Tag Archives: Rice University

Officially Not a Tourist

Last Friday I officially, (according to me) surpassed the label of “tourist” and I am now living in Paris rather than just visiting.

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Of course, that means I forget to take pictures of the major monument that I happen to be living by…

Oh hey there neighbor
Oh hey there neighbor!

Because it also happens that I’m living directly off of the Champs-Élysées, which is horrendously full of tourists all the time. They’re all there to see (and a very few make purchases in) all the designer stores. Louis Vuitton anyone? Yeah, not me. I usually walk pretty fast along that street because it’s always so crowded and uncomfortable.

Speaking of where I’m living… I’m in a tiny little apartment that has been supposedly handed down through my host mom’s family for generations. The floors creak when you move the tiniest bit and every room has the grand classic windows of your typical Parisian home. I love it!

My host mom’s vivacious personality has taken a little bit of getting used to. I was definitely overwhelmed the first few days because she likes to know everything that is going on with me. I’m not used to explaining every detail of my schedule! It’s also her first time hosting a student with the Sweet Briar program so she’s not quite sure how things work. Besides that she’s been really great to me, getting me to talk and correcting my grammar and pronunciation when necessary, making sure that I have everything I need, and that I like what we’re eating for dinner.

Regarding classes, we’ve been left to explore the city for the most part by Sweet Briar, since classes at the Sorbonne don’t start for over another week! Which means exploring the city and mapping out where all the free restrooms are… If you’ve ever been to Europe you know that a free restroom is like a holy grail. Most of the time they cost about 0.50 cents!

My expression when I found the first FREE bathroom.
My expression when I found the first FREE bathroom.
And my apprehension. They're free for a reason?
And my apprehension. They’re free for a reason? Gotta love those candid pictures.

We’ve had a few small classes, such as a class on current French politics (Interesting if you haven’t already taken a few classes on the subject!) and a very general, vague course on methodology for the courses we will take. For example, how to write a “dissertation” or a “commentaire-composé” for our classes at the Sorbonne. Thankfully we will have weekly tutorials at Sweet Briar since most of this “hypothetical” subject matter went right over my head.

Tomorrow, I think I’m finally going to visit a museum! But I’m definitely not a tourist anymore, I’m a student of French history, art, and literature according to my Student ID card. (Next time you see a cute French boy, tell him you study French literature -you might get a free drink**)

Technically not a tourist, but not by much
Technically not a tourist, but not by much

**Don’t actually do this.

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One day left!

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Last night I dreamed about this trip for the first time. My parents had dropped me off at the airport and I was going to meet up with the rest of the group when I realized I had left all of my chargers at home. ALL of them. Not just the simple iPhone charger that can be purchased all over the world, but laptop chargers and camera chargers. I’ve never been so glad to wake up.

I haven't seen this movie in I don't even know, but it's kind of perfect
I haven’t seen this movie in I don’t even know, but it’s kind of perfect

I think the notion that I’m actually leaving for a year is just hitting me.

My suitcase at this moment is only half packed and I still have a giant list of things I need to do.

If you didn’t already know, I will be spending the next year living in Paris, France with the Sweet Briar Junior Year in France program. I chose this program because not only was it the most recommended program at my university, but it also gives me the opportunity to take classes side by side with French students at the Sorbonne while providing me with an extensive support network that other study abroad programs do not provide. Furthermore, since I am going for the entire year Sweet Briar will help me to find an internship in the spring semester.

Traveling to Giverny, Monet's Home, August 2008
Straight off Sweet Briar’s website. This is going to be me. All smiley and French and stuff.

Now if you know me, you’re probably wondering how I’m going to the “JUNIOR” year in France when it’s only my second year in college. Well since I came into college with so many AP credits, academically speaking I am a junior and apparently that’s all that matters. Going my sophomore year, for me, makes the most sense academically. My French speaking level has hit a plateau (or decreased!) since coming to college because all I ever do anymore is read, write, and listen to my professor lecture. Going my sophomore year means I don’t have to worry as much about academic credit since I will have two more years at college to finish my degree.

I’ve been planning running off to France ever since I went the first time, the summer between 4th and 5th grade, so no amount of begging (I’ve heard plenty!) is going to make me change my mind!

Tomorrow morning I will fly off to Washington D.C. where I will meet up with the rest of the Sweet Briar students and then in the evening we will fly to Paris. From Paris we will leave our luggage, except for our puny carry ons and board a bus for Tours, a smaller town in central France where we will have an intensive 2 week orientation. (Probably to make sure we remember how to speak everyday French instead of spouting lines from Candide or Madame Bovary!)

So I’ll try to update as soon as possible when I get there, WiFi permitting.

Wow. I’m nervous now.

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Wish me luck!

 

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The End of One Chapter and Into Another

As the school year is drawing to a close, I wanted to post again before finals start and everyone goes home.

If you didn’t already know, next year I will be studying abroad in Paris for the entire year. Not just fall semester, but ALL YEAR. It’s with a program called “Sweet Briar Junior Year in France” and I will be taking all of my classes in French with French students at the Sorbonne. If you have known me previously, you know that I am finally fulfilling my dream because France is my number one favorite subject to talk about ever. (Really. I think some of my friends may get annoyed!) I’ve been planning this trip since high school and I know next year is going to be the best year of my life.

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This will actually be my 5th time going to Paris and my second time going alone so the city is no stranger. When I go to France, it feels like I’m going home. As weird as this sounds, I truly feel that it is the country I belong it.

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Yet, as my first year of college draws to a close, I can’t help but feel anxious and well, heartbroken that I have to leave behind all of the amazing people I have met this year. Nearly every day I leave lunch, my chest tightens up, I feel like crying and it sucks. Most of my friends will still be here after my year abroad and we will all skype regularly, but I will miss so many things: eating lunch with them, dancing crazily together, procrastinating on homework… I could go on and on. I’ve been trying to make the most of my last few days here with them before we all go home for summer and I leave for Paris, but the pain of saying goodbye on that final day will not get any easier. Let’s just say that the plane ride there is going to contain some of the most conflicting emotions of my life.

Me being conflicted in front of the Thinker in 2012.
Me being conflicted in front of the Thinker in 2012.

On the other hand the realization that I’m leaving is rather liberating, yet extremely bad for my impending research paper and exams. I’m leaving for a year, so I have to experience everything here to the fullest before that day comes. Some of my friends may think I’ve gone a little crazy as my moods alternate from the depression of having to leave them, to the crazed intensity of wanting to do everything with them just a few more times. Why study when I could go to the pool or have adventures around campus with my friends?

Unfortunately, with all of these emotions I have realized that there are always two sides to studying abroad. The excitement of going to a foreign country to experience new cultures and meet new people, and the gloom that comes with having to say goodbye to the friends you will leave behind.

Even more frightening is the realization that this will be my entire life. My dream job involves moving to a different country every two years, with no guaranteed return. So this next year won’t just be about stuffing my face with macaroons and learning how to blend in with all of the super fashionable French women. It will be a test to see if I can really stand to pack up my life and move long term to another country and then continue doing so for the rest of my life.

It’ll be the best year of my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that I will be leaving my best friends, not to mention my family for a year.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.” -Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

This quote brings up one final issue. I will be leaving here to spend a year in the country of my dreams. Make sure I come back. I’m really going to miss you guys.

 

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