University of Wisconsin–Madison

J’adore Paris

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What’s that old notion about making it through three days, over the hump, and you’re good? Well, I’ve made it through three days! I have fallen madly in love with this city, just as I expected I would and I honestly can’t believe how much I’ve learned and grown in just three days. I don’t have time to give every detail of those three days but I’ll talk about my highs and lows.

1First off, Amelie’s mother was absolutely amazing in sending me off on the train, and I felt so confident giving the train operator my ticket “Bonjour!” Getting off the train was smooth sailing, even with my now almost 60 pound suitcase, through the metro ticket line, onto the metro. I’m thinking, this is just far to easy…but when you go down into a metro station, you must come back up, with a 60 pound suitcase. Let me tell you, I was a sweaty person after lugging that thing down the street. I got to my program office, checked in and they gave me a simple map for the 10 minute walk to the hotel. Easy, right? Wrong! Silly Ellen went left in the fork on the road instead of right and wandered through the streets of Paris with no sense of direction whatsoever. I believe I asked three people where I was and they still weren’t making sense. After about 45 minutes of wandering I got my bearing as to where I was and where I needed to be. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more happy to see a stupid hotel in my life. The rest of the day was smooth sailing, a quick walking tour, my first french meal, first taste of real French red wine and wonderful company with my classmates. We wandered home the long way and came across Notre Dame. It was absolutely beautiful all lit up at night; I’m hoping to attend mass there this weekend.

Day two wa s just a lot of nerves. We get our homestay assignments. A few orientations in the morning and a quick lunch, followed by a one on one meeting with Beatrice, the woman who assigned our homestays. I learned that I would be living with a grandmother with three children and many grandchildren in the heart of Paris. We all headed back to the hotel to retrieve our suitcases and we waited, less than patiently, for our taxis to arrive to take us individually to our homes. I’ve only been here for a little more than 24 hours, but I can say I think I’m going to like it. My madame has been housing students since the 90’s, so clearly she knows what to expect. After she showed me around, we came back to my room and she said she’d give me some time to unpack before dinner. And then the most adorable “Oh, I’m not speaking too fast for you, am I?” I understood about 90% of what she was saying and she followed that with “Wow, I’m very impressed, you will improve greatly in the next four months!” Just the encouragement I needed.

This morning, I got up, walked to the metro, found my way to the program office, almost as if I’ve lived here for years…it feels like home. I spent the day shopping with 5 of the other girls around “Les Galaries Lafayette” which is the most magnificent place! I was near hyperventilating…Louis Vuitton, and Yves St Laurent, and Chanel, Oh My!


I now have about 16 lists of things I need to buy, places I need to go, things I need to do, etc. I’m mentally exhausted from trying to switch to thinking in french. In writing this entry, I’ve made more spelling errors than I care to share…spelling errors because I started typing something in French instead of English. That’s positive progress, right? It’s time for bed, I have another long day, week, month, semester ahead of me.

Bonne nuit!