Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learning How to Learn

The past few days have been rather stressful. Though I have somewhere to live right now, I can only be here for a month so I'm actively looking for somewhere to live. Today, I oh so proudly called regarding four different possible places. Two home stays and two apartments. I felt so good about myself. The people I spoke to didn't speak the greatest of English, but somehow we were able to communicate enough to make an appointment for me to come see the room. So proud of myself! It was rough, but I'm glad to be going somewhere in this housing search. 

Right now, in the Welcome Program at Sciences Po, we are taking what is called a methodology class. We are taught the thinking process that is expected of us in our classes here in Paris. It's not the most fun class I've ever sat through, but I understand why it's important, and as I learned this summer, I just have to deal with it! Basically, they placed us in this class to teach us how they teach us. Meta. 

The Welcome Program is also organizing a "bar-a-day" activity where they pick a different bar each night of this week for everyone to meet at and hang out with each other. Last night was tons of fun. We completely took over and I met people from all over the place. I've started to realize that this is going to be the best part of this trip. Even though Paris is such an incredible city and I'm insanely lucky to be here, I think I'm going to enjoy the people I meet the most. Learning all the cultural differences and being made fun of for saying "AMMURRICA"is so much fun. I did finally meet some local French people! There was a group of four who had a friend studying at Sciences Po. I wound up talking to two boys who were absolutely hilarious. Even though the language barrier were difficult, they were definitely telling jokes and being silly, which was the best. Love meeting people from around the world, of course, but so happy to meet some people actually from France!

Notre Dame
Tonight, I went on a walking tour around the Notre Dame. We didn't cover much area, but the small part we saw was so beautiful. We also walked right over the spot that is on the movie poster for "Midnight in Paris" which was really fun. Overall, I'm doing well! Still having a bit of a hard time adjusting and struggling with the whole not speaking French thing, but I think once classes start and I have a real routine, things will be much better. Thanks for reading!

Midnight in Paris poster!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lost in Paris

Today was quite the day. My new Canadian friend, Ksenia, and I decided to take the metro into the center of Paris and walk around. We debarked at a stop down the street from the Eiffel Tower to have a nice walk there. As soon as I stepped off the train, I was overwhelmed. I'll sound like a silly little American girl when I say this, but I was stunned by the city and all the sights. Everything is just so beautiful! 

Seeing the Eiffel Tower was unreal. How I felt reminded me a lot of when I went to Israel and saw the Western Wall. It's one of those things you see pictures of and hear about all the time, but you never think you'll ever really get to see. Yet, there is was, all big and beautiful right in front of me. It's a Saturday so it was fairly crowded. Ksenia and I plan on going back eventually to head to the top, but it was insanely crowded today with people lining up forever at all four sides. 

After the Eiffel Tower, we decided to just walk around a bit. We came upon this adorable carousel and I just had to take a photo. Too cute. We walked around a lot and went pretty far, and we were suddenly facing the Arc de Triomphe. Such a lovely surprise! At this point I was getting a little bit tired. It was a lot of walking so we decided to look for a cafe or something to sit down at. We went into a little bakery and bought some goodies then sat down on a bench. Ksenia, being the little explorer she is, saw, on our map, a giant green area right outside Paris near where we were and wanted to go check it out. It wound up being an adorable (but large) park. So we were walking through and popped out the other side near a map. We looked at it and figured out if we went down the right street we would hit a metro station to take us home. This was about 4 hours into our day of nonstop walking so I was pretty ready to go home. Unfortunately, we did not go down the right street. We wound up walking farther into the park and farther away from the metro station. We checked out a map and couldn't quite figure out how to get to the metro station. So we asked an interesting lady (well Ksenia asked in French) who sent us down the street we were on. We think she may have been a gypsy! Not sure how we came to that conclusion but that's what we decided based on the facts in front of us. We continued down the street and decided to ask another man because were kinda lost again. It seemed as though he was about to send us BACK down the same street we had just walked up. Mind you, this was a long street and a far walk, so we were too happy about that. The man could clearly see we were confused, so he told us he would walk us to the metro station. It was, again, kind of a far walk and I couldn't believe how nice he was being to completely stop what he was doing to walk us to the train station. My friend translated for me later the conversation they had had in French. Turns out he moved here from Algeria without his family to find work. He was so kind and we were so thankful to him.

After an exhausting day of walking, I met up with some other exchange students in someone's dorm room and chatted with them for about an hour and half. It was really fun and nice to be hanging out with a bunch of people all together. Finally feeling all settled in. Heading to go grocery shopping tomorrow, hoping to something more to eat than apples, yogurt, and cookies. Oh and cereal. But I have no bowl. Or milk. Or spoons. Goodnight!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Power to the People

That's right everyone! I MADE IT!!! I made it to Paris all by myself like the big girl that I am. The road here wasn't too bumpy but there were definitely some interesting occurrences. Immediately after my mom and uncle dropped me off at the Air France terminal, a slew of interesting and eclectic people began to grace my presence. Let's just say, if you were to put them all together in one place, it would be the motliest crew of all time. These strange yet wonderful people will help guide us through my journey to, and my first day in, Paris. If you don't really care how many times I went to the bathroom before getting on the plan or my train ride, that's fine. But I advise you continue on even if just for the people I encountered.

Going through security wasn't too bad. I'm a pro at it by now and I have a good system going. In front of me was a man whose only carry on item was a boogie board. He must've been going somewhere nice! After security, I decided to pace around the terminal a bit and make some last phone calls. I tried to separate myself from most people so as not to disturb their joyous wait for their planes, yet a man wearing a shirt that read "YEAH BUDDY!" decided to sit rather close to me. His choice. I'm sure he enjoyed my conversations. I then, of course had to go to the restroom a few times before boarding. During one of my visits, I was washing my hands and suddenly noticed a nun standing next to me. She looked great. As I was sitting at the gate, they started making some announcements. They say the announcements in both French and English which is much appreciated. They started calling some names of people that needed to head on over to the front desk. You've got your French names, some American names. But when the lady with her French accent, over the loud speaker, attempts to pronounce an Japanese or Chinese name? I lost it, but quietly to myself. Once on the plane, I settled in and pulled out the Air France magazine. To my surprise, the state of Montana was the cover story. Whatever they're doing over there in Montana that makes them worthy of the cover of Air France magazine...keep on keepin' on.

It was smooth sailing once I arrived in France. It took me a while to find a bathroom, which was rough, and after customs, which is scary. As I was heading into the ladies room, a finely dressed monk appeared from the men's room. Maybe he and the nun talked and wanted to make sure I was safe. Oh so proudly, I made it on the train heading to Paris. The first stop was the other terminal in the airport and, lucky for me, a man with an accordion boarded while playing "Happy Birthday." His second piece was one that strongly resembled a rendition of "Aloha, oy." Whatever he was playing, I was into it. He was on the train behind me and I didn't want to be all tourist-y and turn around and look, but COME ON. I was given a train ride to Paris set to a live accordion soundtrack. (This is where the motley crew ends, but pictures are coming!) I then debarked the train at the correct stop and lo and behold, my dorm neighborhood was right across the street.

I'm staying at a place called La Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris. It houses international students and each building is themed to a different country and that country's style. I am in the building called Collège Franco-Britannique, a little combination of French and British. I entered the room and was not surprised by the size, which can be viewed below. Sorry (Mom) about the mess. I haven't slept in about two days and haven't had a chance to unpack yet.

What I was surprised by, however, was this sight.

To the right of that elevated mini room is my toilet. To the left, my shower. I still have yet to get inside as it's quite a small space and let's be real here, I'm a little scared.

After the room exploration, I made a new friend from Canada and we walked around running some errands. It's absolutely beautiful here. It honestly looks like a movie set. It's so unreal to me. Those little chimneys at the tops of the apartment buildings are just so cute. It's probably going to take a while to adjust to everything but I'm feeling good so far! Tomorrow is the first day of the Welcome Program at my school, Sciences Po, so things will hopefully start becoming more clear and I can make tons of new friends. Bonsoir!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The State of the Packing "Adress"

Friends. My fellow Americans. Welcome to my blog! I am honored that you have taken the time out of your oh so busy life to sit down and read what I have to say about my semester abroad in Paris. I was planning on waiting until I actually arrive in Paris to start blogging but the events of the last 24 hours have been far too funny not to blog about.

So, first things first before I can hop on that airplane to Paris, I'm heading to New York to visit my grandparents and uncle, which is going to be a wonderful time. Even before that comes, I must complete the unbelievably annoying task of packing. For the boys, if you want a good laugh, please continue reading. For the girls, I'd appreciate if you kept reading so someone could understand where I'm coming from.

I decided to limit myself to one backpack, one small duffel bag, and one large suitcase which can only be 50 lbs. If I may say so myself, that's PRETTY solid for a California girl heading to Paris for an entire semester (regardless of the fact I plan on buying only GOD knows how much). Some of you may have seen my Facebook status from a few days ago:

Since I decided to go to Paris back at Indiana University (GO HOOSIERS!), I knew I was going to be packing a lot of dresses. My mom, however, did not. After that initial trial run, I let it sit for a few days. Last night, however, the real adventure began. The bag wasn't too much over 50 lbs but of course my mom asked me how many dresses I had, having recently gained some insight into my strange addiction for dresses. So I counted as best I could and came up with 15. Not too bad for four months in Paris! Mom then decided that 15 dresses was far too many, especially since most of them are sleeveless (though I tried to explain to her the cardigan/jacket combination I often rock back at school in Bloomington, Indiana during the cold fall and winter months), and I was asked to remove a few dresses. After much silly fighting and friendly yelling, I removed a few dresses from the suitcase and proceeded to count the dresses yet again. Strangely, there were still 15 dresses in the suitcase...

Some unknown time during this whole process, my brother Jonathan decided to post a little Facebook status of his own:

This isn't exactly 100% accurate yet somewhat of a good representation of what occurred last night. You'll be happy to know that after another round of weighing this morning, my suitcase is now 47 lbs and no (new) dress sacrifices had to be made. More to come as the adventures continue!