July 12, 2018

Keeleigh Thayn Global Immersion Blog From France

Keeleigh Thayn Global Immersion Blog From France
Keeleigh Thayn will study abroad in France from May 19 to July 15.
Keeleigh Thayn, a sophomore international business major from Lincoln, Nebraska, will study abroad in France from May 19 to July 15. Thayn chose to apply to the Aix-en-Provence program in southern France because she studied French for eight years and significantly increased her capabilities with the language in the past two years. She also plans to spend four days in Dublin, Ireland, before her program starts. She said, “I am ecstatic to see how learning in a new culture influences business interactions.”

Follow Thayn on social media at @Wild_THAYN on Instagram and TwitterKeeleigh Thayn on Facebook.

7/12/18 – Barcelona Time

Enjoying the lavender fields of Provence. Yes, this is real!
Enjoying the lavender fields of Provence. Yes, this is real!
I’m rounding out my last week in France, and honestly, I feel as if the time has flown by here in Aix-en-Provence. I feel that it is only fitting to share a little advice for the future students who do this program as they commence on their journey through what I think may be the most magical city in the world.
  1. Hike Mont Sainte Victoire - The views are out of this world. The pride of getting to the top will make your heart sing, but don’t forget to pack water in every spare inch of your bag.
  2. Never say no - Whether it be to the food, a night out with your friends or a weekend adventure, it’s worth whatever you give up, I promise.
  3. Make friends with the locals - While you’re going to be surrounded by some of the coolest Americans you may ever meet, the locals are by far your key to understanding the culture and experiencing things no tourist ever will.
  4. Travel, but get to know the city - Never stop looking for adventure. This city has so much to offer if you’re willing to look for it’s hidden gems. Go for a run and discover nature. Take a bus with no end stop in mind. Explore the “dive-y” cafes. DO IT ALL!! While the glam of the French Riviera may draw you in, getting to know this city will be an experience no one else will ever understand.
  5. Don’t stay inside - Aix is the city of fountains. Those fountains are perfect for hanging out with friends and a scenic view for a picnic. You can sit on your computer watching Netflix in the U.S. Live, eat and breath everything French.
While my heart is filled with every emotion in the book as I leave the place I’ve been so lucky to call home for the past two months, I can say for sure I don’t regret anything I’ve done. Studying abroad has brought me so many things – from bettering my French to meeting new friends from around the globe. It’s crazy to think this journey is coming to an end. Not to sound like a funeral but gosh, my time in Aix may be gone, but it surely won’t ever be forgotten.

6/26/18 – Barcelona Time

Nebraska + 1 takes on Park Guëll in Barcelona.
Nebraska + 1 takes on Park Guëll in Barcelona.
While it may be obvious, my location in France is P R I M E. I’m less than one hour from the French Riviera, three hours from the Italian border, and six from the Spanish border. Believe me when I say I plan to take full advantage of it! While the weekends are short, believe me when I say they’re also so worth utilizing. Late Friday night after classes and internships were finished a few of the Nebraska students embarked on a journey to Barcelona to soak up a little Spanish sun.
 
We started our day at the infamous Park Guëll to get all our touristic urges out and planned to spend the rest of the day venturing around the city. We had all heard magical things about La Sagrada Familia, but I think I saw a few jaws drop when we arrived on-site. It’s been under construction for one hundred years and because of all the details, you’d think it had taken thousands. I don’t mean to quote Billy Mays, but wait there’s more.
 
While Spain is so close, the culture of the Spaniards – from food to the people – is vastly different from that we feel in Aix-en-Provence. It would be an understatement for me to say I love French food, but it’s safe to say I could eat my body weight in authentic paella every single day and not feel an ounce of regret.
 
Another huge difference is the social culture. In France, having aperitifs before dinner is nothing less than expected, but the party culture in Spain is over the top. Throughout the day at nearly every cafe we passed, pitchers of sangria were advertised at prices truly cheaper than water. As midnight rolled around, those around us were just waking up to begin their evenings. We, on the other hand, couldn’t fathom staying out all night long (even if the nightlife is world-renowned).
 
As our 36-hour adventure came to a close, I can without a doubt say we were nothing short of pleased. In just a weekend, we felt as though we’d gained a full cultural experience in our neighboring Spain. With little hassle from the airport strikes, we had the opportunity to return home in a way unique to Europe – a Blablacar. Blablacar is essentially a ride-share app allowing you to take seats in people’s cars who are traveling the same place as you. As they say in Spain (and the south of France), ciao from beautiful Barcelona.

6/21/18 – World Cup 2018
French citizens rejoice rooting for their national team at a World Cup viewing party.
French citizens rejoice rooting for their national team at a World Cup viewing party.

Let me preface this post by saying my sports knowledge is slim to none, but I can still appreciate the enthusiasm that comes with being in Europe during the World Cup.
 
As a non-athletic person, I knew coming to Europe during this time there would be lots of talk of sports, but I had no clue how much the World Cup would take over the city. On any given night that a game is being shown, finding a seat in one of the various squares of Aix is, well, impossible. A walk by any bar or pub and avoiding the game isn’t an option. You can find TVs strapped to anything sturdy and people of all nationalities (given the touristic nature of the city) covering every inch of the square. Hearing the crowd erupt as their team score is almost as exciting as watching the Huskers score on game day (maybe I’m biased). Most entertaining is the delay in TVs. You can tell the outcome of a point before seeing it as the people in the square around you will be cheering their heart out.
 
Babies to grandparents continually arrive decked out in their French gear. They come faces painted and all just to celebrate with new friends and neighbors should the outcome be in their favor. If you don’t start the evening a France fan, they will make sure you are by the end, pulling out all the stops to ensure you appear like a die-hard fan. Even at home, the love for the sport is inevitable. On the few occasions, I have been sitting in the apartment during a match and my host dad has the TV blaring, even during dinner to keep tabs on the standings.
 
While I began this journey knowing nothing about soccer, I can’t say I’ll be saying the same when I leave. In fact, my heart sunk as I realized my flight home (in just one week) is at the exact commencement of the final match. While my feet will no longer be on French soil, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be cheering from the sky!

6/18/18 – Let’s Go to Monaco
Peering over the track for the Monaco Grand Prix
Peering over the track for the Monaco Grand Prix

If you thought you could come to Aix and not take advantage of the beauty that lies merely hours away, you were wrong! Who can resist a weekend in places that seem to only exist in movies. Some of the world’s most famous people – such as Karl Lagerfeld, Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio – not only frequent, but also have homes in Monaco. For the rest of us, we’ll have to put our names on the ten-year-long waiting list (sigh).
 
The road into the city is composed of winding roads, sights of the bluest sea I’ve ever seen and cars that cost more than a college education. Yes, I did feel quite out of place from the moment we entered. While technically Monaco is not a part of France, the influence of France is seen everywhere from the Tour de France memorabilia and the classic French pastries on every street corner. Alongside some of my nearest and dearest friends here in Aix, we spent the afternoon exploring the yacht club and the palace of the Prince of Monaco. Each day at 12 p.m. on the dot, there is a changing on the guards that reels in a crowd of hundreds.
 
We boarded our charter bus to head into the fantasy city of Monte Carlo, and yes, I’m convinced I was dreaming. The entire drive into the city is composed of the Monaco Grand Prix race track where the winner takes home just over $100 million in prizes. The casino of Monte Carlo is nothing less than impressive. I think jaws dropped when we realized the ceiling is solid gold and the walls covered in Picasso artwork. To even enter the gambling area, a 20 euro deposit is required. Table games come with a price tag of 500 euros minimum, but you won’t find any citizens of Monaco gambling, as it is actually illegal for them to enter.
 
Safe to say, the beauty of one of the most luxurious sovereign states was worth the hype. While we waited for a ride back to the comfort of Aix en Provence, we made a quick stop to the local McDonald’s (we figured it was a safe pick). Little did we know, we’d be treated to some of the most beautiful views of the city we’d seen thus far, and unfortunately the worst Big Macs of our lives. Not everything in Monaco can be perfect!
 
Monaco, see you in 10 years when I reach the top of the waiting list to move-in. I’ll start saving up now!

6/10/18 – Working Girl
 
Kayaking through Pont du Gard (pictured in the back) with just a handful of my multicultural officemates!
Kayaking through Pont du Gard (pictured in the back) with just a handful of my multicultural officemates!
Since I was a little girl, it has been a dream of mine to work in a foreign country. As I came into college and switched my major to international business and French, it became clearer that some of these childhood dreams could be a reality in the near future. Little did I know they’d be achieved in my nine weeks abroad just two years later.
 
I have officially begun my internship here in France at the startup MyInternshipAbroad. The enterprise itself is a recruiting agency that specializes in placing French students in internships abroad. I feel like it is no coincidence that I ended up here as the goals of many of the students going through our services aline with my personal goals. In France, it isn’t unusual that a student is required to spend an extended period working in a foreign nation to improve their language skills.
 
Experiencing the beauty of La Ciotat with my colleague Holly and fellow Nebraska student Natalie.
Experiencing the beauty of La Ciotat with my colleague Holly and fellow Nebraska student Natalie.
Specifically, I am working on the business relations team surrounded by people from around the world with different heritages, cultures and overall lifestyles. My childhood self is screaming from the rooftop with excitement. I have met people with origins in Morocco, Estonia, the United Kingdom and just about every other country on the map. It’s quickly given me great insight into how big the world is and defined the idea that there is no right or wrong way to do things, just different ways. These individuals encourage me to try new things and immerse myself in the culture of the French while improving my French language skills on a daily basis.
 
This past Sunday I was able to explore one of the French Riviera’s most beautiful beaches with my colleague, Holly. The following day we kayaked like the locals at the Pont du Gard. I had to laugh a little when I arrived as the entire company was tearing baguettes in half to ensure they would fit in our waterproof containers. YOU CANNOT LEAVE ANYWHERE WITHOUT A BAGUETTE! While I have gained work experience with this program, I have also gained so much more. I have gained friends around the world, a stronger cultural understanding of the business settings in foreign countries, and all-in-all an adventure like none other. It’s crazy to believe I am already two weeks into my internship with just four more to go!
 
As time passes and my heart is fulfilled with checking things off my bucket list, studying abroad has clarified that I am on the right road for my future. The only way to be sure is to go out and do things, experience the unknown, and step out of your comfort zone. With that being said, I think someone is going to have to physically drag me onto the plane back to the U.S. at the end of this life-changing experience.

5/29/18 - Exploring Ma Ville
 
Taking in the view at the Vielle Port (Old Port) in Marseille.
Taking in the view at the Vielle Port (Old Port) in Marseille.
I am elated to have finally arrived in Aix-en-Provence, and let me be the first to say that I think I’m living in a dream! After a short flight from Dublin to Marseille and a quick bus ride to my new city, I arrived at my host home. Just a short walk to the center of this magical city, I will be spending the summer with my host mother, Corinne, who works as a hairstylist near here. In about 5 minutes I can be to the “centre de ville,” home of various concerts, festivals and daily markets.
 
Even luckier for me, another Nebraska Business student, Hunter, lives a hop, skip and jump away giving us the perfect opportunity to spend much of our time adventuring throughout the city. We have spent the last few days sightseeing. This has allowed us to explore various cathedrals from the 1600s, fountains that are older than the U.S. and parks that are home to some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. I’ve also had the opportunity to experience a few of Aix’s famous gems in my short time here so far.
 
The breathtaking view before hiking Mont Sainte Victoire.
The breathtaking view before hiking Mont Sainte Victoire.
On Saturday, alongside seven other interns, I hiked the “red” trail (this was, without a doubt, NOT on purpose) up Mont Saint Victoire. For five and a half grueling hours, I got to know the other students and the new place we are lucky to call home for the next few weeks. Although I got to the top and was hanging on for dear life due to the wind, the views were beyond breathtaking. Mont Sainte Victoire is also well-known for being a muse to Cezanne, one of Aix’s dearest painters.
 
The following day with (what felt like) a few hours of sleep, we boarded a bus for a 30-minute bus ride to Marseille,  a city on the Mediterranean. Only by accident did we find ourselves in heaven a.k.a. on a beach. Due to the soreness from the day before, it was safe to say we earned a relaxing afternoon on the beach and, believe me, we will be back.
 
I have begun attending meetings to prepare me for the next seven weeks at IAU college just two minutes from my home. Although my brain is engulfed with new information regarding history, I am floored to be beginning this experience. Tomorrow I will begin my first day as an intern for a start-up here named MyInternshipAbroad. I will be working with their marketing team for better outreach and expansions of their company.
 
Words cannot express how lucky I am to be immersed in a culture as rich as that of the French. With that being said, if you ever find yourself in Aix-en-Provence, look for the girl outside the bakery with a giant macaron in her hand - I promise you that girl will always be me.

5/15/18 - Au Revoir, Nebraska
 
While the internet is flooded with cheesy quotes about taking on the world through travel, I’m beginning to believe there is some truth to all those Pinterest pins and Twitter posts. While I am well aware that “not all those who wander are lost” and “adventures are the best way to learn,” it took until this very second for those quotes to put in to perspective the rollercoaster of a summer I am about to encounter.
 
Off on the first leg of this adventure.
Off on the first leg of this adventure.
In just 12 hours and 47 seconds, I will leave behind the life that I have grown to know in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus. Alongside five Nebraska students, I will take on a city unknown to us and a culture vastly different from our own (and let me tell you I AM STOKED).
 
On Tuesday at 6 a.m. (sorry Mom and Dad), I will board my flight to Dublin, Ireland, to spend a few days exploring before I head off to my new home in France. While my friends and family know my love to travel is frequent, this experience will be something brand new. In 2015, I studied in Istanbul, Turkey, as a Rotary Youth Exchange student, which was a life-changing experience to say the least. I learned various things about myself, and thus, I am excited to see the things that come from being immersed in a culture different than my home in the U.S. and the culture I experienced in Istanbul.
 
Aix-en-Provence, France, seems like a dream come true. In the south of France, this city of 143,000 has been a home to some of the world’s most renowned artists, such as Cezanne, and is known for their fragrant lavender fields. Essentially a Disney movie in real life.
 
In the rollercoaster of emotions leading up to my departure, let me tell you thankfulness tops the list. I am thankful that Nebraska offers a program to suffice my yearn to improve my French language skills and better my understanding of international business affairs by serving as an intern at MyInternshipAbroad. I am thankful my parents lovingly allow me to set off across the ocean (yet again) to explore myself and expand my future opportunities. I am thankful that the world offers a hidden gem as beautiful as Aix. And most importantly, I am thankful that this opportunity will shape my future for my entire life – crazy, isn’t it?
 
After checking my baggage about a million times, I can’t believe I finally get to commence on this adventure. I know one thing is for sure “of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.” I can’t wait to see what stories my nine weeks abroad will bring and the stories I get to play a part in! All I can say for now is Au Revoir, Nebraska!
 
For a closer look at my time abroad, feel free to follow my Social Media platforms: @Wild_THAYN on Instagram and Twitter, Keeleigh Thayn on Facebook.