During my time in France, I had two week-long breaks, but I also had long weekends every weekend. The week-long breaks were good for spending extra time in one place (Paris) or for traveling a little further away (Italy and Greece). But even though I enjoyed the longer trips, I found that going away somewhere for the weekend is really fun. My three favorite short trips were: Montpellier and Marseille, Paris, and Arles and Avignon.
Though I spent less than 48 hours in Montpellier and Marseille, I feel like I got a lot of this trip. In Montpellier, my friends and I discovered that just because you look up directions online doesn’t mean they’ll make sense when you get there and that sometimes relying on the kindness of strangers is the best option. In Montpellier, I saw the Mediterranean for the first time. In Marseille, I only planned to be there for a day, so my friends and I wanted to make the most out of it. We’d heard of these things called calanques, so we thought we’d check those out rather than exploring the city. We went to the end of a bus line and were dropped off in a parking lot, and we just started wandering, and we found our way into a hiking trail. We thought for sure we’d gone the wrong way until we came up to a clearing, and we looked and saw the water and knew we were where we wanted to be.
I went to Paris three times during my time in France: once for my birthday, once for the first week-long break, and once again to play tour guide for a friend. That third trip was by far my favorite. By that time, I thought I’d seen everything in Paris I could possibly want to see, but being there with someone who’d never seen any of it made all of it seem new to me. I found that it is still possible to rediscover something you love.
The Arles and Avignon trip was a trip for all the SU students, which was convenient because it meant I didn’t have to plan anything myself. We drove to Arles on Friday, stayed through Saturday, and then spent a few hours in Avignon on Sunday. In Arles, I got lost in a market, but I found some delicious-looking strawberries. We all went to La Camargue together and had a picnic on the beach, and I discovered that the strawberries tasted as good as they looked. In Avignon, I lost myself in history at the Palais des Papes and on the bridge made famous by the song “Sur le pont d’Avignon.” I learned that being lost can be a fun experience.
While studying abroad is helpful in the obvious way of helping earn a degree or helping improve language skills, being abroad is a learning experience on its own. Learning to travel and learning about myself have been invaluable experiences that I would have never had if I’d never studied abroad. I hope to remember what I’ve learned – both in the classroom as well as outside of it – to help me in my future.