Lady in Waiting 2: in the blink of an eye it was over, and she was gone

Sitting in the Rennes train station, waiting for my train to Paris that is already late, I’m surrounded by 4 seperate bags and what seems like close to double the amount of stuff I arrived with only four months back. It’s been an incredible journey and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude towards my host family, my program, and everyone in America who has thought of me, missed me, and given me words of encouragement and love while I’ve been away (let’s not stop that once I’m home shall we? I quite like it to be honest.).

And here I am again, waiting for my flight back to the states, and I couldn’t be more ready to get home. I’m leaving behind a beautiful country with amazing food, and some fantastic people; but I’m returning to my family, Wofford, and my team of supporters that really showed me how much they care and want what’s best for me. I’m newly empowered to go beyond my usual limits in everyday life, thanks language barrier. And every challenge I’ve faced, every time I said the wrong thing, forgotten a word, made a fool of myself, gotten my questions answered in English when I asked them in French, been told I speak “très bien français, had a real conversation with someone, understood something completely and read at a normal speed with good comprehension has made me stronger and more, well, me.
And with that dear readers, it’s time. It’s time to say goodbye to France and it’s time to say goodbye to my international blog. This lady in waiting is about to board. Safe and happy holidays to you all, I hope you enjoyed my intermittent musings from Europe. If you are a student thinking about going abroad, do it. There’s nothing you’ll wish you had done in college more, and nothing you’ll be more happy about once you’ve done it. I didn’t have the storybook time of my life, but I had so much fun, met some amazing people and learned a ton about myself in the process.

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Tu me manques, America.

THIS WEEK IS TORTURE. Seriously, everyone else I know, abroad or stateside, is taking exams and packing their bags for home. I am mentally packing and not preparing for my exams that don’t start until….NEXT WEEK.

It’s like the holidays don’t matter here! The University kids are still in school. All i want to say is that it it rude and I don’t like it.

I’ve enjoyed my stay in France, no doubt, but enough is enough. I haven’t started getting gushy and nostalgic yet because my departure is still so far away. I miss America and I miss my family. I know I’ll be home soon but it is hard to remind myself of that because all my social medias are reminding me that the rest of the world will be home even sooner.

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Amsterdam and Italy Photos

Went on vacation at the end of October/beginning of November. Included a 16hour bus ride, two separate hostels in Amsterdam, lots of trying to speak Dutch, art, and awesomeness at the city, airport time, talking about how beautiful the Italian countryside is, and food.
Here are a few photos! They are clickable!

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20th Turkey day, 1st one away.

We’ve passed the one month mark, Thanksgiving away, my vacation from like a month ago, and my mom is on the continent as I type! I’m in the midst of a whirlwind of a week and a whirlwind of clothes around my room but the morning after Thanksgiving couldn’t be a better time to update you all, my dearest readers.

I’m so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to study abroad, and with an amazing school like Wofford supporting me and taking all of my credits. I’m thankful that I’ve met people here in Rennes, good travelers at that, because my vacation was AMAZING and I know that they genuinely care about me as I do about them (shout out to the girls with the new French haircuts: Sophie and Katie! braver souls than I). I’m thankful my mom is here and that I was able to talk to most of my extended non blood related family on the phone yesterday before they sat down to a meal much more traditional than mine. Being abroad on an American holiday is a curious thing. Being American, you don’t think about what other countries are doing on the third Thursday of November because you forget momentarily that it’s an exclusively American celebration or you’re like me and you don’t think about other countries because you’re too busy cooking/eating/watching football/waiting to eat/getting ready to go shopping/being in a food coma/asking for more food. So going to classes, and not being bombarded by Black Friday sales ads made it difficult to be in the spirit of Thanksgiving. The CIEE program and the Franco-American Institute & Friends had a beautiful party with some of the food staples, which loaded the tryptophan into my system giving me enough time to get back to my house and fall asleep!

But I’m awake this morning wanting every one of my dear readers that I’m alive, well, and headed to wine country this afternoon to meet up with my mom!

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In typical blogging style, it’s almost been a month since my last post. But my week long vacation starts tomorrow so I’m ready to catch you all up and ride off into the sunset to further explore Europe.

Normandy, Cornouaille, Mont St Michel, I’ve been all over north western France lately! And while it’s been cold, rainy and foggy, I’ve seen some wonderful things, eaten some great food and made some fun memories.
First up was Normandy and the D-Day beaches. This was a cold weekend, but the history was really interesting and standing on Omaha beach was really surreal. Oh and I forgot my camera at home, also typical me.

Next up Cornouaille (pronounced corn-oooo-eye). This is considered “true Brittany” meaning that there are a bunch of adorable little towns, some where the people speak Breton an old regional language that is hardly anything like French because of the Gallic presence in Brittany throughout history. This excursion was more obscure in purpose, but ended up being really enjoyable. Highlights included:
Quimper, a precious city that everyone agreed needed to be further explored.
La Pointe du Raz, aka the western most point in France. On a clear day with place would take anyone breath away, but on the foggy, cold and rainy day of our visit the tumultuous waters and stunningly and surprising blue ocean still took my breath away. BONUS: I was as close to home as I’ve been all semester!
Locronan, the best city ever. Here I heard a couple speaking Breton, the bus was broken so we got extra time to walk around and most of the shops were open even though it was Sunday, and I had the best dessert of my life! It’s called Kouign-amann and I love it. Imagine puff pasty, drenched in butter, with a little sugar, baked. I’m going to be honest, my arteries said no, but the fatty inside me said yes. If you ever get the chance to try this dessert, do not pass it up. You won’t regret it. Kouign-amann. Seriously.

I looked into the distance and said “Guys, I think I see my house!” YAY!!

Me, Katie, and Sophie

And finally, the most recent, Mont St. Michel! went here last weekend on a day trip and it was really cool and fun! Not too cold and luckily it didn’t rain all day!

Mont St. Michel

And now, dear readers, you are all caught up on what’s happening with me! Oh wait, my mistake, I fell down the stairs just 4 days ago and sprained my ankle. But don’t fret, dear readers, all is fine and I’m headed off on vacation tomorrow with my backpack and my trusty béquille (that’s French for crutch)!

Au revoir!

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Ignorance is Bliss

Well I wasn’t about to let 20 days pass without a blog post, and I’ll be honest, this might not be what you are expecting. However, I’m not one to pretend things are something different than how I see them. That being said, dear readers, read on…

Don’t ever let someone tell you how your life is going to go. Make your own decisions and listen to what you want. I’m not saying don’t listen to people; constructive criticism is great and ask my advisors, parents, and friends, I love asking for advice! Lot’s of advice and words of wisdom serve to motivate us and get us where we want to go. But sometimes another’s words can lead us down a path that isn’t our own. And although the intentions of people close to you are–hopefully–good, they can mess with your head. What does this have to do with being in France, oh that’s right, I’m an ocean away, well it’s time to tell you all this: I’m having a hard time. *dun dun dun*!!!!!!

All I heard from people the past summer was “You’re going to come back a different person” “You’re going to love every minute of it” and my personal favorite “You’ll figure out what you want to do with your life”.
Guess what? It is because of all the hype that I’ve spent with first month (I can’t believe it’s already been a month!) a little out of sorts. I’ve been waiting for all those well wishes to come true. I feel a little ridiculous, even naive, to have been waiting for a lightning strike to hit and everything to just be in place but I finally realized that’s not going to happen! And that’s ok! My expectations were beyond unrealistic, a different person? Really? (I’m scowling at myself for that one.) And to believe it’s de as easy as sitting back and letting it happen to me all at once? Who do I think I am?

Today I had one morning class, ate lunch and did some work in the library. I got home and went for a run and before I got to the end of the block the rain started. Now I could have easily turned around and gotten my nap in, but I didn’t. I ran in the rain making a mental laundry list of things that I don’t like here. I could list it for you, but that’s not the point. The point is that I’ve been seeking out things to dislike, when really I’ve been approaching cultural differences with a negative attitude. So what if people look at you funny when you try to ask for stamps at the post office and really ask for post cards? BIG DEAL.

Back to my wet laundry list, I threw it out and kept running thinking about this epiphany and this blog post. Hopefully I’m not alone in feeling this way while abroad and to clarify I am not, I repeat I am not unhappy or regretting my decision. But it’s not always easy and you don’t love EVERY minute. For me, if I’m happy more times of the day than I’m frustrated then it’s a good day. And lastly, don’t expect something to be a life changing experience. If you do, it won’t be.

In preparing to study abroad make realistic expectations like having a fun time and travelling with new friends, rather than scary ones that ruminate in the back of your mind and prevent you embracing the wonderful opportunities right in front of you.

Looking back, I really expected this transition to be easy and fun and that everything would click right away. It hasn’t, but I’m no longer discouraged by making mistakes and looking foolish. Every set back is a chance to get it right the next time and learn from mistakes rather than trying to be perfect. So I guess what I’m saying, dear readers, is that if I can run a 5k in the pouring rain and not break my ipod, I can stop expecting to wake up a “different person” (I don’t even know what this means actually and it’s getting more and more comical to me every time I write it.) and start living every day happy to be here and eager to surround myself with a different and challenging culture.

I’m happy enough here to enjoy running in the rain; it took one run and a month to feel that way but I have three more months to profit from it! Coming next I’ve got pictures from my weekend in Normandy, stay tuned!

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Tiring days, cold water, and emergency exits

So I’ve got 2 weekends in France under my belt. And unfortunately only 2 runs in. I’m compelled to write a little bit about running this evening because a) I ran this morning and got terribly lost and b) Deep wrote about running in his blog that I was just reading (props twin!). I really like running. Nothing is better than going for a run with a perfectly crafted playlist and enough energy because the combination of the two give me a super power on the road and I can just fly, breathe and not think for a while. I’ve only gotten two runs in, both on Sundays and both not in my particular style; I keep getting lost and then having to think about how I’ll find my way. I have to think all the time here, you take for granted being able to turn on the radio of TV and do something else and understand it all. France is not like that for me…yet! A lot of energy goes into understanding what’s going on around me, responding to my host family or talking to my friends so by the time classes are over I’m exhausted and the prospect of dawning my running clothes seems like it’ll take too much energy. So on Sundays I’ve gotten dressed and gone out on my way before anything can tire me out, and it’s worked. But just to let all of you readers know, I’ll be running more soon!! Accountability is what it’s all about!

First weekend I went to a movie with my host mom. She told me it was a comedy… I didn’t understand most of the jokes but it wasn’t a bad movie. This couple opens a Private Investigator firm and uncover some freaky conspiracy stuff about a plastic surgery center, fountain of youth, drama type stuff. At the end people were popping like ballons and they turned a bratty kid into an old man on accident. The oddest part came after the movie though, you exit through what I would have thought was the emergency exit. I couldn’t get over it, but that’s just what you do here.

And this weekend I went to the beach. My host family has a house in a town named Cancale–Google it, it’s gorgeous. You could see Mont Saint-Michel from the pier and the tides are really significant! I’ll add pictures later, but around noon is the highest the water will get on the Emerald Coast and it’s great this time of year! SIKE, it’s freezing. But the French seem to think that swimming in cold water is great for your health, so I braved the chilly waters and learned about the fishing history of Cancale and that Robert DiNero might own a private island that you can see from the pier.

And now I am caught up! This week we are registering for our University classes so I’ll finally have a schedule and more time on my hands to experience and TRAVEL! Can’t wait!

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I had finally arrived. Paris at last! Or was it? I couldn’t tell. I don’t know if I was expecting to be able to see the Eiffel Tower from the airport of not but I spent a good 36 hours fairly unsure about where I actually was. Everything was was really a blur because of jet lag and the amount of French that was being spoken at me. I didn’t understand much, but I met my CIEE group and we signed our language contracts and promptly started speaking perfect French to each other…

Just kidding. I actually kept pretty quiet with my French in Paris. I think I was shocked by the other students competencies and feeling inadequate but I listened and made some friends using Franglais. I went to the Eiffel Tour (pictures to follow) and climbed all 669 steps to the second level! It doesn’t look as silver as I thought it was going to be but it’s very cool none the less.

Also in Paris there was a lot of walking and stumbling upon monuments. And when I say stumbling I mean that I didn’t have a camera. For example, as a group we walked to the Latin Quarter for dinner and I look to my right and see the Notre Dame Cathedral. Camera-less. At sunset. The same thing happened with the bridges going over the Seine with the Love Locks and the Seine at night. The Seine in the moonlight was probably my favorite moment in Paris. Simply put it was the single most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I cannot wait to go back. Three days could never do Paris justice and I want to assure my readers who have never been that it is better than I thought. The buildings are all old and pretty, the people are chic (cliche but true), and Camembert is fantastic.

Enjoy my photos of the Eiffel Tower, leave comments!

View from the 1st level, on the right you can see and very small Montmartre

View from the 2nd level with the Seine and a shadow of the Eiffel Tower itself!

This is a shot from an evening boat tour. The less exciting Eiffel Tower and more exciting beautiful French student tour guide with whom I am in love.

I suppose that last picture might need some clarification. In France they teach English English rather than American English and the result is French people speaking English and sounding Irish. This guy did a bilingual tour on the Seine, was hilarious in both French and English and had me thinking he was Irish the whole time. Oh, and he was super cute. But I left him in Paris, he belongs on the Seine for now and I belong…downstairs for dinner. Bon soir!

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Packing list

Here is a list of everything I brought to France. Just an unbiased and accurate list of things that I packed in hopes of reevaluating said list to see how well I packed.

Things to wear:
24 pairs of underwear
3 bras (2 nude, 1 black)
11 pairs of socks (4 running, 4 low rise, 3 wool/boot socks, 1 striped)
2 pairs of black tights
1 full body black slip
1 black bandeau
1 pair leggings
2 pj tees
1 long sleeve shirt
1 pairs sleep shorts
1 workout shirt
1 workout tank
2 pairs Nike shorts
1 pair long spandex
2 sports bars
1 workout
1 baseball cap
5 scarves
4 pairs of pants (1 black jeans, 2 blue jeans, 1 navy
2 skirts
3 white vnecks
1 black vneck
1 striped 3/4 sleeve top
1 black 3/4 lace-sleeve top
1 3/4 sleeve henley
1 white tank
4 long sleeve tops (3 vnecks, 1 crew)
1 lace front top
1 sheer going out top
3 nice tank tops
2 button down shirts
1 day dress
1 maxi dress
3 going out dresses

Things to wear when it’s cold:
1 over sized cashmere sweater
1 black sweater
1 long thin sweater
1 army jacket
1 north face fleece
1 navy heavy knit blazer/sweater
1 pair leather gloves

Things to wear on your feet:
1 pair black flats
1 pair gold flats
1 pair flip flops (shower shoes when need be)
1 pair white converse (walking shoes)
1 pair running shoes

Things you’ll be glad you brought:
Luggage tags!
Wallet (insurance card, debit and credit cards, euros, license, PASSPORT, call your bank to let them know you’ll be travelling out of the country)
Chargers (computer, phone, camera)
Computer, phone, iPad
International adapters
International alarm clock (already useful! I was in charge of waking up the girls in my hostel room in Paris)
Small first aid kit
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Retainers (I think my parents will appreciate this)
Travel size toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion
Book, French/English dictionary, French verb book, guidebook
Magazines (for the plane)
Hand sanitizer
Woolite packet
Make-up and remover
Nail polish
Face wash, contacts, eye cream, deodorant, moisturizer, etc.
Tampons (sorry boys)
Any and all prescription medications (call your insurance to get them filled for the months you’ll be away)
Cold medicine, antihistamine, ibuprofen, advil, tylenol, cough drops etc.
1 towel (for hostels)

Things to hold your other things:
1 small duffel for weekend trips
1 large purse
1 leather clutch
1 small crossover bag
1 backpack
1 money belt (because I’m that cool)

Things to make you feel at home:
Crystal light packets
1 gatorade packet
dark chocolate
2 pillow cases
Neck pillow

Because I am writing this after the fact I am not sure it is complete, and I didn’t realize how much I actually brought so I am quite surprised at the length but this is simply a list for reevaluation in December.


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Bon merde on Delta Airlines!

International travel, or any time you had to go to the airport I’ve heard, used to be an occasion. Men would wear suits and children their Sunday best because that is what you did to travel. And now as we cruise through the air at 30,000 feet people wear leggings, Uggs, and hoodies. Comfort has trumped respect for the occasion. But that’s fair for international travel, those flights are long and if you are in coach they are cramped and at times smell really bad.

So, the morning of Sunday August 26, 2012 I dawned my black jeans, blue scarf and heaviest sweater. I ate breakfast with my parents at my favorite Cuban cafe in Tampa for my last taste of Cuban toast and café con leche that would soon be replaced by baguettes and café crèmes. And I broke down crying in a Walgreens while buying pictures of my family, this was not my most shining moment but I stand by my nerves because what was coming was a huge step. Unable to comprehend anything but the immediate fear of leaving everything I had known behind for four months, I cried. Sue me. The morning was rough but I said goodbye to my parents and boarded to shuttle to the terminal for the first leg of my trip.

Tampa to Detroit
I can’t say much about this flight because I have largely forgotten it. There was an easy take off and landing, I slept most of the way, and I wasn’t concerned about anyone around. However, I am sure there were a mixed bag of feelings because a girl was crying on a domestic two hour flight. I’m not scared of flying, and I’ve travelled alone before. But I hadn’t realized how scared I was to leave and start my semester abroad. I spent most of the summer in bliss because I knew I would be in France soon enough and as I mentioned before, I still kind of thought the whole thing was a joke. But on that flight I realized months worth of apprehensions and woes. Somehow I slept, and got settled at my gate in Detroit. I talked to both my parents, my brother, and my best friends Jenna and Claire. My 3 hour layover went by quickly and before I knew it I was turning off the data and text messaging on my phone and pulling out my boarding pass and passport.

Detroit to Paris-Charles De Gaulle
Now if you know a little French or rather pulled up GoogleTranslate for the title of this entry, you might have been surprised by the meaning of “Bon merde.” It means “Good Shit” and in France they say this rather than “Bon Chance” to mean Good Luck! And luck is indeed what you need when flying internationally on Delta Airlines.
I brought my journal on the plane with me and made a few observations while cruising at 33,000 feet:
-NOTE: Bring socks or slippers on long flights…apparently your feet swell.
-Didn’t realize it gets so cold so high in the atmosphere, -42 degrees outside!!
-On a 2-3-2 aircraft, opt for the aisle of a 2seat side

That last observation needs more explanation. I flew to France in an aisle seat of the 3 section. Luckily no one fat or with a baby was in the middle seat. However, I realized that people flying with small children buy seats in the 3 sections because a) kids are small so you can move them around and still have room and b)parent’s apparently don’t want strangers sitting next to/sleeping next to their small children. Now I said I wasn’t sitting next to a child, which is true but I never said anything about my surrounding crowd… Obviously there was a baby on board. Two parents with a kid in the midst of their terrible twos were convienently located right behind me and kicked the back of my seat for about 2 straight hours.

PSA: Don’t travel with beings that cry, kick, or scream. It’s just not a good time.

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