Meet Me in the Mediterranean

Olivia D. is currently a junior at SYA France and a Campus Storytelller. She comes to SYA from the Peddie School.

It’s just a little walk.” Mr. Sabatier, the art history teacher, said with a grin. Little did we know that ‘little walk’ was actually going to be an hour long hike on mountain terrain. It was the third day of our school’s trip to Marseille, and none of us were dressed properly for the occasion, earning confused glances from the hikers we passed. While they were decked out in athletic wear, we trudged on in thirty different variations of jeans, dresses, and shoes that provided no traction on the smooth rocks we kept slipping on. The clothes on our backs stuck to our skin in awkward places; we were hot, sweaty, and I was certain that my calves had never burned so much in my life. And while we had not expected the day to be so physically challenging, we were rewarded with some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever laid my eyes on. Dark opal colored water stretched out along the horizon, sparkling a bright white as it reflected the sun’s oppressive rays. Cliff drops cluttered the right side of the water. Their rocky edges of brown and green make sharp cuts along the pale blue sky, streaked with wispy pieces of clouds that looked like cotton candy when you pulled it apart. There were grand white boats dotting the water in various places, however, they looked like little toys in the far distance. 

Once we had all gotten our fair share of photos, we marched on. We continued to climb, eventually reaching a descending flight of stairs created by years of worn down treading. Excited to see where it led, we hurried down them. The ocean that had been a cliff dive away now greeted us at an arm's distance, pulsing in and away on the beach made of rocks. After a series of desperate pleas we were granted permission to enter it. We immediately discarded our shoes and socks, wincing slightly as we made our way over the pebble-sand. We rolled up our pants as far as we could, relishing in the refreshing coolness of the water. It didn’t take long for the first person to dive in past their knees. Once we received that silent signal, we all began dropping our whole bodies in, one by one like bobbing apples. Any original apprehensions about keeping our clothes dry had long gone; my jean shorts soaked up the sea water greedily. We splashed each other, laughing at the way our wet hair flopped in our faces, letting ourselves act like the kids we are. 

Several SYA France high school students swim after hiking on a class trip

The walk back was just as long, but the heat was comforting this time. We were now soaked, salty, and the words, “I love France” kept circulating its way around our group. Never in my life could I have imagined I would swim fully clothed in the Mediterranean, but Marseille brought about a whole new side of me I didn’t even know existed. And although it took two thorough washes in the hotel room sink and three whole days of window drying for the ocean water to get out of my clothes, it was one of the most special memories I’ve ever made. 

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Julia A. expresses her gratitude to her host family, friends, and parents for her time at SYA France.