Turning 23 in MEXCIO: Week 3 in MEXICO CITY

Well apparently the time has finally come! How has 3 weeks passed so damn quickly? Despite it sadly being our last week in Mexico City, it was such an epic week that flashed by way too quickly!

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Free Day

We were lucky that again on Monday we were granted a free day! It was perfectly timed because man did we need a breather (especially after our hectic weekend – click here to check out what we got up to). I decided to go on a solo mission to Soumaya, an incredible art gallery owned by Carlos Slim (one of the richest people in the world). I would absolutely recommend this gallery. Not only are the artworks in their world class – think Dalí, Renoir, Degas and Riviera, but the building itself is exquisite!

For the rest of the day we spent our time chilling and working on our presentations due at the end of the week.

We also went to a cute little cafe a block away from the hotel. It’s called A43 and has THE BEST mushroom burger I’ve ever had! Plus if you’re a fan of hot chocolates, this is your place!

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Cultural Visits

This week we didn’t have as many organised cultural visits, which meant we had more free time to pick and choose exactly what we wanted to do.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of us went to the Museum of Anthropology and were taken back thousands of years to the age of the Aztecs. It’s an enormous collection of recovered artefacts and is absolutely incredible!

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Wednesday was a really special day for me because…… I turned 23!!! WOO! Because of the time difference, I felt like my birthday actually lasted 2 days so there was a lot of celebrating to be done. In the afternoon a group of us went to Castillo Chapultepec. This beautiful old castle on a hill that overlooks this enormous city. So needless to say, I felt like a total princess!

That evening we went downtown to a cute Italian restaurant where we ate pizza and pasta and drank tequila. It was such a special way to spend my birthday and I’m so grateful that I was able to spend it with such incredible people.

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Professional Site Visits

This week we went to two houses/shelters that support refugees in the local community. The first was Cafe Min – a shelter mainly aimed at women and families. We were given a tour of the facility (which used to be an old school). There were several families with children there. Because of the language barrier, we just played with the children and had a pretty intense game of football (note – if you’re looking for donations to take to the refugees, a soccer ball is an instant hit). It was here that I met a young 14 year old girl, Maria. Her Mum had taken her and her two younger brothers (aged 9 and 4) across the border to escape the gang violence in their town in the North of Mexico. They were captured by US Border Force and put into detention. Their mother was deported back to Mexico. The children were put into foster care in the United States. The children were reunited with their mother a year later. Despite this, these children were so happy, enthusiastic and energetic about life. It was incredibly inspiring to meet such a beautiful young lady who was showing off her English skills by reading me Dr. Seuss.

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On Wednesday we were scheduled to go to a detention centre, yet recent riots and violence in the centre resulted in our visit being cancelled. It was disappointing that we didn’t get the chance to visit the centre, yet it’s a very strong reminder of why we’re here studying. To seek asylum is a human right, yet across the world – particularly in Australia, we are punishing these vulnerable people for doing so. I hope to see a future without detention centres.

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Class

This week we had our final presentations! My group presented on ‘Media, Othering and Human Rights.’ It’s definitely a topic that I’m very passionate about and it was great presenting to a group who all study different degrees and approached similar topics differently. I felt I really learnt a lot.

Graduation! 

Some people were flying out on Friday so naturally we decided to celebrate our graduation with everyone on Thursday night. We did some cute little awards, had a big family dinner and just enjoyed each others company. It was so lovely! My Mexican friend Victor and his friend Ricardo plus a few others from the group ended up going out to La Condesa to party! It was such a great night!

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After we finished our presentations on Friday afternoon – we were done! We had a great celebratory lunch with our coordinators and enjoyed our time together! We were presented with our certificates of completion and that was it! That night it was another girls birthday so we all went out for our last supper together!

And with that week that’s a wrap of this incredible program! We’ve got a final essay due in 3 weeks about our topic of choice, but with all of the inspiration and motivation from this program, I’m on an absolute roll with it.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go back into study in Australia. This study abroad experience gave me a real insight into this harsh world. It allowed me to experience and witness the real life repercussions of policy, action (or inaction) and things that we learn in textbooks. It was challenging, confronting, overwhelming, emotional, but most of all incredibly enriching. I’ve learnt more than I ever thought I would and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to study one of my main passions in Mexico City.

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Walking in the Shoes of a Refugee: MEXICO Week 2

Hola chicas! Cómo estás? As you can tell, my Spanish is going quite well! My stomach on the other hand, not quite. Our 2nd week in Mexico City has been equally full on as our first week (if you missed what happened, you can catch up here). We’ve learnt a lot, visited numerous museums and cultural sites and had one of the scariest nights of my life. Let’s have a look at what we got up to this week!

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Free Day

Woo! We finally got a day off which meant an epic sleep in. Most of us used this day to relax and reset ourselves in preparation for the crazy week ahead of us. I used this day to remember my time in Mexico City forever! I got a TATTOO! Victoria and I headed to ‘Soul Flower’ in La Condesa to get some ink. The guy who gave us our tattoo was so awesome! His name was Jorge and he was from Honduras. He owns his own tattoo shop in Costa Rica where he now lives, and is currently travelling around to tattoo conventions in Mexico and Guatemala. After everything I’ve learnt about Honduras, I was really glad to have a part of his story with me.

 

 

There seems to be a fair few birthdays this month! And this week we celebrated two! One Monday night we went out for tapas and lots of wine, making it the perfect way to wind down after our hectic first week.

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Cultural Visits

This week we experienced A LOT of Mexican culture! Our first visit was on Tuesday afternoon to the Blue House (also known as the house of Friday Kahlo and Diego Rivera – two of the most renowned Mexican artists). If you haven’t already – watch the movie Frida on Netflix. It’s pretty much where I learnt the most about Frida and her life. Then getting to wander the corridors where she lived, see her artwork, her garden and bedroom was absolutely incredible!

After the Blue House, we went around the corner to visit the house where Leon Trotsky lived and was killed. For those of you who don’t know (don’t worry, I learnt this information at the house itself), Trotsky was a part of the Russian opposition government during the time of Stalin. When Stalin took power, it made Trotsky an enemy of the state so him and his wife fled to Mexico. They moved to Mexico because Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo supported the Mexican Communist party and thus their connection. After Kahlo and Trotsky had an affair, Trotsky moved to a different house. There was an attempted murder where one of Stalin’s guys stabbed him with an ice pick but he survived. He then appointed guards to his house and basically lived in a fortress. Yet that was no stopping Stalin as he was later killed by gunshot which sprayed his entire room. You can still see those bullet marks in the wall today. And there you go, some Russian history in the streets of Mexico City.

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Tula

On Saturday we visited the archeological site of Tula. It’s funny because you almost get used to thinking ‘oh, another ancient pyramid.’ Nonetheless, we explored, climbed it and learnt about how in Tula, they forbid human sacrifice to the Gods, so it seems it was quite a progressive society.

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Ballet

On Sunday night we were treated to a night at the ballet! A group of us, along with our professional tour guide, Arnaldo, headed downtown to the Opera House. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST for anyone going to Mexico City. It’s a mix of ballet and Mexican folk dance and it was simply stunning – we couldn’t wipe the smile off of our face!

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Floating Markets

Sunday we went to the incredible Floating Markets. Think Venetian gondola meets Mexican fiesta! We all boarded the little boat with a few beers in hand and we floated through the canals and around markets. In all honesty, it’s a bit difficult to describe, so I made this vlog instead!

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Class

Class this week was equally as intensive. One of my favourite days was taught by an incredible woman, Frida Espinosa who spoke to us about gender, health and migration. I could really feel my previous thoughts and ideas being challenged, evolving and honestly learning a lot. It was such a great class because it’s a perspective that is not often taken in the discussion of migration.

Next week we also have presentations so we started working out what groups we wanted to be in and brainstorming some ideas.

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Professional Site Visits

The site visit on Friday to the Transit Migrant Shelter called Casa del Samaritano in Hidalgo, was definitely a group highlight. This shelter is located on the train line for migrants taking ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast – the notorious train that migrants are known for climbing onto). It is a safe place for them to have a warm meal, call their loved ones, get new clothing if needed, and then head back off on their journey.

The general consensus of our group was that we felt that we actually did something productive and useful to help these people. People helped in the kitchen, helped clean our some of the shelter and I was on phone duty. Helping the migrants dial their respective countries, where they could make a 3minute phone call. Despite the language barrier, we were still able to converse quite well and find out information about their lives and reasons why they were migrating. All of the migrants were males from Honduras, aged between 17 and 64. One young man, aged 22, had actually been living in Utah with his wife and two children when he was caught without documents and deported back to Honduras. So it was his second time attempting to cross the border.

As we were leaving so were the migrants as they headed along the train tracks. A train ripped by our bus and the migrants, when they started running. We saw one young man grab a ladder of a carriage and get pulled along until he could finally jump onto the carriage, leaving his new found friends behind and taking his chances on The Beast. The rest of the group continued walking along the train tracks. That is an image that is etched into my mind and I don’t think I could ever forget those brave young men.

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That evening we did one of the craziest things I’ve ever done in my entire life. At the Alberto Eco Park, they run simulation border crossings and we were signed up. We were forewarned to wear clothes that we didn’t mind getting dirty and sturdy shoes. At approximately 9:30pm, when it was pitch black, a man in a balaclava pulled up in his ute and started screaming at us to gather together. He called our names and we were led into the bush. And thus began the next 3.5hours of running, hiding from ‘border force,’ bandits, drug dealers, crossing swinging bridges, climbing through dark tunnels, trudging through thick mud, hiding in a group on the ground, accidentally falling into cacti, and worst of all, having blanks being shot at us. It was terrifying, thrilling, exciting, scary and an experience we’ll never forget.

We finished at about 1am where a man talked to us about why he decided to create this experience. He said he wanted people to physically attempt to walk a mile in a migrants shoes and at the end of the day, you know it’s not real and you can go back to your comfortable bed and sleep peacefully. These migrants and refugees do not have such privilege and there’s no escaping the reality of violence and fear. It was extremely touching and incredibly motivating to each of us. It reminded us why we were here studying immigration and made us all the more passionate and motivated to make a difference.

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Week 2 was quite crazy indeed, but it was nothing short of incredible! I can’t believe we’re heading into our last week this week! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!

Tacos & Tequila: Week 1 In MEXICO CITY

Mexico, that country that speaks Spanish, is renowned for its tacos and tequila and apparently Trump doesn’t like people from there. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of Mexico before arriving and commencing my studies in its capital, Mexico City. So how did I end up here? Well you may recall that around this time last year, I was completing a short course in La Rochelle, France, with a company called AIM Overseas (you can read about my experiences in France here). And after having such a life changing and incredible experience in France, I looked into their programs to see how I can escape another Australian Winter.

That’s when I came across their program taught at the University of La Salle in Mexico City titled ‘Immigrants, Human Rights & Mexican Society.’ Damn what a mouthful hey! Since I’m studying International Studies with Communications & Media Studies, I’ve always been fascinated, concerned and frustrated with current social and political perspectives towards migration, especially of refugees desperately trying to reach Australia. After finding out that I could receive a second OS Help Loan, I found myself being accepted into the program and on my way to Mexico City to study something that I’m deeply passionate about.

So here’s a look into what happened in our first week in Mexico City!

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Taking in the view of a city of 22million

Arriving

Arriving in a new destination, particularly one you’ve never been to before and don’t speak the language, can be extremely daunting. Luckily, La Salle organises an airport pick up. So there was someone at the airport to greet me with a friendly ‘Hola!’ From there, I joined a crew of other students in my program and in the Public Health Program (another AIM Overseas program offered at La Salle), and we filed onto the bus to take us to our new homes. Our ‘Immigrants’ group is staying at a lovely hotel in the funky, safe and colourful neighbourhood called La Condesa. I met my roomie, Rosie from the University of Melbourne. She’s a red head too, so we came to the understanding that they matched us based on our hair colour – but we get along really well so AIM definitely did a great job.

Across our arrival weekend, I met the other students in the program from all different degrees and from universities all across Australia. This diversity, I could tell, would be extremely valuable when it comes to discussing such a complex topic of migration. And to top it off, everyone is like minded and passionate about the same thing as you, so it’s safe to say that everyone is pretty damn cool.

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The colours of La Condesa, our funky neighbourhood

Classes

On Monday morning we were escorted to the university so we could take notes on directions. Luckily La Salle is a quick 10-15minute walk away from the hotel. Monday was our Orientation day where we were given a tour of the university and neighbourhood, we discussed our schedule for the three weeks, took our photos for our student ID’s and had an awesome welcome lunch.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were quite intense days of classes. We covered everything from Contemporary Mexican Society, Mexico-US Migration Management and Human Rights and Legal Issues surrounding Migration. Tuesday and Thursday afternoon we had our crucial ‘Survival Spanish’ classes where we covered important topics like how to order a beer and make sure you don’t order the super spicy tacos! All of our classes have been taught by extremely passionate and inspiring professor’s making the long days of class very engaging, interesting and informative.

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Some of the sites and colours you can expect to find downtown

Professional Site Visits

As much as this course is academic, it is equally practical where we get to immerse ourselves in the realities for many migrants and refugees arriving to Mexico. On Friday, we visited ‘Casa de los Amigos’ and ‘Casa Tochan’, both are houses providing support and accommodation for newly arrived migrants and refugees. At Casa de los Amigos, we were given a tour of their facilities and a presentation going through some of the services they provide these people. They receive migrants and refugees mostly from Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, however when we visited they had several refugees from Somalia and Cameroon. It just goes to show that as long as there is conflict and danger, people will go to all lengths to find somewhere safe for themselves and their families.

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Outside Casa de Los Amigos
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Kindness is a universal language
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After our presentation from Casa de los Amigos

After Casa de los Amigos, we headed to Casa Tochan, a much smaller house, yet doing some pretty incredible things and making a real difference to those looking for support, shelter, food, services and kindness. At Casa Tochan, I met three Honduran refugees, aged 17, 19 and 22. They told us their stories (with the help from a translator) and it was an incredibly powerful, emotional and confronting experience. One of the young boys entire family had been murdered in Honduras and therefore, he was escaping out of fear of being next. It was all very raw and emotional, yet the part that I’ll never forget was when another girl on the program asked how they felt with us coming to visit Casa Tochan. They responded that they were so grateful because it makes them feel like there’s people out there that actually care about them and the situation they’re in. I must admit, I spent a lot of the afternoon wiping away tears from my eyes because I was so overwhelmed with their kindness, hope and strength. The reality of looking someone directly in the eye and creating a bond that transcends language, culture or class is an experience that can never be taken away and to those young boys that I had the absolute honour of meeting, I will never forget their bravery.

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The mural painted in the common area at Casa Tochan
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Our group and awesome tour guides
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A mural on the street near Casa Touchan painted by migrants. This bird is the national bird of Honduras and it represents the freedom they’ve gained from spreading their wings.

Other Events

Friday afternoon we were treated to a salsa class, a fun way to lift spirits and get in a good work out. For anyone thinking that salsa is all about the skirts, you’re wrong. Be prepared to sweat!

This weekend was a hectic weekend of soaking up a lot of culture and history. On Saturday we headed to the famous Pyramids! Walking among thousands of years of history sure was memorable. On the way back to the city, we stopped at the Basilica de Guadalupe, the second most important Catholic religious site, the first being the Vatican.

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Rosie and I conquering the Sun Pyramid
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The Immigration group & Public Health group after galavanting all around the Pyramids.
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The 1st and 2nd Basilica de Guadalupe. Because of the ground it’s built on, the buildings are actually sinking, meaning that not many buildings are straight. But it sure adds character.

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On Sunday we were completely immersed in the hustle and bustle of Mexico City and given a tour of downtown. We visited the Cathedral, the old palace with murals by Diego Rivera (OMG fan girl!) and Templo Mayor. To add to the craziness of downtown, there was also a really popular football match on where they had big screens everywhere!

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One of my very good friends actually lives in Mexico City. His name is Victor and we met when he came to Wollongong on exchange in my first year. 3.5years later, he was showing me around his home town, complete with tacos, tequila and pulques. Being reunited with old friends is definitely one of the best things about travel and I’m so grateful that he’s been able to show me around such an incredible city.

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Victor and I

Well I honestly don’t know where times gone. 1 week down, 2 more to go. One thing I’m really realising is just how fortunate I am to be given such a unique opportunity of studying one of our century’s most complex and urgent movement of people, in a country that is so heavily involved in the process, whether it be sending, receiving or simply a transit for people, Mexico and immigration go hand in hand. In the 1 week I’ve been here, I’ve learnt more about Mexico City and Mexican Society than I have in my whole life and I’m quickly learning that there’s much more to this incredible place than tacos and tequila (yet still very important).

[You can follow my adventures on Instagram @aworldlyaddiction]

 

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: JULY

July!!! One of my favourite months of the year! Always because… well, it’s my birthday in July. Usually it’s always cold on my birthday because at the moment in Australia it’s about 10degrees (even colder). But this month, July in France has been sunny and superbly spectacular. I can’t believe how quickly the month has gone and how much I’ve squeezed into just 31 days! Voilà, here are my favourite things from this month!

THE UK

It feels like a lifetime ago now, but at the beginning of the month I was still in the UK. Those last few days were so special because I got to see some very special familiar faces. First was James & Beth in Leeds. I met James in 2013 at a Green Day concert in London and we kept in touch. In 2013 I visited him in Harrogate and was introduced to his friends and his (now girlfriend) Beth. 3 years later I was staying with them at their gorgeous place just outside of Leeds.

Then I went to a quaint little town called Yarm which is home to one of the greatest Englishmen I’ve ever met… Khal!!! Khal was my housemate in Wollongong last year so it was very special to be able to meet his family, his twin Jaz, and see his home town. I can’t wait to see him again in Australia one day soon!

After a few nights up North, I ventured back to London and out to Essex to see Jack, a guy that was in my Politics class in Wollongong. It was cool seeing a new part of the country, and one of the oldest parts of England. His father and him kindly dropped me off at the bus stop in town the next day so I could get to the airport.

I’m extremely grateful to all of these people who put me up and went above and beyond to make me feel at home. If you even need a place to crash and a friendly face in Australia, you know where I am.

La Rochelle

La Rochelle was the place I called home from the 3rd of July. La Rochelle is probably one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen in my life and to be able to call that place home and live with an absolutely incredible woman. It was definitely an experience I’m never going to forget. I blogged each week in La Rochelle and you can read them here.

Week 1 

Week 2 

Week 3 

Week 4 

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PARIS

Hands down, the best weekend here in France was when I went to Paris for the weekend with my American friends. We stayed in Montmartre and just wandered the streets, drank cocktails and wine, went to the Sacre Cœur and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and atmosphere that Paris has to offer. The highlight was when we went on a river cruise at sunset. It was one of the most spectacular things I’ve even seen and I’m so glad I got to spend it with such special people.

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Île de Ré

Île de Ré is an island just off the coast of La Rochelle and one of the most unexpected surprises of living in La Rochelle. It’s connected by a huge bridge which makes getting there extremely easy. If you have a car, you can venture further around the island and get to more secluded and beautiful beaches. My first weekend in La Rochelle, Delphine took me to Ars-en-Ré, La Flotte and some secret beaches. It was at this moment that I realised that I was kind of on holidays.  I also went to Île de Ré for Bastille Day, one hot afternoon, my birthday and with my Dad to Saint-Martin.  It’s such a beautiful place which screams à la mode and chic! It’s definitely one of my favourite places I got to discover.

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My Dad Arriving

On Thursday the 28th July, my Dad arrived in La Rochelle! It was so cool and I still don’t think it’s really sunk in that we’re actually in France together! On the 29th it was his birthday and we went out to dinner with Delphine to one of my favourite restaurants in La Rochelle The Cave. We had beer, wine, wine and more wine, along with cheese, cheese and even more cheese! It was such a lovley evening and I hope I was able to make his birthday a memorable and special one.

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Delphine, me and my Dad

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FRIENDS

Now I’m all for solo travel etc, but sometimes, there’s just nothing better than sharing a special moment with the people around you. And I’m so lucky that I got to meet some absolutely incredible people from all over the world! Let the pictures tell you our stories, but all you need to know is how grateful I am that I can call these people my friends.

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TUNES

One of the hardest things about travelling is trying to keep on top of your music and making sure you’re up to date on the latest tunes. So when in doubt, just bulk download and then you can spend all of those hours on trains and buses discovering the music you’ve downloaded.

This month I’ve been loving Vallis Alps. They’re just super chilled and also work perfectly for Youtube videos. (you can check it out here).

Chance the Rapper! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! That’s the best thing about long bus/train rides, it gives you time to discover some of those tunes you downloaded but haven’t got a chance to listen to yet! My fave songs are ‘same drugs’ and ‘no problem’

 

FLICKS

Because I’ve been so busy, I haven’t actually had a chance to watch any movies (except for Finding Nemo in French – that was pretty cool). But I did watch Season 4 of Orange is The New Black!!! If you’ve seen this season let me know because I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT!!! It’s killing me not being able to grab someone’s hand and say ‘OMG!” Legit one of my favourite shows out there and I’d recommend it to anyone!

QUOTES

This one comes from the beautiful Delphine. Présent. It’s a reminder that every day is a new day. That there’s no use worrying and stressing over what’s to come or what has been, because we just need to focus on the now. On today. And trying to make today as good as it can be. And if it’s not good, then that’s ok. Because tomorrow is another day, and there’s a new présent to live in.

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July – you have been incredible. I’m so excited and kinda scared by how excited I am to see what August has in store for me. Whatever it is – I know it’s going to be spectacular.

À Bientôt La Rochelle

So I can’t believe that it’s our last week already?! Just when you’re getting into the swing of things, finding a good coffee spot, riding your bike to class every morning, learning more and more phrases… it’s time to pack up and go. But before we get to that, let’s recap on my last week in beautiful La Rochelle.

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Class

Monday was quite different because a group of American students (the ones I went to Paris with) had returned home which left us 8 of us in the class. Monday morning we had our 20minute presentations as well! It was quite daunting because initially I thought (how am I supposed to speak for 20minutes in French?) however I chose to do my presentation on François Mitterand who was a charasmatic French President. So it was pretty cool learning about someone who made such a positive impact on the France that we know today! For those of you who didn’t know (like me) he commissioned the glass Pyramid at the Lourve! Pretty cool!

On Wednesday we got our exams back and I could immediately tell how much my French really has improved. Whilst I still have a long way to go, this program really has given me the immersion into French culture and language and has really inspired me to continue to expand my knowledge.

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The best meal I had in France! Freshly caught mussels home cooked!

Activities

As always, another busy week with our after school activities. We went to Musée du Nouveau Monde, (the  Museum of the New World) where we wandered through a stunning old building learning about the discovering of Montréal and Quebec.

On Wednesday afternoon we went to an Oyster and Mussels farm… and anyone who knows me, knows how much I LOVE seafood. We learnt about their family tradition of farming oysters and mussels and then she leant down into the water, grabbed an oyster, cut the top off, squeezed some lemon on top and handed it to me. I think my idea of ‘fresh seafood’ has forever been altered.

Friday was our last day of class… (sad face) and our teachers treated us to a little scavenger hunt/questionnaire around the city. Whilst we tried our hardest to answer all of the questions, for some reason all of these beautiful little boutiques, cafes and patisseries kept getting in our way. It was a great end to our 4 weeks of intense classes. When we returned, we received our certificate of completion and our marks. I passed everything, and scored 17/20 for my oral skills! I’m definitely very proud that my speaking skills are my strongest and most improved!

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After the program

Unlike the other girls on the program who have to return to Australia as soon as possible to start university, I’m actually going on exchange for a semester in Montreal. And because university doesn’t start there until September, I’ve got some time to kill which means… TRAVEL. And luckily for me, my Dad is joining me for 3 weeks as we venture around France, Spain and Iceland!

So on Thursday afternoon my Dad arrived in La Rochelle! It was so surreal and special for him to see the place I’ve called home for the past month. On Friday is was his birthday and Dad, along with my host mum Delphine went out for a beautiful dinner! Later on the Australian girls joined us and we drank lots of beautiful red wine and ate way too much cheese!

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Delphine, me and my Dad

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to the people I’ve met here has definitely been one of the hardest things I’ve done. The Australian girls became my sisters, the American students, some of my best friends and Delphine, one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever met. Let’s just say that I had to wear my sunglasses all day to hide my eyes. The most special part is that I will always have these incredible memories with the most incredible people. Maybe one day I’ll return to La Rochelle, or maybe I’ll see my friends in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Paris, London, D.C or Sydney. Wherever it is, these memories will definitely last a lifetime and I’m extremely grateful for being given such an amazing opportunity.

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Saying goodbye to these girls was incredibly hard

Merci et à bientôt!

Paris Is ALWAYS A Good Idea

Ooh la la… I think this week has been my favourite so far! It’s hard to believe that so many incredible experiences can even squeeze into just 7 days?!

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Saint-Martin on Île de Ré

Mon anniversaire! (My birthday)

Yay! It’s my birthday! And how lucky I am to get the chance to spend my 22nd birthday in beautiful La Rochelle! And I think that all of my stars aligned because scheduled for the date of my birthday, was a day trip to Île de Ré (meaning no class, and wonderful exploration times around a beautiful island). We all met at the station and hopped on a bus to Saint-Martin, one of the most picturesque and renowned towns on Île de Ré . We met our tour guide, Frédérique, for the day in Saint Martin before we started our little scavenger hunt. Between answering questions and taking photos… the first hour flew by. Then we went to le marché (the markets) to buy some food for lunch. Everything there is fresh and local produce and I had some of the best salmon I’ve ever had. We had a cute little picnic under a shady tree just relaxing and enjoying some sunshine. Actually, it was 34 degrees so A LOT of sunshine! After lunch we got on a tuk tuk (yay) and were chauffeured around to three interesting places, a soap making warehouse, a salt flat where they make salt and la piece de resistance… a chocolate factory! That one was definitely my favourite! After our long hot day, we spent the afternoon cooling down at a very cold yet beautiful beach.

After a quick shower and an espresso for some energy… we headed into La Rochelle for some dinner. It was really special to spend my birthday with my new friends at a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful part of the world.

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The view from my window watching the sun rise.

 

 

Cooking Class

As part of our gastronomy programme, we had two cooking classes in a local restaurant. Now I’m definitely not the best chef around, but the chef who guided us through the recipes that she created was very patient and provided a lot of guidance. The best part was when we got to eat what we created! And it was magnifique!  Then we had Joel from our Oneologie class join us to assist us match wine with the food we had created. As you could imagine, the best food with the best wine made for a match made in heaven!

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Aubergine tarte and chocolate cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting a French Blogger

Because my host mother – Delphine – is the coolest person in La Rochelle, she set up a dinner date with one of her friends, Anne-Laure who is a travel blogger for her website Nana Voyage. Not only was Anne-Laure incredibly friendly, interesting and gorgeous, but we talked in French the entire time! I’m so glad that I got to meet someone as lovely as Anne-Laure!

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Paris

For the weekend, I decided to go to Paris with my American friends from class. Sadly, they were flying out on Sunday afternoon so it was great that I got to spend as much time with them as possible before they flew out. After finding a cheap hotel and train ticket, I thought… paris is always a good idea. My weekend in Paris was one of the best weekends of my life! The five of us went on a bateau mouche which was a 1 hour river cruise down the Seine at sunset. I felt extremely blessed to be able to spend such a beautiful evening with my friends. We wandered around Montmartre and even went to see the end of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysée. It was a pretty memorable experience.

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The Sacre Cœur has my heart 

I can’t believe that time has flown by so fast and that I’ve only got one week left! This week truly has been so special and I’m so grateful for all of the people who have helped make it that way!

This is a little teaser from my time in Paris…