Friday, August 29, 2014

Finally Friday.


This week has been quite hectic. I was certain on Thursday that it was actually Friday and was seriously looking forward to the weekend, only to realize that I still had one more day until Saturday.

There's so many practical, not-so-fun things I have to get done now that I'm actually in France. I have to register with housing benefits, housing insurance, and the French Social Security since I'll be here longer than 3 months. But before I can do that, I have to open a French bank account. And once I do that, I need to get a phone that works here. Blah.

It's not that any of this should be particularly hard, but doing it with people who speak another language adds a whole new layer of difficulty. Of course, there are many people at the school who are willing to help and will be available to do so next week, but there are 77 other international students who also need help with this... It will be interesting!

Let's talk about more interesting things!

We started French classes on Thursday-- learning a new language may turn out to be harder than I thought. We took a short test to gauge our level of French. Surprisingly, I was put in the 2nd level of 4. From what I could tell, the first level was reserved for foreign students whose English wasn't as strong as the others. Level 2 was mostly native English speakers from America and Europe.

The classes were 3 hours long. Yes, three. And if I could just rant for a second-- I don't know how they expect us to sit in these ridiculous wooden chairs for that long every single day. They are the most uncomfortable things. And they're squished really close together so there is absolutely no room to move about. It gets a bit stuffy because either they're not running the air conditioner or there's not one. (I'm sure it's the latter.)

Anyway, French lessons are going well! It is so hard to understand the native French speakers because they talk fast and run all of their words together, so it's hard to really learn any pronunciation from them. Our teacher, however, speaks really slowly for us and repeats the words over and over and makes us answer questions and tell about ourselves in French. Even with the few words I know, I'm more confident using them since I've practiced the correct usages.

Today after class and after I stood in line for an hour to get my wifi password (so relieved!), I met with a few friends to do some exploring. Our days have been pretty packed and everyone is tired, so the furthest most of us had made it was to the supermarket for bedding and food. We walked around the city center a bit. There are so many small shops and it seems like hundreds of bakeries.

There's a small square in front of Poitiers Notre Dame where there are a few small cafes. We had lunch there (if you saw those terrible pictures of me of Facebook, that's where we were. Thanks, Joe.) There's something so magical about eating outside and being surrounded by these beautiful, old places.

We decided to walk to Blossac Parc a few blocks away. It was beautiful. The foliage was trimmed and uniform. There were people walking through and enjoying the day. We sat under some trees near a playground area and talked for several hours. I was there with Lizette (also from SUU), Nancy (from Taiwan), and Alois (from Germany). It's wonderful the things you can learn from someone who didn't grow up the same way you did. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to get to know so many people from so many different places.

Until next time,
Je t'embrasse,


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Days in France

Bonjour ami!

I am happy to report that we arrived in Poitiers safe and sound! The trip went well and there were no problems along the way, thank goodness. We started in SLC with a 4 hour flight to Philadelphia. Once there, we had a 3 hour layover, then we hopped on our 8 hour flight to Paris! 

My first impression of the French was that they are eerily silent. When we got off the plane and started towards customs, I couldn’t believe how quiet everything was. Even after customs at the baggage claim, people were talking, but it was in whispers. I felt loud when I talked at my normal level— I understand now why Americans are often labeled “loud.” 

It was interesting trying to navigate the airport to get to the train station. While most of the signs were written in both English and French, they weren’t exactly clear about everything. Once we got to the station, we hopped on. Between the three of us, we had 6 suitcases, 2 duffel bags, and 3 backpacks. And since we were at the airport, everyone else had quite a bit of luggage as well and there was only so much room to store this. Thankfully, there was a nice French family who spoke enough English to tell us that there were more empty baggage shelves on the upper level. That was so helpful!

We had all heard that the best way to beat the jet lag was to not nap, and stay awake until bedtime. We all tried, but we were sleeping within 30 minutes on the train. I probably slept a total of 4 hours since 3:00 am Monday, and didn’t get to bed until 10:00 pm Tuesday. It was just a very long two days! 

Upon arrival in Poitiers, the student union, Aloha, met us at the station and took us to the school, to then be taken to our residences. I was lucky in that, my accommodation is only a 7 minute walk from the school. (Lauren’s walk is about 25 minutes, or 15 by bus.) 

I knew before I arrived that my room would be small, but I never expected it would be as tiny as this— I have had bigger closets that my entire room and bathroom combined! Even with the size, there is tons of storage space,  from drawers under the bed, to shelves on two walls, and shelves in the closet. (I would give up closet shelves to have more than 12 inches of hanging space, but it is what it is.) The bathroom is quite comical, it took everything in me not to laugh when I was shown my room. The shower is barely big enough to turn around it, the toilet sits next to the shower, and the sink is nearly right on top of it! There is really no barrier between the shower floor and the rest of the floor, except a small curb. Water gets everywhere when the shower is running, but at least I have a private bathroom!

Even with all the little things that aren’t my favorite about this place, it has quite a bit of charm. I can sit at my desk, look out my window and see a tree-covered hill with old buildings mingled in. Below my window, (I’m on the 3rd floor, or really second floor because the first floor is called the ground floor. Either way, 2 flights of stairs.) there is a courtyard with benches and trees and rose bushes. I can hear the church around the corner ring its bells every hour. I get to walk by beautiful old buildings on my way to campus everyday. 

I can’t wait until everything starts to feel normal to me. Today I caught myself saying that I was going to walk home, and it made me smile to think that even with the stress of moving halfway around the world, I can have a comfortable place that feels like home. I’m anxious for the days when walking to the supermarket is a thing I’ve done a hundred times, and communicating with the cashiers doesn’t cause extreme amounts of stress. 

Today we had an orientation to tell us all the important things we need to know about this place. We were given our schedules for the next week and given our access codes for the wifi. This was a life saver. I was beginning to feel extremely isolated without being able to talk to anyone. Getting internet made my day much, much better! (A sad statement I know, but being able to talk to the people I love is very, very important to me.) 

I’ve decided to leave the door to my room open while I am in here to encourage the other girls to say, “hey.” Nobody wants to knock on the door of someone they barely know, so now they won’t have to! It worked tonight. Three girls were having dinner in the kitchen next door and invited me to join them. Their names are Dea (from Indonesia), Emily (from Denmark), and Irena (from Russia). I had a lovely time talking with them.

One thing I’ve already learned since arriving is that most Americans are behind in the language department. Everyone I have met from non-English speaking countries (except France) have been able to speak passable English. Sometimes I can’t even speak passable English, let alone a whole other language! I admire them, and am somewhat envious of this. 

Sorry about the long read, but a lot has happened since I left! 

Thanks for stopping by, 
Je t'embrasse, 


Friday, August 22, 2014

First. Post. Ever.

This is too exciting!

Hopefully you know by now that I'll be moving to France to study abroad for two semesters. If you weren't aware, I apologize, I should have told you!

I decided to start this blog not only to share my experiences with friends and family, but also as a way to learn more about myself as I encounter different people, places, and things. I can't wait to embark on this adventure with you. It will be life changing, it will be extraordinary, it will be fun. Also, extremely difficult, but extremely worth it!

Of course, I want to hear what you think about what I'm doing and I want to know what is going on in your life too! Let's talk about these things-- you can always comment on here, email me, or send me mail (I'd love some new pen pals). We can even plan Skype dates!

I'm so glad you chose to stop by,

Je t'embrasse,