From September to November, I had the opportunity to go to a Study Abroad program with my college. I stayed in a place called Lacoste and I talked about it here, The Cities of Provence: Lacoste. Out of my stay in France, I traveled around to different towns and cities. Many of those memories brought me such joy and amazing lessons. Here are the 5 Things I’ve Learned Studying Abroad:
|Enjoying the flowers that inspired Van Gogh in Arles|
Reflect in the Now
Remove yourself from your phone and immerse yourself. You are in a different country that has a different culture than your own. Take the time to enjoy the moment. Listen to your surroundings. One of my favorite places I went to Provence was this little town called La Fontaine Du Vaucluse. It has beautiful sounds of the water rushing down the river. I enjoyed the town so much that I went back multiple times. I record the sounds of the water and took leaves to have in my sketchbook for memories. This is what happens when you enjoy the moment.
|View from Fort Buoux|
Try New Things
One of the things that would encourage you to do is try something new. You did not travel all the way out here just to go to McDonald’s for food. You are here for the experience. Try some local restaurants, look at their specials and be brave! One of my favorite things I have tried was the ice cream in Roussillon, France. Go on an adventure! Go take a hike through the forest or get active with the environment around you. I saw the most beautiful view after hiking up to Fort Buoux. While you are here, start creating new habits to bring back when you return. I started waking up early to get work done so, I have the rest of the day to explore.
|La Fontaine de Vaucluse|
|My friend caught me meditating and taking it in|
Take in Your Environment
You are in a completely different culture than your own. There may be some culture shock but, this is the time to educate yourself. Start by learning the language. Download Memrise or Duolingo and practice. Try to put yourself through the challenge of communicating with the locals. In South France, many people don’t speak English there. This was a challenge and great for me to practice my French. Interacting with the locals also shows you amazing gems like the festivals, markets, and art galleries. Being outside of the tourist destinations shows you the true beauty of the environment.
Learn the History of the Region
You are here! Enjoy it and learn about the area. I find that learning the history of a place allows me to appreciate it more than a superficial level. I always find a good book anywhere that I am going. I also love to take tours in places I visit. Finding out the stories of the places brings me such joy that I write & sketch about them. It is a great way to keep the memory alive and great to look back on.
|After I saw the Jean-Michel Basquiat, At Fondation Louis Vuitton,|
Inspiration is Everywhere
I have saved papers from museums, coffee shops, and galleries in my sketchbook. I have pictures of buildings and artwork that I referenced later in my work. In France, I took in as much inspiration as I could because the memories cannot be replicated. I had a disposable camera with me that I took photos of things I love at that moment.
France showed me that it’s okay to slow down and live in the moment. It’s not a place where you keep on pushing and pushing your work until exhaustion like in the USA. Take advantage of being outside of your comfort zone, get active and enjoy the moment.