I have been in France for almost two weeks now, and  I’ve had the time of my life. In the short two weeks that I have been here, I have already experienced so much and tried so many new things.

Paris was truly wonderful (although the traffic was terrible). My program had arranged IMG_3303tours for us at Notre Dame, Palais de Justice, Le Marias, and Versailles with a wonderful tour guide by the name of Gwen (she was super nice, upbeat, and eccentric, I just loved her). All of these places were beautiful, especially Versailles, which I was ecstatic to go to. It was beautifully adorned with gold, and covered in so many unique paintings, most of which symbolized Louis the XVI comparing himself to God (but hey he was the King of France, right).  USAC also took us to La Tour Eiffel. La Tour Eiffel was

beautiful and had totally surpassed my expectations. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be and the view from up top was beautiful. In addition to

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Oldest Houses in Paris

all this, we were given 4-day museum passes for all of Paris’ museums and historical landmarks, and I was able to explore places like the Louvre and Centre Pompidou as a result, both of which were fantastic museums, that were huge (got lost in both of them), beautiful, and filled with so much unique stuff, definitely coming back one day to explore more of them. The city was filled with so much history and culture, and I feel like my cultural competency is now through the roof.

After My short 5 days in Paris, we took the French High-Speed Train or TGV down to Lyon where I am now studying at the Lumière University Lyon 2. So far Lyon has been amazing, and I’ve already madly fallen in love with this place. Lyon is gorgeously situated in-between and around two rivers, Le Rhône

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Me gazing into La Saône

and La Saône (Fun fact: Le Rhône is a “fleuve” or masculine river because it is seen as aggressive, having a very strong current. La Saône, on the other hand, is a “rivière” or feminine river because it has a weaker current and is seen as more gentle.). These two rivers beautifully complement the city with its red tiled roof buildings, giving it a very classically European feel. Lyon also contains an entire fully preserved Renaissance era neighborhood called Vieux Lyon, consisting of narrow cobblestone streets, and beautifully colorful buildings dating back to the 1500s. To contrast this old-world charm, Lyon has a very modern side to it as well. For example, Lyon has a very efficient and relatively new metro system, as well as plenty

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Vieux Lyon

of shopping centers, clubs, and college students. There are also plenty of art galleries and museums that I will have to check out one of these days.

The food in France has so far been amazing. The wines, bread, pastries, and cheeses, have all been to die for, and additionally, they are relatively cheap. You can get a decent baguette, for instance, for .80€, and I bought 2 morceaux of St Marcellin cheese for 2.65€ at a farmer’s market. Of course, the more expensive food is much better, but the cheaper food is still good, and considering I’m a broke college student who can’t afford expensive food, decent cheap food is appreciated. I have even had the opportunity to try escargot (crossed that one of the bucket list) for the first time, and it was actually not bad at all. It definitely wasn’t slimy, and rather tasted like oysters covered in butter and garlic, I would totally eat it again! So far I have noticed that the French diet consists of mainly carbs, fat, and wine. The French eat a lot of bread and patisserie, as well a cheese and

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Saucission Brioché

butter and they drink a lot of wine as well. They eat noticeably less meat than we do here in the U.S, but they still do eat plenty of meat.  Now that I am here in Lyon the Food and the culture associated with it has become better, as Lyon is regarded as the gastronomic capital of France. Just the other day I ended up having one of the best meals of my life, at a Bouchon (a type of traditional Lyonnais restaurant). It consisted of a Salade Lyonnais (a salad with some ham, dressing, and a poached egg), and then a plate of Saucisson Brioché (French sausage baked into brioche bread), served with the most amazing fried potato slices, as well as a medley of sautéed peppers and onions. For dessert, I was served a Tarte au Praline, which is some kind of tarte with a red sweet filling that I could not decipher, but it was delicious nonetheless. I left satisfied and I truly cannot wait to try more food at a Bouchon.  However, some of the food here is a bit out of my comfort zone. For example here in Lyon it’s said that you can order pork brains fried in pork fat, and while I haven’t come across that on a menu, I have come across (ordered and disliked) pan fried beef belly, and Paté en Croute, meat paste made of the lives of different animals, all baked into a pastry-like bread (although I actually do want to try this). But even if this food is “too interesting” for my taste buds it still contains a lot of history and culture, and I respect that.

As a student, my life here has been filled with classes, studying, and a lot of trying to decipher French.  There around 70 of us, as there are other programs here besides just USAC, and so my classes have been composed of around 15 people each, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet U.S students from different U.S programs, as well as a handful of students from places like Italy, Spain, and Brazil. I’m taking 4 classes here, A French

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A Picture I took for my Photography class

grammar class, a French theatre “project” class, a French computer “project” (I’ll go into what the “projects are in a bit), and a travel photography class, so I am constantly busy with something. I was placed in a much higher level of French than I expected to be placed in, and after only one year of French, I find myself in class with people who just finished 3rd-year college French (it’s pretty intimidating). As a result, the professors speak fully in French (some of them can’t even speak English) and expect near perfect comprehension. They also expect you to speak only in French during class. Both of these expectations have proven rather hard for me to meet, as I am fairly new to the language, but I tend to like a challenge, and I think being at such a high level will be good for me, and as of now I’m managing this challenge fairly well, with my comprehension and speaking skills improving each day. In terms of how the organization of the courses looks like, in the language track of my program, everyone is taking 3 language classes: one 2hr grammar class, as well as a 2hr “long project” and a 1.5hr “short project. The grammar classes simply cover grammar, whereas the project classes are focused on interactive activities and a final project at the end of

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Some of more new friends

the course.  So far out of my classes (photography included), I’ve enjoyed my theatre project class the most, and can honestly say it’s the most fun class I’ve ever taken. We constantly play games (like the French version of Red Light Green Light), act out skits, and make sculptures with our bodies. Our final project is to perform a skit in French in front of French theatre majors, which is kind of scary to think about, but I’m excited nonetheless.

 

In terms of culture shock, I don’t really think I’ve really experienced too much. France is a Western Country with a predominantly Western Culture, therefore there the differences haven’t been too stark. But even though the differences haven’t been enough to “shock” me, they are still noteworthy nonetheless.  One of the first things I noticed, in coming to France is how fast, and seemingly reckless the driving is here. Drivers will cut

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Metro Station, Paris

each other off very closely and motorcycles will drive between cars very quickly during traffic. In terms of driving people to tend to just kind of go for it, and as scary as it seems to my American self, it seems to be working just fine for the French. People in Europe also tend to walk everywhere, but as a result, public transportation is amazing and extremely efficient, and walking everywhere does help get some good exercise in. Another difference is in regards to smoking, it’s seen as a normal everyday activity here and many people do it, regardless of the fact that anti-smoking campaigns are huge (all cigarette packets say “smoking kills” in huge letters, and many of them contain pictures of people sick in hospitals), and smoking cafés or Tabac café which serve coffee and cigarettes are common.  One of the biggest cultural differences I’m noticing here is in regards to openness towards others. In France, people tend to be open, in most aspects of socialization, whether that be displaying love, or casually saying a bonjour to someone in the elevator, which is in contrast to at least Washington State where people tend to be a little more introverted.  All of these differences initially stood out to me, and I am still getting used to them, and sometimes failing, but with each passing day, I grow more and more accustomed to them.

Initially coming in I was a bit worried about how I would like French culture, as Americans definitely stereotype the French. I was afraid that they might seem rude or snobby, I was worried that my outfits would not be fashionable enough (my friend told me the French don’t wear shorts so I almost didn’t bring any), and I was worried that the clothes here would not fit me etc. Within the short time I have been here, none of these stereotypes have turned out to be fully true, and have been for the most part false. The French aren’t any ruder than you average American, regular clothes are found and worn here (shorts included), and you can find clothes of all sizes. Seeing all these stereotypes debunked has, once again reaffirmed my understanding of stereotypes being mostly false, and I have realized that we only create them to make others seem more different from us than they actually are. So far France has been an extremely welcoming host country. The history and culture found in this country is amazing, and I am super happy to be able to explore it this summer. I have already seen and done so much here, and yet there is still so much to seen and do, and I only have 3 weeks remaining on this program which is crazy to think about. But I know it’s going to be a full three weeks, with a trip to Geneva and Annecy this weekend, a dinner with a French family and chocolate tour next week, a trip to Avignon and Arles, next weekend, and Bastille Day the weekend after that. And in addition to all that I will be going to Berlin for 2 nights and staying in a Hostel after my program, and then to Poland for 3 weeks to visit family and friends after that. I’m super excited for all of these experiences to come, and cannot wait to share than in the coming weeks.