Same-Same but Different


It’s a general worry of Erasmus students that they’ll get far too homesick on their year abroad- travelling far and wide and doing new things means the old things get left behind, yes? No.


If, like me you chose Edinburgh as a University, you did so because you wanted to live in a beautiful city and go to a world-class university where the majority of drinking is done below ground in venues too small to contain the guestlist. You wanted to tut at the overbearing tourists in summer, scoff at newcomers in winter and lose days on end in the park in the middle of town. You wanted to take part in the good-natured rivalry between your city and its big sister to the west and be compelled to pick up the local accent. Not one of these things is lost in Aix-en-Provence, Bouches du Rhone, France.


The major difference which springs forcefully to mind is the number of sunny days one can waste in Park Jourdan. While Edinburgh’s average temperature for August is lucky if it nudges into the twenties, Aix-en-Provence, right in the south of France, can easily see temperatures soaring into the high thirties. Arriving by car was not the best idea.


Another is, of course, the language- all classes here are taught in French, so it’s good to have a decent gallic shrug before coming out. But, as anyone will tell you, the rate at which you learn a language in its homeland far exceeds any attempts to do so at home, and extra language courses are available before the start of term to help you top up.

Since I’m studying Linguistics and English Language with French as my outside course, I’m not focusing solely on foreign language here, and was worried I’d have to compromise my academic aims so I could speak fluently to crepe vendors and the dodgy night-time folk in Parc Jourdan. Fortunately, the comparisons with Edinburgh just keep coming, so this ancient French town can also boast a fantastic set of Linguistics labs alongside its apparent proximity to the centre of the sun and its wide range of artisan icecream bars.

France is famous for a few things, tantamount among which is their gastronomical profile. Sweet and savory alike, each region has its own specialties, and by god do the people of Bouches-du-Rhone know how to press a good grape. For the price of a bottle of Bucky you can get a higher-end wine to sip over your platter of fresh fish or cheeses or just during some bilingual conversation in the balmy evenings outside halls.

Edinburgh is a city beyond compare, in a league of its own, one with no equal. There is no castle here, and no dormant volcano either. But I’m willing to let Aix-en-Provence give it a good go.

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