Dreams Really Do Come True!

I know some people may not agree with me, but I honestly believe that dreams do come true. Why? Because these past few months living/studying abroad have been some of the most rewarding times/experiences/obstacles/etc. that I have ever had. And with three weeks left to go, I’m having mixed feelings about leaving. I’m getting a little homesick and want to go back, but I don’t want to leave this incredible experience that I’ve actually had the opportunity to take.

First and foremost, the best thing about this semester has been learning more about myself; things that I certainly didn’t know before I left. If you had asked me if I thought that I would be able to live in France for four months and get along just fine with barely any problems, I probably would have laughed and said, “You’re kidding, right? That’ll never happen!” Well, I can’t believe that I was wrong, but boy am I glad that I was. There were also a lot of people who doubted me and my abilities, saying that I would most likely not be able to accomplish all that I wanted and I am extremely delighted to say that I have proved those people WRONG!

During the past three and a half months, I have honestly seen Europe. I haven’t just gone to three or four other European cities, but by the time the semester is over, I will have gone to over 15 new countries and around 35 European cities! I have taken trips to Spain, Italy, Monaco, Austria, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. My last two trips are to visit Hungary and Israel, both of which I am very excited for. In each of the countries, I have made new friends and learned so much about the culture by visiting historical sights, trying new foods, and just interacting with the locals. It has been a little easier for me to do this because I’ve been doing almost all of this travelling completely alone. Let me tell you, travelling alone is also one of the most rewarding things you could ever do because it really puts things into perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling with my friends when I can, but there’s just something different about it when you’re all by your lonesome. I’ve also been told that this style of travelling is not for everyone. For example, a friend of mine basically went to Barcelona by herself one weekend and came back to ask me how I do it. And honestly, I think it’s the adventure and the unknown that I like most about it. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to see or do and that really excites me!

Besides my dream of travelling throughout Europe becoming a reality, I have also met some of the most spectacular friends I could ever have! These people are truly amazing, I promise you! I was told before coming abroad that the people on my program would become my friends for life, but I didn’t take it very seriously. I was prepared to not befriend any Americans, but that plan soon went out the window as soon as I met everyone. It is just very weird how much we actually have in common with one another and how comfortable we feel being together. We can laugh at each other, tell each other secrets that we’ve never told anyone else, and just be ourselves because, let’s face it, we’re all over here lost in a new world more or less. We have had to develop our friendships a lot faster and more in depth than our “normal” lives because 1. we’ve seen each other every single day and 2. there just isn’t enough time to do it the “normal” way. If we were to do it the “normal” way, no one here would have friends, or at least not as many close friends as most of us have. We’re even making plans to see one another during out Spring Breaks and hoping to come back to Aix together in a few years to relive the lives we’re living now!

Living with a host family has also been such an incredible journey and I am so glad to have been blessed with the host mom that I’m staying with, Andrée. She is this spunky 82 year-old woman who still has so much life, love and energy to her that it’s contagious. By far, I think she has taught me the most about French culture and maybe the French language as well. You see, she doesn’t speak any English whatsoever, so all of our communication is in French. We even have a dictionary next to the kitchen table for those times when I need to either look up a word that she said to me or look up a word that I need to describe something to her. But I think the quality that I love most about her is her caring and loving nature toward just about everyone! For example, one night at dinner she was talking about how much she loved going to Dublin to drink with the locals because they were so gay. Me, being myself, was a little taken aback and questioned her on it. “But what do you mean, Andrée?” Completely understanding where I took the conversation, she reassured me that she wasn’t talking about their sexual orientation, but how happy they always are. She even felt the need to tell me that she has no problem whatsoever with people who are, in fact, gay (in this case, those who are homosexual). She told me that she knows a gay couple who are close friends of hers and that she has also hosted gay students in her home before. This is when I absolutely knew I could trust her and I told her right then and there that I, too, am gay. It didn’t bother her one bit. And since we were talking about having children, she even told me that I could adopt if I really wanted to! But honestly, how cool is that? This woman, of an older generation, having such an open mind to the world around her is just remarkable to me because I just don’t often hear about it, especially in a predominantly Catholic. Also, another thing that I love about her is that she corrects my French when I’m either having difficulties wording something or if I end up saying something completely incorrect. It has definitely helped me out! My worst fear about living with a host family was that 1. they would never correct my French, so therefore I would never learn/improve and that 2. they wouldn’t accept me as who I truly am. Fortunately for me, the dream has continued and it has worked in my favor. I couldn’t ask for anything more with Andrée. For me, she is the absolute best! We’re also the same Zodiac sign (Gemini) which is in part why we get along so well, she believes.

For those of you who know me extremely well, you know that my all-time favorite artist will forever be Céline Dion. Well, I can PROUDLY say that next Thursday (that’s one week from tomorrow), I will be skipping a couple of classes (bad, I know) to fly up to PARIS to see Céline in concert!!! WHAT!?!? That’s right, I’m going to be seeing Céline Dion in Paris, France next week! That, my friends, is quite unimaginable to me. Even know, I’m shaking my head in disbelief. I honestly cannot believe that I’m going to be seeing (and singing along with) my favorite singer of all time in my favorite city in the world (that I’ve come across thus far)!! Needless to say, I am super pumped for next week and I can’t wait for this one dream to come true, although it did come at quite a price. Did I mention that I’ll be sitting in the Gold Section, Row 18?!? I will say it now so that I don’t need to say it repeatedly later on; tears will be shed once I see her on stage.

There are some people in the world that say that you don’t need to live in a foreign country in order to learn their language. I used to be one of those people to a certain extent. You can certainly learn French without living in France, but actually living the language is something that I can’t even begin to fathom the fact that I’ve been here living it. Before arriving, I was able to understand French and I thought I could speak it pretty well, but I certainly was not expecting some of the obstacles and accomplishes that I’ve had come along. I can walk in the streets of Aix-en-Provence (my home) and hear French being spoken all around me and with a little bit of eavesdropping, I know exactly what people are saying/talking about. I can go into a store speaking English with a few of my friends and immediately switch to French to talk to the merchants and then back to English without even thinking about it now and that is exactly what I wanted. Do I still have difficulties? Yes, of course. I’m never going to be perfect, but I’ve come a long way and I’m so happy, thankful and grateful for it. There are also some points in the daily life of living here that I’ve caught myself not knowing which language was being spoken to me because it is just becoming so natural. When I came almost 5 years to France for the first time with my mom, we had a tour guide on our bus who quickly switched from speaking French to English and vice versa. I looked over at my mom and said that one day I would like to be able to do just that. Well, I think I can say that I’ve finally almost gotten there!! My mom would be so proud, I bet!

Deciding to write this post could not have come at a better time either since it’s Thanksgiving tomorrow and we’re supposed to reflect on all that we’re thankful/grateful for. Well, if I did that right here right now in this post, it would go on for quite awhile. My life has forever been changed for the better and I cannot even begin to describe the emotion that is overcoming me right now. It literally all feels like a dream. A dream come true, that’s exactly what it is.

Like I said, this feeling is utterly indescribable. A feeling that can truly only be felt. What I’m feeling and thinking is EXACTLY what I want to give to others. I’ve worked in the International Education Center at my university since my freshman year and I fell in love with International Education since then. That passion has only been ignited more than ever after this experience. This is precisely the reason why I want to be a Study Abroad Director!! I want to give my future students this INCREDIBLE life-changing experience that they will never forget! I promise you, it is the most wonderful and priceless sort of feeling ever!!

Dreams really do come true and I cannot wait to make others’ dreams come true as well!!! 😀


Barcelona, Spain


Geneva, Switzerland



La vie française (un peu sur la culture)

So, I’ve been living in France for a month now. Since my first landing in Marseille a month ago, I have learned A LOT about the French culture, most of which was taught to me by my host mother, Andrée. 

Since my concentration in my International Studies major is European Cultural Studies, I figured that I should devote a post to the culture of France.

1. Style. Here in France, people always look great. It doesn’t matter if it is early in the morning or late at night. It seems that everyone has a very good sense of how to dress and how to style their hair. From top to bottom, the majority of the people here look as though they could all be models for something. 

Actually, it may be due in part to the fact that I have not seen any stores that sell clothing like Wal-Mart or K-Mart in the United States. The stores here include Zara, H&M, and Jules among many other. So there really is not a way to get around not buying designer clothing.

Hairstyle also has a big effect on things. For men, it’s a very simple shaved head on the side with a little more length on top for slight spikes. For women, it ranges from straight to ponytails and buns to anything that just looks good.

2. Eating. As you most likely guessed, this is going to be a long explanation because France takes a lot of pride in its food and wine. To start, you ALWAYS try everything that is put in front of you. It is rude to simply deny any sort of food. Andrée, my host mother, told me that this is something that I must do. She said that to be polite, I have to try everything. However, if I do not like something, that is perfectly fine. It is a really good thing that I like trying new foods. I could not imagine being a really picky person, especially with Andrée’s cooking being mostly Provençal dishes, which are all absolutely amazing!

I have also learned that while eating, you should have your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand, if you need to cut anything. The French love mixing foods together on their forks (I do not know if that makes sense, but it is true) and therefore you must keep your knife in your dominate hand so that it is easier to cut. Doing this for a month has made it really hard for me to change hands. When I go back to the US, I think I will stick to eating this way. This is a very European thing, and if you want to blend in, you must do it as well. There have been a few times where I have walked by cafés and restaurants noticed people switching their forks from their left hands to the right hands and I instantly knew that they were not from here.

With every dinner, we drink wine. At the beginning of my experience here, I was completely set against drinking wine because I thought it was one of the most disgusting drinks that I had ever had. I always drank water with our dinners and Andrée always looked shock, like she could not believe that a young American man did not want wine, or any kind of alcohol for that matter. Little did I know that this mindset would soon change. Now, Andrée is surprised when I do not even take the bottle of water out of the fridge for dinner. The other night she said to me, “Comme tu as changé!” (How you have changed!).

In typical French meals, there is an appetizer, a main dish, and there is ALWAYS bread and cheese. The baguette is also cut in slices for the meal to be prepared for clean-up. Yes, the slices of baguette are used to clean your plate after you’ve finished your main entrée. Andrée told me that you must break the slice of bread into small pieces so that it is easier to put in your mouth. After the meal is over, it is essential that you say either “J’ai plus faim” (I’m no longer hungry) or “Merci, j’ai bien/assez mangé” (Thank you, I ate well/enough). This shows politeness and indicates that you are finished with the meal. Cheese and bread is always the finisher. At our dinners, there are three different types of cheeses, all of which I love. When you start eating bread and cheese, you cannot go back. I made that mistake once. I had a slice of baguette with cheese and started to go back to the main dish and was told that that is not the French way. (For a disclaimer, Andrée is 82 years old. She is also a great-grandmother, which makes it very easy to learn the real French traditions). More wine also follows the end of the meal along with long discussions. Every night, Andrée and I have conversations that last until her soap opera starts at 8:15pm. We start eating at 7:00pm, which is significantly earlier than some of my peers.

3. Posture. The Americans here have the stereotype that we slouch to go up against. And to be honest, it is true. We slouch. But what can we do? We did not grow up in a culture that emphasized straight posture as they do here in France. Andrée has told me that, to be more French, I must sit with my back against the chair during dinner, pretending as if I have a broomstick behind me and I cannot let it fall. She also said that every time she sees me slouching, she is going to call me out on it. Hopefully this will make my back not hurt as much.

As for the French, they all walk up straight. No slouching. I have not come across one French person who I’ve seen slouching. The closest I have come to seeing a slouch is when they are sitting in a chair at a café in a relaxed position. Other than that, they all seem to be very poised and elegant, which is what their goal is, according to Andrée.

4. Walking/Driving. Since I do not have a vehicle and/or a license for France, I walk absolutely everywhere. Rarely do I take the bus. It simply is not necessary because I live pretty close to all that I need and it does not bother me to have a walk take me about 30 to 45 minutes because it gives me time to think and just look at all that is around me.

One aspect that has surprised me is that the French do not smile at you nor say “Bonjour” when they walk by. For me, a happy-go-lucky-guy, it was very hard at first to not want to look someone in the eyes, smile, and say “Bonjour,” but I have learned that the French are very determined walkers. It is as if they are in their own world and they really want to get from Point A to Point B without any obstructions.

When walking on a sidewalk and someone is approaching from the other direction, it is rare that both people can fit side-by-side at the same time. Therefore, someone must move. This is just the same if you are walking down the streets in the city. At the last moment before colliding, you move. It is as if there is a magnetic force repelling you apart from one another just before running into one another. This also has to deal with the differing range of personal space. Here, there is not a lot of personal space. Definitely not as much as you would find in the United States. Sometimes people will either be standing next to you or talking to you and you will want to take a step back because, to us, they are just a little too close for personal comfort.

After seeing French drivers in action for a month, I still have yet to figure out if the French are good drivers or not. On one hand, they can parallel park in the tiniest spaces because of their tiny cars, but on the other hand, most do not use their signal lights and on the highway they do not stay in their own lanes while driving. We even have proof of the French trying to figure out a traffic jam situation that occurred right in front of our university. We literally thought that the world was ending and could not help but laugh at the situation that was laying out in front of us, so we decided to record it.

5. Speaking. The French love to talk. And they love to talk about everything and anything. There are barely any subjects that are off-limits. For Americans, we tend to let one person speak their mind at a time and wait until he/she has finished for the next person to start. It is the complete opposite in France. The French love to have their conversations constantly flowing. For this, it is normal for many people to speak at a time or for others to jump in and interrupt someone. This may seem rude for Americans, but it is intellectually stimulating for them. However, it is very difficult for me and a few of my friends to participate in these discussions. Being that French is not our first language, it takes us a little bit of time to muster up what we want to say and to pronounce everything correctly. By the time we have what we want to say, there usually is not space for us to jump in or the conversation has moved to a completely different subject. This happened to me my very first weekend here and it was unbelievably overwhelming.

6. Bisous. In the United States, we have come to find that there is the cliché for the French that when they meet each other on the street, they give each other kisses on the cheeks. I am here to state that this notion is absolute fact, but it also depends on the region in France.

Here in the south of France, it is very customary to “faire la bise” as they say. When you come across your friends, you give each other a “kiss” on each cheek, starting with the right cheek first. Girls and girls do it, girls and guys do it, and even guys and guys do it (however, only being a southern France thing). When you first meet someone, it is always a handshake. You also “faire la bise” when you say goodbye.

It is said that this gesture is far less intimate than that of hugging. If you are seen hugging, it is communicated that the two people hugging are in a romantic relationship, whereas the Americans see it the other way around. And that makes things quite interesting sometimes. It is really quite amusing when we start to “faire la bise” on the wrong side and come close to kissing the other person. Oops.


These are just a few examples and explanations of what I have come to learn from living in this beautiful country for the last month, and I am extremely excited to learn more and more every day. I literally feel like I could write an entire book on this stuff. Who knows? Maybe it will just happen one day!

Premières Semaines à Aix

Have I seriously been in France for almost three weeks now? That, my friends, is quite unbelievable if you ask me. 

So what have I been doing during these past three weeks in France? So much so that this blog post could potentially go on for days, so I’ll save some of the stories for you to ask about.

Where to begin? Let me start with the Early Start Program. This program started a week before regular classes started at IAU and I think it was the best decision that I have made thus far. I arrived in France and went through this program along with roughly 40 other students who just wanted to leave the United States and study in France sooner than the other students. Being together for an entire week, our group became really close with one another and we even joked about not wanted the other Americans to join us because it would just throw everything out of whack. 

We started off the week with an orientation telling us how everything works and how to do certain things at IAU and other important information that we needed to know. Then our large group was split into smaller groups depending on the students’ level of French for our intensive French courses. As you may have guessed, I was placed into the “Groupe Avancé II” or the Advanced Group II, which meant that I was in the group of the highest level French there was. The other students in this group are the ones that I have bonded with the most, probably because there are just as big Francophiles as I am, if not bigger! 

As the week carried on, we sat through a presentation concerning the different customs and ways to do things in France, which was quite funny to sit through. In fact, one of the things we were told is that the French do not smile nor do they say “Bonjour” if you pass by them on the street. It is not to be rude or anything, but it is just their culture and way of life. But can you imagine how hard that is for a fun, loving, and always smiling guy like me?

One of the days we took a trip to la Montagne St. Victoire to see the famous mountain that Paul Cézanne is known for painting. Let’s say that his paintings really don’t do it justice, nor do photographs. Views here in Southern France must be seen with the naked eye, rather than photographs because it is just that incredible. 

We also went to the city bowling alley with an association from the neighboring French university (IEP, or SciencesPo). There, I met two British friends (Chloe and Connor) and my first French friend (Pierre)! I still haven’t stopped talking to them and we hang out at least twice a week. Through them, I have met other international students as well. For example, I’ve met students from Mexico, Germany, Canada, and many other places. 

The city of Aix-en-Provence is absolutely gorgeous as well! If you ever have the chance, you must visit. I know it’s early into the semester, but I think I would really like to live here (or somewhere within Europe) for quite awhile after finishing my studies in the United States. Aix (for short, and pronounced “X”) is a university city. That means that there are thousands upon thousands of students roaming the streets of the city every single day, which helps keep the city very young and fresh. I was told that Aix has a population of approximately 160,000 inhabitants, and of those, roughly 40,000 are students (but I could be completely wrong). Because of this high student population, there are always things to do in the city and there are always new people to meet. Don’t be fooled, however; Aix is still a pretty small place. There are times when I recognize people that I pass in the streets every couple of days! 

The past week of classes has also been quite challenging, mostly trying to get into the swing of things again while being in an extremely beautiful part of the world. I’m taking five courses and I have nothing on Fridays, which means that travelling will be much easier to do. For example, this Friday, my friend Holly and I are taking our first trip out of France since we arrived to go to Istanbul, Turkey! I am extremely excited, yet very nervous at the same time because this was only planned a week ago, but it will surely be an adventure to remember!

Many of the people that I know who have studied abroad said that in some ways, they changed while they were away. I am truly starting to think that it is beginning to happen to me as well. Some of the things that I have learned from my host mom, from my American friends, from of my international friends and so on, I will be sure to take home and most likely continue to do. To give an example, not snacking between meals is great! The French take this very seriously and that is one of the reasons why they are always so thin, besides the fact that they walk everywhere that is. 

This past weekend, the entire group of IAU took two excursions, one to Nice and the other to Marseille. In Nice, we went to a famous perfume factory and took a tour to see how the perfume is made, and of course I started to get a head-ache from it. I then went and walked around the city a bit and went up to see the château that really isn’t a château at all. It’s basically just a place that towers over the city of Nice to give you the best view that you could possibly get. Don’t worry, I have photos!

Marseille was good too! Ever since reading The Count of Monte Cristo in English, I’ve wanted to visit Marseille and see the Château d’If myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the prison itself, but I was able to see it in the distance when we were at the Notre Dame de la Garde, which was also extremely beautiful. 

It just makes me so frustrated that I cannot write all of my experiences down for everyone to read! There is just so much to say and not enough time nor organisation to do it. Maybe I’ll sit down one day and write an entire book out of this experience. For anyone who knows me well, my life is anything but boring and there is always something that is going on with me. For that, my book should be very interesting! And I can honestly see it easily being more than 200 pages long, but it’s only but a dream for the future.



Penny for My Thoughts??

I’m so exhausted from the past day of traveling and from being completely thrown into the French way of life. It’s quite a bit harder than I thought it was going to be too. 

Let’s start on Wednesday night, the night before leaving for Montréal. Did I get any sleep that night? Barely. I was tossing and turning trying to think of things that I may have forgotten and things that I still needed to do. The pillow that I had wasn’t the most comfortable either and that could possibly be the biggest reason for no sleep.

I woke up at 6:15am Thursday morning, took a shower and dressed up in my business casual attire because that’s how I like traveling. That may or may not have been a mistake. I then ate breakfast, sat down to think about anything that I may not have thought to pack, and then decided that I was ready. 

We left the house at 8:00am because it’s a 2-hour drive to Montréal’s airport and I wanted to be cautious and have enough time just in case we were to get lost of something, you know? It’s a good thing that my grandfather’s vehicle has GPS because we definitely would’ve gotten lost due to an unknown detour. Joining me to the airport were my grandparents, my brother, and my aunt and my uncle from Connecticut. We arrived to the airport on schedule and I checked in my bags and went back out to see the family one last time for four months. 

We did the usual picture-taking session and right on cue, my grandmother started to cry as we hugged goodbye. I kept telling them that it’s like I’m going back down to Fredonia, but they don’t seem to like thinking about it in that way.

We parted ways; they left to go back home to the United States and I left to go to France.

Waiting in Montréal’s airport felt like death. I was starving, but didn’t have any Canadian money to buy food (and didn’t want to bother with any conversions), so I decided to wait until I was in Philadelphia to buy lunch. Sitting at my gate, this young couple sat directly across from me. I thought that they were Canadian until the woman starting speaking. Clearly, they were headed to the same place that I was: Germany. I figured that since I was going to Germany, I should probably brush up on some key German phrases like Entschuldigung (meaning “excuse me”) and others, but soon realized that this language is just too much, even for me. I was reading this phrasebook across from the Germans and knew that at one point they were talking about me. I know this because there are key words in German that sound like English words and through context clues. When the woman said deutsch (meaning “German”), I instantly looked right at her and just smiled. Thankfully, she smiled back. You know how those Germans can be, right?

The 2 hours flight from Montréal to Philadelphia felt like it was only 20 minutes long, due to my having an amazing person sitting next to me! I’ve always been told that you find wonderful people on flights and Marybeth was no exception. It turns out that she was in Montréal for some kind of medical conference for her job. If you looked at this woman, you would not be able to tell that she had almost 4 bachelor degrees and one doctorate. She was really down to Earth too; however, we really got into intellectual conversations about what she does for a living (collecting data for medical research) and what I love and want to do for a living (languages and study abroad). 

I took a lesson from that flight and wanted to do it again, but wasn’t exactly sure how. It turns out that I didn’t even have to look for it. It just came to me when a random guy walked up to me and asked if I could watch his bags for him. I automatically said yes, being the nice guy that I am, and then my heart starting pounding. To myself I was thinking, “Why did I just do that? I don’t know who this guy is or where he’s even going. Maybe he has some kind of deadly gas in his suitcase that he’s going to detonate while he’s in the bathroom….” See, this is what happens when I watch too many movies about these kinds of things.

When Nima (this guy) got back from the bathroom, he started to strike up a conversation with me. Talking to him was good, but I noticed that he had an accent and asked him about it. He said his parents are immigrants from Iran who now live in California, where he was visiting them. Nima is studying medicine in Poland to become a dentist. He opened his carry-on suitcase to show me all the dentistry books he had and it was crazy!

After about 45 minutes into this chat, it was our turn to board the flight. He was in line right behind me getting into the plane. I put my carry-on above me and looked behind me and there Nima was. He asked if that was my seat and he had this huge smile and his face and started to laugh. He laughed because we were assigned to sit next to one another. And that’s not the only weird thing  about this flight. 

In front of Nima and myself were three other college-aged people. They started talking to one another and that’s when it got freaky. One of the girls (whose name I cannot remember because it was so different) said that she was going to Geneva to do a hiking trip with her grandmother. Not weird at all for that one. I overheard the other girl, Amelia, say that she was going to be studying abroad in Perugia, Italy. I immediately interrupted her and said, “At the Umbra Institute?” She looked shocked and replied with a “Yeah!” I told her I only knew about it because I was planning to visit there. That’s when it started getting weird. The last student, a guy named Chad, said that he was flying to Marseille, France! Immediately, I thought that he may have been going to Aix-en-Provence, like myself, but it turns out there’s a business-centered university in Marseille and that’s where he’s going. Lucky for us, we had the flight to Germany together AND the flight to Marseille together. Before we got off the plane in Frankfurt, I told him that we should become good friends and figure this out together and he completely agreed.

When we landed in Frankfurt, the girl who was planning to go hiking bolted and we didn’t see her again; however, the four of us who had talked on the 7-hour trip (Nima, Chad, Amelia, and myself) stuck together through customs until we had to go to our separate gates. 

Let me start by saying too that Frankfurt International Airport is by far the largest airport I have ever been to. From our gate, we took a 5 to 10-minute bus to meet our plane on the runway.

After our flight, Chad and I still stuck together until he had his baggage and left to meet his university staff at a local train station. I, on the other hand, had to get out my computer and find the address to my host mother’s place because I could not remember it for the life of me. Thank god the airport had 20 minutes of free WiFi service! I used that time to look up the address and make a little post on Facebook.

Then came the challenge of hailing a taxi and actually getting to my residence. I waited outside of the airport’s entrance for about 10 minutes until a cab pulled up and let people out. I went up to the driver and asked if he could go to Aix and he pointed me to the taxi station. Why he couldn’t pick me up right on the spot is beyond me because I ended up going with a different driver. The driver was really nice and also spoke no English, so it was my first French exposure in France where I had to use the language. He kept telling me how beautiful Aix is and how much I’m going to love it. He even called my host mother because he wasn’t exactly sure where to go and neither was I. They spoke (in French, of course) and all was fine. He dropped me off, shook my hand, told me to have the best time, and also took 60 euros from me.

I walked up to the door, and found the button labeled, “ROUX A.” I pressed it and waited until this tiny French woman in a yellow nightgown opened the door and greeted me. Here name is Andrée and she’s 82 years old, but neither looks not acts it. She’s also been in Aix-en-Provence since she was 3 years old. She is extremely nice and caring and showed me everything, except how to use the shower because it’s different here. Also, she doesn’t speak any English whatsoever, so it’s all relying on my French skills and her skills of communication. There have been a couple of times today when we were on different tracks, but most of the time we understand each other perfectly fine.

Culture shock has already taken effect, mostly through the language and food/beverage customs here in France. It has been hard today and I’m thinking that tomorrow when my friends from IAU come into Aix it should get better because I’ll know some people and will be able to go into the city with them. I will probably walk around the city by myself tomorrow as well. When classes start on Monday it will all pick up from there, I know it. I told Andrée too that I want to travel as much as I can and she’s very encouraging to it!! 🙂

Bonne nuit à tous et à toutes!! 😀

A New Life…Coming Soon

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way that we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it! Throw yourself!” — C. Joybell C.

Holy crap! It’s Saturday night and I leave Thursday!!! In case you’re not sure, that definitely less than a week away! It seems unreal that in four days, I’ll be going to bed and waking up to begin an entirely new and exciting chapter of my life.


When I came home this past week to spend with my family, I found out that my aunt and uncle from Connecticut will be traveling to Montréal with us to see me off at the airport. I’m so excited to see them and so grateful that they are doing that!

For those of you whom I haven’t told, I’m traveling to four countries within 24 hours. I fly out of Canada and come back into the United States to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Then from Philly, I fly over the Atlantic Ocean to Germany and then finally to my beloved France. I’m making sure that I pack my German phrasebook just in case I need it while at the airport in Frankfurt. I really don’t want to seem like an ignorant American in Germany by not knowing a lick of German. I figure that even with a terrible accent, some butchered German will be a lot better than no German at all, right? Let’s hope they see it that way as well.

With my final days in motion, I have been extremely busy tying up all the loose strings…many still not tied up. I went to First Niagara, my bank, to order Euros as emergency money when I first get to Europe…go figure. I order to receive 100 Euros, which is about 135 USD. I really wish our dollar were doing better within the world economy. The woman who helped me was extremely nice and even told me about their credit card that works internationally without any extra fees. I signed up for it on a whim because I trust her, but I suppose that if it isn’t what she said it was, I don’t have to use it, yeah? I go back on Tuesday to pick it all up.

I also still need to get an SD card for my new camera that I’m super pumped to use. This is the first time that I have ever had a digital camera of my own and you can bet that I’ll be posting photos on here as well as on my Facebook for all to see! 🙂

If you’ve read my last post about traveling, I’ve done research on the Eurail pass that my boss mentioned to me. For what I want, I thinks it’s a little expensive, so I’m certain that I’ve decided to fly whenever I want to go somewhere or take an occasional train so that I’m not constrained to the rules and regulations of the Eurail system.

But I think my biggest challenge is yet to come, and that is packing. I’ve been toying with the idea between an actual suitcase of stuff to bring or just a carry-on bad of absolute essentials. The main reason I’m looking into the carry-on option is because of the ‘four countries within a day’ situation. I really don’t want my luggage to get lost, but if I bring a carry-on with my laptop and a couple days worth of clothes and toiletries, it should be fine. I hope. So, I’m going to bring about a week’s worth of clothing, my adapter, my laptop, my camera, my passport, my IAU paperwork, my International Student Identity Card, my flip-flops, my dress shoes, my toiletries (not anything big because I’ll buy stuff if I have to when I get there), my Euros, and anything else that I think of from now until Thursday morning. But most importantly, I will be bring my open-mindedness and love of experiencing new and exciting things.

Like the quote above, I whole-heartily believe that I will return to the United States a changed person, be it in regards to my personality or the way that I look at the world and others.

Now hopefully I said everything that I wanted to say in this post, but I assure you that the very next post with either be Wednesday night about my final thoughts of leaving the United States or about my first couple of nights in Aix-en-Provence, France!!!!

Over-Amitious Travel Bug

“Once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin

I think the first time I was bitten by the travel bug was when I flew for my first time at 9 years old. I was in third grade at that time and my family was going on a vacation to Disney World, in Orlando, Florida. Since that trip, I have never wanted to stop seeing other places, people, and cultures other than the one that I had grown up in.

While growing up, I felt lucky to know that I was growing up “multicultural,” I guess you could say. On a sidenote, I belong in a department at SUNY Fredonia called the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA). Within this department, there are five student groups that are represented, but the department supports and recognizes other groups that do not necessarily “belong” to the CMA as well. The groups that are housed within the CMA are Latinos Unidos (LU), Pride Alliance, Black Student Union (BSU), Women’s Student Union (WSU) and Hillel (Jewish Student Union). I am happy to say that I am a proud member of all of these groups because of my upbringing at home. I grew up and was raised by a single mother who taught me that women are, in fact, just as strong as men. So there is my WSU experience. Ever since I was born, I have had an uncle who is from Jamaica, which evidently means that he is black. Every time he would come to visit with my aunt, I never thought that it was “abnormal” or “different” than my friends’ families. At my high school graduation, my uncle came up and he was the only black person in the crowd (which I thought was a little funny, but GREAT at the same time!), but a lot of people kept staring at him and I just could not wrap my mind around why, or how, they could be so ignorant. There’s my BSU experience. Even growing up, I have a cousin who is half-Latino, so of course, his skin color is a little more caramelized than mine. However, he doesn’t speak any Spanish, to my knowledge. Oh, did I forget to mention that his grandfather is my Jamaican uncle. Cool, right? So, I guess that was my experience with LU before university. I also have another uncle who is from France, but is of mixed races. Evidently, he speaks French, but he also looks “different” than me when we’re talking skin color. And then there’s me. When I was around 10 years old, I started noticing that I felt different than my peers. What do I mean by that? Well, I wasn’t exactly looking at the girls or interested in having goggles pointed in the directions of “hotties,” as my grandfather would say. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I found out that I am, indeed, a gay man. I have personal experience with Pride Alliance, I suppose. The only group that I had not had experience with before was the Jewish Student Union. Never before coming to university had I met a Jewish person. We had read about the Holocaust and Jewish culture in school, but meeting a face to put with it was something that just didn’t happen. However, it is funny to say that my roommate for after I return from studying abroad is a nice Jewish girl who is also the President of Hillel. Who would have thought, right? Needless to say, I do not consider myself to be closed-minded, racist, sexist, or any other kind of “-ist” that is aimed at targeting a specific group of people just because they are not part of the “norm” or “majority.” I think that is absolutely ridiculous.

Even in my sophomore year in high school I traveled with a group of friends, and my mom, to visit and tour England and France and it was one of the best times of my life.

I suppose that my experience growing up like I did sort of had an impact on my wanting to learn more about people who have different lives than my own. During high school we even had a couple of our own international exchange students. I met two from Germany, one from Norway, two from France, one from Ukraine, and one from Spain. At SUNY Fredonia, I am a Student Assistant at the International Education Center, where I am in constant contact with our international students. These students come from Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey India, etc. Therefore, I get to meet these students, hang out with them, and find out just who they are and learn about their cultures from home. It is amazing, to say the least. This just intensified my yearning to travel to their home countries one day and live what they lived. I am involved in all the cultural/international clubs and organizations on campus and I just can’t seem to get enough of it.

Now let’s turn to my current situation; studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France that begins in less than 4 weeks! Since being bitten by this travel bug and being in Europe, I want to try to travel as much as possible and try everything that I can at least once. To put it in simpler terms, my life motto is basically, “Try everything at least once. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again. Just try.” So far, I have made an extensive list of the European countries and cities that I would absolutely LOVE to go to. Are you ready for this list?
(P.S. It is in no particular order).


SPAIN: Madrid, Barcelona                                   

ImageANDORRA: Andorra la Vella

FRANCE: Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Nice, Paris

MONACO: Monaco City

ITALY: Rome, Perugia

VATICAN CITY: Vatican City




POLAND: Oswiecim


GERMANY: Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich


BELGIUM: Antwerp, Brussels

LUXEMBOURG: Luxembourg City

GREECE: Athens

I know that these plans are over-the-top and will possibly be a little on the harder end to accomplish; however, I am going to try my hardest. If I don’t make it to a few of them this time around, I’ll get to them someday. I just would not be able to get over it if I were to have the chance to go and didn’t. It’s like Mark Twain’s quote, “Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This travel bug has even gotten to the point where I’m beginning to plan my next study abroad experience. I am thinking that I want to go to South America to study Spanish. But more specifically Buenos Aires, Argentina during the Summer 2014 session. This time, I would be looking at Argentina’s neighboring countries. Here’s my list for that, which could possibly change from now until then.

ARGENTINA: Buenos Airesmap_south_america

URUGUAY: Montevideo

BRAZIL: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo

CHILE: Santiago, Viña del Mar

PERU: Cuzco


It isn’t very difficult to figure out that I love to travel and that I want to be a citizen of the world. Sometimes, I feel like I should have my own travel show!

For my 20th birthday, one of my really good friends asked me what I wanted. I thought about it for quite some time and then decided that I wanted something special to take with me on my travels. You know how some people have rubber ducks, PEZ dispensers, or something to that effect that they take picture with? Well, that’s what I asked for and I was extremely happy when I opened my gift and I found a small rainbow sock-monkey and a sign that said “Believe.” I can guarantee you that these two items will go with me everywhere! I even want to purchase a little notebook that will be designated as a “diary” for the sock-monkey. For every city that we visit, I will write it down in his diary, so in 25 years when I want to look back at everywhere we’ve been, I can have a good sense of how much of the world we have really seen.

Like the quote at the top of my post says, “I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.”

Early Start Program

The Early Start Program at IAU is designed to be exactly what it is called, an earlier start to the study abroad program than other students. 

When I first started looking into IAU College in Aix, I read that they had this so-called “Early Start Program” and I wanted to know more. I read that students arrive one week early prior to the beginning of the semester, take a one-credit French language and culture course, begin staying with their host families sooner, hang out with actual French university students, and basically get used to the time change and city a week before most students who participate in the semester in Aix. Although this seems great, it does come at a price. Of an extra $850.00, I am sure that it will all be more than worth it in the end. 

While searching the IAU website, I came across the schedule for my semester’s Early Start Program and actually received an email today regarding the excursions that are in store for students in my program (which I am very excited about!). 

Let’s take a look at what I’ll be doing for my first week in FRANCE!

     Thursday, 29 August:

          Flight to France

     Friday, 30 August:

          Arrive in France

     Saturday, 31 August:

          Meet host family

     Sunday,  1 September:

          Rest and Relax!

     Monday, 2 September:  

          Morning – French Language and Culture course

          Afternoon – Visit l’Université de Provence guided by French students

          Evening – Gathering a Wohoo Bar!

     Tuesday, 2 September:

          Morning – French Language and Culture course; Open Air Market visits

          Afternoon – Cooking class at The Dolls in the Kitchen (I REALLY need this!!! This guy right here hardly know how to make hamburgers!)

     Wednesday, 3 September:

          Morning – French Language and Culture course; Open Air Market visits

          Afternoon – Hike around Mont Sainte Victoire with French students

     Thursday, 4 September:

          Morning – French Language and Culture course

          Afternoon – Visit of Château la Coste vineyard and Art Culture Center (guided tour and wine tasting)

     Friday, 5 September:

          Morning – French Language and Culture course

          Lunch – Picnic at Pavillon Vendôme

          Evening – Karaoke at Wohoo Bar

     Saturday, 6 September:

          Morning – French Language and Culture course

          Afternoon – Scavenger Hunt through Aix-en-Provence with French students — I wonder what they are going to have us do…

     Sunday, 7 September:

          (Optional) Excursion to the seaside villages of Cassis and La Ciotat (includes swimming, hiking, exploring and picnic on the beach) — I think I’ll probably do it!

That basically sums up what I should be expecting to do for my first week in France at IAU! I’m really excited for everything and you can bet that I’ll give you all updates and post pictures from my adventures!!! 🙂

Let the countdown begin!

As I was thinking about my final 40 days in the United States of America, and I wanted a special way to have a countdown. So I decided that I would make a chain-link made out of different colored construction paper. To go even further, I have decided to write a different task on each of the links so that I am kept on track before my voyage to Europe! Each morning, I will remove one link from the chain to show that the chain is getting shorter and that my time to leave is getting nearer.

Here are the tasks on each of the links:

Day 40 – Write Letter to Host Family

Day 39 – Update Blog

Day 38 – Physician’s Statement

Day 37 – Print Out Flight Information

Day 36 – Research Monaco

Day 35 – Make a Check-List for Packing

Day 34 – Apply For The International Student Identification Card

Day 33 – Relax!

Day 32 – Get A New Camera

Day 31 – Research Madrid, Spain

Day 30 – Figure Out Banking

Day 29 – Update Blog

Day 28 – Research Rome, Italy

Day 27 – Relax!

Day 26 – Research Geneva, Switzerland

Day 25 – Update Blog

Day 24 -Research Brussels, Belgium

Day 23 – Relax!

Day 22 – Research Berlin, Germany

Day 21 – Get A Little Notebook As A Personal Passport

Day 20 – Research Athens, Greece

Day 19 – Say Goodbye to Friends in Fredonia

Day 18 – Update Blog

Day 17 – Talk to Verizon

Day 16 – Talk to Car Insurance

Day 15 – Research Darryl’s Choice

Day 14 – Research Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Day 13 – Relax!

Day 12 – Research Prague, Czech Republic

Day 11 – Update Blog

Day 10 – Research Oswiecim, Poland

Day 9 – Leave Fredonia

Day 8 – Visit Friends and Family

Day 7 – Relax!

Day 6 – Visit Friends and Family

Day 5 – Visit Friends and Family

Day 4 – Update Blog

Day 3 – Relax!

Day 2 – Make Sure Everything Is Packed And Ready To Go

DAY 1 – Get A Good Night’s Sleep ET BON VOYAGE!!! 😀

La Section Des Visas à New York City

Wow! That is all I am able to say about this entire process.

When I sent in my hardcopy documents and money order to the CampusFrance office in Washington, D.C., I went to the French Consulate of New York City’s website to book an appointment for my visa. I saw that the appointments were filling up quickly and I knew that I had to book it before it was too late. So, my appointment was scheduled for July 11th, 2013 at 11:30am.

Whoa, this is really stressful. That is all I could think about when I booked the appointment, even before the little disaster that I had thought I had gotten myself in. I had thought about my appointment time and decided that I wanted to make the time a little earlier, so I went back to the website and followed the instructions to change the appointment. I have no idea what I was doing. It was like I wasn’t thinking or wasn’t even in my mind at that time, but a message popped up and I clicked on “Cancel.” When I hit that button, my heart dropped and I thought my life was ruined right then and there. When I tried to enter my reference number and passport number, a message came up saying that the information I gave was incorrect and was therefore not able to view my appointment. I even tried to make another appointment but was told by yet another message that I was not able to make multiple appointments. This freaked me out and I had no idea what it meant.

I told some people that I was worried about the appointment, but they assured me that everything would be fine; however, I was having a difficult time believing them. During this time, I was working for the Center for Multicultural Affairs for Transfer and Freshmen Orientation and working at the International Education Center all the while trying to figure this visa process out. Needless to say that my stress level was through the roof. I was even having little panic attacks thinking about not being allowed to enter the Consulate whatsoever. I played many different scenarios in my head of what could happen that day, all ending with my trying to prove to the security guard that I really had an appointment, and giving him proof of my appointment with the confirmation receipt of the original appointment that I had made.

Before this point, I had booked my flight for New York City to fly in early on July 11 and fly back later that afternoon because I had no one to stay with and it would have been too expensive to get a hotel room for the night. The flight was only $195.00, which I didn’t think was too bad.

Leading up to July 11, I was a nervous wreck. I was gathering the remaining information and requirements for the visa along with making several photocopies of each piece of documentation, thinking that the Consulate would want everything that I had copied and gathered. I asked some of my friends from the city if I should take a taxi to make sure I get to the Consulate in time for my appointment or if I would be able to take public transportation and still get there in time and they all told me that taking public transportation would be my best bet and it would be a lot cheaper, so I decided that I would do it. I got the directions from my friend and it was put in a very special place so that I wouldn’t lose it.

On the morning of July 11, I woke up at 4:00am and was picked up by a friend at 5:00am so that I could be at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by 6:30am, an hour before my direct flight to New York City’s LaGuardia was to take off.

When I landed in New York City, I had three hours until my appointment and I felt like I was cutting it extremely close because I wasn’t sure how long the public transportation would take to get to where I needed to go. Finding my first MetroCard was a challenge in itself, but eventually I found it and boarded the M60 bus to Manhattan. I was directed to get off the bus at 125th and Lexington Avenue. Luckily, someone else needed to get off at the same place and they pulled the cord to request a stop and I got off. Okay, now I need to get on the local 6 train to 77th street. I looked around, and I saw the subway entrance right in front of me. I went down and got onto the train, but to my surprise it was not the correct train. I asked a woman on the train if it was heading to 77th street and she told me that this train was going in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person in my train car to make this mistake. Another woman had done the same thing, so we decided to team up and find out how to get to where we needed to go. It was a little hard to understand her because she was speaking to me in broken English, but she found the right train for her and I did the same. My new train arrived at 77th street and I got off and climbed the stairs to the street. At first and again, I started walking the wrong way, passing 78th street when the Consulate is on 74th street. So I turned around and started power-walking to 74th, while still trying to put on the façade that I knew where I was and what I was doing. Finally, I saw 74th street and had a knot in my stomach due to the nerves. While walking on 74th street, I met up with my friend Jessi Doores! This wasn’t a surprise meeting because we had already arranged to have lunch that day seeing how we both had our visa appointments for the same morning. She walked me to the Consulate and went on her way, telling me to text her when I was finished.

I was standing in front of the Consulate with a few others and the security guard came out looking to let us in. We needed to hand him our passports and show him our confirmation receipt from the website.  I was instructed to go up the stairs and to the right to the waiting area with the number 19 that he had given me. When my number was called, I was told to go to Window 1. It seemed like an eternity waiting and it was even more difficult to understand the man on the intercom as he read the numbers. At last, my number was called and I approached Window 1, nerves getting the best of me. The man on the other side of the window asked me for my visa application, my passport photo (which he thought was home-made; however, being made by my university), and for the $66.00 visa fee. This took me by surprise because I thought I was going to be paying $130.00 like their website said, but it must be that I was looking at the wrong column. He told me I was all set to take another seat and wait for my name to be called. Again, it felt like forever. Fortunately, I arrived at the Consulate at 10:20am, an hour before my appointment time, and was let in.

Now my name was called and I went to Window 4, where another man was asking for more documents, including my acceptance letter, my flight itinerary, and my bank statement. Those are the only documents that he asked from me! Can you believe that?! Out of a list of 14 separate documents, I only turned in 4 of them. At least I wasn’t missing anything, right? I then needed to be fingerprinted by this cool machine on the counter and my picture was taken. The man then said, “Today is the 11th of July. You will come back in one week, on the 18th of July between 9:00am and 10:00am.” I took this as a really good sign and said okay, gathering my things, and walked out of the Consulate…an hour and a half after I had walked in.

On Friday, July 12th, I knew that I needed to book my flight for New York City as soon as possible before they became too expensive. To my luck, I found a flight for $260.00, which I took instantly; however, there was a catch for being so cheap and so last-minute. This trip would include connecting flights in Boston and Washington,D.C. I didn’t care and set up an arrangement to stay with my friend Makayla Santiago at her home in the Bronx on Wednesday, July 17th. I was also asked my Jessi Doores if I would be able to pick up her visa as well, and I accepted. How could I say no? I was going there anyway!

On July 17th, I went to work at the International Education Center, and was going to be picked up again at 12:30pm to go back to the airport in Buffalo. While on the interstate, I got a message from the airline saying that my flight from Boston to New York City had been delayed, which wasn’t a big deal because I wasn’t in a hurry. I got to the airport in Boston and an announcement came on asking passengers from my original flight to come to the counter if they would like to get on this earlier flight and I definitely took advantage of it. I got on the plane and landed in New York City when I was originally scheduled for.

The next morning, I headed out of the Bronx for Manhattan. According to Makayla’s app, I would be at my destination at 9:13am, but I ended up getting there at 8:52am! Those of us waiting to be let in to retrieve our long-awaited visas were greeted by the same security guard as before who told us to turn off our cell phones and have our passports ready. We were instructed to go to Window 2 to drop off our passports to the woman on the other side of the glass and wait for our names to be called. My name was called along with Jessi’s and went up to the window, being greeted by a young guy (around my age, but probably a couple years older). He first asked me to check the spelling of my name and the dates that I would be in France. Everything was correct. Then I had to do the same for Jessi’s visa. Everything was also correct. He handed me my passport and said that I was set with that and then handed me paperwork for Jessi along with her passport and told me that everything was all set and that I was free to go. This time, my time at the Consulate took less than an hour!

This is what I looked like in Central Park when Makayla met up with me! I looked so happy, right?! I’M GOING TO FRANCE!!!!



Later on, I had to go back to LaGuardia Airport for the final time. This was yet another adventure. The M60 bus that I was on stopped at the main terminal and told the passengers that this was the stop for all airlines EXCEPT Delta and U.S. Airways (my airline), so I stayed on the bus. The driver got the the next stop and said, “This is Delta.” Thinking that there would be another stop for me, I stayed on the bus. Unfortunately, I was wrong. She had gone back to the main terminal and stopped to pick people up to start her route all over again. I could see the exit sign for the airport and knew that if I didn’t get off, I would miss my flight. I got off, went inside, and asked where to find U.S. Airways. I was told by airport officials that I could take the Route B bus or I could take the 100 degree weather and walk. Now, I didn’t have any faith in the bus system at this point, so I walked the 10 minutes to the airport having to ask for directions another time. I arrived at the U.S. Airways check-in kiosk and found out that my flight was delayed an hour from 7:00pm to 8:00pm, so I took my time and was no longer in a rush. I went through security and arrived at gate C42. Upon arrival at my gate, I noticed that a flight was boarding to go to Washington, D.C., the city that I needed to go to for my connecting flight back to Buffalo. I went up to the counter and asked if there were any remaining seats for me to head to Washington two hours early. Fortunately, there were and I boarded. I arrived in Washington,D.C. and checked for earlier flights to Buffalo. Unfortunately, there were none. I needed to wait in the airport until 10:15pm.

While at the gate for my Buffalo flight, I was directly across from the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building, and they were incredible sites to see from where I was. The Washington Monument still has the scaffolding on it for repairs and it still is lit at night. With the lights and the scaffolding, the monument looks like a shorter and thinner version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower. I tried to take a picture, but it didn’t come out.

The flight to Buffalo was delayed by a few minutes because the crew for this flight was coming from another flight on the other side of the airport. When they arrived and were settled into the plane, it was our turn to board. I was one of the first to go to the counter to have my boarding pass scanned and enter the plane; however, there was an apparent problem with my ticket and I was told to go to the Customer Service counter to get the error fixed. The woman at the counter was frantic, but very nice. She was trying her hardest to figure it out before I would have missed the flight. She came to the conclusion that the gate at LaGuardia never scanned my boarding pass, so it looked like I never was on the flight. It was funny, because she said that it said that I didn’t board the flight, but apparently I did because I was standing right in front of her. We went back over to the gate, she explained the situation, and I was allowed to board the flight. When I got on, I took a seat, and listened to what the Captain had to say over the intercom. He told his passengers that he was sorry for the heat in the cabin and that the engine was not starting, so they were trying to figure it out. 45 minutes after our original flight time, we finally were departing and heading to Buffalo.

On Friday, I checked my email and was greeted by about 7 emails from U.S. Airways telling me of delays and even a flight cancellation. It made me realize just how lucky I was and how my timing that day was just perfect overall!

Overall, my entire week was hectic, but great! A huge weight has been taken off my shoulders knowing that I am officially going to France in less than 40 days and I could not be more excited! I have been waiting for this for a very long time and it is finally happening.

I am so sorry that this was so long, but I needed to tell everything!

IAU College, Aix-en-Provence, France and the French Honors Program

This week I am going to explain where I will be and the program that I am enrolled in, even though some details are still not completely set in stone.

So, what exactly is IAU College and where in the world is Aix-en-Provence, France??

IAU College

IAU, short for Institute for American Universities, is “one of the oldest and largest education abroad programs in Europe. IAU has served as an academic center for more than 700 colleges and universities and more than 16,000 students—its present annual enrollment overall is as more than 400—and continues to make study in France available to students who recognize the life-long value of living in and exploring a culture other than their own.”  It was also founded in 1957. “IAU is a non-for-profit institution of higher education.


“IAU College – with semester, summer and academic year Business, Fine Arts, French Honors and Social Sciences and Humanities programs in Aix-en-Provence, France, a J-Term Traveling Seminar in France, Morocco and Spain and a summer program in Barcelona, Spain – has been providing high quality study abroad opportunities for U.S. college and university students since 1958. It remains one of the oldest and largest education abroad sites in Europe as it provides students with academic programs of intellectual substance and international focus in the fertile foreign setting of the Mediterranean. Any student open to learning and willing to grow will return home after their experience at IAU – changed in unexpected ways.”

Aix-en-Provence, France

So now you know about the university, but where exactly in France is it? Aix-en-Provence, or simply Aix, is a city in Southern France, specifically in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, in the département of Bouches-du-Rhône. It is a city located about 30 km north of Marseille. image

As you can see, Aix is extremely close to the Mediterranean Sea (about a 30 minute drive), which I will most likely be visiting a few times during my stay. It is also located in close proximity to the countries of Monaco and Italy. 

I have been told by many of my French professors that Aix-en-Provence is the equivalent to San Diego, California in its beauty and climate. They have even gone so far as to tell me that I am not going to want to come back to the United States. Why would they honestly tell me that? I definitely will not want to come back after my program ends.

French Honors Program

Within this institution, there are three different programs that students can apply to; the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the French Honors Program, and the Marchutz School of Fine Arts. You may have already guessed which program I applied for and was accepted into, right? No? Well, I am participating in the French Honors Program. Let me tell you a little more about this wonderful program. 

This program is designed for students who are either French majors in university or have a high degree of French language knowledge and background. In order to be accepted into the program, your personal statement for your application must be in French answering the prompt questions. 

WIthin this program, you are expected to take all of your courses in French, which I have opted to do, of course! There is also a possibility of taking a course or two at the local French university, which I really would love to do. As for accommodations, you are placed with a host family who does not speak English! I have already been notified of who I will be living with and I am extremely excited. In the French Honors Program, the faculty and staff at IAU speak to you only in French, attend special events in French, participate in a lecture series in French, engage in a French Language Partner Program with French students from the University of Provence, Aix-Marseille, and opt to be placed in a for-credit internship. At the end of the program, students are rewarded a Certificate of French Honors Abroad.

It is going to be great to have to speak French all the time and hopefully become near-native fluent by the time I return to the United States in December!