Sitting in my bedroom at my home stay and looking out my window, I’m reminded of home. It’s strange to me that while I’m over 5,000 miles away from Bellingham, in a completely different country, it doesn’t seem so far away. Maybe it’s because I’m looking out at the pouring down rain and thick fog that’s hanging low on the mountains… I mean, what’s more Bellingham than that? But it also might have to do with the fact that over the last few months, this place has begun to feel more and more like home.
In the mornings, I wake up (usually before my host parents) and get ready for school and whatever I have planned for the day. I have my typical French breakfast of some slices of baguette with jam and a large cup of coffee. The days are getting a lot colder now, similar to the weather in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, so I bundle up in all of my layers before heading out to catch the tram. I walk out the front door of my apartment to see the small market that is set up in the square just in front of my building. The vendors are all set up with their selections of fruit, vegetables, bread, and whatever else they brought for the day. As I make my way to my tram stop, I pass by the butcher shop and the bakery that tempts me every morning, with delicious looking pastries and croissants. I gaze out the window during my 15 minute ride to campus across town; no matter how many times I take this route to campus, I always notice something new along the rivers or up in the mountains. When I get to the university, I usually run into some of my friends, a good way to spend the last ten minutes before a two hour block of classes. At the end of the school day, I take the tram back into town to grab a bite to eat or head to a cafe to do some homework. While I’d like to be able to stroll around town or enjoy the crisp mountain air, it’s officially a little too cold for that. Instead I prefer the warmth of a hot coffee and the comfort of one of the many bustling coffee shops throughout the city. It’s nearing the holiday season, so as it begins to get dark outside, the streets light up with color, coming from the alleys and roads covered in Christmas lights, with trees decorated throughout the town as well. I make my way back to my apartment each night in time for dinner, where my host family will have a delicious home cooked meal waiting. I get to share my day with them, and talk about the news and current events and weather and whatever other topics happen to come up. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day, and not just because of the great food.
Given that my days left here are dwindling, I’ve been able to reflect on my experiences so far, and begin to think about what I hope to get out of my last few weeks in Grenoble.
I’ll be honest here, it hasn’t always been easy living here in a foreign country that speaks a foreign language with people who started out as strangers, but if nothing else it has definitely been a learning and growing experience. When I first arrived, I greatly struggled with making small talk and casual conversation with my host family and others, but now I look forward to be able to express myself in French and continue to practice my language skills. My French is by no means perfect, it is very far from it, but I can tell that I’ve progressed, which is really important to me nonetheless. Classes at times have been difficult, especially since there are so many international students from around the world that there is no common language here, besides French. It was frustrating at first trying to get through classes, but being “forced” to use the language at all times has had its benefits, and I feel more confident as time goes on.
Nevertheless, though, this experience so far has had its benefits. Being in France, and in Europe in general, is especially awesome because of how easy it is to travel. As of now, I’ve travelled to about 14 different cities in a total of 5 different countries, not including Ireland which I’ll be adding to the list after this weekend. With all of those travels, though, I can still say that I greatly enjoy coming back to Grenoble and being here in this city. There’s just something about it that makes me feel at home, and it might be my favorite place of all.
Looking ahead to the time I have left here, and heading home in just about a month, all I can say is that this experience is not something I’ll soon forget. The friends I’ve made, the daily routine that I’ve grown to love, the French family that has become my second family, and this cute little town that has become my second home; I’m not entirely sure how I’m supposed to leave it so soon. I plan on making the most out of these last few weeks here in Grenoble, as I know I’ll miss it when I’m gone.