One Part French, One Part Italian, One Part Spanish, One Part North African, But Completely Mediterranean

Donald McLean
July 5, 2013

Note: In my last post, I accidentally called the TGV the TVG. My apologies.

I’ve frequently been asked, by fellow students and by locals, why I chose Arles. To get to the main point, I had two choices of summer programs offered or sponsored by UNC: a summer in Paris or a summer in Arles. I will admit that I had never heard of Arles before, even though Vincent Van Gogh has been my favorite painter since I was a small child. You know, Paris seemed like a great idea; I mean, it’s Paris. I looked into the programs and Arles, though, and quickly changed my mind. For one, the Paris program looked basically like a summer-long guided tour with only UNC students and only UNC professors. Power to those who chose that program, but that wasn’t what I was looking for in study abroad. IES, however, offered me something different. It offered me complete cultural immersion, from the small town vibe to the host family. After looking into Arles a little bit, I decided that I’d much rather be immersed in their cultural than peripherally experiencing French culture in Paris through a different program.

Two weeks into the program, I’m happy with my decision, if for nothing other than the fact that those three days I spent in Paris proved to me that I don’t want to be in Paris. Sure, there are some things I still would have experienced there: I still would have had great food, I still would have bought this stack of books as tall as my forearm is long, and I still would have met some fascinating people and experienced France. I also probably would have left France still under the misconception that Paris is France. It’s a really common idea in America, whether people realize that they think it or not, and I will admit that, even though I knew deep down that France was a diverse country, I used to  imagine Marseille as something like Paris with a port and a coastline. Well, I was wrong, so completely and totally wrong.

The culture here is one part French, one part Italian, one part Spanish, one part North African, but completely Mediterranean. In one of my professor’s words, we are in the civilization just below the barbaric northern part of Europe. They really hate England here, for the record. Being here has definitely bolstered my desire to learn Spanish and Italian, I will say. All in all, I must say I love the Mediterranean culture. The people are relaxed and calm, they eat their food slowly, and they put olive oil on everything. The atmosphere is something completely different from Paris, and I like that. Here, I feel at ease. Here, I feel welcomed. When I get back to UNC, and the Paris kids ask me why I didn’t chose Paris of all places, I’ll respond by asking them why they didn’t chose Arles.

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Donald McLean

<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Miller McLean, and I am a rising senior majoring in English and French while minoring in German at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, but have always wanted to get out and see the world. At school, I am involved in the German Club, the Culture Committee, and the pre-law organization Phi Alpha Delta. In my free time, I like to read, write, and play music. Since beginning my French studies in high school, I have taken an interest in foreign languages and cultures, and I hope that my stay in Arles will help expand my world view and improve my knowledge of French. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that France will offer me, and I hope you enjoy my posts about my journey!</span></div>

2013 Summer 1, 2013 Summer 2
Home University:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
French Language
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