When I first signed up for this study abroad trip to France, I knew that the three weeks would fly by. However, even with that mindset, I still cannot comprehend how quickly the time passed; yet I have the memories, photographs, and stories in my journal to prove that each day was just as full as the next. Despite all of my hype and anticipation over this trip as I prepared for it, my actual experience far exceeded any expectations that I had. I know that USF does not want just another “glowing” blog about a wonderful experience abroad so I will try to go deeper, but the reality is that my time in Nice truly was like a dream.
As I write this, the terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day, the 14th of July, has just occurred, so it is difficult for me to speak candidly of my time in Nice without a slight taint of sadness over the tragedy. The massacre occurred along the Promenade des Anglais, a pedestrian road along the beach on which I ran in the mornings and walked on nearly every afternoon. It is heartbreaking to see images of a place where I was filled with such joy associated with such a horrific event on the American news channels. Fortunately, my host mother and all the people with which I am still in contact in Nice are safe. Having acknowledged this event, I will try to move on now to my personal, happily-spent three weeks in Nice while studying abroad.
Most importantly, I know that my French drastically improved during my stay. As everyone has told me, being immersed in the culture is really the fastest way to learn a language. Staying with a host family where I spoke nearly completely in French during breakfast and dinner discussions probably had the greatest impact, but the long hours spent conversing in class and spontaneous conversations with shopkeepers should not be discounted either. By the end of the three weeks, I did not even need the confirmation of my improvement that I received from the teachers and other students at the school, I could tell how well I could express myself in a conversation and understand what people were trying to tell me.
I cannot omit the food experience either. I have a new appreciation for French bread, as the baguettes and croissants here just cannot compare. My host mother followed the Mediterranean diet, so I learned a whole new way to cook using olive oil, less meat, and a lot of fresh produce. I have prepared several meals according to this regimen since returning to the United States. The Mediterranean diet is the diet currently favored by health professionals, so I am grateful for the hands-on chance I had to learn to cook according to the guidelines.
I learned that the French are much more friendly and welcoming than our American stereotype gives them credit for. I learned to appreciate the AC that is present everywhere in Florida, as oftentimes only two things could be counted on to cool me off on hot days: gelato and a cold shower. I have realized just how privileged I am to have grown up learning English as my first language, since children all around the world have to learn it in addition to their native language from the time they start school. I learned how to navigate public transportation, which now seems like a piece of cake in the US since all the material is in English. I made seven very good friends from USFSP that I never would have even met had it not been for the study abroad, which alone would have made the whole trip worth it. I have been spoiled by breathtaking views of the Mediterranean coast to the point that it seems nothing in the United States can compare in beauty.
I have no idea when, or even if, I will get a chance to return to southern France. I have no idea how I am going to use my newly improved French in a nation that practically only speaks English and occasionally Spanish. All I do know is that my experience was worth every penny, and I feel incredibly blessed to have been among the small percentage of college students who have gotten to participate in a study abroad.
Nice, tu me manques!