Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Week-ends à Geneve et Annecy

Somehow I managed to neglect my blog this past month, so I figured I should catch up-- especially since I only have just under 4 weeks abroad! So let's rewind a bit...

When I traveled to Europe my senior year of high school, my Aunt Susan and Uncle Rich drove me across the Swiss border so that I could say I had technically been to Switzerland. Flash-forward nearly 7 years later and I can now say I have actually been to Switzerland.

To fully appreciate the entire significance of this trip, I should rewind again about 20 years. At the age of about 3 years old, my parents decided that they wanted me to attend a French immersion school in Chicago-- Le Lycee Francais de Chicago. Ultimately, this is where my love for the French language began. While there, I made my very first friends in life-- many of whom I've remained in contact with over the years (thanks, Facebook!). Many of these friends ended up staying at the Lycee longer than I did, I left at around 7 years old, but it seems most of us have actually kept up with French over the years.

One of my first friends, Claire, and I had been very close as kids, but when we both ended up in different schools and in different neighborhoods we slowly lost touch. Luckily, we managed to reconnect and I learned she was currently living in Switzerland after having done TAPIF the year before. After months of trying to find a good weekend for us both, we finally managed to meet up in her current city of Geneva!

Claire was a fabulous host and guide to have in Geneva and brought me all over and I am so happy we had the chance to see each other again after all that time! Geneva was a beautiful city-- a mix of very modern and very old. My absolute favorite part of the city was the lake, which of course only reminded me of Chicago. I have a lot I could say, but I am going to keep it short and sweet today and show you lots of pictures instead. Suffice it to say it was a great trip with a wonderful old friend and I am happy I finally made it into Switzerland for real this time!

Shortly after my weekend to Geneva, I made a quick getaway over Easter weekend to Annecy with Jessica and Christian. Annecy has been on my list for far too long considering I've been living very close by. The problem has been balancing my au pair life with the train schedules-- but I finally succeeded in finding my way there! Annecy, like Geneva, is by the Alps, has a lake, and is absolutely stunning.

We spent a lot of time walking by the lake and in the old center, which is probably the most well known part about Annecy. It was a perfect break for us all and we were all glad to have been able to get there after months of talking about it! Now for the photos.

I just finished my final big trip to Paris/Brussels/Amsterdam and plan to be writing about that soon. At this point, I have just under a month left before I come home. It's definitely bizarre to know my time in France is coming to an end again, but I AM ready to be home! Stay tuned, I promise I won't be as neglectful with my posts for the few weeks and trips I have left.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fille Au Pair: Partie Deux

Nearly 5 months have passed since my initial post about life as an au pair. I am happy to say au pair life has improved immensely since then. In fact, I'd say it's about as good as it can get. Yes, the initial transition felt impossible, overwhelming, and just plain tiring. I felt like there was no way I could last 9 months-- I even considered just giving up at one point. 

Luckily, I am stubborn to a fault and stuck it out... and I am really glad I did.

About a month in, I had already reached a breaking point. After hours of sobbing speaking to both my parents and questioning my decision, they both finally convinced me to explain myself to the parents. When I finally went to speak with them, I swear I lasted two seconds before bursting into tears in front of them. 

In the end, this was a good thing because I am pretty good at putting on a happy face, but after this they were able to see how much I was struggling. We discussed how isolated I had been feeling, how stressful it was to wake up to a screaming/hitting/kicking 2-year-old each morning, and how I just didn't want to feel like this stressed for the rest of my time abroad.

Honestly? In many ways, I've come to realize I hit the au pair family jackpot. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Voyages de Février: Milan, Athens, Santorini

My two week February vacation has come and gone, but I was able to make the most of it and travel! Fair warning: this post is definitely 3-in-1 because I have so much to share... but that's what happens after you explore two new countries!

Milan, Italy

Jessica and I started off our trip by taking a train from Lyon to spend a weekend in Milan-- my first trip into Italy! The ride there went through the Alps which were especially beautiful because it had just snowed an unusual amount within the previous day or so. When we arrived that first night we decided to take it easy at the hotel and plan for what we wanted to do over the next two days. In our efforts to plan, we discovered that Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper" painting was housed in a church in Milan-- it immediately went to the top of our list of things to see.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Assistant de Langue en France: Partie Deux

Ten weeks of teaching have gone by since I started with TAPIF... and now I have less than 10 left! Now that I am settled into the position, I wanted to write a follow up to my original Assistant de Langue post.

Before beginning my teaching assistant position in France, many of my fellow teachers were curious to hear what I found to be better and/or worse with the French school systems. The fact is, there is no education system that is absolutely flaw free-- the U.S. is definitely struggling with our current set up. It's been interesting to compare the two, because I feel like the U.S. could benefit from some of the procedures here, but I also think France could benefit from some of our ideas.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Recommence

Chicago... it was exactly what I needed. In so many ways that I didn't even expect.

Before going home for Christmas, I felt like I was failing my experience in some way by needing a break. But I have to say, looking back now, I don't think I would have lasted the rest of my time in France had I not taken those 12 days to really take a breather. The idea of being abroad 9 months total had become overwhelming, more so than I was even willing to admit to myself... but now I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and I couldn't feel more relieved or happy. Plain and simple.