We all know what good things traveling can bring us. It broadens our horizons, lets us meet new people and educates us a bit about another part of the world. But then, can you really learn a lot by just visiting a place for a few days?
My best friend Ellen took a gap year a couple of years ago, and went to my favourite place in the world (Yes, I am still jealous) for a month to take a language course. I wanted to ask her about her experiences, and what it’s like to live abroad for a month. She agreed it would be fun to write a little guespost about her time in Nice, France.
Hello, I’m Ellen and I live in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I work as a copywriter and I love to read. I also have a bookstagram and I used to blog, but I don’t do that very often anymore. I live in a small house with a ridiculous amount of plants and, of course, I love to travel and went on a few solo trips already.
When I had finished my bachelor degree in comparative literature, I lived in Nice, France for a month to learn the language. I went to Nice via Education First, a company that offers language courses all over the world. For the duration of my stay in Nice, I lived with a host family. I chose to learn French, because I love the language and I love France, so it would be really beneficial if I spoke the language a bit. I also wanted to experience living in a different country for longer than just a short vacation.
In the few weeks that I stayed in Nice I learned so much! I learned most of my language-skills at school, of course, but I also learned a lot by simply being in France and living with a French family. You are surrounded by the language and this means you can learn a lot in a small amount of time. I also learned more about different foods, cultures, and people, and I learned to be a lot more independent than I was before. This was the first time I traveled alone and it taught me how to be more self-reliant and just enjoy things by myself.
I went to school every weekday, but it wasn’t very intense. I had a few classes every day and it felt very laid-back. However, I really learned tons! I could barely speak French when I arrived and when I left I could understand so much more. Usually, I went to my classes and then just chilled with people at the school. This is a great way of getting to know people and finding people to hang out with while travelling. In the weekend I would go sightseeing and did more touristy stuff. Sometimes I did so with Education First and sometimes with classmates.
These are some of the highlights in and around Nice that I can definitely recommend:
- Château and old Nice
The city centre is amazing. It has a lot of little streets and a great atmosphere. Do not miss Fenocchio on Place Rossetti because they have the best ice cream in the city. Walk by the beach and go up to the Château. From there you can see the entire city!
- BBQ at the beach
This is not legal everywhere, so do some research beforehand. You can also have a picnic, which is allowed anywhere, so enjoy the view, the sea and good food. I did this almost twice a week.
- Niçoise tastery
My school organized this. We tried all kinds of different local snacks and it was a great way to learn more about the local food. I especially liked Tourte de Blettes Sucrée, a savory yet sweet dessertlike dish.
- Visiting Saint-Paul-de-Vence
This is a very old and beautiful little village about 45 minutes from Nice. Just take a bus and you’ll get there in no time. The busride is also very enjoyable, because you’ll see more of the countryside.
A pretty village, also not far from Nice. From Nice you can basically visit every city in the area. The Côte d’Azur is very well connected, so when you feel like you’ve seen most of Nice, you can easily go and explore other cities.
Grasse is known for its perfumeries and is really worth a visit. I enjoyed the Perfume Museum and bought some delicious perfumes, which I still use on a regular basis.
Monaco is only a short train ride away, so you can easily visit this city/country with a beautiful palace, museums and of course the casino’s and fancy cars driving around. Italy is also close by and I can recommend exploring that country as well. Only a short ride and you’re in a completely different place.
A small challenge for this type of travel is maybe making new friends. I’m not good at making lasting friendships in a short amount of time. I did make friends and we had a great time, but we didn’t stay in touch and sometimes I feel sorry about that. I also missed home and my friends and family. It’s very liberating and fun to travel alone, but sometimes I missed not being able to share more.
Nonetheless, if you are considering studying abroad or if you want to visit Nice (alone), I advise you to do it! Just do it and experience it. It might be scary, especially if you’ve never travelled solo before, but you’ll learn so much. Not just language skills, but people skills as well. You can really experience a different culture by spending time in different countries for longer than just a few days or a week. I regret not staying longer than a month, because it was so amazing! You should just go for it!