A Travellerspoint blog

If I could do it again, you know I'd do it the same

sunny 70 °F
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It was early last October when I began looking into the possibility of studying abroad. Wofford is ranked top five (I believe number two) in the country for the percentage of students that study abroad. There are so many different options open to students that it is overwhelming at first. It took me almost a month to narrow my choices down to three places, Spain, Australia, and France. It took another few weeks to ultimately decide on Paris out of all the options. The certificate in International Management from NEGOCIA is really what sent me this direction.

Although I haven't started class yet, I really am having the time of my life. With the language barrier, I had worried that I would regret the decision to come to France. I really had nothing to worry about though because If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't think twice about the decision. The language barrier makes it really difficult, but it really is a lot of fun.

Yesterday we went on a "field trip" to Versailles. It is about a 30 minute bus ride outside of the city. The palace and gardens are extremely impressive. When we first arrived we had lunch in the gardens and walked around for about an hour and a half before rejoining as a larger group to enter the palace. Inside we had an audio tour of the palace and then we all met back in the gardens. The various gardens were my favorite part. At about 16:15, some of us went outside early, to watch a fountain and music show in the gardens.

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The palace is extremely large and has many rooms but I was a little bit disappointed. As I have mentioned before, it doesn't seem that the french take the best care of everything. I was disappointed to see graffiti on walls and etched into the mirrors inside the palace. Biltmore Estate is kept in much better shape, in my opinion. I do hope to return to Versailles again before I leave to see some of the things I didn't get a chance to see.

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We got back to our houses and apartments at about 6pm yesterday. I stopped at the boulangerie on the corner and grabbed a baguette sandwich that I ate while I was walking home. I took a quick nap and then got ready to go out with some friends. We went to a club in the Latin quarter. The Latin quarter is where all of the french students go on the weekend. We had a good time but I was certainly ready to go to bed at the end of the evening! I got back about 03:00 and slept until 11.

Today has just been a good day for everyone to rest. A lot of people went to museums but I decided not to go. I am about to get ready and go grab something to eat.

Language classes start tomorrow.

Posted by harcegnt 17:02 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Bienvenue vers Paris!

overcast 54 °F
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Hello everyone! I am surprised to see how many people subscribe to this blog and actually sign on to read it. I do get to see stats on all that stuff and I am glad I actually write something you want to read!

Today, overall, was a pretty good day. It rained for the better part of the day but it really wasn't a hard rain. It would start lightly raining for about 30 minutes then stop for an hour or so and then resume. From what I understand that is fairly average weather for this time of the year. This morning started our 2nd day of orientation.

Wade and I began the morning having breakfast with our host Mom. The past two days we have woken up at 7:30am and taken showers. When we walk down stairs and into the main house to take our shower, our host mother is already sitting at the table, with breakfast waiting. After the showers, we sit and eat. During the weekdays, Parisians tend to have a continental breakfast and have their heavier breakfasts on the weekends. Cereal, bread, jam, and coffee are commonly seen on the table. We have two choices for cereal, variants of captain crunch or corn flakes. Although not a big fan back in the US, the last two mornings I have opted for the Captain Crunch. This morning I also ripped (yes Parisians use there hands when eating all the time) a piece of yesterdays baguette and had it with Jam. Orange juice and water are the drink of choice for me. It is actually Orange juice imported from Florida! The first day of Breakfast was slightly strange because I did not know whether or not to drink the left over milk out of the bowl. I didn't want to be wasteful and leave it but I also didn't want to be rude and put the bowl up to my mouth if that is something they normally wouldn't do. I debated in my head and ultimately just asked Madame. She said whatever we want. (Wade was having the same dilemma). So we drank it.

I have only had one dinner with my host. The first night she made us grilled cheese with ham and an over easy egg on top. It was actually pretty good. I don't know what kind of cheese she used, but it was very nice. We have three dinners a week with our host and we have decided on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The meals are supposed to be three course and I am looking forward to actually having home cooked food while I am here.

Last night and tonight I went to Monoprix (the supermarket) and bought food for dinner. Both nights I had a PastaBox, which is prepared pasta you microwave. It is actually quite tasty.

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I also purchased a case of water and apple juice to keep in my room. Of course a trip to the Monoprix would not be complete without some candy so I also have a stash of that in my room. There is a fruit stand on my way home from the metro station, where I stopped and picked up some grapes and bananas today.

Ok. Enough talking about food!

This morning Wade and I took the same Metro route as we did yesterday, only today we did not get lost. But one of our Metro trains ended up breaking while we were at a station. If only I could have understood the announcements they were making over the intercom! We ended up just following everyone else onto a different train which ended up being the same line. We have to switch trains two times and take three different lines, but I think we got it down by now. I enjoy riding the metro because it is easy, but the people really do smell bad. I just want to bring a giant bottle of febreeze with me and spray them all down. It really does get bad sometimes. One of the Metro lines we take does take us over the river Seine and right past the Eiffel tower every day, it really is a sight to behold! After my intensive session is over in two weeks, I wont be taking the metro to school. Since I will be enrolled at a French University I wont need to go to the IES center for classes and the University is only a 12 minute walk from my house, although I hope to buy a used bike from a used bike shop that I saw not too far from the house.

Today's orientation covered topics such as meeting french people and doing things that the locals do. I know I said enough about food but I forgot that we had lunch on our own today. A few friends and I walked to a local cafe and sat outside. We each had a salad and the three of us shared a bottle of white wine. It was really nice to sit at the Cafe and watch the people go by. Paris is great for people watching.

After lunch we had one more orientation session then we took the metro to the Eiffel tower where we boarded a tour boat on the River Seine. It was a nice ride to see all the monuments but I really can't wait to actually go in them and see them up close!

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Some nice homes along the river.

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One of the many bridges

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I know there are a few things in this building but all I remember is that there is an Aquarium

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The Louvre

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Notre Dame

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The Eiffel Tower

After the boat tour many of us went back to our apartments and home stays to sleep. The jetlag has been catching up to majority of the group. Around 4pm we all just drop dead! Before I could go back though, I needed to go and buy a cell phone. I first stopped into the cell phone store by my house but they were all out of the phone I wanted. It took me a while before I found another phone store. This one had the phone, but my fears came true when the sales person only spoke french! I managed to get by very well though and got the phone and plan that I wanted. Most people in the group just got the cheap flip phone, but although it took two days to navigate through the french websites, I did my research and learned that if I bought a more expensive phone, I could use the student discount (only on purchases over 100 euros) which ended up making my much nicer phone cheaper than the ones they got. I got a touch screen phone but I like it because I can put songs on it and it has an FM radio built in. Small novelty's but I think I got a pretty good deal! I was pretty proud of the way I have managed to get through the cell phone purchase, two trips to the super makret, and a trip to the fruit stand, all with workers that speak no English. I think I am really starting to adapt well to being here. I can't wait to start my french classes on Monday so that I can actually speak a little bit more to the locals and understand what they are saying to me.

We get to sleep in Tomorrow! and IES is taking us on a trip to Versailles. A group of us also made plans to go out clubbing tomorrow so I will be sure to share that experience with you all!

Bonsoir!

Posted by harcegnt 00:14 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Thoughts after the 1st day

rain 38 °F
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It is 00:45 (12:45am) here in Paris and although I really should be sleeping, I cant sleep. Naturally, I decided to get on the computer and update the blog. If I remember correctly, yesterday I promised to tell you more about my host family and bedroom.

When I arrived at 21 rue Theodore de Banville, I was surprised at how nice the building was. I first entered the code into the keypad and opened the large glass doors. I walked through a short hall out to a garden with large trees, surrounded by the building. Inside was a call button to call up to my host family. The only information I had about my host family was that it was an older retired woman with older children and grand kids. I reluctantly pushed the button...

I made the decision to live with a host family over living in an apartment. The decision for me was actually really easy. It really fell in line with the reasons I chose to study abroad and the reason I chose the NEGOCIA program, over a typical study abroad program. I didn't want to go abroad and study with strictly American kids and I didn't want to finish my classes and then go back with the other students and speak in English all of the time. Although I can squeak out a mere 5 words in french, I really hope to speak it by the end of this Semester. I knew that living with a host family would provide me with everything I was looking for. I don't just want to study in France. I hope to assimilate as much as I can into the culture.

Its a big step moving in with a foreign family. Imagine staying at a friends or even another relatives house in America. You are still in the same country and the will family likely operate different than yours. They probably eat different food and have different habits. Even within the comfort zone of the United States it is sometimes strange to stay with another person. Now imagine doing that in a foreign country with a family that barely understands a word you say and you barely understand them! This was definitely a big step...

The voice over the intercom sounded pleasant and told me to push floor six. I came inside to a large marble staircase and an elevator to my right. I paused for a moment and decided there was absolutely no way I was lugging one hundred pounds of luggage up seven flights of stairs. (Paris counts the first floor as "0" not "1" like the US) I pushed the button for the elevator and when it came I managed to cram all of my stuff and myself in and rode it up to the top, where I was greeted warmly by my host mother. I immediatley asked if she spoke english, she said "very little", we both laughed and went inside. The house is nicer than I expected. It is old, with a lot of old furniture and hand carved columns. (I later learned it was build in 1900)

I set the luggage down in the foyer and my host family asked me "do you drink?" Naturally I thought she was asking me if I drink alcohol, as I would think of the same question in the US. I responded "Wine?" She looked at me funny and said Nooooooo! Juice or Water. I think she meant to say "do you want a drink". She thought I told her I wanted wine to drink. Great, 10 minutes and my host mom thinks I am an alcoholic!

We sat at the kitchen table and had some water. She really does not speak much english, but more english than my french. We ended up just laughing at each other a lot because neither of us understood what the other was saying. After about 20 minutes of conversation she showed me around the house and then took me to my bedroom. I have what is called a chamber de bonne, so a separate living space from the house. The floor that I am living on has its own separate entrance, elevator, and entrance. I have full access to the main house, but it is nice to have a separate entrance.

My bedroom consists of a desk, an elevated bed with storage underneath, and a kitchenette with a microwave, sink, and mini-fridge. I like having the kitchenette as it means I can do some light cooking and store cold water.

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The bed is a little rough but overall I feel comfortable in the room. Overtime I am sure it will start to fell like my own.

My family back home knows I like to keep my window in my bedroom open as much as I can. Well, here I can do it whenever I want. There is no air conditioning so that is the method of cooling the room. I like leaving it open because I get to hear all of the traffic outside. The weather has been fairly cool. It gets in the high 40's at night and maybe the low 60's during the day. Here is the view out of my bedroom window. The buildings right in front are all other apartments and there is a courtyard down below.

My housemate, Wade, had quite a bit of trouble getting to the house yesterday. At one point he was missing in Paris. The taxi had dropped him off at the apartment but two hours later he still had not arrived. With no cell phones yet, it was really quite a fiasco. He was supposed to arrive at 11am but at about 5pm, when we still had not seen him and he hadn't been seen by IES, the study abroad coordinator, Madame and I decided we had better go look. We ended up finding him at the bottom of the stairs. He didn't know how to get to the apartment once in the building. For some reason IES sent those directions to me and not him. All was okay though, he was found in the end.

Earlier this evening my voltage converter must have failed and I didn't realize until about 10 minutes ago. I will have to buy a new one tomorrow and unfortunately that means the end of the blog for today. I still have a lot to tell you so look for a new post tomorrow. I will tell you about the food I have been eating and the first two days of orientation.

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Posted by harcegnt 00:28 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Finally Arrived in Paris!

rain 40 °F
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I finally made it to Paris! My flight from Chicago to Amsterdam left on time and arrived into Amsterdam early. The flight was fairly uneventful. There were quite a few students on the plane but they were going to all different places. Spain and Italy were probably the top, with a few coming to France. None with IES though, the company that organized my trip.

While I was waiting in the airport, after I was done hearing about Johan and his eating habits, I noticed this group of rowdy middle aged men dressed in the same clothing. If you have seen the movie Eurotrip, think of the Manchester United Football Team. It was pretty much just like that, It turns out that they were the Valentino Rossie fan club. Apparently Valentino Rossi is a professional motorcycle driver and his fan club had followed him over to Indianapolis! The ten of them were all seated in different rows spread amongst maybe 6 different rows. They were constantly yelling at each other back and forth throughout the first three hours of the flight. After dinner was served, the cabin lights dimmed and they had enough heineken in them by that point that they slept like babies. That is, until they woke for breakfast and resumed their shenanigans.

Dinner was served about an hour into the flight. I had a good pasta dish with a red wine. It was accompanied by some strange side dish, a roll, and a sponge cake. I ate everything but the side dish. I don't even have any clue what it was. After dinner I fell asleep. When I woke up, I could have sworn I had slept for 4 hours but really it was only 2 hours. That is all the sleep I got. I started reading a book for about an hour when the lights came on and they started serving breakfast. We crossed into a different time zone, and it was breakfast time there, so naturally they served us breakfast. I thought it was a little crazy at first but it really tricked my brain into thinking that 6am was really the right time for me and not 11pm. As a result I really haven't suffered from any Jetlag.

For breakfast we had strawberry yogurt with a chocolate chip sweet roll and apple juice. The flight landed about 45 minutes early, which was good because I ended up needing that extra time to go through the Amsterdam airport. It took me about 1.5 hours to get from the arrival gate, through security/customs, and to the departure gate.

One thing that really shocked me was the lack of order when it came time to board the plane. The agent came over the loud speaker and said she was going to begin boarding for Paris. Then she opened the door, everyone jumped out of their seat and rushed to the door. It was chaos! There was no order or anything. I was surprised at how everyone was cutting in line and the way they felt entitled to cut in line and that they should get to go on board ahead of you.

The flight from Amsterdam to Paris only took 50 minutes, although it was scheduled to take 1.5 hours. The crew managed to serve us a drink and breakfast (again) all in 50 minutes. I was very impressed.

After landing in Paris I gathered my baggage from baggage claim. I talked with three other students as we were waiting for our luggage. They go to school in Mississippi and are here studying Art. After retrieving my bags, I made my way to the ATM to withdraw some Euros and then purchased a bus ticket to the center of the city. The bus ticket only cost 15 euros, which is a big savings over the 60 euros it would cost to take a taxi. The bus was great! It dropped me off right in front of the Arch de Triomphe, which is only a ten minute walk from my house.

On the bus ride from the airport I was surprised to see so much graffiti and trash on the streets. In the center city it is not bad, but it seems they don't really take care of many areas outside the city. Even the airport itself had a lot of trash and graffiti outside.

I am going to have to leave you in suspense there as I really need to get off to bed. I managed to not sleep at all since I have landed in Paris so when I wake up tomorrow morning I should be right on schedule with the time.

Tomorrow I will update you with some more information on my host family as well as a few pictures of my bedroom.

Bon Soir!

For some reason its not running spell check, so ignore any misspellings for today.

Posted by harcegnt 20:15 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

Johan should eat more vegetables

sunny 21 °F
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I am currently sitting at my gate waiting for departure. I have about two hours until I leave. My excitment and anticipation level has definitely increased significantly. I spent this morning running around everywhere and trying to get last minute things taken care of.

I managed to cram four months worth of stuff into one large suitcase and one small suitcase. I was a little worried about the weight of the bags, but the large one squeaked by at 49lbs and 4oz.

I recently realized how difficult it is in going to be not to have my blackberry while I am in France. That thing is seriously attached to my hip. Think of how difficult it is when you leave your cell phone at home for the day. Now just imagine not having it for four months. It stresses me out.

I just got done having an intense conversation with the lady sitting next to me at the gate. She kept going on and on about how Johan should be a vegetarian, but he doesn't like vegetables. Hmmm. Sounds like quite a dilemma. It took me a good ten minutes to realize that Johan was her husband. I wonder why she she felt it so important to share this piece of information with me. In case you were wondering, she also like snickers bars. She did have an accent but I wasn't able to distinguish it. I didn't ask her wear she was from in fear of hearing a long winded story about one of her other relatives.

The terminal is really filled up. I will be traveling on a 747 which is a two story airplane. There are definitely enough people in the terminal to fill a plane that large.

Also, if anyone knows where Earl Jenkins is, please tell him that Mexican Air has been paging him every five minutes for the last 45 minutes. In Spanish and English.

I still have a two banks left to call and we will be boarding soon. I will check in when I arrive in Paris.

Posted by harcegnt 14:01 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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