Ever since I was in high school, all I wanted to do was to learn many languages and live abroad for a while. I decided to major in English and for my last year of Undergraduate studies, and to study in the USA. My application was sent through a program called ISEP and I got accepted at UNCA (University of North Carolina at Asheville)! I did not know what to expect at first, because this city was really different from what I imagined America to be. I had been to the USA twice, once to California and once to Louisville and NYC. So imagine my surprise when I arrived in this cute little town surrounded by forest, in the middle of the mountains! On my arrival I was picked up by the nicest student and I met the international coordinator who made sure from the beginning that I had everything I needed. It was late in the evening so I was shown to my dorm to unpack and sleep. The next morning a French girl knocked on my door to meet me and we went to have breakfast with the other international students. People from everywhere united in one room: that’s how it started, and that’s how it kept going for a whole semester (at the end of the semester, some had to go back home or pursue new adventures, it was heartbreaking). During this year abroad, I skyped a lot with my friends and family, although I tried to speak English as much as possible, keeping in mind that it was one of my first priorities! But I also sent emails to my parents, which ended up summarizing bits of my experiences from time to time. I wanted to start a blog then, or write in a journal but I had so much going on that the only writings I have left are those emails to my parents. Now I am so glad that we sometimes couldn’t skype!
We saw a lot of things, and it will be hard for me to sum up all these experiences in one post, but there are some places I’ve seen and things I’ve done that I will never forget. I believe at least fifteen of them are worth mentioning here:
1) Downtown Asheville.
Because it’s one of the easiest cities to walk around. In the USA I feel like it’s sometimes difficult to go places if you don’t have a car. Here you can talk a walk and visit the small artsy shops, galleries or have a drink in some of the hippies cafés…:) You can also see the various range of street art and performing artists. Or people that you would think are performing but are just living their lives not giving a F about what people think. Only that makes the Asheville experience worth it. I can’t even compare this city to anything else I know. Maybe Amsterdam or Nimbin in Australia, but I will have to check that hypothesis in the next few years!
2) The parkway.
I should have started with this one. When you go up the mountain you can find many extraordinary places to… chill.
3) The shooting range.
I know I know, this is controversial. But as a French girl I was really happy to try this. I am not supporting having a gun in your house, but I understand people that do. Anyways, it was really fun experience, and it’s one I will long remember.
Yep if you go to Asheville, you have to try this club. It is really fun and it makes you understand better all the spirit of Asheville and the uniqueness of its people.
5) UNCA Basketball games, and seeing Michael Jordan.
I am not a huge fan of sports, especially watching it. But I have to say that I got a kick out of coming to the games. Once again, it’s all about the spirit!
6) Dupont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest:
We went on a camping trip weekend there in the fall, and the nature was absolutely beautiful. We saw Triple Falls among other things. I get why the Hunger Games were filmed on this location!
We also escalated one of the rocks (scary for me, but good-scary you know, and really worth it when you finally are at the top!).
7) My classes at UNCA:
From Queer Literature to History of the South or Young Adult Literature, all I can say is that I chose to pick courses that displayed an alternative perspective on the world. And it was probably one of the best choices I made that year. Go out of your comfort zone, meet people that think differently than you, what more can you want from a study abroad experience?!
8) The Biltmore Estate:
The kind of place that makes you feel classy just walking around the estate. We also had a wine degustation that was really enjoyable!
9) The Fortune Teller:
We went to see that man with a friend, and it ended up not being really satisfactory and pretty vague, but it was fun! He told me that I would pass an exam “if I really wanted to”, and I did ! So maybe he was right after all!
It was one of the first days. A hypnotist came to the University, and he asked voluntary students to come and be hypnotized right in front of us! He made them do weird things like shouting or dancing a slow with a broom, and they clearly had no idea of what was happening! I usually am sceptic about this but I couldn’t deny it anymore, he definitely could do this!
11) The 2012 elections.
Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney, it was such an incredible thing to be able to be in the USA at the time of the elections! And being in a Democrat city in a Republican state made it a unique experience.
12) The Bus-café:
Sometimes you want to take a trip somewhere. Sometimes you want to sit down and drink coffee. Well Asheville decided you don’t have to choose, you can just do both! You also have café-libraries if you are a bookworm..!
13) Prakash, my friend’s snake, & all of her kitties of course!
14) The Arboretum.
We took a trip there and it was simply beautiful. Plants and flowers everywhere, as you can expect, but what I liked the most wasthis Asian section with Bonzaïs because it made up a relaxing atmosphere and you could just sit there and enjoy nature surrounding you. It was the spiritual side of Asheville showing up all around you.
15) Rosetta’s Kitchen.
Yes I admit it, it’s campus food, but I am not ashamed to say that I fell in love with their Tofu-Avocado sandwich. Plus it’s probably better than most restaurants, because it’s based on organic and natural food. In one word: Healthy!
And you? Have you ever been to Asheville? Tell me about your experience!