Bonjour mes amis! I have arrived in Paris and my first weekend here is coming to a close. What a whirlwind of excitement, nervousness and experiences. I’m excited to gather my thoughts and share with you my first couple of stories.
If you read my last post, you would know that packing was something that I struggled with but I managed to finish it! Regardless, I kind of had a feeling I would be over the 50 pound (22.7 kilos) limit and what do you know… I was. By three kilos. Thankfully, the flight worker let me go without having to pay the $100 overcharge fee. The flight was pretty smooth and I was in premium level seating (thanks Mom and Dad!) with extra legroom and super comfortable seating. I felt like such an American girl when I had to have the French businessman sitting next to me help me get my carry on suitcase in the overhead compartment above me. Also, I will give 20 Euros to the person who can tell me if they have a comfortable sleeping position in a plane. Because I sure can’t.
Flash forward to when I landed at Charles de Gaulee (and the fact that I was in Paris still had not hit me at this point). Paris is divided into 20 “divisions,” or what the French call arrondissements, which were laid out in 1860. Within the city limits of the arrondissements, there are about 120,000 people but with the combined population of the surrounding suburbs, there are about 10 million people total.
After about a 45-minute drive into the city from the airport (French traffic is horrendous and there are motorcycles that zoom in and out of every lane), we arrived at our new home. I live at the The Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, which is a unique thing to the
Parisians and Paris as a city. It’s pretty normal to us in the United States, but when students go to a university here, they live in apartments around the city and then take classes in their designated areas. The Cité is made up of houses that are named after each country. For example, I live in Maison des Provinces de France and there are other houses such as the Cambodian House, the Greek House or the Egypt House. Sometimes the country actually gave their designated house to the country as a gift. The really cool part about this university is that 50% of each house has to house people of the country that it’s named after and the other 50% have to house other nationalities, which means there are about 120 nationalities around you at all times. The rooms are nice and what are typical of a dorm/residence hall with two beds, a desk, areas for clothes and a bathroom in the room (see picture)
The remainder of our day (which seems like a big blur because we were all super jet lagged), we learned how to use the Metro (which is SUPER easy), and got a free dinner at the ACCENT Center, which is where our classes are held. Everyone at the center is extremely helpful and enjoying welcoming everyone there. After that, it was off to sleep to catch up on the sleep we lost.
The second day, after we were refreshed and awoken a little more, we had ACCENT orientation where we learned about French customs and the rules of the program. Afterwards, we went on a Seine River boat tour, which is a total tourist thing to do but something that gives you a great view of how the city is laid out and what buildings are in relation to what buildings. Paris has a love affair with bridges and there are 47 bridges across the Seine River, each with their own personality.
That night we decided to check out Paris nightlife and found a bar that was pretty American-ized. The crowd spoke mostly English and they even played American music. Trust me, I was excited when they played Lady Gaga. The only down side to our night was finding a cab to get home since we were in a very central location where there are a ton of people who all want to get home.
I started speaking French right away in high school and then my entire freshman year at the UW but unfortunately, had to stop taking it if I didn’t want to major in it. My French is nowhere near perfect but it’s gotten me around the city and gotten me what I need. I will admit that it’s a little frustrating when I speak French to someone and they respond back to English and I really want to have a French conversation. I am one of three people in our program who speak French.
I absolutely adore the people in my program. There are only eleven of us so we have really gotten to know each other and we feel really comfortable around each other, which is nice since we’ve had a lot of learning experiences together. Something I really had a blind eye towards was that studying abroad is full of experiences that will be something you didn’t necessary think you signed up for and will be hard. And I’m excited and ready for them because they’re all experiences I can say I’ve had. Of course, they won’t be easy to overcome when they happen.
Monday is the start of our French film class, but this week we have a French survival course for two hours before our three-hour film class. It will extremely nice to brush up on my French skills. Hopefully I’ll have better French-filled conversations with the Parisians soon!
Talk to you soon, mes amis! Here’s to the adventures to come!