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.
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!!!).