Now that I've been in Arles for over three weeks, I feel like I've adjusted to life in the south of France and started to follow a routine. I feel even more well-adjusted when I see the hordes of tourists adorned in bucket hats, wandering the narrow streets looking completely lost, toting cameras, maps and literal walking sticks.
Although I can't say that I feel completely at home, I'm proud to say that I can at least make it from my house to class at the IES Abroad Center without having to rely on Google Maps. Every day in Arles is a little different, but weekdays are a little more predictable.
9:00–10:00 a.m. Wake up, get dressed and go downstairs to the kitchen, where I often run into my host mom having a cup of coffee after her morning run (that I always say I'm going to join her on...but I haven't yet). I'll make myself some and sit down with a croissant or pain au chocolat to start the day, and she'll ask me about my upcoming plans and if I did anything fun the night before. It's nice to wake up with a little coffee and conversation rather than sprint out the door without eating like I normally do at school in the U.S.
10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Because I don't have class until 2:00 p.m. every day, I use my free time in the morning to run errands, finish my homework or just wander around my favorite spots in Arles, like the bookstore, the river or the Wednesday morning market.
12:00-2:00 p.m. At 12:00, I'll head to my assigned restaurant to meet up with a group of other students and some faculty for a language lunch Monday through Wednesday afternoon, where English is strictly prohibited. We eat delicious food (and dessert, always), and it's a great way to try new places around Arles and get to know people in the program I might not normally hang out with.
2:00-3:30 p.m. After lunch, I go to my first class of the day in the IES Abroad Center – History of Immigration. We often listen to a lecture from our professor and work on our individual research projects on a topic related to immigration in France. Some days, we have visitors come into class, including a musician who played flamenco music for us!
3:30-5:00 p.m. Then, on to my second class – History of Photography. In addition to learning about themes and techniques, we also look at and discuss a wide variety of photos by many different photographers in history. Plus, les Rencontres d'Arles just began, which is a world-renowned photography festival featuring expositions and "soirées" all over town. Sometimes we'll take class time to visit one (and we all got passes that we can use outside of class). At the end of the course, we get to do a presentation about our favorite exhibition.
5:00-8:00 p.m. After class, I do a variety of different things. If there's a group visit to a museum or local Roman ruins (of which there are a lot, like les Arènes and le Théâtre Antique), I'm there. If my friends want to go on a run to see the sunflower fields, count me in. If I'm feeling hungry for a snack, I'll head to one of the many delicious ice cream shops around town. I even went to see a bullfight one evening! There's never a shortage of interesting activities in Arles (but if I need a nap, that's okay too).
8:00 p.m.-??? Later that evening – and I really mean later – it's dinnertime. Some nights I'll eat with my host mom and her son and daughter, who are 13 and 10 years old. A meal with them often includes delicious fresh vegetables, some kind of pasta and, of course, bread and dessert. Both of the kids love American music; it's the funniest thing. If I'm not eating dinner with them, I'll head to a restaurant in Arles with my friends. Our dinners out can last well into the night, and I've had some really unique, delicious food (like bull tartare!). Sometimes there will be fêtes or concerts, especially during the opening week of the photography festival, and it's really exciting to see the whole town come alive.
It's nice to have a consistent routine, albeit a routine that's much more exciting and interesting than my daily life at home in the U.S., but I'm also excited for the more unpredictable moments in the next few weeks! For instance, I'm going to Barcelona; we have a long weekend thanks to Bastille Day, and there's even more festivals and excursions to look forward to before we leave Arles.
À toute à l'heure!