Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1 Month Gone Already!

As of a few minutes ago I have officially spent one full month in France, and that is truly hard to believe. Before leaving ISU, I was warned over and over about how it could take up to a month to feel fully  "at home" abroad. Looking back, I would say this is about accurate. My first week was painful, even though it was exciting. The second was more frustrating than anything. By the third week, most complications had been resolved and things started to feel more normal. And now, after my fourth week, I can say that I have a definite routine with my life here. All the things that felt overwhelming and new a few weeks ago now feel minor and I am now well-versed with the way of life in Southern France.

By this point, the only thing I can think of that will continue to be an issue during my stay here is the walking. No, no, not the fact that I have to walk, but rather the fact that there is NO order to walking and people are just plain AGGRESSIVE. I've mentioned it before, but it still bugs me. This is one thing I would rather not get used to because if I do, I will return to the States as an unreasonably aggressive pedestrian, and that is definitely not acceptable. I am truly thankful, though, that I seem to have adjusted rather easily even with minor frustrations and difficulties. I know it hasn't been as easy for everyone, and many of my friends have had a number of severe issues that have hindered the process.  I hope by the end of it all, though, that everyone can say that despite everything  that may have happened, we are all still glad we went abroad! I know I keep saying it, but I really just adore this city. I can tell it will be hard to go back, but don't worry Mom, I'll come back and graduate before I escape to southern France for the rest of my life :-)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Time is Flying by!

I realized today that I am starting my fourth week abroad. In some ways it feels like I've been here so much longer, and in others it feels like it just began. After spending nearly a month abroad, I have begun to find things that I miss, outside of the people in my life:
  1. Showers that you can actually move in. 
  2. Peanut butter sandwiches and being able to bake cookies.
  3. People not running you down while you're walking.
  4. Organization and Clarity!!!!
  5. Being able to understand what is on a menu. Fromage (cheese) and Jambon (ham) have quickly become a good friend of mine.
  6. Fast(er) internet, and access to all sites. Thanks for ditching me, Netflix, Hulu and ABC.
  7. Milk-- I am terrified to try it here. The pasteurized milk is unrefrigerated until it is opened, and the milk straight from the cow is in the refrigerated section.
  8. My DVDs and TV shows :(
  9. Driving (but only a little, and I would NEVER want to drive here)
  10. Cheap shopping with decent quality.
Even with all of that, though, I have found many things that I love about being here:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Allons-y! Exploring Nimes

Life is good and I am continuing to feel more at home here. Today is the first day in two weeks that I haven't done anything. It felt good to take a breather from the world because it's been so non-stop since I arrived, especially this last week.

I had my first classes this week, and the only thing I was worried about in any of them was the mention of oral presentations-- memorized. As most of you probably know, I HATE presentations. I am absolutely fine when I teach students, but when it comes to being evaluated, I get incredibly nervous. Thankfully, these are weeks away, and I will hopefully have had time to perfect my speaking skills by the time they roll around. At this point, it does not look like I'll be in courses with only French students. I had been trying to make this happen, but the system here (as I've said before) is a little dysfunctional. I sat in on a literature lecture that was supposed to revolve around mythology and I could barely keep up with what the professor was saying. To take this course for a grade would probably be a huge mistake, so instead I am looking to audit a lecture or two (probably literature or cinema) in order to still gain better comprehension. My courses will be language intensive, though, even if I am with other French language learners, and I think I will gain a lot (I already have).

Monday, January 9, 2012

J'adore la ville de Montpellier!

This title says it all. I love the city of Montpellier. It is truly one of the most charming cities I have ever had the chance of visiting, and even better: living in! There is so much history in this city, I feel like I could explore for days and still have missed another nook with something more. My friends and I have become more comfortable in navigating and exploring the city on our own, and have enjoyed being tourists a bit while we become more familiar. Just today, Jade and I wandered around after running some errands and were able to find the Post Office, on accident, as well as a book store with tons of office supplies, and yet another place to sit down and drink un chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) and eat a pastry. As much as I LOVE Chicago, Montpellier just has this great feeling to it. Yes, it is busy like any city, but there are hardly any cars and most people either walk or use public transit (the system is great here). It feels like people live a much more stress free life here, aside from when dealing with the University, and I have really come to enjoy the pace of things here. I really cannot do it justice here, and would love you all to visit to see what I mean.

As you might have seen, I had a trip to Avignon and Pont du Gard on Sunday, and both places took my breath away. For one, there are a million stairs and hills to climb, but better yet, at the top of these stairs and hills you can find incredible views that are truly indescribable. We visited the Palais des Papes with our pre-session group, and my friend and I both had a hard time believing how long the building had been standing and how much history and life it had experienced. Avignon itself was a quiet town that Sunday, but there were a few streets we walked down just to explore the area. The set up of each of these cities is just so completely different and in many ways, a lot more interesting. Yes, I understand the ease of having a grid-like city like Chicago, but Montpellier and Avignon both have these amazing little side streets with tons of life, but in any other city in the US would be an alley and void of anything interesting to find. Each little street I have been down has something interesting to it, and I have quickly fallen in love with getting lost in these towns for a bit. Pont du Gard was absolutely stunning. We climbed to the top of it by way of some really, really, old stairs within a forest to reach the top tier of the aqueduct. Once there, everyone forgot how out of breath they were, and started taking pictures. It is an incredibly windy area, and as some of you may know-- I have an intense fear of heights. Luckily, the wind didn't push me around hard enough to fall off the mini-mountain and I was able to see the incredible view from the top! Here are some pictures of the view I had:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ma Première Semaine (My First Week)

Wow. That is the only way I can think of to effectively summarize this first week, just wow. Where do I begin? I can say I officially understand what people mean when they say there will be tons of highs, and tons of lows-- I've already experienced many of both. I'll begin with the not so good, and end on a high note, because in this moment I am absolutely content even though I am stressed.

As I said, there have been a number of low points to this week. The lowest point was definitely my first night here-- I couldn't sleep until 7am and had to be up at 11am, and I only had my American cellphone and 40% of battery on my barely functioning computer. In all, it was a lonely night, but as soon as I was able to get some sleep I felt much better. Another difficulty this week had to do with getting my rarely functioning DELL computer fixed. I have had this computer for about 2 months, and both months have resulted in needing repairs for the same problem: it keeps overheating and turning off. My dad spent hours on the phone trying to resolve some ridiculously ineffective international customer service, while I spent time trying to talk to a rude French DELL employee. The final difficulties of this week all had to do with the University. The best way to describe it is this: They give you very vague information, turn you loose, then say, "Time to sink or swim!". I know, this is a little (a lot) pessimistic, but this is how it's felt. We are constantly receiving conflicting information or last second details that we have to run around town for to try to complete. Filling out paperwork has been the most tedious process. If you plan to study abroad in France, or probably anywhere in Europe: Bring tons of ID photos (Walgreens does them) and TONS of copies of every document you have ever received from the University as well as Passports and Insurance information.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mes Premiers Jours (My First Days)

Bonjour tout le monde et bonne année!

I have made it safe and sound to Montpellier, France after a long flight on New Years Eve! There is so much happening right now that it has definitely been an overwhelming first couple of days. In addition to the obvious stress of traveling, I arrived in Montpellier only to find that the laptop (that had worked the night before) was no longer functioning properly and kept shutting itself down (again!). Thankfully, my dad thought ahead and purchased a warranty that would allow service to my computer within France. I have yet to get it fixed, but it has been working the last two hours so I figured I would try to make a post! Admittedly, this is a much longer post than I had intended, but there is so much I would like to share!

Jour 1 (12/31/11)

I flew out of Ohare in Chicago at 6:15pm on NYE. It was hard to believe how incredibly empty the airport was in comparison to other days of the year. For the first time ever, security didn't ask me to go through the metal detector-- but instead through the x-ray machine. I had to stand still for a few moments as I watched them pat down an old woman next to me who seemed confused by the process. I eventually made it to my lovely first class seat and was greeted by a very kind flight attendant who instantly insisted I get wine to celebrate the New Year... so I did. The flight was wonderful, aside from some semi-scary turbulence towards the end, and I was able to watch a number of movies, and eat some surprisingly good steak. Unfortunately, I was unable to sleep, so that made for a long first day in France.

Jour 2 (1/1/12)