Friday, August 27, 2010

First Post in la Belle France

Wow! My first few days in France have been wonderful, but I have been so busy that I have only just found the time to write a post after being here for almost three days. What a beautiful country, though!

To begin, the trip here was a little long, but everything went very smoothly. I definitely enjoyed the flight from Philadelphia to Paris much better than the flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia, as over half the people on the Philadelphia/Paris flight were French (and thus speaking French). This was my first taste of language immersion, which was only topped once I arrived in Paris and was surrounded my nothing but French. Immersion is simply the very best way to learn a language, in my opinion, as I think I have already doubled my vocabulary since I arrived! Of course, it will take more time to absorb all this, but I think there is no better way to adapt to a language, to expand one's vocabulary, and to learn to speak like a native than to just immerse oneself completely. This is especially true for me, since I am living with a French couple with almost no knowledge of the English language (It has been difficult, yet fun at the same time.).

One of the first things I noticed after I arrived is that everything is much smaller in France, which I really like. Unfortunately, the prices do not seem any smaller (and are perhaps even larger...), but I still love seeing all the tiny cars and the beautiful little houses. The house I am staying in is absolutely wonderful, as well. I have my own bedroom with a twin-sized bed, my own little bathroom with a tiny corner shower, and a closet that is relatively large by Parisian standards. The whole house seems like a work of art, as it was constructed in the 19th century and my "host father" insists on buying as much period artwork and furniture as possible. My host father is also very handy around the house (le bricolage), so everything is in fantastic shape, with many modern amenities for such an old house. I have not had a chance to take any pictures of the house yet, but they should come very soon.

In the midst of all the business I have had to take care of, including applying for a metro card, a residence card, and a French bank account (with a whopping 3% interest for students!!), I have still been able to partake in the French joie de vivre. So far, I have been able to take a few walks through Bures sur Yvette, the quaint town where I am staying, including a stroll through the nearby park. I was also able to go to Versailles yesterday, which was simply breath-taking. I took tons of pictures there (about 150 in only a couple hours), and I plan to post them soon to a photo website, though for now I will try to add a couple to this blog post if I can figure that out. It was amazing to see the beautiful château filled with works of art, from famous paintings by David that cover an entire wall, to ornate furniture in excellent condition.

Another important aspect of the French way of life that I have enjoyed so far has been French cooking. Wow! Every lunch and dinner I have had since my arrival has had at least three or four courses, and it everything has been superb. We have also had French bread and cheese at nearly every meal. While the cheese is wonderful (especially tonne de savoie), I have been a little disappointed by the bread. Perhaps I need to go to a bread shop (boulangerie) one day and buy some fresh bread...

I guess that is about all for now. Of course, everything is not completely perfect (there is SO much paperwork to do for everything and I seem to notice a lot of graffiti, which surprised me a little at first...), but I have really had a great time adjusting to life in France. For now, I am about to venture into Paris for the first time, so expect another post to follow about my first venture into the City of Lights.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Week to Go

With exactly one week before I hope to be on a plane heading to Paris, I have decided to try my first blog post. This post is mostly practice, as I have no exciting European adventures to report yet. I will say that I plan to update this blog weekly while in Europe, hopefully both in English and en français. The rest of today's post will just be a few reflections as I prepare to leave, so feel free to skip the rest of this post and wait for a more interesting entry after I arrive in Paris.

Ever since I found out about the Sciences Po exchange program at Tech, I have felt nothing but excitement and anticipation. I have wanted to go to France for about as long as I can remember, and I could not believe I would finally get to go my junior year. As my departure draws ever closer, though, I have started to feel a mélange of emotions--while I am eagerly counting down the days until my departure, I am really starting to get butterflies in my stomach. I know that this will be a life-changing experience, though, and I can't wait to get started!

I guess my current background image (a cheesy, "artsy" picture of the Eiffel Tower) represents my thoughts right now: I have so many stereotypical ideas of what I think Paris will be like, of the experiences I plan to have, and of the friendships I hope to form while I am there, yet I realize the real Paris--what I find beyond the trendy cafés and museum gift shops--will surpass all my expectations.

Until my next post in Paris,