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?


8 thoughts on “The first days!

  1. aunt sheila says:

    The French actually pride themselves on their boorish, rude, and unfriendly behaviour. So. Screw em. DON’T TAKE IT TO HEART. IT REALLY IS THEM, NOT YOU. I have lots to say on your trip, but I am at work, so will keep this short, for now. Know that you CAN do this. You CAN and WILL not only survive it, but will adjust and have fun, so long as you remember a few things: learning a language is not easy. Reading writing comes easily for most folks. Listening does not….except when they are cussing. Ha. You don’t have to make the French happy. You can’t. They resent Americans of EVERY background and French speaking abilities. That’s not to say you won’t find friends or someone with whomto practice French. Dang. This keybord is too small. I have to do this later. I am so proud of you and a bit envious. You are out of your comfort zone and I have found that to be the place where I have done the most growing…..learning…..experiencing. it is hard, kiddo, but it is so cool.

  2. Kelsea says:

    Ahhhh la joie du sud de France. The south of France is known for its inhospitability. But I wouldn’t worry about it, I’m sure you will become more and more comfortable and you will find that people will become more and more friendly as you start getting a better handle on your french. Chin up 🙂

    • thanks kels (: it’s really amazing how inhospitable a lot of people have been so far! but i’ve also interacted with some people who are really accommodating and laugh about my horrible american accent.

      also, the professor i have for french is AMAZING and has cleared up things Nance could not at all. she actually reminds me of nance, except good at teaching.

      when are you coming to france, btw, to study abroad?! and where are you going? paris?

      • Kelsea says:

        Hey girl I’m going there August 24 and then I am going to Paris Diderot for the year.

  3. Kristy says:

    Hey- just to chime in…. Th French don’t smile, but they DO say something when you pass by. Bonjour or bonsoir in the evening. Just FYI.

  4. Anonymous says:

    All these comments about the French being inhospitable. Please do not make generalizations. The French would not take in American students if they hated everything about Americans. And contrary to priding themselves on being rude, they actually have customs, just as we do. They’re different than us, and is that such a problem? I’m also on this program and I have not run into a single person who has been outwardly disgruntled. In fact, I have had people go out of their way to help me learn new words while I’m in stores, and they always are very happy that I’m making an attempt to speak French. I wish you the best on this program, and I can only hope that you can learn to appreciate the French culture for what it is instead of what you expect it to be.

    • carolinegrady40 says:

      Perhaps you misunderstand me, and the people who have commented here.

      I have had, for the most part, rather friendly experiences since my first interaction with a french person. The first experience, retrospectively, was a linguistic mistake I made while trying to order a croissant – in French, of course. I would never make the arrogant presumption of speaking English to someone in a country where that isn’t the native language, just as I would expect the same courtesy when at home.

      It’s wonderful for you that you haven’t experienced someone who was disgruntled with your American-ness. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the same pleasure – and first impressions, especially when they are made after 15 hours of travelling and some truly hideous jetlag, have a way of sticking for a bit.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am sorry for making presumptions about you. However, I have a problem with “The French actually pride themselves on their boorish, rude, and unfriendly behaviour. So. Screw em. DON’T TAKE IT TO HEART. IT REALLY IS THEM, NOT YOU.” and “The south of France is known for its inhospitability.” I was too harsh in the way I said things, yes. I apologize. I don’t want to start a fight, just want to acknowledge that it’s not the French people’s fault either. It’s no one’s fault, just a misunderstanding. However, there are still some rude French people, just like you will find everywhere. Like the waitress. That was uncalled for, I agree. Again, I wish you the best and hopefully you’ll run into some super nice people soon!

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