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.


Introducing Lauren Shotkoski

What is/are your major(s)?


What is/are your minor(s)?


What is the name of your study abroad program?


In what city & country is your study abroad program located?

Maynooth, Ireland

What is one thing that you are most anticipating about your study abroad experience?

I am most anticipating the connections I make with locals and learning to collaborate with different cultures. I am curious to see how they approach the work-life balance, and how challenging it will be to adapt. 

Why did you decide to study abroad? or What inspired you to study abroad?

I decided to study abroad in order to expand my knowledge of not only the business world, but the interests and actions of people outside the United States on a day-to-day basis. I want to see how the structure of their day compares to mine and how their practices change my own. 

First excursion I took in Ireland to the Cliffs of Moher.