My First Month in the South of France

Kate Allen headshot
Kate Allen
February 10, 2024
Rainy View of St. Paul-de-Vence


It has officially been more than a month since my arrival in the South of France. Time flies when you’re having fun. I finally feel settled in and I have learned my way around Nice. I know the route to school like the back of my hand. I have tried countless coffee shops and cafés. Each day, I feel more confident ordering my cappuccino in French!

Cappuccino at Le Country Store


The other IES Abroad students and I arrived in Nice on January 3rd.  Within 72 hours of our arrival we took a city tour,  participated in program orientation, and took an excursion to Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Grasse. The first few days were a haze of jet lag and new faces. It was definitely overwhelming, and I felt homesick and exhausted. 

Perfume making at Fragonard in Grasse


After the first two weeks, everything felt like it was getting better. Classes started the second week, and I finally got my schedule into place. Now, classes are in full swing. I knowthe least anticipated part of studying abroad. I have in-person class Tuesday through Thursday, so most mornings begin with an early wake-up and a peaceful walk to Jean Médecin, where the IES Abroad building is located. 

One of the biggest adjustments has been length of class time. At my home university, our classes are around an hour long, and here, they are nearly three hours. But we get a fifteen-minute break about halfway through class. During this time, I often make a quick trip to Paul down the street for an espresso or a croissant…the best part of class! 

While I would try to follow a consistent daily routine in the United States, I live rather spontaneously in Nice. Each day is different, and I push myself to explore. I love to walk around the Old Town or sit on the rocky beach and read a book in between classes.

Coffee and croissant on the beach!


One of my favorite activities in Nice thus far has been taking a cooking class at Les Petits Farcis with other IES Abroad students. Les Petits Farcis is a small cooking studio near the Nice Port, run by a woman named Rosa Jackson. Rosa taught us how to make socca, a niçoise delicacy, and homemade gnocchi with pistou. We ended our dinner with a delicious lavender crème brûlée and pestered Rosa with all sorts of culinary questions. 

Beginning stages of gnocchi creation
After shaping the gnocchi
Rosa working on the sauce
The final product!
Torching the lavender crème brûlée
Et voilà


Much of the past four weeks has consisted of hopping on the train and traveling up and down the coast. My first trip outside of Nice was to visit my friend Katie, who is living in Antibes and studying at SKEMA. As I initially struggled to adjust and acclimate, it was so comforting to have a close friend only thirty minutes away. Katie and I are similar; we love to spend our free time at the beach or walking around the coastline of Antibes. For anyone that visits, I highly recommend a relaxing day at Billionaire’s Bay in Antibes. When we went, we brought pastries and books, and basked in the late January sun. 

A day at Billionaire's Bay


Another day, Katie and I took the train to Menton, which is the town just past Monaco. It was a rainy Saturday, so we walked through the quaint streets and popped into a few boutiques and bakeries. The town was preparing for their annual Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival), so we were able to see massive statues constructed out of lemons and oranges. We also tried to visit the John Cocteau Museum to no avail. One important piece of advice is to never trust Google when determining open hours of anything in France. It’s never accurate! We had a wonderful time regardless. 

Exploring Menton
Taking shelter from the rain at a cute bakery

Throughout January, I also went on casual day trips to Monaco, Cap d’Ail, Eze, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Beaulieu-sur-Mer for a class trip to explore Villa Kérylos Although there is much more to see, I have gained such wonderful appreciation for the Côte d'Azur.

View overlooking the sea from Villa Kérylos
IES students at Villa Kérylos

After reflecting back on the first month in Nice, I have few goals moving forward.  I strive to remain present and grateful for this experience, and I’ll do so by being more intentional with my days. I want to do more journaling, sightseeing, and learning about local culture. Most of all, I want to make a greater effort to practice French. 

Another cappuccino at Brume Coffee in Old Nice

I am so lucky to be living abroad for the semester, and I want to soak it all in. I truly feel like I made the perfect decision to study in Nice. Cheers to three more months of cappuccinos, trips with friends, and sunny days in the South of France!

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Kate Allen headshot

Kate Allen

Hi! My name is Kate Allen and I am a third year at the University of Virginia, studying Foreign Affairs and Global Commerce. I love to read, cook, take photos, and explore. 

2024 Spring
Home University:
University of Virginia
International Business
International Relations
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