Here's part two for those of you keeping up with me!! There are two schools for American students here in France; one for the social science students, and one for the art students. I am enrolled at the former, since my major is International Relations. The names of the schools are the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the other is Marchutz School of Arts.
My friend Kate who I mentioned in part one is an art student, and for that reason we spend a lot of time at the art school. The school wouldn't catch your eye as a school, as there is one large stone building, and around it there are two wooden sheds which the architecture students made over the past few semesters. There is a wood-working station that is outdoors with a large wooden table that Kate and I have made our home. We come up here, (a hike and a half), and do homework and paint very often. It's the most peaceful place in the world. There is a gorgeous view from where we sit, the picture on the left is what we enjoy everyday. The panorama at the end of this blog is of what I described above. It's a great place to do homework and step outside the routine for a while.
I have a real appreciation for old music, as does Kate, and as we sit here everyday, we listen to Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Earth Wind & Fire. This past week I was feeling a bit homesick, and so I decided today to venture to Marchutz to to my work for the rest of the week and have a bit of down-time. As I am doing research, and using YouTube for our music, I saw on my history that I have Elvis Presley tagged to my YouTube account. I completely forgot that I had done that, and hadn't jammed out to the King of Rock in quite some time. I also forgot how much of an obsession I have for Elvis Presley. Part of me feels like something out there knew I was going to need a slice of home, and a flashback to great times that I spent with my father as a child. He and I used to live on a lake in upstate New York, and he and I would listen to Elvis endlessly. I immediately put on Jailhouse Rock, You Ain't nothing but a Hound Dog and the rest of his top hits. This put me in such a happy place today, I can't even describe. After a while, I gave my dad a call, and he was ecstatic to hear about this. It's incredible to me how much music can really influence your mood, something that I shall keep in mind for my last two weeks. Plus, Elvis just rocks in general.
Moving on, I've gained a new perspective for a lot of things in life from being here, and as corny as it sounds, I feel like I've grown up quite a bit from being here. The only guidance I have is what my parents have taught me throughout my life, and the new knowledge that I've gained of this culture. It's important to take criticism in a way that is beneficial to your life. Being in a new country, you learn a lot about what the people appreciate, and learn to see things through their eyes. The United States is very fast-paced and go, go, go. Here, people take time to smell the coffee, which I must note again is fabulous. France has shown me an appreciation for experience. Live in the moment, and worry less. I've learned to focus my energy on the things that make me happy, and soak up every drop of it.
Before I began this blog, I thought that most of my writing would be a kind of advice column for the next students coming in, but I soon realized that they will learn on their own like I did, and that the most important thing I can offer is my emotional connection to this opportunity that I have. Of course I have a lot of little notes that I will probably share in my final blog, but for now, during the actual experience, I'm enjoying sharing a blog that's deeper than a brochure.
C'est tout pour maintenant!! Part III shall follow soon! Oh and the acoustic guitar below...art prof jams out pretty hard, if that's any consolation to how low-key and real this place is, fa
I know I haven't blogged in quite some time but I've gathered an enormous amount of news to share! Being here for nearly a month, I've learned even more than I had expected. There is so much more beyond the culture and language that I have experienced, and I could not be happier. The reason that this post is split into three parts speaks volumes to just how much I have truly learned. In the beginning, much of what was going on consisted mostly of meeting the other American students and getting to know how school was going to progress.
I feel I can speak for not only myself, but many of the other students when I say the assimilation to French culture was a task that we all picked up to the best of our ability. In the United States, there are several things we do in our daily lives that the French consider impolite, many of which are not things that would even cross our minds. It was a bit of an adjustment to pick up on the things that we, as Americans, do on a daily basis, and yet are not exactly acceptable in many European countries. For example, talking on the phone in a public place where there are other people nearby is considered impolite and inconsiderate. As much as we use discretion when having conversations on our phones, the French do so in a much more private manner. I recently read an article given to all of the students by the administration that discussed the privacy differences between our two nations. What we consider private and what the French consider private are much different things and as such deserves to be highly respected. Little things like this make all the difference in the world!
Moving to a new place is never an easy feat, and being in a place in which there is a language barrier makes the task that much more challenging. For this reason, I was even more so drawn to this experience. I have always been incredibly independent, and for me, this has been nothing less than wonderful.The school work is not bad at all, as the classes are similar to those at Hobart. The classes are extremely small and personal, which allows us the opportunity to get to know our professors as people, not just instructors. I am so glad to have chosen the courses I did. They are exactly what I was looking for, and hit the nail on the head with my academic interests.
I feel like a sponge living here; I've absorbed so much already and gained knowledge not only about this place, but about myself as well. I think a big issue for me was realizing that even in the most perfect place that I could ever hope to live, it's always okay to have a bad day. Not everything is going to go your way... that's life. The best thing any of us can do is make the most of what is handed to us and realize how lucky we are for the things that do go right! I strongly believe in the idea of 'blessings in disguise'. I thought that before coming here I was a relatively patient individual, but since I've arrived, I realize that trying to articulate to people in a foreign language isn't always easy! The French have an equivalent phrase to 'blessings in disguise', and I am fond of their version. They say, "un mal pour un bien", which translates to a bad for a good. It's a simple idea, really, but the way the French think of it is much more passionate and meaningful than the English interpretation. My host mother taught me this phrase a few weeks ago and I had to jot it down so I'd remember to share it here!
I have met incredible people while on this trip. I didn't doubt that I would make friends, but I didn't realize just how strong some bonds were going to become so quickly. In particular, I've made one incredibly great friend which has made this experience even more meaningful and memorable. I met my friend Kate on the second day that I arrived at a meet & greet at the school. She has grown to be my best friend here, and the feeling that I have someone like family whom I have only known for a month, is something that I am beyond grateful for. I am so thankful for everything that has happened to me in the past four weeks, I am having the time of my life and it is even better than I anticipated.
I went on a trip last weekend to Ibiza, Spain, with five other American students. Let me start this by saying that I will not be returning to that place any time soon!! The best way I know how to describe it is the Jersey Shore on steroids. As beautiful as the beaches were, it didn't make up for the fact that many of the other aspects were complete stimulation overload. Ibiza is famous for its night life, and holds the numbers 1 & 4 top clubs in the world. I had the chance to go to the #4, Amnesia, and it was definitely ranked that high with good cause. I'd have to say it's something that, for me, is the type of thing to check out once just for the experience and to say I've done it, but I don't necessarily have a desire to return. Don't get me wrong, Ibiza was gorgeous and a great time. We met people from all around the world, got to swim with fish in natural reefs, and saw world class DJ's in the world's top clubs. The picture here is of the sunset on the island of Ibiza that I took on the first night we arrived. It was absolutely breath-taking!
I'll end this post here and post parts II and III this week!! The weather is supposed to be amazing this week as it has been since I arrived... there was one day of "rain" when it sprinkled for a few minutes, but the concept of a storm has not yet been prevalent (knock on wood).
Okay all, here's the latest and greatest, and let me tell you, this is the greatest. I arrived in Marseille (which is where I took the above photo) last Thursday and was able to do a lot of exploring. I stayed at a hotel by the harbor, and slept quite a bit to alter the jet-lag. The flight was long and uncomfortable but I watched two movies and watched probably four hours of How I Met Your Mother. I was ecstatic to see the plane had it as an option for the in-seat TV's. When I landed the traveling to get to Marseille was really simple and went rather smoothly. I made friends with the police on the train, they are so nice, and were so curious about my being American as they said my French was quite good (phew!). Anyway, Marseille was absolutely breath-taking. The architecture is like nothing I've ever seen. It is exactly the way you see it in movies and postcards.
I was able to explore and sort of get my bearings for the ways of getting around and learning the maps and such. Google maps- best invention ever and whoever invented it and makes it so good deserves a raise. No matter if you have data connection nor wifi, Google maps can show you where you are all the time. I am beyond happy I opted to bring my smartphone.
I ate breakfast at the hotel Friday morning and was chatting with a man having breakfast as well. We were talking about the weather and I told him it was going to be sixty-five degrees that day... apparently sixty-five degrees is about equivalent to walking on the face of the sun, because in celcius, which I completely forgot about, that's about twenty degrees. The man was beyond confused and at that point, there I was, REALLY American. He was completely understanding and we had a good laugh about my slip-up.
During my exploration around the harbor, I bought an international phone, some postcards, and soda. For some reason the soda here tastes so good. I took a bunch of pictures and sat on top of some hidden monument on the coast line and read The Great Gatsby for a few hours. It was the most perfect day ever.
I left early Saturday morning and took a train to Aix-en-Provence which is where my school, host family, and life for the next six weeks is. My host mother picked me up from the train station and we went to the house that I am living in. The place is spectacular. The house overlooks the mountains from the terrace and my host mother is quite the botanist. She has fabulous roses of every color and I am so jealous... I can't keep alive, let alone grow, any plants at all. This being said, I'm not that into dirt and bugs so it makes sense that gardening is not my forte. The house I'm living in is fabulous. I have my own room, and enormous bathroom. Toilets are in their own separate room, and flushers are buttons, not triggers. For some reason this strikes me as important to note.
I live with the mother and she has two kids, a boy and a girl. They are so French and great it melts my heart. They are in their late teens and tell me where all the good places to eat and go out are. They help with my French quite a bit as well. I have to ask them to speak more slowly often, but they think its funny and really try to articulate so I understand. Don't get me wrong, my French when coming here was not bad at all, and being a New Yorker I am used to fast speaking... but the slang + speed + new words sometimes gets me. I have found that my French is already improving SO much. I am able to carry on conversations without making many mistakes, and I find that listening while reading the lips makes understanding a lot easier. Although I have been told by several French people that what I know, I know well, and my accent is fabulous. One woman actually thought French was my first language. There's an odd switch between English and French; I find myself forgetting that I can speak English to the other American student that lives in the house with me, and I'm in a stage where my language is Frenglish for sure.
I met the other American students Sunday and yesterday, and some of us have already established some good friendships and connections. It is really great. When I was exploring Aix for the first time I was using my Google maps and found my way quite well. I used to be the type to get lost in a paper bag but my sense of direction here is like that of Bear Gryllz. I found a short cut to my house from school, and now I don't even need a map (I know mom, it's crazy).
This place is truly spectacular and I don't know how I'm going to leave. I love being here, the people are great, the weather is great, I haven't gotten lost, and the coffee is like heaven. I see no reason as to why anyone wouldn't want to live here forever and a day.
C'est tout pour maintenant! (That's all for now!)
It's crunch time... I'm leaving early because I fly for free, and on stand-by and don't want to risk getting bumped off flights. I'm off Wednesday morning, and getting into Paris Thursday early morning. I'm going to be doing some of my own travelling with friends until Saturday, and I am beyond excited.
At this point I've google mapped my host family's house, and also gotten in touch with my new housemate! I am beginning my hardcore packing and I am beginning to realize that I am in no way, shape, or form near finished. My room is in total shambles. Somehow I'm supposed to get all of this mess into one suitcase and have it weigh around 40 pounds...(keeping in mind I plan to buy ten more pounds of stuff while I'm there). I need as much luck as I can get with this task.
I am pretty excited for classes, and for the fact that I don't have that far of a walk to school every day. Not as far as some of the people I've been talking to at least! I've been stagger shopping so much, and now I think I'm actually done! (THANK GOD). I have been buying a dress or skirt here and there and now my wardrobe is nice and South of France-y. I didn't realize how American I really am until my French friend came over and went through my clothes tossing unacceptable items on the floor. Much to my amazement, I was able to have a pretty good chunk to work with. I also bought a few pairs of comfy and cute shoes as my cousin advised.
I'm kind of nervous now, I still have A LOT to do tomorrow... and the mini panic is setting in. Going to get as much done tonight as possible!!
Good morning readers!
The countdown has begun- 25 days until I am off to France. When I first found out I was overwhelmingly excited; of course I called my parents, my best friends, and then my French teacher from sixth grade that I remain in touch with. Everyone was so happy for me, but I don’t think they really get it. For me, this has been something that I’ve had my heart on since as long as I can remember. I’m talking ten years old or so. So you could imagine my joy when I saw that “Congratulations” email in my inbox. I had been checking my email religiously since I first hit the send button on my application.
Now that I have had time to really absorb the fact that I’m spending SIX WEEKS IN FRANCE, (it still gets me every time I see those words), I’ve started to ask other students who studied abroad there every question I can think of… and I feel like I am definitely starting to wrap my head around the fact.
Am I scared? I think I might be a little bit, but the adrenaline rush hasn’t worn off yet for me to even be able to acknowledge it. The excitement and anticipation is far too much for me to grasp any other emotion about it just yet.
I know the weather is going to be fabulous because one of my roommates was there during this time last year and tells me it’s wonderful. I can’t really say much about what I think the total experience will be like, other than I expect it to be just that, a total experience. One in which I am chomping at the bit to start!
I’m definitely not anywhere near ready, so as exciting as these next 29 days are going to be, it’s also crunch time. Not only am I finishing up my junior year with my toughest finals to date, but I also have a decent amount of shopping to do. My roommate tells me it’ll be smart of me to bring plenty of dresses and skirts, and the most comfortable (but obviously still adorable!) shoes I can find.
I’ll be home for just under two weeks before I embark on my journey, during which I will be tying up all my loose ends in the States. I’m big into list making so I foresee a notepad filled with bullets, numbers, and highlights so I’m sure I’ve got it all together.
I know this is going to impact me in a huge way. My parents are very laid back people, and have always told me to do what makes me happy. I can honestly say this is the first time I’m actually taking their advice to heart. I may not necessarily know where I am going to be in ten years, (who does?) , but what I do know is I don’t want to be the woman working a nine to five, sitting at a desk wishing I did more, lived more, experienced more, enjoyed my life more. I want to be the woman doing what makes me happy remembering all the experiences I had, the places I saw, the people I met, and truly appreciating the life I have lived. I plan to take this experience to its fullest potential and deeply enjoy the opportunity I have been given.
Check back soon, I can’t wait to share these moments with you all!!