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 !