Travel log 3 “Betwixt and Between… so this is Liminality” By Zelia Pantani, Antibes, France

After a two-hour flight delay that caused me to miss a connecting flight and arrive to my new home hours later than anticipated, I had ample time to imagine what my new surroundings would look like. However, not once in these thoughts did I envision an ocean front balcony of the Mediterranean Sea, clear shot of the French Alps or even a glimpse of Port Vauban, one of Europe’s largest Yacht ports. Needless to say my initial response was complete awe of the beauty of this quaint town, Antibes, that I am lucky enough to call home. Aside from the aesthetic aspect of arriving, I initially felt less mentally separated than I had aimed for. When I first arrived my immediate reaction was to FaceTime with my mom and dad, excitingly showing them the beautiful place I call home. While this is more than normal to want to share exciting factors of my life with those at home, this is a crucial part of separating from life at home to embark on my new life abroad. I am glad I’m able to recognize this early on though and think about the proceeding weeks, as already I have gotten better at separating from home. I FaceTime my parents only on Friday’s, our set day we agreed upon, and I watch myself to make sure that I don’t avidly check social media from home all day and allow myself to develop here.

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That is one thing I have particularly noticed about my new communitas, that a large majority of them are still very much so connected to a life at home through social media apps such as snapchat. While this is very much ok if that is there personal choice I’ve opted to leave my home cell phone at home when I go out with friends to really observe this new place and people. One of my strengths is being able to adapt well, so while I may have a language barrier, I have already grasped the basic “please and thank you’s” along with the “do you speak English?” and “I would like…”. In France, it is interesting as they all speak in hushed tones so one conversation can’t be heard from a neighboring table. However, when I go out with new friends exploring various restaurants or even strolling down the street at night, it is hard not to hear our radiantly loud voices bouncing off all the walls. I knew separation was going to mean cultural separation as well, as I find myself within the new group of people, culture and location I am in, but even after the first 48 hours it was evidently clear some of the major differences.

For example, grocery shopping is not a once a week thing here in little old Antibes, it’s every few days as food is fresher and purchased for only what individuals can eat within the next day or so. For this reason, I’ve discovered having three “snack aisle” at a grocery store with various potato chips, goldfish, any kind of granola bar imaginable and so forth can’t be found only for one aisle in the biggest supermarket in town. These observable differences in a way make it easier to separate as I am constantly reminded this is not the home I’ve always known. Slimbach’s quote in chapter 6 “Living with Paradox” perfectly describes a large amount of what has taken place since my arrival almost a week and a half ago—“It’s only when givens change and old rules no longer apply that we become aware of the special lens through which we look at life” (Slimbach 155).

As I mentioned previously various differences from my native culture to my host culture, there are also academic differences that I have found harder to adapt to. Each class is three hours long (they really mean three hours) with a 15 minute break after 90 minutes worth of class. Since classes are once a week, physical and mental attendance is required. It will be difficult to concentrate for this long of a time frame on some days, but after a few weeks I feel I will get the hang of it. An interesting fact about their education system is teachers are welcome to host tests on days when students don’t necessarily have that class—Saturday’s included. While they give you advanced noticed, it is strange to have a test for a class other than in class.  Within these challenges placed with liminality I’ve indirectly discovered things that I appreciate more about my native culture and aspects about myself I didn’t believe were possible. Academic wise, I appreciate the structured way that classes are on those days as are tests. However culture wise, I’ve always thought I couldn’t live without that one t-shirt or that one pair of shoes, but even in the past week with such a tiny washer, I’ve done laundry twice and I have had no problem with any of my clothing choice. I’ve learned that I don’t need more than the necessities, in terms of more than just clothes but food as well. Maybe it’s the gorgeous store front views of fresh fruits and veggies restocked daily, but shopping often and getting fresher foods isn’t as inconvenient as it seems.

There are definitely aspects of this new life that will take getting used to, for example having to walk everywhere I want to go and having to account for that extra amount of time. And maybe it is my ability to adapt, but for the most part I feel I will have no problem letting go of native habits and embracing new ones. In terms of expanding my communitas, to more than just those individuals that I share the title of “CEA Exchange Students” I have already branched out to various SKEMA students as they have open arms and are just as excited to be meeting us. Last weekend they had their first “Integration event” which was held at the local bar (a typical way of meeting for them). However, as next week I will enter my second week of school, various clubs will become available to join so I am able to meet more and more international students.

While this picture I chose of myself is super silly, I chose it because I feel it definitely explains my actions, as I’ve spent the last weekend and then some touring my surrounding areas include Nice and a small portion of the coastline of the Mediterranean. But more importantly it represents my thoughts and emotions as it begins to set in that I am not vacationing here, but living here. When I get apprehensive but I’m also extremely happy about something I do a face similar to this where you can visibly see my excitement but also know that I am in the unknown. That definitely describes my current predicament as I still feel new to my location and area. (The excitement and apprehension is also there as I just booked my first trip to Switzerland in hopes of skydiving for the first time ever!!!).

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8 thoughts on “Travel log 3 “Betwixt and Between… so this is Liminality” By Zelia Pantani, Antibes, France

  1. The beauty of southern France also captivated me the first time I went! And I completely agree with your characterization of European shopping; people only buy what they need at the time and return often. Though it’s strange now, by the end of the semester it will be second nature to you. It’s great that you have identified a challenge in separating (wanting to talk to your parents often) and then implemented a solution to fix the problem (leaving your American cell phone at home).

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    • Thanks for noticing the changes I’ve implemented and yes, the south of France is absolutely gorgeous! But like anywhere else, there are differences, challenges and problems I will encounter along the way. Hopefully it will become second nature, as I’m here on my third week already, it’s already starting to feel like it! My current struggle is finding new things to cook given the groceries I purchase lol.

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  2. I can totally relate to the realization that I’m not vacationing here. Since I started classes yesterday, I think it finally hit me that I’m really here for the long haul. I also completely admire your dedication to leaving your phone at home when you go out. I don’t even have a data plan over here (so I can only use my American phone with WiFi) and I still bring it everywhere! The south of France is definitely a place I want to try and visit while I’m here in Europe, so it’s great to know you’re loving it! I know you’re meeting a bunch of people from London in Switzerland, too, so I hope you guys have an amazing time (and I hope you skydive – that is so cool)!!

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    • I agree, starting classes definitely makes it more surreal that this is home, and I have a whole 10 weeks left in this beautiful place! But like I replied to Kathleen’s comment, I see carrying my phone as more of a liability since I don’t have a plan either, so the likelihood that I lose it, when I’m not even using it is much higher. Definitely try to come visit, it’s a beautiful area!! And thank you, hopefully it won’t be too cold to Skydive lol.

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  3. Bonjour Zelia!! After reading your description of the view off your balcony and then seeing it from an actual picture I am even more excited for you, it looks beautiful! It’s funny the way you’ve described “little Antibes” and its simple way of living because I’ve felt the same way here in little Florence (most likely not as little). It definitely takes some adjusting to live every day with only the necessities, but I think even after a week you learn to appreciate the simplicity and charm of it. I have also enjoyed buying groceries at little markets on my street and trying whatever crop is in season. Not sure if you don’t have a dryer either, but air drying my clothes and doing very few washes has definitely taken some getting used to.
    Seeing that you have chosen to leave your phone at home so that you can completely detach yourself from the pull of social media and focus on the experience of going out has inspired me to try the same for a few nights! I feel guilty of being like some of the students that you see still constantly checking their social media. When you see them all on their phones does it make it hard for you to leave yours, or do you not feel the FOMO since you are out in a new country?

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    • I don’t have a dryer and I agree, especially for my pants when I want to throw them in the dryer to shrink them back up, it’s not a luxury I will have for the next four months. And thank you but trust me don’t feel guilty! I still bring my phone with me sometimes to take pictures and such but most places I need wifi for it to work so I think of it as just another thing to hold– and potentially lose. Most times I want to leave my phone for the pure reason I don’t want to have FOMO from home with other people at Quinnipiac! It’s nice in a way to completely detach, so I definitely recommend it. But again, it’s definitely ok if you bring it out with you! Sometimes I still do, but it’s just not as often. Can’t wait to visit Florence since I’m sure it’s much bigger than little Antibes but still similarities!

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  4. After reading your travel log, it has helped me IMMENSELY. Although you are abroad in the French Riviera, I will be in Paris as of Sunday. Now, however, I feel more equipped to handle the culture shocks that accompany travel abroad in France. What are the fresh markets like? Are they similar to American farmers markets, or are they completely different?

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    • Yes they’re similar to farmer markets! And they’re almost at every regular grocery store… also bring reusable bags since the grocery store bags cost 1.50 euro per bag and they’re not super sturdy. You’ll be fine otherwise, plus Paris might be slightly different!

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