Tag Archives: Culture

That Isn’t Too Heavy For You?*

*(And other things I hear while lifting weights at a gym in France)

Since I’ve arrived my teacher contact has been taking me with her to her gym in Dreux. It’s a tiny two room gym with a weightlifting section, two treadmills, two bikes, one rowing machine, and one or two ellipticals. In the second room is a wide open space where they hold classes.

To give you guys a little bit of a background I lift weights *at least* once a week and have been doing so for over a year. And when I say lift weights I don’t mean the little 2-5 pound weights. I’m talking about thirty to a couple hundred pounds depending on the exercise/machine. That plus I’m a yoga instructor so I’m no stranger to fitness. (I promise I’m not trying to brag haha I just feel a little defensive as a girl in a gym where there aren’t really other girls who lift)

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The first day my teacher brought me to a Body Pump class (which exists in English too, you can check it out here) It’s basically a high rep class that uses a bar with weights and you hit every part of the body with squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, tricep dips, abs, etc etc.

My first day was a little confusing just because it took me a little while to get used to the vocabulary. (Add more weight, take weight off, release, etc)

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But at the end of the class we did “stretching” and well… I stretched like a proper yogi.

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I swear this is absolutely normal for me/isn’t something I consider to be extreme or strenuous at all. I don’t get much of a stretch if I don’t go down this far haha

But then it was great because while everyone was freaking out about my extreme stretching thinking I was about to hurt myself… I got to speak to them in French and tell them I was a yoga instructor.

Then the next time I went there a couple days later for a crossfit class. I’d never done crossfit in my life before, but I walked into the class and the coach loaded up my bar for me. And the great thing is he didn’t go easy, he put easily twice as much weight on my bar as any other girl in the room.

And that’s pretty much when I knew I’d be sticking with this gym.

It was honestly the best thing ever because as a girl who lifts weights, sometimes guys just tend to underestimate you/look down on you and think you can’t actually lift. And considering that culturally in France girls are even LESS likely to lift weights/do sports I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the people in the gym were!

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of strange incidents. I think everyone knows that there’s a redhead American at the gym now so they all come to talk to me while I’m working out. (As in like in the middle of my leg press reps…) And maybe it’s just the culture at this particular gym, but when someone new walks in they shake hands with every single person they pass (without introducing themselves sometimes awkwardly enough) I think I prefer the head nod culture in the states.

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Voila. All the interaction you get at a gym in the US. 

Whereas in France you do “La Bise”

This is what it’s supposed to look like:

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Oh and don’t forget to make a kiss noise for each cheek

Except you go down the line and do this with EVERY SINGLE PERSON. And when I’m at the gym sometimes I feel like this:

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I’m sweaty! You don’t want my cheek sweat, I don’t want your cheek sweat!

But regardless of odd introductions:

Just last week a guy told me:

“Oh you’re flexible, but you’re not that strong.”

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Pretty much my exact reaction right here

I straight up told him: “That’s an insult. You insulted me.”

Him: “No! I said you’re flexible! You know the word flexible! Like elastic!”

Me: “Yes. I understand your French. But it was the stuff you said after that.”

Him: “Oh yeah, you’re not strong. That’s not an insult!”

Me: (fuming) “Uh, yes it is.”

But the bright side is I told the coach about what he said and he told everyone in the gym and they all thought it was an insult too. So at least its not a cultural thing! There are jerks everywhere I suppose.

The main reason I’m writing a blog post on my gym though is because I’ve started teaching yoga there! In FRENCH!

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First time I’ve ever taught a class with more guys than girls… but it IS after Crossfit!

It’s been a little crazy, but it’s been going super well. I’m grateful for everyone at the gym for dealing with my eternal American accent when speaking French!

But yeah. So the gym has turned into my social life haha I go every day I can. Everyone there knows me and tries to talk to me (insults or not haha) and at the very least the Coach who teaches all the classes respects me haha.

Meet the American

I finally started work last week!!

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So to revise: I’m an English Language Assistant with the TAPIF program. What that means: I’m never supposed to be in a classroom alone with all 20 plus students and I’m not allowed to grade students. Really I’m here to be useful with my native American accent and my cultural perspectives.

 

My first week in the classroom was technically supposed to be observation, but I had an introduction powerpoint saved to my Google Drive that included my hobbies, where I was from, my family, favorite tv shows, movies, and food so several of the teachers had me present that to the class.

I definitely got a lot of reactions on the tv show/movie/food slides because then I was able to ask students what their favorites were.

Some things tend to be universal:

–People in France don’t believe yoga is a real sport either. (Because I’d always reply with “yoga” when they asked me what my favorite sport was. Sorry kids it is quite real!)

–Game of Thrones. Because well, come on, dragons:

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–And even French kids apparently find Steak Tartare (my favorite French food) disgusting, but tacos are universally appreciated.

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While there were several cultural differences in the classroom, what was most notable is how students can’t sit down in their seats before the teacher gives them permission. From what little I’ve seen so far I would say the French tend to be a little more authoritarian in their teaching, but then again maybe the teachers I work with are just strict?

BUT they do grade out loud, which is interesting to me. No hidden grades. When a student was giving an oral presentation the teacher took the time at the end to critique him and tell him what he did wrong rather than making notes and moving onto the next student.

The students all seemed to ask me or the teacher one question in particular though:

Student: “Madame, does Emily understand French?”

Teacher: “No, she doesn’t.”

Same Student looks at me: “Miss! Do you understand French?” (half the time this question was also in French)

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I am the guy on the left. 

Me: … Let me ignore that question and turn back to my PowerPoint so I don’t have to lie to you.

(Okay eventually during the week I just gave up and told them I did speak French. It was too difficult to pretend anyways! But I am there to speak English and it is technically English class so they need to be speaking English too)

Soon at the middle school I’ll start to get small groups of hardworking students to work with on anything I want/varying subjects from detective stories to job interviews.

Next week however… is vacation. Yes, you read that right. I will technically have worked for two full weeks and now I have two full weeks of vacation for La Toussaint. (All Saints Day/November 1st)

So on Saturday I’m headed off to Scotland (again) to visit my dear friend Hannah. ❤ I haven’t been to Glasgow yet, but I’m looking forward to all the curry chips (fries) and scones I’ll get to eat all week long. Then I have no idea what I’ll be doing the second week of the break, maybe I’ll just hop around France? If you have any ideas let me know!!

Haggis, Snow, and the Loch Ness Monster (Scotland)

I cannot believe that it was a whole month ago that I was in Edinburgh! Busy doesn’t even begin to describe this month. I’ve got a whole backlog of blogs to write, travelling to Provence, my parents visiting Paris, my internship completing… the list keeps growing!

But without further ado: I present to you Scotland!

Oops. That's just David Tennant. Who also happens to be my favorite Scottish actor.
Oops. That’s just David Tennant. Who also happens to be my favorite Scottish actor.

Lets try again shall we:

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Welcome to Edinburgh in February!

We ended up taking a train into Edinburgh from London and the view from the train was absolutely breathtaking as the route took us past the craggy coastline. I didn’t get any pictures because I was sitting in the aisle seat and there were a couple British businessmen in the window seats so I might have gotten a couple weird looks if I had tried to take pictures over their heads…

It would have been something like this, but wayy more awkward than a young Daniel Radcliffe
It would have been something like this, but wayy more awkward than a young Daniel Radcliffe

But when we arrived we dropped our bags off at our hostel and promptly went to visit the thing literally looming over our heads:

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Edinburgh Castle! It was super windy and cold if you can’t tell.

The castle literally towers over the entire town and was home to so many historical Scottish events. The whole thing could be described as a giant spoiler alert for all my favorite historical fiction tv shows including the illustrious Mary Queen of Scots and the various Jacobite Rebellions.

A historical romance between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II of France complete with inaccurate costumes and more drama than a single high school?! You had me at romance <3
Reign: A historical romance between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II of France complete with inaccurate costumes and more drama than a single high school?! You had me at romance ❤

**SPOILER ALERT** Everyone dies. It was the 1500s.

The castle turned out to be a giant windstorm where we were running in between buildings for shelter so when we were done and it was starting to sprinkle, we decided it was wise to head back to our hostel for a warm cup of tea before dinner. This is why I love Britain. Tea is everywhere and it comes in a giant pot for like 2 pounds or less.

Muffin typically not included for 2 pounds
*Muffin typically not included for 2 pounds

I actually had a friend studying abroad in Edinburgh, so she took us to all the good places including a lovely restaurant where I had this Scottish specialty:

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Haggis, neeps, and tatties. Also translated as spiced sheep organs, turnips, and mashed potatoes. It was very good!

After dinner my friend took us to a small cafe where live folk music plays every night and thats pretty much when I decided that I loved Scotland. Sitting in a cafe with new and old friends, listening to scottish accents swirl around us, and legit folk music playing in the background that you couldn’t help but tap your feet to. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The next day we headed out early to go see the National Museum of Scotland which had a whole section on Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Jacobite Rebellions.

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A kilt making machine!

My Scottish pride also came out on this trip in full force. On my dad’s side I belong to the Ross clan and on my Mom’s side I belong to the Menzie clan.

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That’s Clan Ross up there in the Middle!

But seeing as how clan Ross is from the highlands… I’m much more inclined to claim them.

Evidence no. 1: Highlanders are just more badass

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Clan Pride

After our museum visit and after I bought my clan scarf and other souvenirs, we hunted down an Indian food restaurant that my friend recommended.

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It doesn’t look like much, but man I’ve missed Indian food and that definitely hit the spot!

Then we met up with my friend for some hot chocolate floats at the local gelato store where they hand make everything.

This is white hot chocolate with cardamom topped with handmade rose gelato with dark chocolate pieces. Heaven in a cup.
This is white hot chocolate with cardamom topped with handmade rose gelato with dark chocolate pieces. Heaven in a cup.

If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh Mary’s Milk Bar better be on your list. That thing was divine.

After our snack to warm ourselves back up, we headed over to take a whiskey distillery tour where we learned about the production process that goes into making whisky and how the different regions of Scotland produce different varieties of whisky.

And then we walked past the largest whisky collection in the world. All unopened, untasted bottles.

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This was only one wall.

We also learned all about the Angel’s Share – the amount of whiskey that evaporates during distillation that is said to be taken by the angels. That is also the title of a very funny Scottish movie about whiskey which I highly recommend.

This bottle was never opened. I guess the Angels really liked this whiskey huh?
This bottle was never opened. I guess the Angels really liked this whiskey huh?

And as Jack Sparrow would say:

Why is the rum whiskey always gone??
Why is the rum whiskey always gone??

After our tour we did some random exploring of Edinburgh and climbed up Calton hill to get a birds eye view of the city at sunset.

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And then we almost got knocked over by the wind gusts…

The struggle was real.
The struggle was real.

so we decided to head back down for an earlier dinner of chicken pot pie at a local pub.

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I got chicken. I’m not risking any other sort of meat being added to my meat pies. I know the stories too well.

Then we also learned about HP sauce, which does not stand for Harry Potter sauce because it is in no way magical. It is approved by Her Majesty The Queen however.

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I don’t like it.

The next day was our guided tour of the highlands that went to Loch Ness. We woke up bright and early and headed out to meet our tour guide, a lovely man with a thick Scottish accent, before we headed out in a small van with our group of 16 people – which also included two American marines on vacation! So I ended up talking to them most of the way. Making new friends is one of my favorite parts of travelling – don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with the people you come across!

But if I wasn’t already in love with Scotland before this day, I certainly was after the landscapes we saw:

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Just breathtaking.

And then we got to the snow. And man did I ever freak out.

You could say I jumped right in.
You could say I jumped right in.
SNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED.
SNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED.

I’m just going to flood this post with pictures of snow now, because Scotland is super beautiful and I really can’t pick just one.

IMG_3877We also drove through the area where they apparently filmed Skyfall and our guide played the Skyfall theme. It honestly just looked like a field full of snow, but hey, James Bond was there!

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This is like a super famous mountain or something.

Then we stopped in Glencoe for pictures… where the Glencoe massacre of 1692 occurred in the aftermath of the first Jacobite uprising because the MacDonald clan supposedly didn’t declare their allegiance to William and Mary fast enough. So they were all murdered by people pretending to be their guests.
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Soon after we finally arrived at Loch Ness and I ate a sandwich and some Scottish shortbread for lunch before boarding the boat.

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And then I saw something amazing.

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The loch ness monster in all her neon green glory. Many thanks to Snapchat for allowing me to capture a photo of this magnificent beast.

After the boat tour we headed back towards Edinburgh and on one of our many stops along the way back I made sure to do this:

Do you want to build a snowman? His smile fell over, sorry guys.
Do you want to build a snowman? His smile fell over, sorry guys.

To finish off the evening our tour guide spontaneously played the bagpipes for us, completing my day evening life.

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It was breathtaking.

When we got back we stopped at a burger restaurant for our last meal in Edinburgh so I just had to get the haggis burger:

It only looks weirder with flash. It tasted amazing though!
It only looks weirder with flash. It tasted amazing though! That would be an onion ring on top of a haggis patty on top of a cheese topped beef patty. I couldn’t finish it.

Then we headed to bed early before our last morning in Scotland.

We woke up bright and early to see the last thing on our list right as it opened: Camera Obscura. I highly recommend it if you go. It was essentially a museum full of optical illusions and I had a blast! They have a mirror maze just like in the horror movies – what other reason do you need to go?

Where did my body go??
Where did my body go??

Sadly, my trip had to come to an end. Scotland has definitely been my favorite country I’ve visited this year though and I can’t wait to go back one day! The people were all extremely friendly, Scottish accents are definitely better than English ones, and well kilts:

That sexy, mysterious piece of clothing.
That sexy, mysterious piece of clothing.

Last weekend I went to Provence. But my next trip? Morocco. Then the weekend after that is a two week trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland. So you better stay tuned 🙂

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What I’ve Been Avoiding

I started this blog over a year ago in order to express my feelings on an event that would have caused me to cry if I had told it out loud. So it would be wrong of me to ignore blogging about the things that do make me cry – the things that one typically doesn’t read in a study abroad blog where everything is all travel and butterflies.

France is amazing. I’m speaking French every day – heck I’m even thinking in French! When I’m speaking English, French words accidentally pop out of my mouth and it’s absolutely wonderful. I eat baguettes for breakfast, strange French dishes like cow tongue for lunch, and croissants and pain suisse for French snacktime almost every day. I commuted to my internship past the Eiffel Tower for the last two months!

The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.
The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.

I’ve become more independent here and that’s wonderful. So I spend a lot of time by myself here. I tour museums by myself, eat lunch by myself, plan trips by myself, and shop by myself.

The truth of why I haven’t been blogging as much this semester as the last one? Besides the fact that I truly have been extremely busy with my internship these last few months, I’ve been lonely. There. I said it. It’s out.

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I don’t want to get into the details. My friends back home would just tell me to be more social, but somehow I feel that it’s not that simple. Long story short, I just don’t have a friend niche here. Who knows? Maybe that’ll change in the two months I have left, maybe it won’t. It’s not something that started this semester with the new group of students – just something I’ve been gradually feeling for the last six or seven months.

I have a friend back home who a year ago called me stupid for wanting to study abroad for the whole year. They constantly brought up the subject, arguing against the idea vehemently – until one day I became angry with them and told them straight up to stop insulting my lifetime dream of studying abroad in France. They agreed to stop bringing it up, but being the stubborn person that they are, told me that I would regret going abroad for the whole year before shutting up.

Study Abroad isn’t perfect. It’s a learning experience through and through. But do I regret it? No. I’ll never regret it.

I love this city.
I love this city.

I still love France. If anything this year has just made me love it more. But aside from France, culture, and the French language, this year has had its fair share of struggles. All of which I’m learning and growing from, with independence and learning to be okay with being lonely among the most important.

Thanks for listening.

I’ll go finish my Scotland blog now I promise!

And if you’re someone on my study abroad program reading this…

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Uh… Hi?

Busy girls who appear to have their life together since they’ve been here all year need love too okay?

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Back in America For an Hour

This past weekend Sweet Briar, the program I’m studying abroad with, took us on a day trip to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The land of the American cemetery was given to the Americans following WWII so I was technically back in the United States for a brief hour!

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Our professors even “allowed” us to speak English while we were there, except I forgot and kept speaking French.

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While there I realized that without the sacrifices of so many men and women, I would not be here in France today.

It is notoriously cold and windy in Normandy so the night before I had a conversation with my host family that went something like this:

Host Mom: “Emily, do you have a scarf?”

Me: “What? Of course I do!”

Host Mom: “No, like a real scarf and not just one that looks pretty? One made out of wool or something to keep you warm?”

Me: “Ha. No I don’t have one.”

Host Mom: “What about a bonnet?”

Me: “A what?”

Host Mom: “You know like a hat!”

Me: “Uh no.”

Host Mom: “Well what about gloves? Do you have any gloves?”

Me: “I’m from Texas…”

I'm sorry that I'm Texan and I don't understand the cold!!
I’m sorry that I’m Texan and I don’t understand the cold!!

Basically, my host family ended up lending me their ski wardrobe, which I was very thankful for because despite the clear skies and the sun, the beaches were still freezing cold and windy!

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Showing off my mittens

We were also accompanied by a couple of tour guides who didn’t really do much besides walk us down the beach and point out a couple memorials with all of the information about the landings written down on them.

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Our first view from the beach

We walked through the part known as Omaha Beach, where some of the American forces landed during the Allied invasion of German-Occupied France.

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I really like this seafoam

Then of course, no visit anywhere is complete without seeing and photographing the local inhabitants of today:

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Thank you hand, for distracting the cat long enough for me to snap a picture

Cultural Remark: French dogs are remarkably well behaved. Seriously, dogs get on the metro all the time and most don’t try to run after other dogs or show any interest in passing by pedestrians!

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Our trip to Normandy was in brief, very short. We spent about two hours total on the beach itself before we had to head back to the train station in Caen to catch our train back to Paris.

This past week I’ve also still been super busy with my internship here and a bunch of applications for internships and advising have come out recently so I’ve been working away on them instead of updating my blog like I should!

But I promise…

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Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!