It’s been one week since I was launched across the Atlantic into my new home, and I don’t even know where to begin. My flight was through Air Canada, and my route went from Boston to Quebec to Nice. My Boston-Quebec flight was delayed SO much that I nearly missed my connection to Nice. I almost chewed my hands off while I just watched the “DELAY” stay up on the screen. But I made it just in time.
On Sunday (Day 0), before I left for Nice , I did some quantum algebra to figure out the time-difference. If I wanted to make the smoothest entry into the +6 hour time zone (relative to EST) I would have to sleep on the plane as much as possible. Unfortunately, on the flight I was handed a piece-of-paper as a pillow to compliment my worst-chair-ever-3000, so I slept maybe an hour.
On Monday (Day 1), when I landed, my bags were delayed (AIR CANADA! COME ON!) but luckily I met up with my CEA driver who was tasked with bringing me straight to my apartment. I was joined by two other fellow CEA members, and we took a scenic route from Nice to Antibes. The weather was beautiful, and my tired eyes were able to see beaches, palm trees(planted, not indigenous), hotels, and resorts. What wasn’t so beautiful was the French driving. The French streets are VERY tight, drivers are VERY aggressive, and street laws are VERY loose. Thankfully, I made it to my apartment alive.
When I arrived, I was greeted by my CEA on-site guide and specialist, Kristin. In a blur, I was brought up three flights of stairs of a 500-year old building and dropped off in my apartment. My apartment (which I share with my roommate, Alexei; he showed up later in the day) was plenty large enough for two people, is located in the old-Antibes, overlooks a fresh-food market and plenty of bars/restaurants, is a 3 minutes walk from the beach, and is located next to the Picasso Museum. Not to brag, but it’s pretty fricken sweet.
The first day was exciting, tiring, and terrifying. After struggling to find some food and learn my street, my roommate moved in and we set up camp. Alexei and I get along well, and we’re pretty similar (if you’re reading this, hey!), so I really lucked out overall with my housing. The rest of the day passed, and we woke up ready for our walking tour of Antibes in the morning.
On Tuesday ( Day 2) we met up with the entire CEA group (around 20 students) to take a tour of Antibes. I learned everyone’s names, hometowns, etc., and then we were off! We began the day with a bus-tour that drove us around the scenic parts of the city and told us some interesting facts. After that, we began our walking tour. During the walking tour, Kristin told us a ton of information and history about Antibes, along with showing us where important buildings and facilities were. After both tours, I felt a lot more comfortable with the city. The next day was my French university’s orientation, so I got back home and rested for it. I must have been jet lagged, though, since I woke up at 2:30 am feeling completely awake. It was pretty weird, but I managed to fall asleep again at around 5.
On Wednesday (Day 3) all of the CEA members made our way to SKEMA university for orientation. It’s a quick 20 minute bus ride up north to Sophia Antipolis, a technology park or “technopole.” Our campus is quaint, with pine needles smothering the ground and French students chatting everywhere. The university is not all French though, there are an abundance of international students whom I met during the orientation. After getting my class schedule and having some delicious lunch at the school, Alexei and I returned to our apartment and realized that our fridge was bone-dry empty.
To remedy our lack of food, Alexei and I followed CEA student Isaac to a supermarket half of a mile away from our apartment. What we did not realize is that we would have to walk the half of a mile back. With 80+ pounds of groceries. I probably shouldn’t have bought that 6-pack of milk (apparently milk is able to last weeks unrefrigerated since France ultra-pasteurizes their dairy. Source; Alexei.) After the most uncomfortable trek in our lives, we had food in our apartment for tomorrow: the first day of school.
Thursday (Day 4) began like any year of school. I prepared my things, went to the bus stop, and arrived at my class: Macro Economics. For SKEMA, each course is only held once a week for 3 hours, so I got comfortable and began listening to our German teacher. Each class is taught in English, and my multilingual professor spoke fluently and clearly. After class, I went home and prepared for the on-campus international exchange integration group’s first big party. Hosted on the beaches of Juan-les-Pins, the party was meant to integrate French and foreign students. I went with a large group, it was a blast and I met a ton of French students.
For Friday (Day 5) I had no classes and was free the whole day. I had already visited the beaches a few times so I decided to just chill until dinner, when we cooked some fresh butcher’s sausage into sauce and penne. The meat from the local butchers is extremely fresh, and sometimes cheaper than the supermarket! After having some friends over for dinner, we all visited a local Pub, the “Hop Store.” The music was awesome-with a ton of classic American songs, both rock and pop-the pub was packed and the atmosphere was electric.
Saturday (Day 6) began with a SKEMA scavenger hunt around Antibes. The SKEMA staff put together a nice quiz that brought everyone around the city to explore museums, markets, and squares. This hunt was the last piece of the puzzle for me, and I felt as if I truly knew the city now. After lunch, I relaxed at the beach that I had been frequenting all week (La Plage de la Gravette) then went home and prepared for our first CEA excursion on Sunday.
Sunday (Day 7) was big. CEA planned a huge tour for our group that would begin in Nice, then move to Eze, then to Monaco and finally Monte-Carlo. We all boarded a private luxury bus with soft seats and air conditioning and began to drive down along the scenic pebble beaches to Nice. Once we arrived in Nice, we explored the old-town and the new-town, stopping at places like the open market and the beach. Our tour guide told us that Nice used to be part of Italy, it was founded around the 4th century BC, and that it held an immense amount of history. The sights were beautiful, and after walking around we boarded the bus again for Eze.
Eze had the best views. Since it is located atop a hill, you are able to see the entire city of Nice and its beaches. At Eze, we took a tour of the local perfume factory and then walked to the top of the ville. The little town had old churches, wooden creaky doors and ancient streets. There was no time to spare though, so we boarded our bus and headed to the luxurious Monaco.
Monaco is located in France but is technically its own country (think the Vatican.) Its one of the richest areas of the world since it has 0% tax for everything, therefore the rich like to move here to avoid high tax rates. After crossing the boarder, I was stunned by the beautiful architecture, giant yachts, and expensive cars swarming the city. Speaking of cars, Monaco is the home to the Formula 1 race track, which our bus drove around. Our tour’s last location was Monte-Carlo, a city in Monaco. Monte-Carlo is the ultra-rich part of the country, and we able to explore the casino region. The cars were amazing. Almost every car was a Mercedes, a Maserati, or a Lamborghini, and I even caught a fleeting glimpse of a Bugatti, After an hour or so of gawking at the cars, we all loaded up on the bus and returned home to Antibes.
So, that’s my first week, or at least the important bits. Thank you for reading! Next time, I’ll have more stories of travel, parties, and European askewness. Until the next post, au revoir!