Interview on the Mediterranean Shore

Zach Cohen
October 31, 2016

Nice is a city located in Southern France but which may well be Northern Italy; a conglomeration of cultures with a very pleasant ambiance and atmosphere tying it all ogether.  As the destination of our second fall break for two friends and I, Nice was a nice change of pace from Freiburg.  We were able to leave behind the stresses of school and the recent rainy weather for sun and relaxation.  On our trip, I decided to interview my travel companions - Josh and Chris - about their study abroad experiences.  After all, though my blog no doubt provides an insight into IES Abroad’s EU program, it is but a single voice of many, and I think that hearing about the experiences of others is just as interesting as my own. [The conversation below has been lightly edited].


[SETTING THE STAGE] The sun has set and the pitch black sky melds seamlessly into the Mediterranean Ocean.  Calm waves roll against the stony beach, and the city of Nice behind us is bright and lively.  We skip rocks into the water, though admittedly I rarely can actually get any skips at all.  We begin chatting.

What's your favorite thing about Freiburg?

Chris: Honestly, i really like the convenience of the transit system - I feel like I can get anywhere at anytime, it’s very liberating.

Josh:  What I really like is the fact that it’s a small enough city so it feels like there's a very close community, but it’s also still a city, so it has a successful tram system, and a lot of food - for instance I can get great Vietnamese food if I want!


In what ways has study abroad changed you?

Chris: It’s really made me understand my own cultural comforts and my own cultural anxieties, especially with the water here. You know, free water is something that I’m so used to -  that having it taking away from me at restaurants on a complementary basis can incite rage in me.

Josh:  It’s certainly made me more self aware - I never really thought of myself as particularly American.  But being here, and seeing how the rest of us interact with being abroad has made me far more reflective on how I portray myself, and how I’m sort of an ambassador of country - whether for good or ill.


Do you have a favorite moment so far?

Chris:  I think going into the Catacombs was my favorite - yeah, in Paris.  I wasn’t aware that they were real dead skeletons - I thought they were fake - so I was playing around with them.  And I was told not to play with them anymore.  But I think that the worst part of the story wasn’t that part, but the fact that I wanted to continue playing with the bones even after.

Josh: It was the first time I was able to fluently ask for a scoop of ice cream - ‘ein kugel, bitter’ - because for weeks, I couldn’t say the word for scoop.  Then finally, on a random Tuesday, I felt like getting ice cream, and I was like I got this - and something clicked.  And I felt like I was really learning German and starting to embrace myself into the culture.  Because they always understand if I point at the Ice Cream, but the fact that I was able to actually say it felt like a real achievement, even though it was really dumb.


How did your expectations compare with the reality of being abroad?

Chris:  Some of the daily life stuff is pretty interesting - just like, going to the grocery store is such a culture shock.  Not being able to go the grocery store on sunday is just weird.  And we always expect culture to be this thing which we experience outwardly, but having that alone time is something like an intrinsic culture - the culture of the self. You learn more about how you perceive yourself, and if you want you can just have a day to press the reset button and refresh yourself.

Josh:  Well, I was expecting a lot more visible, distinct cultural differences.  Like, not that I was expecting everyone to walk around in Leiderhosen and eating pretzels, but I expected it to be really obvious that I was American and they were German.  But really, it only manifests itself in the little things, like the little idioms we use, very small changes are really how we are defining our changes, as opposed to very notable or outward things.  


What do you miss most about home?

Chris:  I just miss my momma.  Can I say that?

Josh:  Certainly my mom's lasanga!  And my girlfriend, obviously.


And finally, the most pertinent study abroad question - what is your favorite sandwhich?

Chris:  It's a fried-pepper sandwhcih that my grandfather makes.  It comes with Italian bread in an oblong shape, its got capicola and butter, and I like to eat it with a side of pasta bajoul.  

Josh:  Its usually the thanksgiving leftover sandwhich, but I can always take a good Reuben.




Zach Cohen

<p>Hello! &nbsp;My name is Zach and I am so happy you are here! &nbsp;I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and am currently a Junior at Occidental College, where I am double-majoring in History and International Relations. &nbsp;I&#39;m fascinated by the connections between the past and the present, and the role that history plays in modern diplomacy. &nbsp;Be sure to keep up with my travels as I explore Freiburg and the European Union this semester!</p>

2016 Fall
Home University:
Occidental College
International Relations
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