Jennifer is studying with us in Paris and her advice is: stay close to home as much as you can.
When I chose to study abroad in Paris through AIFS, I was also given the opportunity to have a two week orientation session in Cannes, France before my arrival in the big city. I decided to go for it, thinking it would be a great chance to see the south of France.
Throughout the summer, as I packed my bags for my semester overseas, all that was on my mind was Paris. Upon my arrival in Cannes, though, that all changed. I immediately fell in love with the small beach town that still had all the French charm I needed. While in Cannes, I got to take French classes by day, and lounge on the beach or take a ferry to a nearby island in the afternoon. On one Saturday I even found myself in Monaco eating gelato and checking out the casino at Monte Carlo. Cannes is home to the famous Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in the spring, but there is much more to the city than just that. There are many small restaurants and boutiques in the downtown area that I could have spent all day browsing. Leaving the relaxed, summer atmosphere when it was time to go to Paris was bittersweet.
Another opportunity through AIFS was the chance to go to Normandy. After seeing the south of France, I most definitely wanted to see the north. With its reputation for cold and rainy weather, I was not expecting to like Normandy too much. Of course, I was in awe once I was standing under a rainbow on Omaha Beach—the location of the D-Day invasion during World War II. The same feeling overcame me as I wandered around the site which was occupied by the German military forces at that time on Utah Beach. In the same visit, I went to Brittany (Bretagne in French), a province in the northwest of France. Seeing as though it used to be occupied by Gallic tribes, Brittany resembles a place you would expect to find in Ireland. It is famous for its salted caramel and savory crepes, both of which I was sure to sample; devour might be a better term actually.
Don’t get me wrong—I am infatuated with Paris and the city life that I am living. I am just grateful that I got to open my eyes to places within France other than the capital. All along I had been narrow-minded to everything this beautiful country has to offer. I never knew such places could be found here, and I never would have known had I not taken advantage of traveling outside of Paris.
Here is my advice to those who are considering studying abroad in Europe: yes, it is important to visit other cities around Europe, but do not forget to visit other places within your homestay country. Next stop for me is Champagne country: Reims, France. Au revoir!