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Writing About a Day in Provence

Taylor Thomas, a journalism major from Keene State College experiences the sights and sounds of Aix-En-Provence.

During a recent visit to Marseille, students of Professor Wendy Zomparelli’s Feature Writing course traveled to Aix-en-Provence, where they observed locals, participated in a walking tour, experienced traditional French cuisine, and visited The Quartier Mazarin.

The objectives of the Provence field lab were to:

1)      Write a travel article on the basis of the day’ excursions and confront the journalistic challenge of “getting the story” in a limited amount of time.

2)     Gain experience in framing a story, and in interviewing and reporting skills.

3)     Make observations for class discussions of the difference between tourist experiences and “authentic” experience.

While in Provence, which is located 30 miles from Marseille by autoroute, students spent the morning at the weekly market, heard a presentation on the food of Provence, and visited some of the city’s tourist sites and museums, such as The Musee Granet and The Old City.

Sasha Rudy a Mass Communications major from St. Cloud University found Provence to be the ideal setting for the field lab.  “I thought Aix-En-Provence was the perfect area to conduct research and to venture out in the market; to see it, to smell it.  It gave us a chance to interview people who lived in the region and to get sense of life and culture there.  I liked the music on the streets too.”

Students of Zomparelli’s class incorporated many of the fundamental theories they learned in the Feature Writing course, such as  interviewing techniques as they spoke to locals about culture and life in Provence.

A statue of Paul Cezanne in Provence, one of the region's most celebrated citizens.

“The objective was to spend one day in Provence, go to the market where there is a wonderful range of produce, and to go to a restaurant which used the foods of the market,” said Professor Zomparelli.

“One of the principal attractions of Aix is Paul Cezanne.  We got very lucky that there was an art show about Cezanne’s influence on others painters while we were there.”

As participants in the feature writing class, students focused on writing across a range of feature topics including travel writing, arts and culture, and food writing.  “One of their assignments was to keep a journal of their dinner every night and write about the tastes and feel of the food and to try to stretch their descriptive language.

“The purpose of the field lab was to stretch the students a bit,” said Zomparelli, who is also an editor and fiction writer.  “I wanted to give them a feel about deadline writing and to have them write a travel piece based on a single day.  I wanted them to see the wonder range of produce used in the market and to see a restaurant using range of flavor and to write about this experience.”

Chrissy Parker, who studies Media Communications from North Central University, also enjoyed the culture of Provence and the historical feel of the French city.  “I liked the music and the historical and cultural feel of Provence.  I thought that this was a nice place to visit since it wasn’t too touristy, and I felt I was given enough time to conduct the interviews.  It was as great day.”

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