Hello again! It’s been awhile, but I think it’s about time that I sit down and really reflect on the time I was able to spend studying abroad in Grenoble, France. I arrived back here in the states at the end of December, and there hasn’t been a day that’s passed without me thinking about those four months in which I was able to fully immerse myself in a new culture, a new experience, and a new way of life. Looking back now, I can really appreciate my time abroad, and reflect on everything that I gained.
Winter quarter has officially started at Western, and it has been 17 days since I said goodbye to Lyon.
At this time, three days from now, my plane will be landing in Seattle, and I’ll be home. In all honesty, it doesn’t even seem real yet. It’s hard to imagine not waking up in my cozy little bedroom, hearing my host mom and dad talking in the living room, and constantly being surrounded by French. It’s crazy to me how quickly a whole new way of life can become the norm, and I’d be lying if I were to say I wasn’t at least a little bit sad to leave it all behind.
We are now 12 days away from the end of my semester abroad, and to sum it up into one phrase, it’s been one crazy journey.
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.
“Life as a person from Lyon”
I have officially been living in Lyon for 55 days, and I can’t help but wonder where all the time has gone? It seems like just yesterday I was getting lost in the public transit or getting locked out of my apartment. (Although I still stand by the fact that the doors here are way less user friendly than at home!)
In these 55 days Lyon has truly become a second home for me, and I’m not looking forward to the day that I have to leave this all behind. I will miss stepping outside of my building and being immediately greeted by the glistening waves of the Saône River, and my walk to class when I pass by at least four boulangeries where the warm scent of fresh baking bread greets me. I’ll miss the swarms of pigeons and the quick bobbing of their heads when I walk to close and they rush out of my way.
I figured I would start this blog out now with one of my certificate posts, and a sort of introduction more than what you can find in the about.
My name is Brenna, and this fall I will be entering into my second year at Western Washington University. My current plans (as we all know how finicky these things can be to finalize) are to double major in French on the main campus at Western, and Cultural/Travel Play-writing (still working out all the technicalities of it right now) at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, which is a small college that is a part of Western.
During this past year I was completing my fifth year of French language courses. I had already taken four years in high school you see, and after high school I just knew that my continued education path had to include the language. I had fallen in love with it. So between the prospect of my sixth consecutive year of studying French and trying to figure out how to work Traveling/Cultural Exploration into Play-writing; I decided it was time to consider studying abroad. Which led me to the Lyon, France program through University Studies Abroad Consortium aka USAC.
One thing led to another and I was accepted and beyond excited to work out the specifics of my Independent Study Program (ISP) for this very blog, and even more-so, to get to move to France.
Now we are T-minus 30 days, 9 hours, 58 minutes and 10 seconds (yes of course I have a countdown app installed on my phone, are you kidding?!) until I take off, and honestly the nerves are starting to kick in. Of course I’m beyond thrilled to have this incredible opportunity to live in a new country and experience a new culture first-hand, but there’s that little bubble of silly doubt too. What if no one will want to speak French with me, and my language skills don’t really improve? What if something goes wrong with my flights and I don’t get there on time? What if I don’t like escargot? Okay… that last one is only slightly real, I’m still deciding if I’m brave enough to try it. But I know that all of these worries will diminish when I get there, I meet my host family, and I start my classes. Because that’s what this is all about, putting yourself out there, and being brave enough to take on these doubts and experience the world. I’ve done the research on local customs, I’ve taken precautions, I’ve asked for help when I need it. And now? Now it’s time to go out and live. Well… in 30 days, 9 hours, 50 minutes and 34 seconds it will be anyways.
Today marks my third day officially living in Lyon, and my fourth day since leaving the United States; and let me tell you, it has been a rocky first few days. I’ve gotten lost, had to walk through dark places alone, had issues communicating, and gotten locked out. However, there’s also been many more good times to overshadow these troubles, so you could say it’s been a roller coaster journey thus far.
Fresh off the plane, (after 16 hours of travel) I received an email from my advisers with instructions for getting to La Statue de Saint Exupéry à Place Bellecour, where I was supposed to meet my host family for the first time in a few hours. With four hours on my hands I decided to give public transit a shot. The instructions seemed fairly clear to me, so having navigated the Portland public transit a lot I thought I could handle it. Of course I was wrong.
I remember clearly, the feeling of waking up at 4am getting ready and calling a cab to pick me up from the Kraków hostel I was staying at, of how drowsy and half asleep, yet serious I felt. I remember walking into the cold morning air, into darkness, and feeling a light breeze. I remember the ride to the airport which seemed like it lasted forever. I remember eating not one but two Paczki (Polish donuts) as I was waiting for my flight, savoring the last taste of my culture and homeland.
As I’m writing this blog post, I’m currently in the middle of my fourth week in France, finishing up my finals, and nearing the end of my program. It’s not a mid-program post, so to speak, as it’s way past the middle of my program (life here has literally been non-stop, and I have not had any time to work on my blogs sadly), but even though I am leaving France right after, I will still be in Europe for 4 weeks in Germany and Poland, and so in that way it’s a mid-time in Europe post.
Since I have come here to France, I have already had plenty of opportunities to speak French, which has been really cool. I was initially intimidated by going to France with only a year’s worth of French, and yes I was afraid to speak it at first. Before coming to France I listened to a lot of French podcasts and music, but I would always have trouble understanding what was being said. I would try to speak with friends, but I would struggle to put together sentences. Long story short I did not have as much experience with the French language as I felt I needed, and that was scary to think about.
I have been in France for about a week and a half now, and I simply cannot believe it. It’s been great and I cannot wait to share those stories with you all. But alas this is not my arrival in France blog post rather it is one focusing my on my journey to France ( I would have written this blog earlier but I have had absolutely no time at all for anything in the last week and a half ), and boy did I have an amazing journey.
Hello!!! Thank you so much for deciding to read this blog, it means the world to me! As I finish up my spring quarter here at Western Washington University, I find myself extremely excited for the journey I’m about to undertake. This summer I will finally be fulfilling one of my childhood dreams of going to France. I will be studying abroad in Lyon, France, for 4 and a half weeks earning credit for my French minor and traveling as much as possible. After the end of my program, I intend to travel for a bit and make my way to Poland where I will visit family and an old childhood friend for a few weeks, and then finally head back to the States. This will leave me with about 2 months in Europe.