Some of the things I have done in France so far. Taking the good with the bad.
Currency Exchange: The thing they tell you but that’s easy to forget when traveling internationally is this: currency exchange bureaus are a bad. Even the officially licensed ones at the airport are a serious rip-off. They give you more or less the exchange rate, but they take a serious portion of your money as a service fee. I forgot about this entirely and took out a sizeable chunk of American cash on my way to the airport. When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle, I had no choice but to exchange it and hope for the best. Before even stepping foot outside the airport, I was cheated out of a solid sixty USD. Note to self: next time use the ATM.
“Je suis excite”: There are many cognates in the French language. But there are also false cognates. The phrase “je suis excite,” which would seemingly mean “I am excited,” falls some place in between, communicating a sentiment more along the lines of “I am sexually aroused.” Upon my arrival and first interactions with my host family/peers, I threw this phrase around more than once, completely unawares.
Cave Food: As a way to both end orientation and kick off the semester, the IES Abroad Paris staff took us on a little trip to the Loire Valley, an infamous region of France known for its rich cultural history and beautiful chateaus. As a part of this excursion, we ate lunch at La Cave Aux Fouees, a “troglodyte” restaurant specializing in regional food “traditionnelle à l’ancienne.” That is to say, food French people would have eaten in the middle ages. The menu was memorable: a soty of pork-fat spread with freshly-baked bread, stewed venison and apple tart for dessert. The food itself was not the problem but the quantity consumed. Between the attentive waitresses and the plentiful red wine, I ate a LOT of cave food. And I wasn’t alone. We had one last chateau visit after the meal and it passed in a heavily drowsy, gluttonously uncomfortable stupor.
Found Sriracha: Part of the home stay arrangement consists of preparing my own meals four nights a week. Since I’ve been living without a meal plan for the past three years now, this isn’t something particularly difficult for me. That being said, my cooking repertoire mainly consists of rice, eggs and stir-fry vegetables. And Sriracha. It is a hard habit to break, and I now I can hardly eat the food I make without it. The first time I went to buy groceries at Carefour, there was no Sriracha to be found. A travesty. I passed the first week in relative sadness. Until one day I stumbled upon a Thai market with a few minutes to spare before my next class. It was meant to be. The woman behind the counter smiled and pointed me to a shelf with, not one, but multiple types of chili sauce. No “on-brand” Sriracha, but study abroad is about being adventurous. A small victory.
Antique Market: Two Sundays ago, I was making my way home on the metro when I decided to get off a different stop, at random, just to explore a new part of the city. Lo and behold I exited the Charles Michels metro station only to surface in the middle of a pop-up antique market. White tents lining the sidewalk, lit up in the gathering dusk, bearing heaps of treasures. Old books, clothing, furniture, records, trinkets—I was in my element.
Last Train Home: The best way to get around in Paris is definitely the public transportation. Bus, metro, tram, you name it. Only, when going out at night, it gets tricky. For each metro, the last train leaves its station at 12:30 am during the week and 1:30 am on weekends. This means at any given station in between the first and last stops, the last metro might arrive at 1:34am, 1:48 am, or maybe even 2:03 am. This can create a certain anxiety when hoping to take the metro home at the end of the night. Because missing the last one means dropping 15-20 euro on a taxi or Uber if you’re me and you live out in the suburbs. I really haven’t had too many late nights so far, but I did manage to make it on the last possible train home the other weekend. I didn’t realize how close I was cutting it but it was a success story in the end.
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<p>Haley is currently a student from Penn State University working towards a degree in English and a minor in French Studies. She loves reading, coffee, dancing to live music and exploring new places but she also enjoys biking, face painting and being out doors. Haley's dream job is travel writing.</p>