Archive for the ‘Veronica in France’ Category


Veronica: 35 days since leaving Montpellier

July 4, 2010

Okay. So I feel like I have a lot to explain. I have changed so much in France and realized a lot about myself even after coming back to the US. I like life in France better. That’s what I want. It hurts every day not being there. It’s actually a physical pain. And, as my mom pointed out, what I talked about with my family and in my blog posts sounded negative and like I wasn’t having a good time. She thought I hated being in France. This is the complete opposite of the truth. Yes, it was hard. It’s hard being away from your friends, family, and familiarity, and things don’t always go right or how you expected them. And yes, sometimes it sucked. But only sometimes. There are ups and downs. I will tell you this, and maybe you will find/have found this to be true for you as well: it’s a lot easier to talk about the stuff that you don’t like and/or the stuff that isn’t going right. That’s the stuff (for me, at least) that is easiest to talk about with people who aren’t experiencing what you are. It seems more relatable. It’s easier to talk about a problem. They can’t understand the good stuff because they aren’t there to see the guy playing accordion in the park, or the medieval building, or even a strange bird, or eat true French bread, or meet the people that you do. They can’t just walk down the street, totally in love with the place like you are. You can tell them about it, sure. But they just don’t get it. I know I am like that when I hear memories and stories from friends who have studied abroad. I’m sure it was great, but all it is, is just a story. Nothing else. And now I’m having that happen to me and it really, really bothers me. I feel alone most of the time because of this, as well as misunderstood. It makes being back in the US even harder.

And when you talk about things that are just weird, that you aren’t used to, maybe it accidentally comes out as negative. Maybe that’s what I did a lot of the time and my meanings and intentions were misconstrued. Or maybe when something ridiculous happened to you, like your train being late and meeting some really bizarre people in the process and then having to stand on the train for two hours, sounds like it was a bad experience when it really wasn’t. The word ridiculous is too often mistaken for bad, and it shouldn’t be. France is kind of a ridiculous place, but it is not a bad place. It’s a wonderful place where kind of wacky things happen sometimes.

You have to know that it was the most amazing experience in my life and I wish every waking moment that it hadn’t had to end.


Veronica: less than three weeks

May 9, 2010

As of today I only have 15 days left in France. 15 DAYS?! How is this possible? Not enough time. Where did the time go? This is insane. I want to stay here. I miss home a little bit, but man, it’s nothing compared to France and Europe. I would rather visit home for a bit and then come back here… I am very sad that I can’t stay here. But, my new plan is to teach English abroad. I want to see the world, and teaching English to fund it is perfect. My old plan is out the window. I want to be a tourist for the rest of my life. And France will be my home base. That is the life I want. It’s too bad that I have to take a break and go home and finish school… I just want to keep building on my tourism career. Ahhhhh. Oh well. Even though I have to leave now, I will be back and it will be great.

I am going to miss France so much. I don’t want to gooooo. I want to stay here forever. All the little things here that are normal, I keep noticing and loving them. Transitioning back to home culture is going to be hard… Everything here is normal. Home is no longer normal. The day I leave France is going to be one of the saddest days of my life. Ugghhhh. Want. To. Stay.


Veronica: Easter, the most bizarre day ever

April 4, 2010

Today is Easter. And in France, it is a very unconventional holiday indeed. My day started strangely. My host mom was gone when I woke up, someone picked her up because both of the cars were still at the house. I decided to go to my friend’s place for the day rather than being home all day alone. And that is when the strangeness really began.

Since it’s Easter, EVERYTHING is shut down in France. Obviously. But we went for a walk and did find a bakery stand near the train station that was open, and they had this chocolate cake called “pudding,” so I got it. And it was the strangest tasting thing ever. I can’t even describe it to you. It didn’t taste like pudding OR cake. It was really not good.

But after that, in the Place de la Comedie, was when things really went down. There was a brass marching type band playing in front of the opera house to a big crowd. The band members were dressed up with accessories I didn’t think they would sell in France. Curly, colored, clown-like wigs; boas; shiny and shaggy sheaths of material; pink shirts with a face hood; and hippie-like garb. Despite their odd appearance, they played really well and were entertaining on their own, but the real entertainment/amusement/ridiculousness was in the crowd. There was a drugged-out, dirty homeless man dancing and rolling around on the ground to the music. Little children were riding their tricycles and dancing in the center with their parents nowhere in sight. One boy was riding a bike that was way too big for him, and bouncing around on it. His brother was doing cartwheels and kicking people. One guy was dancing with the kids who had an afro on half of his head. One child kept trying to steal the band’s money. Dogs started fighting. One guy was dancing with his coat and then randomly had a guitar a minute later. A tram honked at the crowd. It rained only on the crowd for five minutes. Bikers kept riding through the crowd. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many French people acting out. They are very proper and keep to themselves. This was like French society cracking. I can’t even explain how weird this was to you. I wish I had videos I could show you.

Craziest Easter… No, craziest day ever. If every Easter is like this, I’m going to make sure to be here for them.


Veronica: Travels and more

March 9, 2010
Travel is a really important thing when you’re studying abroad, and I think I should tell you about my experiences (in a practical way). For the Montpellier integrated track, there is a week long winter break. So, three friends and I went to Italy. Weekend trips are easy to plan, but a week long trip is harder than you would expect. It got kind of stressful for more than one reason. There is a lot to think about and take into consideration. How are you going to get to the airport from the train station; do all of your flight/train times harmonize, or do you need to find somewhere to stay, do you need to rush…things like that. Also, an important thing that I learned is that the way people plan is the way they travel. If they are kind of hard-headed when they plan, they will be worse when you travel. If they are laid back planners, they will be flexible travellers. If they are illogical when planning, travelling will be a mess. Pay attention to the way people plan because those qualities will be amplified when you’re out there doing what you organized. I wish I didn’t have to learn this the hard way, but I did. Also, my trip ended up costing between $300-$400 more than planned. So be ready to spend more money than you anticipate. Things just don’t go exactly as you think. Be prepared to traveling to go wrong. We didn’t have any issues (except we ended up having to go a day early to Lyon because our flight was at 7am; this was minor), but a lot of people we talked to after getting back missed flights and cabs cost ridiculous amounts, and had to buy new tickets for planes and trains and things like that. One thing I advise, is if you fly out of Lyon, DO NOT use the train station–airport shuttle bus. It’s expensive, and the most ridiculous thing ever. It was such a joke. Awful service. Seriously, do not use it. Take a cab. Walk. Something. Just not that.

So, traveling is not as easy as it seems. You’ll run into problems no matter what. Be flexible. Understand that things aren’t as structured as they seem they should be. Flexibility is key.

And Italy was so much fun. I went to Rome, Florence, and Venice. Rome is the best city out of the three. The drivers are crazy, which is interesting. And there is something old/famous no matter where you go or if you’re looking for it. They build around ancient pillars and stuff, so they’ll just be anywhere. Next to a building, in a parking lot, etc. It’s really cool. Venice was pretty, but I wasn’t a huge fan, actually. It was really cold because of the water, and it’s really hard to get around unless you take boats, which costs a ton of money. We only saw one monument/place in 2.5 days because it was so hard to find anything. Also, there are parts of the city that feel really sketchy and dirty and unsafe, and there is no indication that the area is changing until you are already there. If Venice is something you want to see, do it, but I didn’t think it was that great.




Also, the program organized an excursion this past Saturday to Saint Guilhem-le-Desert. It is such a beautiful village. It was actually voted one of the most beautiful towns in France. Such a nice place. And we went to the Clamouse cave. That was cool too. Short tour, small cave, but definitely the prettiest cave I’ve been too, and I’ve been to quite a few. If this is an excursion option when you are in Montpellier, do go. It’s really nice.
It snowed here last night. And when I say snowed, I don’t mean flurried like you would expect here. I mean really snowed. I felt like I was back in Minnesota. Nimes, a town nearby, got 10 inches. It hasn’t snowed that much here since 1974, I was told. I got stuck in it for two hours and it was cold, and wet, and terrible. It was gorgeous snow though. And snow on palm trees is quite an interesting sight. I would add an image of it, but it seems I’ve reached my quota.


Veronica: Carnaval in Nice

February 17, 2010
I went to Nice for Carnaval this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing. If you get the opportunity to go, GO! It started hundreds of years ago. I got there for the opening ceremony on Friday. There were thousands of people (and the number of people just kept going up all weekend). At the opening ceremony there were lots of balloon floats and acrobatics and people dressed up in crazy costumes. They also unveiled the two main floats of the festival at the end of the ceremony, after the countdown.
There were two parades on Saturday; the Flower Parade, and the Parade of Lights. We had to pay for admission for these, so we watched through holes in the fence during the Flower Parade and paid for the Parade of Lights. That was a good choice. The Flower Parade was cool, but the Parade of Lights was a thousand times better. And, most of the same floats were in both parades, and there were more, different ones at night. It cost 10 Euros to stand, and honestly, that was the best thing to do. I was right up in the front with the floats passing 6 inches in front of me.

There are tons of people and loud music, even during the day when there weren’t any events going on. It was such a fun time. I think tons of silly string and confetti must be bought/used for Carnaval. I ended up taking home handfuls of confetti without trying, and there were people trailing silly string from hats and coats and hair. It was a mess, but it was amazing.

The one thing that I was surprised about was that Carnaval wasn’t a 24-hour party all day and all night. After an event, people left, went shopping, etc. Then they came back for the next event, and then left when it was over. I was expecting it to be more like Carnival in New Orleans, and it wasn’t like that at all. It was the most fun I’ve had in my whole life. And I’m not exaggerating. It was the best weekend ever. I’m having trouble finding words to explain to you how much fun and how incredible it was, it was that good. So, to find out what I mean, buy a plane ticket (or train ticket) to Nice for Carnaval next year. If I can swing it, I’ll be there.

Veronica: My integrated class

February 17, 2010

I’m only taking one integrated class here, which is something I’m actually glad about now even though I wanted to take three (a little bit much). It’s kind of intense, but in a different way than you would expect.

The class is French and US history during the 20th century; Monday is about the US and Thursday is about France. It’s not really hard per se. Sometimes the French can be fast, but the subject itself isn’t difficult. The thing that’s hard is that there is only one grade. For each section I have to write a huge paper (and present in the US section for 30 minutes) and the best grade is chosen. That’s the only grade. Which is a little bit scary if you don’t do too well on either of them. The thing that is weird is that you can write about whatever you want, so I don’t see the point in actually going to class if you don’t have to be accountable for what is given in lecture. Of course, I still go because it’s interesting and I made a Polish friend, but I don’t see the motivation for the French to go. There must be something to it that I don’t know.

I don’t think it will be too bad, but that definitely is a lot of writing to do in French…especially if your focus is on travel and not school. We’ll see what happens.


Veronica: Ski Weekend in the Alps

February 7, 2010

The program sponsors a ski weekend in the Alps. I went and it was awesome. It costs 192 Euros–which is SUPER cheap, so you should do it. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never skiied before, lots of people who hadn’t went, me being one of them. It’s really cool to say you learned to ski in the Alps. I took lessons with a bunch of girls and we ended up only paying 6 Euros each, which is a really good deal.

They tell you to take your passport. We brought ours and didn’t need it. I would still take it if I were you and you go, but it’s not neccessary. Also, they said that the hostel didn’t provide blankets..but they provided blankets and no towels (or soap). So you don’t need a sleeping bag, but you should take a towel and soap. I know you’ll take soap to shower and all that, but I mean hand soap. They don’t give you that at the hostel.

Also, the people who took us on our trip, the guides, were really rude. The woman with short black hair is a horrible woman. They are impatient and treat you like you can’t even tie your shoes (which can be a problem if you’ve never skiied). The people who worked at the ski resort were really rude too. It was amazing that they would even dream of being so rude to customers. It would never fly in the States. By the end of the trip we hated all of the people who worked there/with us.

Now, despite all of those bad things I just said, the weekend was great. I can’t believe that there were people who didn’t want to go. It was absolutely gorgeous in the Alps and it’s nice to see snow again in the middle of winter. It was a semblance of normalcy. Being in the mountains with all the fresh air was incredible. Also, if you can’t ski but still want to go to the top of the mountain and see the view (who wouldn’t?) you can ride the ski lift all the way up and down. I did it with some friends, but there were so many people who didn’t do it because they worried too much about it being okay and didn’t bother to ask. All the people going up the mountain looked at us like we were nuts to take the lift down, but you should totally do it. Going up all you can see are the ski runs, but going down you can see all the mountains and trees and little towns nestled on the mountains. Beautiful.

So, basically, GO ON THE TRIP.


Veronica: First week of school

February 3, 2010

Class started last week. I like my classes with Americans. Well, except Phonetics and maybe Grammar. I feel like an idiot in Phonetics making noises into a headset. Not fun. And grammar is always useful. I like having grammar, but we’re starting with things I’ve understood very well for 8 years. I do not need to re-learn passe compose (can’t do accent marks on here for some reason..). I think the ingregrated class will be difficult to like just because I can’t understand everything. It will be slightly frustrating, I think.

The school system is really strange. Everything is very unorganized. And classes only meet once a week (which is nice, really, but hard to remember what we’ve been talking about). The campus looks pretty ghetto actually. The buildings are all obviously built in the 60’s and there is graffiti everywhere. And it’s really small, which, coming from the enormous U of M, is weird.

Before coming here, I knew France was a very stylish country. I knew that very well. But seeing it is another story. Imagine how you dress up to look your absolute best. That’s their everyday look. Bring clothes you think are fancy and you’ll be fine. And everything looks really expensive and nice because it is expensive and nice. Be aware. The casual American look will not cut it here. At all.

I’ve been noticing so many things that are different here since I arrived. The way they eat is different (obviously). I can always tell when I’m eating like an American because I feel sick afterwards. We eat disgustingly and don’t even know it until we eat the (better) French way. Also, they don’t drink a lot of water. I’ve been so, so thirsty here because at home I drink water all the time, but it just doesn’t happen here. I don’t understand traffic, so it’s hard to know when it’s okay to cross the street and pedestrian etiquette. I know that sounds silly, but really, it’s hard.

I’m working on planning a trip to Italy (Rome->Florence->Venice) with my friends, and it’s so difficult to plan a trip like that! There are so many things to take into consideration that you wouldn’t realize, like getting from the train to the plane to the hostel and when it all has to happen. It’s crazy. And taking forever.

Everything has been hard. I’m homesick and miss my family and friends. Sometimes I want to go home. Sometimes I never want to leave. It’s so weird.

Before I finish my post I’m going to do a quick ‘day in the life’ to show you what it’s like:
Get up and eat a quick breakfast, make lunch and go to class (via tram–the Montpellierain version of the light rail) for a few hours. The time depends on when my classes start. Two of them start early, otherwise I start super late. After class I usually go to the U of M office near the Corum (conference center) and hang out, see my friends, steal food if they have any. Then I go home and have dinner with my family (late in the evening), which is always really good, and doesn’t take as long as I was told French meals take. Then we watch TV with our laptops at the ready for when the commercials start. Then it’s bedtime. It’s not incredibly exciting. I have tons of time to kill because my longest day of class is only 4 hours, straight. So I go and come back and try to find things to do.


Veronica: Some practical things

January 24, 2010

So, I registered on Friday. The French registration system is really weird and not at all efficient. I had to meet with one of our advisors and tell him what classes I was interested in, and then we had to do all the scheduling by hand. It was tedious. And I only ended up with one Integrated class because the two I wanted overlapped. I was disappointed at first, but now I’m okay with my choices. I know they will all count towards both majors, they seem interesting, my schedule is light, and, really to be honest, academics is not that big of a priority this semester. I want to see the world. But I start classes tomorrow. I’m a little nervous. Mostly because I feel like the French system is really messy, and they didn’t really tell us what to say to the professors. So…we’ll see how that goes.

The people who work in the program office are so nice, and they are very helpful. They are good support, and it’s nice to know we can go to the office whenever we want.

I can’t tell if the culture shock is wearing off, or if I’m so enamored with this city that I am starry-eyed and can’t feel it. But it’s wonderful here. I know going back to lame old Minnesota is going to be hard.

Here is something you should know. Lots of people are having money problems. Like the ATMs won’t take their card, etc. Mine worked, but Visa called my parents for fraud protection, even though I told the bank twice I was going abroad. So I had to call and international number, and they sucked and were super unhelpful and told me to call the bank, and the bank said to call Visa. So it was awful. My mom ended up getting it straightened out since she’s my power of attorney, but apparently this problem is going to keep coming back. Ridiculous. So be aware of money problems and that they seem to happen a lot because American banks are stupid.

My friends and I are beginning to plan our trips and traveling. I had a super ambitious plan coming here to see every country in Western Europe. But now that I’m here, I can see that it isn’t possible with money and whatnot. And it’s also different to hear what other people want to do. So now I’m going to a lot less places, but so far, what we’ve agreed on doing seems like it will be fun and I’m not all that upset about not going where I orginally planned. So be aware of plans changing too.

Also, make sure you have your converters!


Veronica: First Entry in France

January 20, 2010

So…it’s been crazy. I’m going to have to cut this down so it isn’t a novel.

I got to France on the morning of the 12th and met my friend who I haven’t seen in almost 10 years. A little awkward, but it was good. I stayed with her for about a week. She showed me around where she lives, and I went to her high school with her for two days. That was really weird. They get smoking breaks and their hallways open to the outside. They take notes verbatim from what the teacher says. It’s required. Then she got married on Saturday the 16th. It was quite a party. It lasted a very long time. I didn’t know very many people since I had only been there a few days and the last time I was with her was when I was 10. But her grandparents and some of her friends took care of me. It was nice. But I spent a lot of time on my own anyway. One thing that I really noticed at the wedding is that guys/men are very forward with women. It’s really unsettling. It’s stuff that just doesn’t happen in the US. It made me uncomfortable. But I have to get used to it.

Now, to Montpellier. It’s gorgeous. I love it. I almost don’t feel like I’m away from home, so that’s either culture shock or this feels like home. Not sure yet. So far, we got a tour of the city, met lots of people, picked out classes (but I register on Friday), ate at the cafeteria, figured out the tram, bought train passes, been a little confused and overwhelmed, and spent lots of money. It’s nuts. But I already have a group of friends, which is nice. It’s not too strong yet, obviously, since it’s so early, but it’s nice all the same.

My host family is really nice. I like them a lot. A lot. But I’m really shy, so I haven’t really talked to them yet. I will once I feel more comfortable. Soon, hopefully. They have a gorgeous house and they have WiFi, and a phone that calls the US for free. They also own a vineyard. If you end up with my family, I can promise that you’ll be happy.
I can tell you that this first week has been hard. Intense culture shock and homesickness. It’s fun, really fun, but it’s so overwhelming that it hasn’t been too enjoyable. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but that’s how it feels.
I’ll say more when it isn’t so late at night.
%d bloggers like this: