Monthly Archives: May 2012

Update!

I think the weirdest thing about France, thus far, is how late the sun sets.

Forget the language barrier (though that’s pretty rough), forget the overwhelming presence of carbohydrates (how many croissants can one girl eat?), forget the strangeness of the bathrooms (I’ll take a picture of this sometime). 

Right now, it’s 8:45 at night and it looks like 6 PM. The sun shows no sign of setting anytime soon, even though I know it’s supposed to go down around 9:30. It’s made sleeping a little bit complicated, because I don’t realize how late at night it is because the sun is up for so long. But it’s also one of the more interesting elements of Europe, I’ve found. Young people don’t go out until much later than at home – in fact, it’s pretty common to not go out until midnight or so. It’s interesting, but it’s also a challenge considering classes begin at 9 in the morning and I like my sleep!

Honestly, I haven’t been going out that much. It’s just one of the things I’ve noticed, and felt like saving for posterity. So, family and other adults who are looking at this, don’t worry. I haven’t become a raging drunk.

I went to Bordeaux this weekend with Chloe, Hanna, Jillian, and Matthew, and it was really interesting! The city is absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect for sightseeing. When we got there we found this absolutely enormous flea market with a bunch of interesting and old stuff. We even saw a gas mask from World War I, which I was overwhelmingly tempted to buy because I’m such a history dork. Later, we had this great Italian lunch at this little restaurant, and it was absolutely  delicious. I’ve been trying really hard to not be so picky with food, and I’m glad I wasn’t. 

Bordeaux is so historical and old, and I learned a lot about the city when we went to the local museum. It was entirely in French, bien sur, but that’s the whole purpose of coming here, right? 

I’m a little less homesick than I was before, but that’s mostly because I’ve holed myself up in my room for the past several days and generally hidden. I didn’t realize it would be so hard for me to force myself out of my shell and actually experience Europe – rather, I thought I’d assimilate immediately and flawlessly. I should have drawn on my past experiences and realized that’s entirely not in my personality. Group dynamics, to be blunt, freak me out, especially when they’re in another language. I’m also feeling rather insecure about my French skills, and I keep making absolutely idiotic mistakes in class because I’m so nervous. Today, I wrote “je te revaudras” instead of “je te revaudrai”, which, for those of you who are familiar with french, is an absolutely elementary and idiotic mistake. My professor clearly thinks I’m an idiot, and I keep reinforcing that opinion by stammering and clamming up whenever she speaks to me. I like the class, though. I just hope the mistakes and anxiety stop soon.

To be honest, though, I’m not sure whether or not I want to stay for the second session. Pau is beautiful and France is amazing, but I feel like I’m thinking myself into this horrible, unfortunate place where I’m developing an American-centric way of perceiving the world. I’m excited to see more of Europe, though, and instead of taking classes I might just try and backpack around western Europe or something. I’d like to see Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the rest of France, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough courage to do something like that on my own. 

Anyway. I hope all is well at home. I miss everyone, so, so much. Skype is a wonderful thing, though, and please let me know if you’d like to have a nice long skype session! 

The first days!

Three days after I landed, I’ve finally adjusted to the time difference enough to write a coherent blog post! I didn’t think a measly six hour time difference would be enough to throw me, especially since I flew over here on a red eye, but it’s been quite the adjustment. So far, I’ve woken up every night around midnight and stayed awake until 1:30 or 2. Granted, it’s only been two nights, so I suppose that will likely change.

The plane ride was uneventful, thankfully. Those who were with me in the days leading up to the actual flight would know that I basically had a panic attack anytime someone mentioned it, or if it came up in my own thoughts. I’m still not huge on the idea of flying across the Atlantic Ocean, but I slept through most of the journey and didn’t have to look at the huge abyss of water underneath the plane.

Once we got to Charles de Gaulle, though, the real excitement began. Most things were, of course, in French, and I quickly realized that despite fourteen years of taking the language I was rather inept at communications. Thankfully, Chloe asked the flight attendants on the first flight what terminal we would need to go to – 2G.

2G, however, is about as far away from where we landed as it could possibly be. A tram, bus, and lots of running later, we arrived at the gate to discover that we missed out flight – or so we (and the flight attendant) thought. After standing in line at the Air France terminal for fifteen minutes, extremely thirsty and coated in a rather revolting layer of sweat, we discovered the attendant was incorrect and the flight hadn’t even arrived. Naturally, we were extremely relieved. After a small delay, the flight took off and an hour and a half later we arrived in Pau with minimal event. We were lucky – neither of us lost our baggage, but plenty of other people did.

My first interaction with a French person was, unfortunately, extremely hostile. I attempted to order a croissant and must have been terribly insulting as I stammered over the language barrier, and the barista decided she did not like me, and made that very clear as she swore and insulted me for being an American. I’m rather shy, and that just put me in a horrible mood. A few minutes later, when I tried to buy a tomato at the local grocery store, a similar event happened and I became entirely overwhelmed and uninterested in eating.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been really rough. A lot of me wants to come home instead of staying for the second session (which would bring me back around the beginning of July), but I’m giving it a week and seeing if I warm up to the whole environment. My dorm is… Not pleasant. The center of Pau is absolutely, unimaginably beautiful (and I’ll put up pictures soon), but that’s like telling someone who’s living in Dorchester that they’re actually in downtown Boston right across from the Common. Needless to say, it’s been quite a shock for me. I wish, desperately, that I were in a homestay. I feel like that would make the whole experience more beneficial for me, especially since I’m surrounded by entirely Americans! But what’s done is done.

The first class, which I had this morning from 9-12:30 (and that’s how it is five days a week, eugh!) was really good. My professor is absolutely amazing at teaching French to foreigners, and she cleared up some grammar issues that I’ve been having for years in the span of less than an hour. She hasn’t tried the subjunctive yet, though, which is my downfall. I suppose I’ll be able to tell how good she is after that’s been done.

All in all, I miss home. A lot. I miss my family, my friends, my animals, and the English language. I don’t think I’ve ever really realized how lucky I am to live in America. Perhaps it’s just because I’m accustomed to the social graces, but everyone’s a lot nicer at home. Here, smiling at people on the street or simply saying hello when you pass someone is considered extremely forward and, from a female, a come-on. But I suppose I’ll just have to adjust, no?