France #13: Memorable Experiences

Trip leader Justin Romick, shares a reflection of a memorable time spent in Arles.

During our final few days in Arles, it became clear that the group was coming to terms with a few simple and clear truths: Arlesian hospitality is extraordinary, we have learned tremendous amounts of French culture, language, and history, and we are all very sad to be leaving this place in a few days. After the final day of classes, this reality became more immediate as students demonstrated appreciation for their teachers and program leaders from Arles à la Carte. Enough cannot be said about the professionalism and warmth we witnessed from Katie, Jan, June, Emilie, Natalia, and Rodolphe. This team put together almost three weeks of consistently excellent, pedagogical programming that created immersive learning experiences which, our students will remember long after the trip is over.

Though the classroom component of the trip is now over, the learning continues. On Friday we traveled to the strange and beautiful Carmague. This region is a delta between two branches of the Rhône, the brackish water creates a salt-water marsh that supports an ecosystem ranging from flamencos to herons to white horses and wild bulls. We toured the Camargue by boat and gained a perspective of a region that has a unique cultural and historical importance. We saw rice fields, wild bulls, several species of large birds, wagons of the Gitanes people, and natural beauty that was as unique as it was profound.

The afternoon consisted of a picnic on the beach and time for students to relax in the surf and sun. The cool water provided essential relief as the mid-June sun warmed the shores of southern France. To get a break from the heat, we headed into Sainte Marie sur la Mer to find ice cream and cold drinks. It was an exhausting and exhilarating day and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

Our final Friday in Arles concluded with a celebration dinner in front of the Amphitheatre in the center of Arles. Host families, teachers, and students gathered together to share a beautiful moment of gratitude and reflection as the Arlesian portion of our trip draws to a close. Each student received a certificate from Katie and her team, with a personalized message commenting on the impressions each of them have made here. Collectively, Dr. Hunt and I have had rave reviews from the adults in France that have been working with this group. They have been impressive, without exception, in terms of curiosity, engagement, kindness, and enthusiasm. We look forward to the next stage of our journey as we prepare to head for Marseilles.