The End

I’m sitting on intercity train number 5970 in car 16, seat number 18. It’s 1:11 and the train is scheduled to depart at 1:25 for Paris Bercy. I took my debate final this morning, cleaned my room, fought with the cleaning lady, returned my key, and drug my suitcases to the train station across town. I have with me one large suitcase weighing 49 pounds, one large duffle bag weighing 45 pounds, a backpack weighing 30 pounds, and a purse.

When I arrive in Paris at 5:00 pm I’ll attempt to use Über for the first time (I know, I’m behind the times) to get from the Gare de Bercy to my hotel near Charles de Gaulle Airport. My flight is tomorrow Saturday June 4 at 11:25 am. I’m flying to Dallas where my family will pick me up and we’ll all drive back to Oklahoma.

My forearms are exhausted and are throbbing. My hands are red and raw from the suitcases and my back is sore. I’m not exactly excited but I’m not sad either. I feel like I’m on autopilot just completing the tasks I need to complete in order to get from A to B.

Right now when I think about going home I see it as a positive thing. I’ll eat Cool Ranch Doritos, get to see my family, and play with my cat. I have plans to hang out with some friends. Overall, home should be cool. I think I’ll miss the independence that I have here. It’s going to be weird to return to my hometown of Moore, Oklahoma where I know most of the people. It’s going to be weird to see people I went to elementary school with. I guess I like it here because I can walk around without seeing people I know or I can go see friends. If I want to hop over to the grocery store I can do it without talking to anyone, which is nice. Back home I won’t have to walk everywhere (boy do I miss driving) but there’s something special about walking to the corner store or cutting through the park to get a kebab.

I’m going to be frank- I’ve had a weird relationship with France during my time here. It’s kind of crazy. I’ve gone through phases where I love it here, then I hate it here. France is awesome, then it’s awful. I’ve met people that are extremely helpful and kind, and I’ve also met people who are so incredibly rude it’s astounding. I think at the end of my study abroad experience I’ve landed somewhere in the middle. France is cool and there aspects of life here that I enjoy, and then there are things that I can’t wait to get away from. I’m glad I came here. I’ve undoubtedly improved my French, made some good friends, and eaten a lot of good food (with good wine of course).

It’s now 1:35 and the train has yet to leave the station- it’s been delayed, most likely due to the country-wide strikes. I think this pretty much perfectly sums up how things work in France.

UPDATE:

My train had to take a longer route and arrived an hour and a half late. I successfully took an Über and my driver Jamel was a really nice French-Tunisian guy. It was a 45 minute ride so it wasn’t cheap, but I was worth it to avoid the chaos that is Parisian public transport at the moment. I’m now sitting in my hotel room. I took a shower, bought a delicious burger from a food truck, and I’m about to watch Netflix and drink some wine.

 

 

See ya later France, it’s been real.

Let’s Talk About Drinking

Drinking can be a great way to hang out with friends, see the city, and even meet some new people. However, it’s not without problems. Questions of health and safety should be addressed before a student considers going out. Drinking as it relates to study abroad is an incredibly important and unjustly taboo subject. Here are my tips based on my personal experience from my year abroad in Europe.

  1. Don’t go home alone

I’m not saying you shouldn’t leave the club without a hookup; I’m saying go out with a pal and a plan. I don’t go out unless I have a “buddy”. We both agree not to leave without the other person and to NEVER  let each other walk home alone. I’m studying in Clermont-Ferrand, France. I can honestly say that this city feels very safe (though I’m usually a safety-nut) and scary situations are not the norm here. It’s a college town, much like Norman and there are plenty of bars and nightclubs that cater to students. Despite all of this, it only takes one bad experience to realize that being drunk and alone in the early hours of the morning on a dark street is a terrible idea. Having a designated going-out buddy helps to keep you safe and you always have someone to grab a kebab with before heading home.

 

  1. Know Yourself (Drake reference)

Coming from a country where the legal drinking age is 21 and my university campus is officially “dry” means that my experience with alcohol consumption as a 19 year-old was relatively limited. I would recommend that students test the waters first. Starting out with beer or cider (which is basically adult apple juice) can help you to realize your limits. Besides, you can slowly increase your consumption until you find your limit but you can’t take back those tequila shots that seemed like a great idea at the beginning of the night. Most evenings out in my experience go like this: pre-gaming (whether at home or at a friend’s place) followed by a trip to a bar or club. Being too drunk before you even head out to the club is absolutely awful and your night will probably end early.

 

  1. Money matters

A lot of places here in France have a minimum amount you have to spend if paying by card. Paying with cash is usually much easier and you can physically see how much you’ve spent that night. I usually take a limited amount of cash with me for safety and to ensure that I don’t regret spending too much on alcohol. (Sidenote: alcohol is expensive, especially at a bar.) I usually prefer to buy less expensive alcohol (like Sangria, wine, or Desperados) so that I don’t buy as much when I’m out and about.

 

  1. Bread is your BFF

A baguette of considerable size costs .35 cents at the grocery store. If alcohol is a car, bread is the breaks and the suspension. Having a full stomach can help control the rate of inebriation and makes for an all-around smoother experience. Seriously, please eat.

 

  1. Be able to say no

Everyone handles alcohol differently and what’s right for some isn’t right for others. If you’re going out several times a week and find that you’re not sleeping well, you’re consistently hungover, you’re missing classes or neglecting homework then you need to start reevaluating the place that partying has in your life. It can be super tempting to go out on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday but the party will still be there. Staying home because you need the sleep or you have an upcoming presentation is absolutely acceptable and you’re not missing out. Your friends will understand. Not everyone can stay out until 5 am and be ready for an 8:15 class, much less do this multiple times a week.

 

Drinking and going out is an awesome part of the study abroad experience, and some of my favorite memories are from nights out with my friends. However at the end of the day, you are there to study and to learn. If you’re going abroad, it’s probable that you’ll drink. The key is to be informed, self-aware, and safe.

Travel: Szia Budapest!

Budapest and Prague had always been places I’d love to visit and I made it a priority to see them while I’m studying abroad. I managed to convince my friend Jill to go with me during a week-long break.

The trip began on a Sunday morning with our departure point of course being Clermont-Ferrand. We decided to take a bus all the way from France to Hungary as this seemed like the least expensive option. The bus ride was… interesting. We used the company “Eurolines” and I honestly would not recommend doing the same unless you love adventure. We drove around France for around 7 hours until we ended up in Lyon (which is usually a 2 ½ hour direct trip). Once we’d reached the bus station in Lyon an employee approached us and asked where we were headed. We proudly told him we were headed to Budapest and subsequently learned that we had to get off the bus. Apparently we had a layover in Lyon that we didn’t know about. The ticket office was closed so there was no one to ask which bus we needed to take next. I called the company and they told me that this would be our last bus change and after this our route would be direct. Okay, no big deal. We waited for 30 minutes and the office finally opened. There we got a boarding pass for our next bus. After 30 more minutes of waiting our bus was supposed to leave in a few minutes but was nowhere to be found. We asked the drivers of the waiting busses (we had to ask in English as none of them spoke French) and they didn’t know where our bus was. Our bus finally arrived and we were off!

Somewhere along the way we met Grandma. At one of the stops a man boarded with an elderly woman. She had trouble walking and she seemed to be at least 90 years old. Jill offered her seat to the man who refused, saying that he was simply helping his mother who was travelling alone. An hour or so later the woman offered Jill some mint candy. I was peeling an orange and I decided to give it to the woman. We eventually started talking with her and she was really nice; the only problem was that she was speaking a foreign language and understood no English at all.  We decided to adopt her as our grandma and watched over her for the rest of the trip. We had another changeover in Strasbourg so we took Grandma’s bags and helped her off the bus. While we were waiting we decided to figure out what language she was speaking. We flashed “Hello” at her in several different languages with the Google Translate app but no cigar. Finally thanks to lots of hand gestures she said something resembling Macedonia and we decided she was in fact Macedonian. The word Vienna sounds similar in Macedonian and so we knew she needed to get off at the Vienna stop. When we reached Vienna we were sad to see her go, but it was pretty cool to make a new Grandma.

On the final leg of the journey to Budapest we were both exhausted and were getting a little delirious. This wasn’t helped by the fact that we were constantly being awoken for passport checks as we traversed various borders. As we left Bratislava and entered into Hungary the bus driver put on a movie. Much to our dismay the movie was The Pink Panther 2…in Hungarian. The whole experience was kind of funny because the woman seated in front of us was washing her hair with body spray, her son was guffawing at the movie (though he didn’t speak Hungarian), and I was going in and out of consciousness from sheer exhaustion.

We finally made it to Budapest after a 27 hour bus ride. First on our agenda was obtaining money we could actually use. We found an ATM after asking for directions in Hungarian/English (Jo Napót! ATM?). Then we bought metro passes from a man who kept laughing at us. We took the metro to the stopped listed on the hostel-given directions and after a short walk we had arrived! The hostel owner was amazing and gave us directions to an authentic Hungarian restaurant after ensuring we had everything we needed. We ate an AWESOME lunch of goulash and pasta and learned how to say thank you in Hungarian. We spent our first day exploring the city on foot and orienting ourselves in the beautiful city.

metro passes! made it to the hostel yum! jill with the food me with the food

The next day we had a free breakfast at the hostel where we met some lovely girls. We planned to meet up later with our new friend Larissa from Holland. We took the metro to the Hungarian National Museum where we figured we could learn a little bit more about Hungarian history. WOW. The museum was so much fun! We learned so much and the artifacts on display were presented in such a neat way. After the museum we were running a little late for our meeting with Larissa so we grabbed some pizza from Pizza King. I’m a bit of a pizza enthusiast and I can say this was the best pizza I’ve ever had. We got pepperoni pizza with corn (it sounds gross, I know) and it was delicious! Two pieces of pizza and a can of Pepsi cost less than 2 euros!

the big bridge the crest of the city overlooking the city breakfast at the hostel in front of the Hungarian National Museum corn pizza

We met Larissa across the bridge and explored the area around Buda castle and an old cathedral. There were men holding falcons and Larissa got her photo taken with a huge fountain! Jill and I decided to take a walking tour which started at 2pm so we had to catch a bus to the meeting point. We got on the bus and almost immediately after the bus filled with a group of at least 30 older women. There wasn’t enough room to move at all! Naturally, my mom called me as I’m squeezed between old Hungarian women, so I told her I didn’t have time to talk.

the falcons selfie the city during a rainstorm on the bus full of old people

We made it to the walking tour on time. It was led by two Hungarian girls who explained the history of the cathedral, the parliament building, and countless landmarks. They gave us lots of info about the modern history of Hungary, which was wonderful as the info was coming from locals. Once we got back to the hostel we were pretty tired! We took showers and napped a bit. During our absence some Turkish guy had moved into the adjacent room. That night they invited us to eat soup with them in the private kitchenette of our apartment. After dinner we went out with Larissa and the Turkish guys, Mücahit (sock buddies) and Canpolat, who are studying abroad in Poland. We had an awesome time and ended the night with some kebabs of course! We got home rather late and ended up sleeping for only about 30 minutes before leaving the hostel at 5 am to catch our bus to Prague!

the cathedral inside the cathedral oh hey Ronald Reagan? in front of parliament casual enjoying Budapest nightlife selfie with mucahit

Travel: Italian Adventure!

When studying abroad in Europe travelling can feel like an obligation- you’re so close to everything! I’ve decided to write a series of posts which will be personal reflections about the trips I’ve taken so far.

Paris/ITALY

I was fortunate enough to have my mom, aunt, and grandmother (hey me-me) come to France for a visit on December 31st. They came to Clermont-Ferrand (my mom’s first time off of the continent!) where I met them at the train station.

We had a few hours in Clermont so I showed them my residence, the city center, and my favorite kebab shop.

PARIS

We then took a train to Paris where we were to spend the next couple of days. We went to an amazing restaurant for New Year’s Eve dinner. We ate foie gras, had champagne, and counted down to midnight in French.

 

Yum! A NYE treat

Yum! A NYE treat

2016 here we come!

2016 here we come!

I showed them around Paris and we saw most of the “must-see” tourist attractions. The following day we went shopping at an outlet mall (my mom’s pick) and we had a lot of fun popping in and out of shops like Diane Von Furstenberg, Burberry, and Longchamp. We ate waffles and European hot chocolate (the kind that is literally just melted chocolate) before having lunch at a cute little café.

Shakespeare & Co. Notre Dame le Tour Eiffel

We took an overnight train to Milan which was absolutely hilarious.

the train to Milan was a tight fit!

the train to Milan was a tight fit!

the cutest person alive

the cutest person alive

The “room” was TINY with enough room for a bunk bed, a sink, two suitcases, and nothing else. We had about six hours in the Milan train station which we spent sitting like zombies in the McDonalds. (my aunt had about 4 cappuccinos) This was the point in the trip where I became unable to communicate in the local language which was bizarre. I’d never been to a country where I wasn’t at least conversationally proficient in the local language and it was messing with my head!

 

BOLOGNA
We hopped a train to Bologna where we spent 2 nights. Bologna was BEAUTIFUL. The city was the least “touristy” city we visited on the trip. I pretty much ate my weight in pizza there. Our guide for the walking tour never showed up (bummer) but, armed with a map and giant coats and scarves, we did get to see some of the major sights.

ascending into Bologna we have arrived it's cold! "take a picture with the menu so we remember the name of the restaurant" arguably the best pizza ever this place had really good snacks

VENICE
We took a day trip via train from Bologna to Venice.

Venice was amazing. Every street looked like a postcard. Lunch in Venice was delicious. I ate seafood pasta and they had lemon Schweppes which became my beverage of choice in Italy.

delicious pasta with fresh seafood

delicious pasta with fresh seafood

We walked across the city (I used google maps and my grandma asked every few minutes “are you sure we’re going the right way?”) and made it to St. Mark’s Square. We toured the waterways of Venice in a speed boat and saw Elton John’s house!

a little bit of rain can't stop us gondolas everywhere this is real life homes of the old merchants of venice

 

FLORENCE

After Bologna we ventured on to Florence. We were all excited to shop for leather in Florence as we’d heard they have some good stuff! Unfortunately my aunt was sick for most of the Florence leg of the trip. (One morning I ran to the pharmacy to get her some medicine only to discover that it was a national holiday and I’d stumbled across the only open pharmacy in the city.) Our hotel was an old monastery and since it was the end of the Christmas season we got to see their nativity collection. We saw il Duomo  and walked around the city for a while.

"okay so just lean a little bit, i'm going to take a picture"

“okay so just lean a little bit, i’m going to take a picture”

We had a morning tour of the Academia di Belle Arti di Firenze where we saw the statue of David! (It was enormous.)

Stradivarius viola owned by the Medici family the David

It was raining for most of our trip but that didn’t stop us! That afternoon my grandmother was tired and stayed at the hotel to take care of my aunt. My mom and I braved the rain and ran (literally ran) across Florence to make it to our next tour. The Uffizi Gallery where we had a 4 hour tour!

this painting is all original except for the bottom right panel which is in the Louvre selfie with the Birth of Venus The Birth of Venus only finished painting done by Michelangelo to survive-- The Holy Family this place is huge! Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca this room was really fancy

That night we shopped until we dropped at H&M and finished the evening with a spaghetti dinner where the Russian tourists next to us stared at us the entire time.

Our last day in Florence was spent shopping for leather purses and wallets!

 

ROME

Next stop: ROMA!
Thankfully, my aunt was much better and well rested for Rome. We took a bus to Vatican City for a day-long tour. We saw St.Peter’s Basilica, were blessed in the Sistine, and saw lots of nuns.

 

rome at night ready to take on the city! busts inside of the Vatican what a view 20160108_093008 20160108_093023 20160108_093258 intricate tiles on the floor 20160108_093958 20160108_102932 St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's Basilica St. Peter's Basilica Pope John XXIII

Our Colosseum tour didn’t pan out (another bummer) but we got to see lots of ruins and the Trevi Fountain!

the Colosseum a gate near the Colosseum the Colosseum detail ancient forum ruins the Trevi Fountain the Trevi Fountain selfie time make a wish! me-me contemplating the fountain Saluti!

POMPEII
We got up super early the next day and took a guided tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Our guide, Davide (pronounced Dah-vie-day), shuttled us, an Irish couple, and two Filipino girls across Italy to the site of the ruins at Pompeii. The guide at Pompeii was excellent and we learned a lot about the lives of the ancient people who lived there. (This part wasn’t really my mom’s thing, but it’s a must-see for history buffs!)

i found a cat inside the town square it was hot but we were learning a lot! primitive refrigerators for vats of wine at the site of an ancient wine bar cool steps ancient spa/bath house preserved artifacts columns preserved artifacts town square town square

 

POSITANO

Then we all squeezed back into the van (I was sitting on the six-inch space between Davide and the passenger seat…) and headed to Positano! If you haven’t heard of Positano, you’re missing out on a truly beautiful place. The homes, beached, and storefronts are unlike any other place in the world. We had a lunch mishap (the restaurant was closed, another restaurant made us wait 45 minutes and didn’t even take our order) but we ended up having a slice of pan pizza (and schweppes of course) at a cute little restaurant with a view. I bought an orange and a lemon (specialties of the region) which were both delicious.

citrus fruits! wow selfie stop taking in the views citrus growers found an Italian flag! walking through town beach views at the beach cool tiles i found another cat My mom loved the beach in Positano! Limoncello

AMALFI

The next stop was Amalfi. Amalfi was incredible. It’s such a unique place with a really relaxed vibe. We tasted limoncello from a local producer, had some delicious lemon gelato, and took in the seaside views before heading back to Rome.

Limoncello producer in Amalfi "let's take a selfie with the gelato" -my mom Amalfi nice view our tour guide Davide and the Irish couple that was with us

The next morning I said goodbye to my family at the Rome airport and boarded a plane to Lyon.

boarding the plane "window seat"
Overall, I had an awesome trip and i’m so glad i got to see Italy with some of my family!

 

The next travel post should be about my trip to Barcelona and Sitges. Until then!

Studying Abroad- The Studying Part

It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of studying abroad with all of the parties, new friendships, new freedoms, and the amazing travel opportunities; however, it’s important to remember the reason for it all. Here are some tips to help you keep your grades high and your stress low.

GET ORGANIZED
I really can’t stress this one enough. I’ve never been an organized person. My preferred organizational method could be described as “controlled chaos”. The reason it’s so important to get your stuff together while abroad is that you’ll need every scrap of paper given to you if you want your courses equated later on. Keeping papers separated by class, labeling each paper with the course name, and taking effective notes is essential. I found a “binder” at the local grocery store that has divider tabs but no pockets so that I can shove handouts in it quickly while maintaining the division of papers. I bought one for the first semester and I’ve just bought one for the second semester. I plan to hand in both binders so that the people equating my courses will have every paper for every class.

TAKE NOTES
I mean it. Do it. I get distracted really easily so taking notes can occasionally become a challenge. I combat this by doodling. Yeah, I know that doodling sounds like a terrible idea but it’s seriously effective for me. When I feel my mind start to wander I draw content related to the lecture and then i have cool notes to look over when revising. I also keep all of my notes in one notebook. This can be a hit or miss for some as some people prefer to take notes on a computer while others are afraid of keeping everything in one place for fear of losing it. Keeping all of my notes together has been really effective for me because I can grab my binder, agenda, and notebook in the morning and walk out the door; I don’t need to bother with separate notebooks.


BECOME AN AGENDA PERSON

I’ve tried to keep agendas in the past, I really have. My problem is that I always forget to use it and then it becomes outdated, leading up to its eventual home in the garbage with months of unused pages. I’ve really benefited from my agenda this semester though for one reason- I’ve had to handcraft a working schedule with classes that will transfer and that don’t conflict with each other. This has been an absolute nightmare because it’s like pulling teeth trying to get a course schedule from anyone. Basically, you’re on your own. If you don’t know when and where to be somewhere then courses go on without you and you’ll probably get nasty emails and/or dirty looks. Don’t be late and PLAN YOUR TIME.

ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
Before coming to France, I was told to keep the syllabus from each course I take while abroad. That sounded logical- the funny thing is that French classes don’t function like American ones. French professors don’t teach, speak, or behave exactly like American ones. When I noticed that no one was giving me a syllabus I kind of panicked. What if none of this counted? What if I’m wasting a year? What if they’re just teaching all willy-nilly with no plan?! So I pulled myself together and asked for a syllabus. I was nice about it, explained that I needed one for my home university, gave them plenty of time to get it together, and boy did I get syllabi. I had one professor who gave me detailed descriptions of each class, photocopies from our textbook, as well as grading criteria. I think the idea of asking for help is key to success abroad because no one can read your mind. Your professors don’t know how things work at your home university and they don’t know what you might need. If you ask politely for course materials or power points you’ll be better prepared to return home and get the most out of your classes abroad.

That’s all for this post! I plan on making a post on travelling really soon so look for it in the coming week.

13 Signs You Might Be an OU Student Abroad

1. You can still count on OU Mass Mail to send you ~12 emails a day.
•shout-out to Kasra Ahmadi, Crimson Park, and Aspen Heights

2. You get Facebook invites to cultural events every week.
•Diwali, dance shows, cultural nights, and so much food.

3. You basically live in Traditions because of all the snap story parties you’ve virtually attended.
•except that because of the time difference you see everything like half a day later.

4. You still dream of the caf.
•Can you swipe me in from across the Atlantic?

5. Social media on game day makes you feel like you’re there- without all the parents and litter.
•BOOMER!

6. Other libraries just don’t compare- the Biz still holds a special place in your heart.
•Booking a study room in the basement makes for a chill Sunday writing essay after essay.

7. You walk the campus on Google Street View sometimes.
•It’s not weird.

8. Not even a french café can compare to chilling on the Starbucks terrace with your best pals.
•Friendsickness is real.

9. You almost miss the dorms…almost.
•the community, the togetherness, loud neighbors at 3 am…

10. You get the Bursar bill and it reminds you that college is expensive.
•Are there any 2 year majors that I could get for 1/2 price?

11. You question how you’re ever going to get these courses equated
•Cultural History is basically the same thing as Advanced French Composition… right?

12. You miss being able to wear Nike Shorts without people staring at you
•I understand the variations in cultural norms that are expected when abroad but seriously, I miss wearing whatever I want.

13. Breakfast at Cate Main
•Avocado Bravo.

5 Things to Know Before Studying Abroad

Before I came to France I was so excited! I was ready to travel Europe, make lifelong friendships, become fluent in French, and become independent. The truth about studying abroad is a little different. Don’t get me wrong- it’s still awesome, but there are some things that no one tells you.

 

1. You’ll watch a lot of Netflix

Assuming the country to which you’re travelling has Netflix (although VPNs solve that issue) you’ll probably find yourself watching The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Adventure Time, and/or a ton of documentaries. I didn’t want to be someone who travels abroad and then sits at home instead of going out to meet people, but here’s the thing: you’re going to have downtime and sometimes you won’t have the energy to go out. That’s totally okay.

 

2. Meeting people is tough!

I’ve met a lot of really cool people here, both French and international, but it wasn’t so easy. The best way to meet people in my experience is to hang out in common areas, make small take with those around you, and go out. Going out is probably the best way to meet new people in your new city. You don’t have to drink to go to bars with people (most bars have great non-alcoholic beers and cocktails) and you don’t have to like dancing to go to a party. With such a variety of people from so many places there’s bound to be several people who like what you like, you just have to seek them out.

 

3. It’s hard not to be a zombie.

I now have a working French phone number so this isn’t as big of a problem as it was when i first arrived.  A lot of my time upon arrival and for about the first month thereafter was spent hunting for WiFi. In the US I like WiFi as much as the next college student but when studying abroad it can feel like a lifeline! It’s really important to stay in contact with family and friends but i found that i was spending a little too much time staring at my phone trying to connect. Monitoring technology use can make the difference between just living abroad and truly integrating into your new city.

 

4. Your support system is thousands of miles away

This has been huge for me. I was the last person i thought would be homesick. I’ve been to France twice before and i managed well without my family and friends; however, being away for so long is a whole different story. Being in a foreign country for 10 months without my family and best friend is way harder than i imagined. I can’t grab Starbucks and gossip with my friends, or go to eat Mexican food with my mom, or see my sister and play with my nephew. I’m so thankful to have this opportunity and i’m glad i’m doing this, but i wasn’t prepared for homesickness. I talk to my mom almost everyday and I get pictures and videos of life back home and that’s been really nice.

 

5. Most things are a challenge

Once again, this one kind of hit me all at once. Since i’m in a foreign country I can’t just drive somewhere if i need something, I have to do everything for myself (grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry) and while i’ve done these things before it’s just weird to have only the financial assistance of my mom and not her actual presence. There were so many things I didn’t think about such as: buying toilet paper, trash bags, dish soap, and a sponge; preparing to pay a semester’s worth of rent in a foreign language (when the lady is rattling off numbers in french); and trying to get a cell phone and bank account. So many things are just more difficult when navigating a foreign language and culture shock but it’s really cool when you can look at what you’ve accomplished on your own.

 

 

Basically, studying abroad can be really challenging but it’s totally worth it. Dealing with new challenges, meeting new people, and exploring a new city/country/continent is awesome!

She’ll be comin’ around the mountain!

This weekend we hiked a volcano, not hiking as in taking the tram to the top and taking selfies from the summit (although there were so many selfies taken). We actually hiked the 2 1/2 trail to the top of Puy de Dôme. We’d been trying to get to this volcano pretty much since day 2 and it honestly wasn’t that tough, it just involved reading lots of train and bus schedules and coordination of people and times.

We set out at 10:30 on Sunday morning and walked to the train station. As we were looking around trying to find our bus stop we saw it pull up to a bench across the street. Our group of seven international students (nationalities include American, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Italian) ran across the busy street frantically trying to catch the soon-departing bus. We made it just in time and after a few minutes of ticket-buying confusion we were on our way to the volcano!

We passed through some new parts of the city (including a hamburger joint!) and as we neared the volcano we saw some adorable little hillside towns (complete with healthy French people going for brisk Sunday morning jogs). The bus dropped us off a little ways from the base of the volcano. We looked eager yet incredibly lost so our bus driver rattled off hiking directions while I listened intently.

The hike was hard. It took forever, it was so steep, and our group was composed of people ranging all different skill levels. We took videos to document the occasion on Allison’s Gopro (action camera) that was strapped to my chest. Despite the undeniable difficulty of the hike we had a blast! We planned a movie to make together, climbed a tree, saw a grazing herd of sheep, and drank from a quaint little well!

Once we reached the summit everyone was exhausted and starving. There’s a little cafeteria style restaurant at the top where the meals are ridiculously overpriced, naturally we ate there. We explored the summit seeing the Temple of Mercury (an ancient ruined Roman temple) and taking photos. We asked a lady at the welcoming center about a different way to hike down and we began our descent. This was undoubtedly the best part! We briefly met some guys from Austin, climbed some cedar piles, and ran down steep zig-zagging paths.

At the end of the trip everyone was tired, hungry, and had a lot of homework to do but it was still a really great trip!

mini-post: Facts on France

favorite food: kufta kebabs

favorite restaurant: l’étoile or Star (they’re different)

most helpful item brought: fork, passport photos

most useless item brought: running shorts

coolest activity: climbing volcano, visiting cathedral

most pleasant surprise: cool erasmus students, sandwiches

biggest disappointment: wifi/internet

lives up to the hype: bread, wine, cheese, public transport

favorite hangout spot: TV room, kitchen floor 6 or 3, Place Jaude, kebab shops

                                    prices:

coffee: 1 to 1.50                                baguette: .30 to .79

12 pack of sliced salami: 1.12  decent wine: 2.52 to 3.65

kefta with fries: 5                          tram ticket: 1.50

shirt at H&M: 9.99                        drink at bar: 4.50 (with student discount)

 

Adjusting and Adventures

My first week in France “was a blur- a stressful, surreal blur.” (That’s from Mean Girls.) No but really, week one was insane. Everything here is difficult and the inefficiency of French bureaucracy is omnipresent. I spent the first week finding a grocery store, making (and remaking) appointments, trying to get a phone number and a bank account (I’ve still got neither), gathering documents, going to the wrong buildings, and WALKING.

I bet some people are wondering what France is like, well let me tell you- it’s awesome, but it certainly isn’t perfect. The residential buildings here all have a faint odor of cigarette smoke, the air is very dry, and it’s more expensive than in Oklahoma. The people here are definitely not friendly. Everyone I’ve encountered has been polite, but the people are rather cold and closed off so making French friends takes some work. I’ve yet to have a bad meal here. The bread, fruits, and beverages are undoubtedly more flavorful than back home. The nightlife is really great- there’s an Irish pub where international students hang out and it’s got a really great atmosphere! While it’s really tough to accomplish anything here because the secretary is taking her 2 hour lunch (yeah, I know.), or you need to see her colleague who only works on Fridays, or the office closes at 3, or the person you were told to talk to has no idea and sends you back to the first place, it’s incredibly rewarding when you finally figured things out and you did it all by yourself.

I’ve already had some crazy adventures here and I’ve been in Clermont for less than a week! Some of my adventures include: meeting a crazy French lady who was screaming “AVE YOU GOT A BOYFRIEND?!” with a super thick accent, trying to find a pizza hut, going to a birthday party where I didn’t know the birthday girl, spending several hours in a Mcdonalds for the WiFi, going to a club full of middle age French people with everyone staring at us, getting lost (a lot), Flunching (Flunch is a restaurant near the dorms), speaking in Arabic with every kebab shop owner in the town (they’re all Tunisian?), discovering that French Netflix is way better, loudly singing the Oklahoma state song in an Irish bar with other Oklahomans (along with the National Anthem, the 50 nifty, row-your-boat, ba ba black sheep, she’ll be comin’ round the mountain and any other English song we could thing of), meeting international students from all over the world, cleaning my floor with a wet paper towel (I don’t have a broom yet), drinking coffee late at night in the Turkish café, smoking shisha with friends, and cooking my own meals.

I’ve been taking classes all week (sometimes 6hrs a day) for learning French. I’m studying French (and taking an Arabic class) for the first semester and next semester I’ll integrate into one of the colleges with native French students. I’m kind of glad that I don’t have the pressure just yet of figuring out a course schedule because it’s completely different from the American system. I’ve been trying to take an Arabic course here and the schedule was just posted today (Friday) for courses which start on Monday!

I’m considering writing a post about cultural differences between Oklahoma/The US and France so look forward to that pretty soon!

kebabs in the park! Place de Jaude wine specialty store dat architecture cool candles in the cathedral on top of the cathedral at the club with all of the older people :0 with 3li and his cousin at a Kebab shop! getting lost! my lunch every day cooking pasta for dinner! drinking coffee and smoking shisha whose birthday is it? kefta ! :D graffiti by my dorm! my building