Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Aja - France - Fall 2007

1st blog post from Aja Robinson

My time here has been incredible.
I've never been so far away from home before, or for this amount of time. Nor have I ever been stuck in a situation where I absolutely had to use French. I guess there's a first time for everything.

First of all, to assure anyone who's never flown before, trans-atlantic flights are the best and safest ones you can take. Flying to Europe was the first time I've EVER flown, and it was not has frightening as I thought it would be. The staff are extremely professional, and the pilot is the best of the best. You will be in good hands.

Anyway, one thing I have to say about France so far is that it's real. What I mean to say is that even thought I've seen France and other European countries in movies and pictures, read about them in books and seen news reports on TV, this part of the world was never a "real" place until now. I've spend my whole life in America, completely unaware of just how different other cultures are, just how real they are. It's really a mind-blower for a person like me. But it's also something that has already changed my life.

I absolutely love it here. At first, I was pretty apprehensive about coming here because I was scared out of my mind. Even after the CPP class, I still wasn't sure about what to expect. But once I got settled in with my host family, I realized that as long as I accept the different way of life here and try to fit in as best as I can, life here will be fairly easy. One thing in particular that I've really grown to enjoy is the use of public transportation. It's actually quite liberating to not have to pay for gas, car maintenance, etc. All I need is my monthly pass and I'm good to go. In that respect, I've also grown quite accustomed to walking. Now, to most Americans, these activities may not seem like the most luxurious, but really they're quite serene. I've learned that there's nothing like a walk to the bus on a crisp, foggy morning in France. It wakes you up in such a way that coffee will never be able to accomplish.

Oh, and by the way, the food is AMAZING. But for those of you who happen to be lactose intolerant (like yours truly) be sure to bring a good supply of pills with you. There is cheese and cream in EVERYTHING.

Lets see...what else.
I guess I've run out of things to say, so I'll leave some room for questions here.
Ask me anything! If I don't know, I'll find out for you.
Merci et à très bientôt!
Aja

8 Comments:

Anonymous Katie (CPP Class) said...

What's it like living with a host family? Do you feel like you're a guest or part of the family? Was it awkward or uncomfortable for a while, or did things just seem to fit together well?

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Mira Ham (CPP class) said...

I know exactly what you mean about finding out for the first time that other countries exist. It seems like such a silly statement but it is so true. Yes, we hear about other countries but if we have never been to them it is hard to imagine them. I went to Colombia last april and that was my first time being out of the united states...i had that same realization then. it was awesome! it was like, oh wow! the whole world is not just America...

4:01 PM  
Blogger Aja said...

Katie:
It's great.
Quite honestly, I'm more of a guest or "live-in friend" if that makes any sense. You see, I'm just living with an older divorced woman, and two other girls from another program. I hardly ever see the girls because they're always out or at school, but when I come home, Jackie (my host mother) greets me. We get along great. I guess the only thing that makes her more of a mother-like figure to me is that she always has dinner ready for me, and if I'm not going to be home to eat, I have to let her know. But other than that, we chat like two girlfriends.

So, being a guest isn't bad. I think we'll continue to be friends for a long time, even after I leave. As far as the comfort level goes, the atmosphere in the house is very casual. What I mean by that is that there are no strict rules that I have to follow or anything. The only thing that was discomforting to me in the beginning was simply adjusting to my new surroundings and getting used to all the sounds the house makes at night!

I HIGHTLY reccommend living with a host family. It's the best way to completely immerse yourself into the culture.

Mira--exactly. Well put. The whole world ISN'T just America! Isn't it strange how that comes as such a shock, even when we think we know that already? I'm glad you understand. Oh, and I just thought I'd add for the sake of conversation that the two other girls who live in my house are Colombian.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Liz B said...

I think using public transportation would be an awesome time to just relax and observe the people around me. I use the metra here a lot going home and to Chicago and even taht is entertaining for me.
You said the food is great, but what American food do you miss? I'm worried when I am in England I get a craving for something and not be able to get it! lol
I also can understand the suprise of finding out that France is REAL! Thinking about England and knowing Jane Austen, Shakespeare and The Beatles all came from there makes it seem unreal.
I spent j-term in Costa Rica so I understand what you mean by just trying to fit in to make it easy and a more beneficial stay.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Aja said...

Haha...if you're gonna observe people on the bus, do it very discreetly. I find that no one looks at ANYONE here--be it on the street or on a bus/tram. Everyone keeps to themselves. They find people watchers weird. No one wants to be bothered. But that's in France. I haven't been in England long enough to find out what the culture there is like.

What American food do I miss? I'd have to say I miss having eggs for breakfast. They eat them for dinner here! Isn't that bizarre? Jackie made me an omelette for dinner once. I was confused, but my hunger overruled my thought process. :D But there are a lot of American foods and snacks out here. I'm sure you know there's a McDonald's everywhere you go. There's one not far from my school out here. I don't know if you've heard this, but before I came to France, I had previously been told that the food at the European McDonald's tastes different than in America.

NOT TRUE. I can't tell you how happy I was to find that out. It was DELICIOUS. There are local shops out here also that sell candy like Skittles, M&M's, etc. Pringles, too! It's nice, but it's kinda sad that you can find traces of America everywhere. You'll see when you get here. To Europe, I mean.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Kari (cpp class said...

It's nice to hear from you that flying wasn't a problem for you especially being that it was your first time flying! I am headed to France in the spring and that is my main worry. I am a little scared to fly alone and if I have to transfer flights im worried I wont be able to find the gates or that I will miss it altogether. I am the same way you are. I am a little scared and I do not know how much this class will help becuase nothing can really prepare you for what it feels like to actually do something unti you've done it. I am a little scared but very excited as well so its good to know that the anxiety will go away farely quickly.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Kari said...

And for you I actually have a couple questions as well about how you picked your classes in France. I have heard it is a lot differnet from another student who studied in France. How did you pick your classes; did you take ones that you knew you needed here to fulfill major or minor requirements? How did you figure out if they would work for your major or minor here? Are you finding your classes there to be difficult?

3:54 PM  
Blogger Aja said...

Ok, well to answer your questions about the classes, I first have to say that I'm only attending one class at the university here. All the rest are at the Program Center. I think it mainly depends on where you go that determines how hard/easy it is to pick classes.

My program (IES) has a website, which is where I went to see what they had to offer. I chose which ones I wanted, and then had them approved by my advisor at EC. That's how I knew I was taking classes that I needed. It's also important to talk to the chair of the department in which you're majoring, because they'll be able to tell you immediately if a particular class (that both you and your advisor are unsure of) will count toward your major/minor. EC holds your hand the whole way.

But, for classes at the university, it might be a little trickier. Not much--don't freak out if that's the case for you. The education system is a bit more lax out here, meaning that you have a span of like 2-3 weeks to decided if you actually want to take a class. You can attend any class you want during those couple of weeks so that you can get a taste for the classes that interest you. Then, after that period, it's time to sign a paper saying you've officially signed up for the ones that you actually want/need. All the while, you'll be keeping in touch with your advisor back home to make sure that everything will transfer properly. The point is, talk to people. NEVER ASSUME.

Are my classes difficult? A little. Not as much as in the beginning, though. I don't know about you, but all of my classes are in French. It's a complete immersion program. But the teachers know that and have oodles of patience, which is a nice plus. Now, having been here for two months, I can actually understand mostly everything pretty well (and participate in class discussions).

For me, regarding the flying, I had no trouble with the layover. I flew from Chicago to London, and then London to Paris. Everything was very clearly marked, I got through security in record time, and hopped on my plane. I was fine. You will be too. Just remember to keep your eyes open, read everything carefully, and don't panic. Sure, it's easier said than done. But just as long as you keep your wits about you, you'll do well. I'm convinced they make signs for airports for people who have a tendency to freak at the smallest thing, so they make everything really obvious. And then there are people everywhere to talk to if you need help.

Where will you be studying?

I wish you the best of luck!
:D

3:56 PM  

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