So Much Class.

I have officially been in Paris for 20 days at this point, and I have actually been in school for like 10 of them (I think?).

My tourist days have passed in a whirl of museums, monuments (WHICH ARE ALL FREE TO EU CITIZENS BETWEEN 18 AND 26, AND I COUNT WITH A LONG STAY VISA GOOD JOB FRANCE YOU ROCK), and long walks to cafes, coffeshops, or nowhere in particular.

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Everyone else had to pay to visit this gargoyle. NOT ME THANKS FRANCE.

Don’t get me wrong, the touristic things were about 87% of the appeal of studying abroad for me. And they have definitely lived up to their hype more often than not.

YEP. Just as sparkly as everyone says.
YEP. Just as sparkly as everyone says. (Well really it is sparklier, but that’s what I get for iphone pictures…)

But I have actually loved school almost as much. Classes are hard because the only language is French- spoken quite rapidly- which can be extremely intimidating. But it’s a safe environment where we mess up and laugh at ourselves/each other. I am learning SO MUCH French. I have 2 hours of grammar classes every day for the entire semester and an hour of phonetics every day every other week. We shall see how long it takes me to mix up the weeks and get here 2 hours early (or more likely late…). This week I also start additional culture courses called conferences. These are once a week for 2 hours. So that’s about as simple as it gets right?

It’s also roughly 21 hours of literal sitting in class per week, so I may be dropping things. On one hand there isn’t too much homework so the rest of my time is free. On the other, I just have issues sitting still for very long at all. So… We shall see.

I spend a lot of time at school, but I absolutely love the environment around our one building campus. This morning, as I was attempting to write this post, I was interrupted by no less than 4 friendly Europeans who just wanted to chat before classes started. It’s like freshman year all over again! Everyone is so excited to be here and also so out of their familiar environments that we all just naturally start chatting whenever we get the chance.

We are all international students, so there are a crazy number of languages spoken in the halls and library. My grammar class is a good example of the diversity at the school. There are 20ish students in my class and we are American (of course), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian, Mexican, Bulgarian, and Turkish. French is the only language some of us have in common, and an interest in French culture virtually the only thing that we have in common. But it’s enough. I’ve already made some great friends in my class. Strangely, I became friends with the South American students before I really got to know the other North American ones. From the very first day, we started bonding by commiserating France’s lack of sun, open spaces, and (ironically enough) casual conversations with friendly strangers. All the other US kids are from New York, so they couldn’t really join in on any of those…

I’m learning so much French, but I’m also learning about the international community in general, and that is even more valuable. Yesterday we spent a huge chunk of class discussing issues in our home countries in French. I learned about the packs of feral dogs ravaging Bulgaria, political unrest in Turkey, the dangerous levels of pollution in China, crippling social pressure in Korea, urban sprawl in Mexico, corruption in Brazil, all from people who have experienced these things and are invested in the issues.

What did I talk about you may ask? Cost of education and a lack of value for the Liberal Arts EXCEPT OH WAIT THEY DON’T HAVE THAT PROBLEM HERE. One of my new British friends and I spent the morning discussing the way the French appreciate things. They may not make enough money to enjoy all the things they want to do… but boy do they enjoy what they can.

So class is great. People are great. And I love studying here. And I will just finish this distraction from everyone’s studies by repeating the most French piece of advice I’ve ever gotten (from my new French restaurant owner friend Sophie): “School is important, but don’t worry about it too much. You don’t need a lot of money. You only need good people… And good wine.”

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PS. This is the view from my school…
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Made It.

Well! I’m here!

Paris is beautiful and old and most things that everyone has said about it. It’s also, rather unromantically, a large and dense city, which means lots of noise and people everywhere. I don’t really mind that at the moment though. Right now, I’m having far too much fun.

It’s true that my apartment is small, which is not very surprising. It can also be stressful due to our sweet house mom Madame Boquet. She is so very accommodating, but she speaks seulement en rapid fire French, that I have to translate as best I can for my roommate. But we honestly aren’t here much other than breakfast and dinner. And I’m already getting better at understanding! So for now we’ll just focus on the fact that my relatively-average-for-Paris-sized room has a chandelier.

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Like What?

Since my plane was delayed, I showed up with no sleep just in time for the last half of an 8 hour orientation session (don’t worry they tacked the first part on at the end of the second just for those of us who were late…). Naturally, my roommate and I did nothing but sleep for the rest of the day. But we showed up for the second day of orientation on time, where we got to visit our school and take a language placement test that will seal our fates as to the level of French classes we take for the rest of the semester.

Afterwards, I joined a random group of girls who were going to visit the Champs Elysees. We shopped and galavanted our way down to L’Arc de Triomphe, which was obviously large and impressive.

 

 

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Thursday, we were supposed to meet the same group at the Eiffel Tower, but we ended up being about half an hour late, so my roommate Darian and I looked at it and decided it was far too cold to actually go up. We started wandering around the 7th arrondissement and somehow ran into our group at L’Hotel des Invalides, a military museum which was closed for the day. So we went to an open museum that was full of art and artifacts from Africa, Oceania, and other places that were not France because it was free. The beautiful thing about having a visa and being between the ages of 18-26 in the EU is that all the monuments and all the museums are completely free. Good idea France.

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Friday was Versailles!

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Makes me feel bad for my one little chandelier.

We all decided to shoot for something like this in the future.

I ended up touring the chateau with nearly the same group of people from the past few days, and we toured every single building and 7 miles of the gardens with appropriate amounts of both cultural appreciation and modern immaturity. I like these people.

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This is Gaelyn. She starred in many of my photos this day.

 

To finish the quick activities list: Saturday was the Musee D’Orsay. Sunday was church at the American Church of Paris and exploring Marais. And today we climbed 396 steps into the towers of Notre Dame to see our new city.

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There are five or six of us hanging out pretty regularly already, and I expect to be friends with many of these people for a long time.

So far I still feel like a tourist, honestly we all do.  We keep looking at each other and repeating variations of “Hey, we live in Paris now, so like what?” Classes start on Wednesday, and so real life will hit soon, but for now all is fun. Give me a month or two and I’ll be laughing at my naive little tourist self, but for the moment I am perfectly content surveying the city from the fresh perspective of a first time visitor.

WAIT WHAT, YOU’RE GOING TO PARIS?

I’ve made everyone a cheat sheet.

“Shelbi, why are you still here? Leave for Paris already.”

Well Europe doesn’t do everything like America. Shocking I know. They do their collegiate level education largely on a trimester system, so I don’t start until February 2. But since I am from Merica, I have to take an American length semester. So classes will end May 31, at which time my family is coming to play in Europe for 2 weeks! Yay!

“What are you doing over there?”

I’ll be taking 12 whole hours of language and culture classes at the University of Paris. And it’s all in French…

We’ll see how that goes. I think I’ll be very grateful for a pass/fail semester.

“Do you know anyone?”

NOT YET!

“Did you know that French people are super rude?”

I am convinced this stereotype does not hold true for an entire nation.

Largely because I’ve lived in Texas long enough to know that we do not, in fact, all ride horses.

“Will you have a blog?”

Apparently?

Honestly, I wasn’t really planning on it, but then I decided to see if I could still log into my old Africa one. And well obviously the answer was yes. But well I won’t promise consistent updates after departure…

“I really need to let you know that it’s not fun here without you/get your oatmeal butterscotch cookie recipe, how do I contact you?”

Facebook, Viber, iMessage, Skype, however! But it is 8 hours ahead for me so there’s that.

“Why would you assault us with all this useless information?”

Sorry guys, Dallas is just quite boring when it’s this empty…