Food in French Culture

One of the first things that comes to many people’s minds when thinking of French culture (and one of the many reasons I decided to study abroad in this country) is its excellent cuisine. During my first month of studying in Aix en Provence I have tried many new cafés, restaurants, bars, and recipes in my own home! Whether you’re looking for a coffee and pastry to start your day, a perfect charcuterie board, a fancy dinner, or delicious seafood by the coast, the south of France has more than enough to offer.

Cafés and Patisseries

My favorite way to start my weekdays is with a cappuccino and a croissant from one of my favorite cafés or patisseries (pastry shops). There’s no shortage of these adorable stops in Aix, so the hardest part is finding which one you like the most. My typical stop is Chez Augustine, which is just around the corner from my apartment and typically where I get my daily baguette. Another favorite of mine for when I have more time to sit is Maison Riederer, which specializes in hot chocolate and their delicious pain au chocolats.

However, if you’re ever feeling a bit homesick or just looking for a place to study, my recommendation is Café Lumiere. One of the best places in the city to find good wifi and great iced coffee drinks (a rare find in this city). Owned and run by an American woman, the staff is incredibly welcoming and it can be a comforting feeling to walk into an English speaking business from time to time.

Restaurants in France

One of my favorite parts about French culture is the way that people here find time to enjoy each and every meal, whether that be for themselves or accompanied by friends or family. One of my favorite sit-down spots for breakfast, brunch, or lunch is at La Crêpe Sautière. This awesome crêpe spot located right near my school (IAU) serves the most delicious recipes as well as offering a build your own option. You can find a variety of fun pub/lunch spots located around la Rotonde at the edge of the historic part of the city. These spots serve cocktails, charcuterie, tapas, as well as larger plates of food that work well for lunch or dinner with friends. Some finer dining restaurants such as La Rotonde and Le Piston offer classic French dishes such as steak tartar, escargot, oysters, and more.

Market Shopping and Cooking at Home!

As a student abroad I still have to live on a budget, so eating out for every meal isn’t the most sustainable. Fortunately, Aix hosts a massive market every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, which offers a variety of fresh foods at an affordable price. Since I live in an apartment, my roommates and other students in the building have started a “family dinner night” where we all contribute to the meal and cook together. Just last week we got mussels from the market and made mussel pasta with baguette and a beet salad with goat cheese. Gathering ingredients from the local market and cooking with and for your friends is such a fulfilling experience that has helped me create so many deep bonds in my program.

The culture around food in France is much different than most people experience it in the United States. Here, meals are meant to be a time to relax and connect with people you love, such as friends or family. Meal times are much less flexible, and fast food is not nearly as common. Instead, when you go out around 12-1pm you’ll see every restaurants full, all French students are on breaks with their friends, and families are eating together. In addition to offering a wide array of delicious cultural foods, France has given me a new appreciation for how food is used to create and build connections and establish a more fulfilling way of life (even though I’m perfectly happy keeping my cheese and baguettes all to myself).

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Reverse Homesickness

Photo via Traveldigg.com

62 more days left in Berlin and it isn’t anywhere near enough. As I sit here desperately trying to cling to the grains of time that are passing me by, I can’t help but feel a deep sadness for what is to come. After 7 months of living in Berlin, I’ve succeeded in accomplishing my goal—to create my own little life for myself.

Unfortunately, I’ve been so successful at creating my own little life in Berlin that it’s now not so little, and it breaks my heart a bit as I realize that it is quickly coming to an end. The result of my efforts in Berlin has crafted treasured friendships, a beautiful relationship, and fluency at C1 level German. Gone are the days where I feel lost in this city, both literally but also in a more figurative sense. At first, I would lose myself just as quickly in a conversation in German as I would when riding the Bahn without my phone for navigation. Now, I can effortlessly navigate the Bahn systems and almost any interaction in German. But more importantly, I have a sense of home in the community I’ve built.

My speculation is that it is often this lack of community that results in students feeling homesick. I can confidently say that I felt homesick after 6 weeks in Berlin, but fast forward to the present and now I feel a different type of homesickness. I feel homesick for the present. I have this pit in my stomach and this stone weighing on my heart because I know that this beautiful, little life that I have created in Berlin will end. I have utterly fallen in love with this city.

Yet, this experience, while simultaneously beautiful and painful, is one that less than 2% of college students will have the opportunity to seek for themselves. According to NAFSA, only 1.6% of all college students in the U.S. studied abroad for the 2016-17 academic year (I don’t have data for how many students study abroad for a full academic year but I’m sure it’s even less). Of the 1.6% of students who do study abroad, only 10.2% are Hispanic/Latino American which makes my experience abroad particularly rare.

If you can take anything away from this blog, I hope it’s a sense of curiosity. Dare to dream what a semester or two of your college-experience would look like abroad. What kind of little life can you craft for yourself? Will you be heartbroken to leave, or eagerly awaiting the flight back home? You can’t know until you go find out for yourself.

-Raul

https://www.nafsa.org/Policy_and_Advocacy/Policy_Resources/Policy_Trends_and_Data/Trends_in_U_S__Study_Abroad/

Raul Orozco

Germany – Freie Universitat Berlin, 2018-2019 Academic Year

Raul Orozco is a senior at the University of Denver and is majoring in philosophy with minors in biology, German, and political science. He is participating in the Freie Universität Berlin European Studies Program (FU-BEST) in Berlin, Germany for the academic year. Raul hopes studying abroad in Berlin will enable him to gain fluency in the German language. 

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