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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Sylvie in France

Sylvie Messavussu ’18 is a double major in Educational Studies and French studying in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Fear, anticipation, and excitement. Traveling abroad for the first time gave me waves of conflicting emotions. When I arrived at Aix-en-Provence, France, on August 31st, I had no idea what to expect. I was not well traveled and my knowledge of French and its culture were limited. Thankfully, as a region full of rich culture and language learning institutions such the S.U.F.L.E at the University of Aix-Marseille, my stay so far in France feels like a dream. With the help of numerous intensive language classes and laboratories, my writing and oral skills are improving drastically. My everyday life is filled with a plethora of new experiences and learning.


Studying abroad is an amazing yet challenging experience. It has allowed me to lead a new life in a foreign culture, while also opening my mind to understand and accept others cultural norms. A well-known stereotype for the French is that they are rude. However, after living with the natives and being able to interact with them on a daily basis, I disagree with this stereotype. I have learned that people are not as open as they are back home, in the US, or in other places around the world.


Other unexpected and wonderful things I have learned so far while in Aix-en-Provence is that in Europe tax and/or tip is always included in the price before you buy something. I am also learning that the pace of life in France seems to be a bit slow. For example, it is a cultural thing to sit in a park with friends and talk for long amounts of time. Often, the natives will sit at a little table in front of a café to have a drink and observe the scenes and life around them.


As I sit down in a popular café called Mana Expresso in Aix-en-Provence while editing this reflection, everything feels surreal. For this, I would like to thank the Ingrid H. and George L. Speros Scholarship for helping to provide the funds to make this my current reality.