I arrived in Montpellier Thursday afternoon, where I met up with other kids on the program. The program comprises about 35 students (including just four very brave males), and it’s a good mix of kids from University of Minnesota, which administers the program, as well as other universities. Thursday afternoon, some of us wandered around Montpellier, successfully ordered and ate dinner at a crêperie at La Place de la Comédie, which is a large open area in downtown Montpellier, just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. Friday we had orientation at the program center, then hopped on a bus to head to Le Grau-du-Roi, a seaside resort on the Mediterranean. Friday night we went to a traditional bull ranch, where we toured the ranch on a wagon and also got devoured by mosquitos (les moustiques—a word we all will never forget). At the ranch, we were served a traditional southern France dinner, and afterwards there was a dance party in the barn, where musical selections included 80s europop, 80s American rock, and a techno remix of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song (?). Oh, sidenote, our middle-aged French bus driver’s ringtone was ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. Quality.
Saturday we went downtown into Le Grau-du-Roi, where we went on a catamaran out onto the Mediterranean, then had the entire afternoon to ourselves in the town. Two friends and I lunched at a beachside café, then relaxed sur la plage for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening, we had dinner at the resort’s restaurant.
This morning, we went to a museum of ancient Roman ruins in Arles, then hit up the medieval walled city of Aigues-Mortes, where I had the most splendid lunch with some friends. Finally, after visiting the Tower at the corner of the city and walking along the top of the ramparts around the entire perimeter of the city, we headed back to Montpellier.
Tonight I met my host family. They’re really really nice and live in a large house just 10 minutes’ walk from the university. I have a host-mom and host-brother in the house; Marie is an allergist, and Clément is my age and in medical school here in Montpellier. Clément’s petite amie, Diane, was here for dinner as well, and they invited me to go to the discothèque with them on Wednesday, so that should be fun.
It’s been an absolutely crazy four days, and I’m so happy to be relaxing in my gorgeous room here. It’s amazingly draining to be immersed in another language, even more so than I was expecting. In order to understand anything that’s going on around me, I have to be constantly focused on each word, and also taking in context and gestures in order to make sense of what’s going on, particularly because people here tend to speak quickly. But I think I’m doing ok and have been able to communicate with the people around me. I have to admit, I’ve been using a whole lot of present tense and have been randomly inserting infinitives into my sentences… but I’m hoping the grammar will fall into place once I’m more accustomed to everything else that’s going on.
Here’s a link to my Picasa album. Check it out. The captions describe the places we’ve been so far. Enjoy. And I am going to go enjoy a full night’s sleep in what will be my room for the next three months!