Saturday, November 6, 2010

This is not a construction site or all of Italy where we treat people like pieces of meat

I’m really bad about updating this blog. I should work on that. I also want to give a shout out to Laura and Levi for reading this- thanks for googling me, I feel special. Also, just so you know, I watched True Blood today.

So I have just a little more than a month left in Grenoble and I’m so excited to go home. It’s not that I don’t love Grenoble or my study abroad experience, but I’m getting antsy and there are so many things I miss about America, especially the food. It’s impossible to get an American-style breakfast here. All I want in my life are some eggs, bacon, hash browns and bagel. Is that too much to ask?

I do think November will fly by because we have so many activities planned. September was great because everything was new and exciting, then there was a bit of a lull in October because we didn’t have many trips planned so we spent too many weekends in Grenoble going to the same bars and feeling slightly bored and homesick. Now it’s November and I’m feeling tired but also sad/nostalgic that our time is almost up. We have a lot of trips planned this month too: Venice, Paris and Scotland.

I spent Halloween weekend in Florence which was beautiful, especially the Ponte Vecchio when it was lit up at night. We climbed to the top of the Duomo, a cathedral with one of the biggest cupolas in Italy or in Europe, I can’t remember exactly. Lots of stairs to climb and too many people in tiny spaces, but the view of Florence from the top was incredible. We also saw Michelangelo’s David which was huge and incredible. I remember the first time I saw the Mona Lisa, I was underwhelmed. It was smaller than I thought it would be and there was nothing special about it (according to me who knows very little about art) but David was huge and impressive. It was definitely my favorite thing in Florence.

Ponte Vecchio

And of course I ate lots of pizza and pasta and had the best lasagna of my life. Other activities included sitting in restaurants for hours drinking cappuccinos and talking about death (it was a very intellectual trip), and getting annoyed with the Russian man in our hostel room. He was probably 40 years old, cranked the heat up and slept in only a speedo. His story was kind of fishy too. He was born in Russia then lived in Paris and Grenoble and he has an Italian girlfriend but he speaks perfect English with a British accent. I’m pretty sure he was a spy and I was terrified he was going to stab us in our sleep.

My goal for the rest of the semester is to stay alive which is proving to be quite difficult. I got Russian spies to deal with and terrorists hating on France. Grenoble is a bit sketchier than I had anticipated. Two friends live on the same road as I do, but when we’re walking home at night, there’s always that last little stretch that I have to walk alone and I’m constantly checking over my shoulder for danger.

I’ve seen men pick up prostitutes and was asked out on a date by a 60-year-old Middle Eastern man. I was sitting in the park doing my homework when the man sits down on the bench next to me and says something (it was in French so obviously I have no idea what it was, so I just smiled). This resulted in him taking the pen out of my hand and writing his phone number down for me. He then asked to take me on a date and I said no, while I was trying to put everything back in my bag so I could run away. He then kept asking me when I was going to call him and I booked it out of that park so fast. I’ve also had little 15-year-olds wearing track suits try to steal my money while waiting for the tram (avoid anyone in a track suit. It’s bad news).

The French are also striking every other day so our routines get disrupted a lot. The French government passed a law raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the French are not happy. The first strike back in September was interesting (and my journalistic instincts told me to go in the direction of it and take pictures, but my safety instincts told me otherwise), but now, after two months and having to walk over an hour to and from campus, it’s getting frustrating. When there are strikes, the trams stop running through the center of town and certain streets are blocked off.

BUT, for all of France’s annoyances and dangers, I finally feel at home here. In Italy, we kept accidentally speaking French and I was so relieved once we were finally back in France and I could understand the language. And riding trains for seven hours with Italians is not fun—they are so much louder than French people. I loved Italy but I prefer France where I can understand the language (for the most part), quietness is revered and there are cafés every ten feet. Oh France, despite your strikes, people wearing track suits and the fact that I had to eat rabbit the other night, I have fallen madly in love with you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Don't be so hostel

I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated my blog, but I’ve been busy traveling/making plans to travel and trying to act as French as possible. Now that we’ve been here for over a month, we’ve all stopped hanging out as a group of 17 and we’ve all formed cliques. It’s all very Real World, you know, the true story of 17 strangers picked to live in a city. When you combine exhaustion, homesickness, the stress of traveling and 17 different personalities and opinions, you’re bound to have some drama. I have a good group of friends though, there are 7 of us who hang out and travel together and I have a blast with them. But I’m still finding it difficult to be myself around them and it makes me miss my St. Mike’s friends, but for the four months that I’m here, I think it’s okay to maybe be someone else.

A few weeks ago, my friend Ben asked if I wanted to go to Nice for the weekend. In the past, I might have taken time to think about it, worry about getting my homework done or stressed about organizing a trip on such short notice, but I decided to go for it and I had a blast. Nine of us went and we all stayed together in one big room in the hostel along with two Spanish kids and a woman from Russia who hated us. My friend Laura said to me before we left that this trip would either solidify our friendship or tear our group apart. Luckily, we’re all still friends despite all of us having to share one bathroom for three days.

Our Russian Friend:

We spent two of the three days in Nice lounging on the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean. The weather was sunny and hot and all I could think about was how lucky I am to be able to hop on a train and go to the south of France for the weekend in the middle of September. We also took a daytrip to Monaco which was gorgeous but there’s not much to say about it. We watched the changing of the guards, ate expensive pizza then went back to Nice. But at least now I can say I’ve been to Monaco. We booked a trip to Florence for Halloween weekend and then Venice in mid-November. We might also do a weekend in Scotland, so when I go home, I will have been to 5 or 6 six countries- England, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy and maybe Scotland. And Canada, but I don’t know if that really counts.

Last weekend we went to Provence and visited Avignon, Arles and Aix-en-Provence. It was a nice trip, Provence is gorgeous, it was 80 degrees out and I got to meet up with a friend from St. Mike’s who is studying in Aix for the semester. Grenoble is surrounded by three mountains and we are definitely spoiled by such a gorgeous view, but a lot of our architecture was built in the 1970s and is ugly. Aix, on the other hand, is a cute, historic town with buildings from the 15th century. It reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, actually.


As a group of loud Americans, we attract a lot of attention, mostly negative. People glare at us on the tram or say rude things to us. We’re all working on trying to fit in better. We now only talk to each other in French when we’re in public and we’ve all developed a French facial expression which consists of pursed lips and a look of displeasure when we’re walking down the street. With my new facial expression and my leather jacket, boots and leopard print scarf (the uniform of choice for most French women right now) I think I’m blending in rather well. Sometimes people on the streets even stop me to ask for directions and I can understand them but I usually don’t know how to reply so I just say “je ne sais pas” and run away. But I’m making progress and sometimes I have good days where you can’t shut me up and I’m using complicated sentence structures and the subjunctive. Those days are rare, but nice when they do occur.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I feel like I have been in France for two years, not two weeks. Thinking about all the changes that have happened in my life since I arrived here makes me tired. I flew on three planes, hung out in London, went to Switzerland for the day yesterday, gone to countless bars and restaurants, I’ve rode the tram at least ten times a day, my French has improved, I’ve made friends, lost friends, been involved in a mini love triangle and spent way too much money. We have plans to go to Nice next weekend, Provence two weeks after that, Prague for Halloween, Paris in November then maybe Amsterdam, Munich or Barcelona whenever we can fit it in. I’m exhausted and ready to go home.

It’s been a good experience so far, but all of a sudden, I realized how much has changed in my life and I got scared and I’m craving the comfort of home.
A group of us took a bus to Geneva on Saturday for the day. Geneva was the prettiest city I have ever seen. Beautiful old buildings and an incredible view of the mountains. We wanted to visit the UN but it was closed so we went to the Red Cross Museum which was interesting. Then we spent most of the day sitting in the sun near Lake Geneva. But we left at 6:20 am and everyone was cranky and a little bored/frustrated that there wasn’t more to do in Geneva and I think at this point, we’re all missing home and the things we’re used to. We were thrilled to find a Starbucks and we ate dinner at McDonald’s in Geneva.

I hadn’t missed home until we were eating at McDonald’s in Geneva and everything was expensive and they charged us for ketchup packets and I have a mess of Euros, British pounds and Swiss Francs in my wallet which I can’t tell apart so I get frustrated and miss stupid things about home like American money and how easy it is to tell the coins apart.

I’m tired of eating dinner so late, and for us to take an hour to eat. I’m tired of sitting across from my host mother at dinner and struggling to communicate with her in French. I’m tired of the French language in general. I can tell I’ve already made progress but I still have so much to learn and it just feels overwhelming.
Classes started last Wednesday and I had a four hour French class. I’m so tired at night because it takes so much brain power during the day to speak and listen in French. We have language lab where we have to read things out loud and listen to radio broadcasts and answer questions. On my first listening worksheet, I managed to get every question wrong. But my resident director assured me that it’s normal to struggle in class at first. I do hope it gets better.

The good thing about classes here is that there isn’t much, if any, homework. I only get homework for my French Language class. I’m also taking three lecture classes which give no outside work except for one paper and a final exam because the professors know we’re here to travel, not really to study.

Our resident director told us it’s normal to feel homesick and to get frustrated with France and the way they do things. Right now I feel incredibly close minded, but when you’re so far from home and out of your comfort zone, you miss the familiar. I know Nice will be fun and two weeks from now I will be in love with France and never want to leave. This homesickness is just part of the process.


Monday, September 6, 2010

C'est la vie

Bonjour mes amis! Je suis en France!
I flew into London Tuesday and met up with the other kids who are studying abroad through AIFS in Grenoble. The first day was a little awkward, we were all exhausted and jet-lagged but we wanted to get to know each other and see London since we were only there for two days. We went to Hyde Park and there were about 15 lawn chairs in the grass so we all sat down and fell asleep for 20 minutes until we were told we had to leave because you were supposed to pay to sit in the chairs. That night, nine of us bought six bottles of wine and got drunk in someone’s hotel room. The opposite of classy, yes. But it helped break the ice.

The next day, we had a three hour tour of London which was awesome. We got to see Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Parliament, Big Ben and tons of other things that I’ve forgotten already. After that we split up into groups and did our own things. I went to the British Museum which wasn’t so great because my feet hurt and I got to go to King’s Cross and see Platform 9 and ¾. That night we all took the tube to soho to eat dinner at a Thai restaurant then we found a tiny bar on a sketchy street with strip clubs.

I feel weird talking about how much drinking I’ve been doing because it’s not what I usually do. I’m worried that I’m changing and my friends at school won’t like the new me. But I’m having a blast with these people. The second night in London was one of the best nights of my life. The way I see it, life would be very boring if I were stuck in my ways and unwilling to change. I would have missed out on so much fun if I had let my fear take control and not studied abroad. My mentality is that while I’m here, I’m going to do and see as much as I can.
We arrived in Grenoble on Thursday and spent the day walking around the city. We did pretty much the same thing on Friday. Thursday and Friday were just really hot and boring, our feet hurt, we were exhausted, but glad to be in Grenoble. Grenoble is like Burlington x10. Everywhere I look I see mountains. And Grenoble is big on clean energy, public transportation, cycling, saving water, etc.

Friday night we walked around for an hour trying to find a place for dinner and ended up getting lost in the sketchy part of town that our resident director told us not to go to after dark. Some other girls in the group went to the London Pub, which we also aren’t supposed to do since guys there are only after one thing, according to our resident director. We pretty much broke all the rules the first night. We ended up at a bar near the hotel which we have decided is our group meeting spot. I like everyone in the group, there aren’t really any cliques yet and everyone seems to get along with each other. Saturday I met my host family. I live with a woman named Madame Vernay (so French) in a 4th floor apartment right in the center of the city. I have a great view of the Bastille and I also have tiny black bugs on my comforter which worries me. I’m struggling with my French but I can tell I’m improving a little bit every day. More on Madame Vernay et ma vie en France plus tard. Maintenant, je suis très fatiguée. Bonne nuit !

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Love College

Everyone is moving back to St. Mike’s this weekend and I’m jealous that I won’t be joining them. I remember last summer my mom had to practically drag me out of the house, kicking and screaming, when it was time to go back. I absolutely hated school. I hated the dorm rooms, the dining hall food and the fact that I had to share a bathroom with 30 other girls. I would get annoyed when people told me college was supposed to be the best time of my life because if public bathrooms and twin size beds are the best life has to offer, then I definitely don’t want to see what life after college is like.

I was looking at pictures of some girls I know who are college freshmen this year and it looks like they already have a group of friends and are having the time of their lives. I’m jealous of how easy it was for them to transition to college life when it took me almost two years to feel comfortable at school.

And now that I’m not going back this fall, St. Mike’s is the one place I want to be. Leaving St. Mike’s has shown me how much I really appreciate it, so I thought I would pull an Asher Roth and use this entry to describe what I love about college.

1.)Alliot cup drops: One person will drop their plastic Alliot cup on the ground which makes a loud noise as it bounces on the floor. This causes more people to drop their cups, creating a melodic chorus during dinner. It’s loud and annoying and awesome. As far as I can tell, this doesn’t happen at other colleges, so it’s another reason why St. Mike’s is special.

2.)Thursday nights: Thursday is my favorite day of the week. I’ve never had more than one class on Fridays, so I would always stop studying by 4:30 on Thursdays and spend some much needed time with my friends watching The Office, Community and 30 Rock while eating chicken tenders and smoothies from The Knightstand.

3.)Denny’s: My first time going to Denny’s was at 11:30 p.m. on a random Wednesday night when I had a media law quiz the next day. There’s something about going to a restaurant late on a school night and ordering breakfast that can make you feel giddy because it’s so random. A much needed break from the mundane week. I felt the same way as a child when my mom would go out and leave me with a babysitter and I would get to eat popcorn and ice cream and stay up past my bedtime.

4.)The roommate bond: Roommates bond quickly. You fight, you get annoyed with each other, you learn each other’s dirty little secrets, you see each other cry and you inevitably walk in on each other changing a few times. But you also laugh together, tell secrets and have someone to dance with in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. You become more like sisters instead of friends.

5.)Library dates: The one downside to living in the same building as all of my friends was that I would spend hours hanging out with them instead of doing homework. To avoid that, I would go to the library to get work done. But when I would decide to go to the library, all my friends would go with me, resulting in multiple study breaks in the snack room, passing notes back and forth in the study cubicles and no work getting done. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chuckie Finster Complex

Summer is hands down my favorite season. I wish it could last forever, but at the same time I know summer is so magical because it doesn’t last. Right now it’s a rainy 70 degrees outside. The number of hot, sunny summer days is dwindling and I can feel fall approaching too quickly. Most people in my position would say this is a good thing, because the sooner summer is over, the sooner I’ll be on a plane to France where I will be studying abroad for four months. But I’m not one of those people.

Why did I choose to study abroad? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself more frequently as we edge towards September. There are the obvious reasons: a chance to live in Europe, to learn to speak French, to see places I’ve only dreamed about and to have awesome adventures that I will remember for the rest of my life. It will never be easier to go abroad as it is when you’re in college and you have the lovely people at St. Mike’s guiding you through the application and visa processes. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if you don’t seize it, you will regret it.
But the fact of the matter is, I’m terrified. I’m actually terrified of a lot of things, kind of like Chuckie Finster from Rugrats (possibly the greatest show ever). I’ve never been on a roller coaster, I absolutely hate clowns, public speaking makes me want to cry and I’m not a huge fan of airplanes, which will be a problem on August 30th on my six hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

I have the same uneasy, anxious feeling that I had the summer before college when I knew that my life was about to change in a big way. Add change to the long list of things that scare me. But isn’t changing the point of college? College is a four year transition period between childhood and adulthood where you have the luxury of figuring out who you are and who you want to be. It’s the time to learn to be independent, set your own rules and do your own laundry. When you graduate from college, chances are you won’t be anything like the kid you were when you graduated high school, and most people will be glad about this.

Change is a nice idea. But actually doing it, actually changing, is a different story. It’s like saying camping is a nice idea, but actually sleeping in a tent and freezing your butt off aren’t so great. Or the idea of reading Jane Austen books. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who has read Jane Austen and can have intellectual discussions about Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy, but after the first few boring pages (no offense to Jane Austen fans) I put the book down and move to something else.

Part of me is excited about what lies ahead and part of me is resisting change and wants things to stay exactly the same. As much as I love summer, I’m itching to go back to St. Mike’s and see my friends and fall back into my routine. It’s safe. It’s easy. There is comfort in consistency.

The idea of living in such a beautiful place as France and doing adventurous things is what attracted me to studying abroad. But to actually do it? So scary. I will be living with a French family, eating foreign food and trying to speak a language I don’t know too well. I will be out of my comfort zone, which is always scary. But thinking back to Rugrats, as scared as Chuckie always was, he still managed, episode after episode, to do the thing that scared him. And I’m pretty sure he would have regretted it if he let a thing like fear cause him to miss out on Tommy’s crazy adventures because of fear.

So I guess I will put on a brave face, board the plane at the end of August and see what kind of change awaits me. Maybe then I will finally be courageous enough to ride a roller coaster or be in the same room as a clown.

About Me

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog!

My name is Jordan and I’m going to be a junior at Saint Michael’s College this fall, which is both exciting and terrifying. It’s exciting because after spending two years at St. Mike’s, I feel completely comfortable, so much so that I even wear my pajamas to the dining hall for Sunday brunch. But it’s also terrifying for the same reason. I like it so much that they will probably have to kick me out after graduation.

I’m studying abroad in Grenoble, France this fall which is bittersweet. Who wouldn’t be excited to go to France? But St. Mike’s has become my home and there is a lot that I will miss while I’m gone, especially my friends. I met most of my friends during orientation weekend freshman year as we were all thrown together due to various circumstances (or because of fate) and we’ve stuck together for the past two years, somehow all fitting together and complementing each other perfectly.

I also have six best friends from home that I’ve known since elementary school which makes me feel incredibly lucky. The summer before college started, I spent many sleepless nights worrying that my friends and I would drift apart and that when we all came home for Thanksgiving break we wouldn’t recognize each other. I’m happy to say that even though we all did change, our friendship didn’t. It’s comforting to know that wherever life takes me, may it be Vermont or France, my friends will always be there supporting me and loving me. What more could I ask for?

I grew up in Massena, New York, a small town right on the Canadian border. My friends and I sometimes go to dinner or the movies in Canada because it’s only a 15 minute drive and because the movie theater there is a lot nicer than the one in Massena. Ripped seats and springs that poke your butt for two hours do not result in a pleasant movie experience.

I love sleeping in and I love summer because it’s the only time of year when I actually get to sleep in and feel rested. I’m not a big fan of snow, but I love Burlington so moving to Florida will never be an option. I love reading and would read a book each day if I had the time. My favorite books are the Harry Potter series. I was thrilled to get an acceptance letter from Hogwarts when I turned 11, but as it turned out, it was just my friends playing a very cruel joke on me.

I’m a journalism major with minors in French and political science. I’m in love with journalism, I speak French very poorly and I love to argue politics with anyone who’s willing, which usually annoys my mom when I get into political debates with relatives at family parties.

My new obsession is Dawson’s Creek (I know, I’m about 12 years too late for that fad) but I do love the drama. But after a long day of classes and homework, it’s nice to watch something funny. NBC Thursdays are my favorite; I love The Office, Community and 30 Rock. I also never say no to 90’s shows like Saved by the Bell and 90210. In fact, I never say no to anything from the 90’s and I still believe Hanson is the greatest band on Earth.

As you can probably tell from my 90’s obsession, I’m stuck in the past. But I’m also excited for the possibilities the future holds. My life is about to change big time when I go to France, so stay tuned to see what will happen!