Bon Anniversaire! (From Annecy)

While the south of France has been filled with sunshine and warm weather up until November, over the past two weeks Aix has begun making the transition to winter, bringing with it cloudy skies and rapidly dropping temperatures. Instead of taking the weekend to escape the cold weather, my friends and I decided to embrace the incoming winter season with a trip up north to the beautiful town of Annecy! Fondly nicknamed “the French Venice,” Annecy is a beautiful and historic town situated on the edge of the French Alps and centered around a crystal blue lake, complete with no shortage of beautiful architecture and canals. This town is not just the perfect place for a weekend getaway, but also the perfect place to spend a birthday, which is exactly what we were going there to do!

We began our weekend/birthday festivities with a beautiful bus ride through the French countryside, which took us to our Airbnb that resembled nothing less than the home of a 19th century French noble. This Airbnb was selected by none less than the birthday girl herself, because what is a queen’s birthday without a castle? We spent our weekend enjoying our temporary home, exploring the cobblestone streets and beautiful lakeside, and eating as much as we could stuff ourselves with. As a Vermonter at heart, the Annecy landscape, complete with the mountain-surrounded lake and autumn foliage, reminded me of home… despite Vermont’s devastating lack of castles.

While every second in Annecy made me feel like I was living in a real-life fairytale, this trip for me was more importantly a reflection on the relationships I’ve built since coming abroad. Spending a weekend in a beautiful place, surrounded by people I didn’t know the names of just two months ago, and celebrating one of my best friends, I felt overwhelmed by love and appreciation. I went abroad for many reasons. For the culture, for the language, for the learning experience… but being able to share this experience with new people and learning how to form deep connections in different situations has only allowed for deeper personal growth.

So instead of this being a post to the town of Annecy (although its beauty should not be overlooked), this is a post for my friends. As we enter the last month of our abroad semester, I can already feel that the last few weeks are going to fly by. Instead of being sad about the end of this chapter I hope to cherish every moment of my time left here, in this beautiful place and surrounded by the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Starting a new life somewhere, even for just a few months, can be both terrifying and thrilling, but being rewarded by new experiences, new memories, and new life-long relationships could not be more fulfilling. These newfound friendships have helped me grow both as my own person and as a global citizen and only make me more excited for my future travels and what new people I may meet along the way.


Reverse Homesickness

Photo via

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 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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