I had planned to stay another week in Europe after my study abroad program ended, and although I would have liked to stay probably another month, one extra week was what I needed to see some other parts of Europe and to feel a little more ready to head home after. When classes ended and all my friends were heading home, I was definitely not ready to go back yet. I could hardly believe how quickly those 6 weeks had flown by and there was still so much I wanted to do and see.
After many sad goodbyes to my group of friends who had become like family, my professors, and my host family I was on the TGV to Paris once again. I had a lot of mixed feelings on that train ride, I was excited to do some more traveling with some other friends, but still sad about what I was leaving behind me. I never expected to be so impacted by the people and the town of Aix-en-Provence. My time spent there was everything I had been hoping for and more.
I had the most amazing and caring host family, including four host siblings who I loved, and they lived in the cutest little apartment right in the center of town not even 5 minutes away from my school. I had some incredible professors, including my art history professor Yumna, who became like a mom to us six girls in the class and she started off each morning talking to us about our lives and always giving us tips on the best shopping in France. Then there was my photography professor Pauline who I absolutely loved. She is the quintessential and sweetest French professor who everyone adores. It's almost impossible not to love her, and she greatly helped to increase my love of photography and to get better at the skills I had already learned.
Then there were the friends I made in Aix. Somehow in these short 6 weeks, a group of college kids from all over the U.S. became a close group of friends that could last a lifetime. That includes my two roommates who I got so incredibly lucky with that became some of my best friends there. From the spontaneous trips we all took across France, to hanging out at Brasserie de la Mairie almost every night, and the countless inside jokes created, we made some incredible memories. I think the fact that this experience was shorter was what brought us closer and helped us to make the most of our time. We didn't waste a minute and most of it was spent with each other. Even after just getting back from a whole weekend together, we would end up right at our usual spot in Aix continuing to spend time together. It really is the people that make the experience and what you remember the most, because you could be anywhere in the world but it wouldn't be the same without those people by your side.
Everything about my experience there in that town and the people I met along the way, helped me to grow and learn so much about the world and myself. I always knew studying abroad could be life changing, but now I know why everyone says that. You don't really realize that until you're there and doing things everyday that you never thought you would. I was pushing myself outside my comfort zone, meeting so many new people, and trying new foods. I went to new places I had never heard of, and was a more adventurous and carefree person. It helped going in with a certain mindset of being more open and allowing of things to happen naturally. I think that I was supposed to be there this summer, and that everything that happened and the people I met along the way, all happened for a reason.
I feel so lucky and I'm so thankful that I even had this opportunity. If anyone is considering studying abroad or going to a foreign country, I would definitely recommend it. I met several people there who had told me that this was the time to be traveling, while you're young and have time to see the world. At this age when you're discovering so much about yourself, seeing the world helps you to figure out what you really like and don't like, the kind of people you get along with, and who you want to be. If you have this chance, I would take it and embrace it in every way you can. Not that living abroad is always easy, but when you can handle those challenges out on your own, you can handle almost anything. It makes you feel so much more confident in your abilities and in who you are.
I'm still figuring out who I want to be, but I feel like I'm continuing to head in the right direction. As long as you get yourself on the right path, whatever that may be, you can get to where you want to go. I know I did.