Holidays Part One; Month Four.

Month 4 was marked by the starting of Christmas celebrations- the hardest time for an exchange student. They always say homesickness starts around the time that you would usually be giving thanks with your family while sitting around a turkey and will go on until around the New Year. This month starts right off with thanksgiving and ends just before Christmas, so going in I knew it would be tough. My main goal for this month was to keep strong and share my usual traditions, alongside learning as many new traditions to share and treasure forever.

Within this month I…

Celebrated one US holiday

Thanksgiving.

The other Americans and I saved the day with this one. Being upset that we couldn’t take part in the usual Turkey festivities that Thursday, we all got together that weekend and decided to make our own Thanksgiving dinner. Saturday morning, Shelbie, Kayli and I traveled to Toulon to meet at Caroline’s (the fourth American’s house).

After we ate lunch, all four of us went to the grocery store to buy some food to cook for the big meal. Shelbie and Caroline were in charge of the main meal: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy, and Kayli and I had all things sweet: cookies, Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin loaf, and of course a pumpkin pie. First off, I would like to say that finding all these items was not easy in France. We couldn’t find the ingredients to make the cranberry sauce, and canned pumpkin was didn’t exist either but most importantly, there were no full turkeys.

After about 6 hours of cooking, we were finally finished. There were some bumps of course, some cookies burnt, the loaf tasted dry, the turkey was actually just turkey legs and the stuffing was undercooked, but nevertheless it was extremely rewarding. We bonded a lot and learned how to cook the things our parents usually do. We cooked a turkey to perfection, baked a pumpkin pie all the way from scratch (we started with an actual pumpkin that we had to peel and boil), and it all tasted so good (even if Caroline’s host family didn’t believe us that sweet potatoes with marshmallows was not a dessert)

Went to five christmas markets (in order)

Christmas markets, otherwise known as “Marché de Noël”, are very popular in France. Each market has a different ambiance depending on the location of the city, and how big the city is.

Toulon

The day after the Americans and I cooked our thanksgiving meal, we went to the downtown Toulon Christmas market. We ate crepes and other treats as we walked around the market looking at all of the venders. There was also a maze in the center, which had important landmarks from around the world, to show Santa’s route in delivering presents.

Nice

Because the last christmas market was so fun, the next weekend, Shelbie, Ana (the Argentinian) and I went to Nice to check out the market there. We went to the beach and then got pizza in “vieux Nice” which was one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. After lunch, we went to the center Nice to check  out the market. We got Churros with Nutella which was so amazing deliciously and was also Shelbie’s first ever Churro! After that we went to the ice rink which was lots of fun because it was Ana’s first time ice skating (which meant there was a lot of falling and a lot more laughs). After about an hour of ice skating we toured the rest of the market before taking the train back home. This was the biggest of all of the Christmas markets and also the most fun!

 

 

Mouans-Sartoux

The town I live in, Mouans-Sartoux, had a small christmas market the same weekend I went to the market in Nice. Sunday evening, my host family and I walked around the market looking at the small venders and their goods. Mouans-Sartoux is a small with lots of countryside, so there were a lot of fresh, locally made products which was really cool to see (and taste) !

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Maire-Christine (a family friend), Maire-Claire (my host mom), me, and Jean-Francois (my host dad)

Cannes

Sophia (also known as Hui-Yu, the Taiwanese exchange student in my district) came to stay with my host family for two weeks. While she was here,  my host family and I went to the Cannes christmas festival and ate dinner there. It was very pretty with all of the lights set up, a new for me to see Cannes like that because usually I only see it during the day when I go to school. Sophia and I walked around with my family helping them pick out gifts for their kids. Once we g0t home, being in the Christmas spirit, I helped Sophia decorate her first Christmas tree! It was a lot of fun being with her because this season would be her first Christmas, and there was so much she wanted to see!

Monte-Carlo

This month we had an overnight trip to Monaco which was a lot of fun. There is a huge christmas market in the center of Monaco with rides, people in costumes, and a lot of good foods! Sadly, we didn’t have much time at the market because we were on a schedule, but it is still one of my favorite festivals.

Hyères

At the end of this month Kayli and I went up to Hyères for Shelbie’s 17th birthday. Last month, our overnight was in Hyères but it was so much different around Christmas time, and so much different seeing it with a new tour guide Shelbie. Hyères itself is no huge town so the market wasn’t too big but nevertheless it was enjoyable and adorable.

Visited 5 Churches

This Month I went to a lot of churches and toured the inside. In France, the most common religion is Catholicism, with over 80% participants. My school is also a private catholic school, and close to all of the people I have met here are Catholic. I’ve found almost all the churches I go to very beautiful and decorated with murals/stained glass.

Visited one new country

Monaco

As I mentioned earlier, this months overnight was a day trip to Monaco with all of the exchange students. When we arrived mid morning, we first toured around the small country, seeing all the best viewing points, the royal palace and the changing of the Guards. When lunchtime came around we left to the top of the famous aquarium, Le Musée Océanographique. Up there, we ate lunch at the aquariums restaurant with an amazing panoramic view of Monaco. After finishing chocolate mousse, we got free time in the aquarium and in the nearby christmas market. It was a lot of  fun being with everyone in a place none of us had visited yet, and of course it was fun seeing all the pretty cars and views Monaco had to offer.

Ate two new bizarre dishes that I ended up loving

Boudin Blanc :

This moist, white sausage called “boudin blanc” is a mixture of meat, eggs, starch, spices and either milk or cream. It’s typically eaten with warmly baked apples and as weird as it may sound, it was actually quite delicious.

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Vietnamese pasta salad:

This is my host moms own mix of asian noodles, shrimp, mushrooms, and other vegetables

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To wrap up

I remember going to one of the christmas festivals and hearing some kids asking, “What does Santa say?” When I heard that at first I was confused how nobody new the classic “HO, HO ,HO” that Santa was said to cheer put of his sleigh, but Ithen realized that the stories and belief of Santa Claus isn’t as big in France as it is in America. Everyday of this month was the same as that realization. I would see the Christmas tree and think it’s Christmas time, but then look out the window and see no snow. I would hear Christmas carols but see no old friends. It would be the last Thursday of November, but I wouldn’t be with my family- or be eating Turkey!! Despite all of what was missing this month I made up for it in what I gained. I took an Argentinian ice skating for the first time, showed a French family a Thanksgiving meal, gave my American friend her first churro, and decorated a tree with a Taiwanese for her first Christmas. This is just part one of the holiday months, I have no idea what the rest will be like, but I do hope I find and try many new French traditions, and share and keep many of my old, just like I have done already.

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BISOUS
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“Three is a magic number”

Everyday, the language is getting easier, but every once in a while it feels like 3 steps forward and one  step backwards. Sometimes I feel like I can give a perfect translation, like at the start of the month when I was asked to translate, even though I understood what was said in French, I had trouble explaining in English! I was completely lost for words! I also have days where I will think someone said one thing when they meant something completely different. Another note is that at the start of the month, I had a few dreams that were  partially in French which was very exciting! This month came and went faster than I can eat a whole baguette, and the things I did made it just as good as a warm baguette straight out of my local Boulangerie.

In the past thirty days I…

Celebrated three birthdays

TURNING SEVENTEEN (Oct 25th)

Right after my weekend in Italy (Refer to last months post) Kayli and Shelbie (two Americans in my district) came over the day before my birthday. We toured Mouans Sartoux (my town), ate lunch in a cute boulangerie, watched some movies, and had chocolate fondue after dinner (YUM)

The morning of my birthday I woke up, and went upstairs just to find out that Kayli and Shelbie had already cooked and prepared one of my favorite breakfast foods- Pancakes!!

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After we ate, we waited for Sofia to arrive so all four of us could go down to Cannes. We spent the day shopping and of course, ate no other than Steak n’ Shake for lunch! Shelbie and Kayli left around 4, and Sofia and I went back to Mouans-Sartoux because she was going to spend the night. When we came back we said hello to Maire-Claire and Jean Francois, but we were then quickly told to go to my room on the bottom floor and wait until we were called up. After about an hour  later we came upstairs to a beautifully prepared classic, regional dish! Maire-Claire told me that her boss let her leave work after lunch to start preparing it, which was so nice or her. After dinner, we had a three layered chocolate cake, which was very good, and then they brought out some gifts for me which was very unexpected. They gave me a bunch of art supplies because I said how in America I loved to paint, and some  dangly, silver, earrings as a memoir of my exchange in France.

Sofia turns 17 (Nov 15th)

Sofia also turned 17 this year, so even though she has been in France for about 8 months more than me, which makes her my ‘oldie’, I am older than her. Because her exchange year is on a different rotation than mine, she is January  2016 – January 2017, and I am August 2016 – July 2017, she is on her last few months here and can have family visit. So just before her birthday, her parents flew in from Australia, and on her birthday all three of her host families (which includes my host family right now) and her real family had a dinner together. It was a Raclette, and quite possibly my favorite meal I’ve had in France so far.  Not only was the food from this dinner out of this world, but the dinner itself was so crazy and fun too. In one ear I would hear french, and the other was english, and I had no idea which to listen too.

Jean Francois’s Birthday (Nov 19th)

The day of Jean Francois’s birthday I had an overnight so I really didn’t celebrate with them that much. However I did make him a present with the art supplies I got for my birthday and painted him a picture from his parents house:img_2645

 

Had 6 amazing, new, desserts

One of the best of all of these would be the cake we ate for Sofia’s birthday. It’s called “Tropizenne” and is the specialty cake of St. Tropez with a delicious cream filling. Of course, the colorful macaroons and eclairs tied for second with the amazing Ice Cream I got at PamPam’s. PamPam is a famous Brasilian restaurant, that has some restaurants around the world too. I could have eaten the whole ice cream for dinner because it was so big, so good, and so chocolatey – just my type of icecream!!! And I can’t forget to mention the homemade flan and spice bread with an orange tang we bought in Grasse. I am going to gain so much weight eating all the delicious desserts but it’s worth it!

Met 2 old friends

Yes- you guessed it! How could I not meet up with two of my closest friends when we’re all staying in France?? It was so crazy to see Nathan and Trent again, and hear about how their exchange is going, and even talk to them in French!! (Well not completely, we’re not all fluent yet, but I loved hearing their french accents and learning new words that is only used in their regions)

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Blue dot is where I live and the Red pin is Sete, where Trent lives!

We all met up at Trent’s house in Sete which is a small island off the south of France. The first day we toured the closest big city, Montpellier. It was funny because when I’m with my girl friends touring we go to all the pretty churches and all the landmarks, but with them we just went to every CD shop possible, and found some good places to eat (which is why I don’t have any photos of the city). The next day we all went to the beach at Sete and found some little critters! The beach was full of “méduse” (Jelly fish) and “Bernard l’Hermite” (Hermit crabs) I did’t even feel like I was  in France anymore- just some tropical island with two of my pals!

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The day after Nathan left, Trent was coming back to my house. His host parents took us  and we got to stop in Marseille and tour which was so pretty. That night we went to dinner and stayed in a hotel in Antibes so we could tour Cannes with his host family before we were both dropped off at my house.

 

Went to two different Islands

Sainte-Marguerite

I actually went to this Island twice. The first time I went with Trents host family, and after that visit I decided that I should go again and have a picnic with some of my exchange friends!

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The view we saw where we set up our lunch
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Everybody bought an item to share- Pilar even brought some yummy Brazilian snacks!

After Lunch we walked around the island and went to the Museum. This Island has a lot of history, as it is where the “man in the iron mask” was kept for some time. Part of the museum was the old prison where the mysterious man was kept, and it was very interesting learning about some of the areas history.

 

Ile De Porquerolles

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On the way to  Porquerolles

This month’s overnight we went more West to Hyères! On Sunday we took a boat to the Island of Porquerolles just half a mile off the city Hyères and did a bike tour around the whole island!

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First we biked to the nice beach of the island, which is usually full of people in the Summer!

After our stop at the beach we biked to lunch where we ate a lot of sea food- Crab soup, Calamari, and other fishy treats. When we were done eating, we biked to the other side of the island which had dangerous cliffs instead of white sand.

This island trip was full of so much adventure, and love from the people who understand me the most. Exchange students have a connection like no other.

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23 FaceTimes to Home

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Sometimes I think about how lucky I am to be going on exchange in this time. I mean, yes, this year may have been hard with all of the political things (the fact that both the US and France election fall onto my exchange year) but technology wised, I am blessed. FaceTime isn’t the same as hanging out with someone, but it’s the closest I can get which was perfect for this month being my birthday, and getting close to the holiday season with homesickness getting worse. Sometimes it was hard to FaceTime friends and family, especially when it came time to hanging up and I would say ‘see you soon’ even though I wouldn’t see them for 7 more months which is insane.

Hiked  in 4 Different locations

Marseille

I went to Marseille on the way home from visiting Trent, and his host family took us on a beautiful hike in the mountains by Marseille.

And after hiking uphill for a while, we starting going down and got a beautiful glimpse of the Mediterranean in Marseille.

Grasse

While Trent was staying with my host family, we took him up to Grasse and saw a beautiful view of the mountains of Grasse. We went to a little village called  Saint-Paul de Vence which had an amazing view looking out.

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Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

Shelbie came over one weekend this month and we had a lot of fun trying new things. We stayed in and watched a bunch of movies which was so good to relax, and then goofed off with my family at dinner.

Sunday we were invited to go on a hike with Pilar, Sophia and her host mom.

Our route was a circle, go through the woods and parks tinland, have lunch then return around the coast. On the way to lunch we found a live animal- which I’m not exactly sure what it was but something like a goat. We also went through a park of olive trees, which were all over 2,000 years old!

We then stopped for lunch- baguette sandwhiches which we picked up at the boulangerie before we left. We sat on a wall just over the sea, with a beautiful view of the coast city, Menton!

The way back we found a perfect rocky part to climb and overlook the Mediterranean Sea.

Hyères

My last weekend of the month was an overnight in Hyères.

We started off with Lunch and a walk through the park, then lunch at a restaurant in Club at the House du Tennis Club de Hyères. The place was so pretty and with all the leaves on the ground it really started to look like fall.

After that, we went to ‘vieux Hyères médiéval’ with a tour guide and learned lot’s of interesting facts and history of the town.

The tour guide led  us to the top of a lookout with a breathtaking view of the town with the sea in the background. As the sunset we went all went to dinner at one of the rotarians house.

 

In conclusion

This month has been pretty spectacular. I have gotten over so many language & homesick bumps and I am so proud of how much I have achieved so far. Before I left, somebody told me if you can make it through the first three months, then you can make it through the whole year. The first three in my opinion make or break your exchange. If you had a bad first host family, or ate some bad food then that will be your outlook for the rest of the exchange. You will always have that negative outlook on those things. For me my negative outlook would be school because my first few weeks weren’t what I thought it’d be like, luckily though, I have learned  to stay positive and things get better. I know next month I may still have a hard time, but I also know I’ve overcome the first three months, and I am ready for anything.

Bisous

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Month; Twice the fun.

Day 33

I got to start off my month two with an amazing weekend trip with some of the most accepting people I’ve ever met, at our first official overnight. This is what I wrote in my journal this day:

SATURDAY: So this morning I got up super early because I still hadn’t packed my bag for the weekend (typical Izzy procrastinating). Then because Maire-Claire thought my train was supposed to leave at 8:30, we were rushed out the door without any breakfast. When we got to the train station however, we learned that my train was due depart 10:30, so we had 2 hours to spare in Cannes. Maire-Claire and I walked around Cannes, and we went to a famous boulangerie and ate hot chocolate, freshly squeezed Orange juice and chocolate du pain (yum yum yum)

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When it was time, I got on the train and went to the 2 second cart to meet up with the exchange students who were already on the train, Sofia, Yoshi, Ana, Sophia, Pillar.

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Sophia and I on the train(:

 

It was so good to see them again, and it truly feels like I’ve known them forever, like they say “exchange students just get each other”. When we got to our stop, we got off and Mr. Pichaud drove us to the place where we were staying «Villa des Sables» (centre de vacances IGESA).

Not only was the meeting house beautiful,  but it was also right across the beach.

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After the other exchange students arrived and we got our rooms set up (my roomie was Sophia (Taiwanese)) we went on a walk on the beach. We chatted about how difficult our last weeks of school has been and told some embarrassing but funny moments we had when things were lost in translation.

After our lunch, we played basketball (well not really just throwing the ball and chatting) and then we started talking about music, which led us all to start sharing songs and dances from our perspective countries. It was so cool to learn more about where everyone came from, because even the other americans came from such different places than I.

The Rotarians also had us all sit around and introduce ourselves, say how our experience is going with school, and with our host families. When I was finished talking, one of the Rotarians who met me the first week at my rotary clubs meeting commented on how much my french has improved, which definitely made my day.

After we ate dinner we all hung out, learned more Latin dances, played some ‘get to know you’ games, ate lots of candy, then everyone went back to their rooms for bed. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

The next day was just as fun with a million more photos:

 

Good Morning family (:

 

Meeting the Governor of 1730, and some group photos

Some beach fun!

As the weekend ended I knew my next month was going to be just as good, and it was…

Explored 3 new french towns

Frejus

As I just said, I spent the first weekend of my two months here and I found it beautiful- beaches mountains is really all I need.

St. Tropez

This month, not only did all of the exchange students meet up in Frejus for a weekend, but the Wednesday right after that we spent the day in St. Tropez! Our YEO Mr. Pichaud got a boat for the day and it was so much fun. I sat on the railing in the front of the boat with the waves just touching my fingertips at times, and sea salted hair, I never felt better.

We must’ve passed a 1 million sail boats as well- and waved to just as many.

After the boat ride we got icecream and got free time to walk around wherever we wanted in St. Tropez. Shelbie, Kayli and I bought macaroons from a famous macaroon shop that was known as the first place to sell macaroons in Paris.

Grasse

My host rotary club, Grasse, hosted an Orchestra concert in Grasse as a fundraiser. I had been to Grasse before for two dinners with my host rotary club but this day I finally got to explore it.

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My second rotary dinner. The first photo is me and my host dad, the second is me giving my presentation about myself (in french of course) and the last photo is me and my clubs president switching flags.

Shelbie Mays (an American exchange student from Missouri) came over for the weekend to hangout so she, Maire-Claire, Jean-Francois and I attended the Orchestra in a beautiful church, then got some icecream and walked around for a while. Grasse is a lot more like the France I imagined. A bunch of warm colored houses close together on busy, old-paved streets. Grasse is also the perfume capital of the world, and we passed a lot of perfumeries and I sometime soon I hope to go again and learn more of the history.

Met 2 times with other inbounds outside rotary organized events.

Shelbie’s visit

After having three rotary meet-ups, Shelbie and I planned for her to take a train from her town in Hyeres, and travel to my house in Mouans-Sartoux. On Saturday, Sofia met up with us in Cannnes and we shopped till we dropped. She planned to go home Sunday morning but last minute my host mom convinced her to change her ticket and stay till monday morning so we could all go to Grasse together.

Exchange Students in Nice

It was Sofia Lopez’s (the american/mexican exchange student) last time to hangout before she left to go home to America. All the exchange students that were free planned to meet up in Nice to spend her last day with her, and it was a lot of fun. We walked the ‘Promenade des Anglais’, had a picnic on the beach, and ate some delicious ice cream. Everyday I spend with these exchange students the more and more I love them.

Taken 62 buses to and from school

Yes, counting everyday I’ve been two and fourth from school, which is everyday except 3 sick days, and one rotary field trip to skip Wednesday’s classes and go to St. Tropez is 62. School day by day is getting easier but I’d still say it’s the hardest part of my exchange. While I did meet some awesome friends that I can eat with everyday, The actual course part is nowhere near as fun. Compared to America, I would say school here is a lot more serious. Also, just the fact that some of my classes are 2 hours long and trying to keep my concentration up for that long is extremely hard. I mean, I can barely concentrate for an hour long course in english, let alone a two hour course in French.

Me eating lunch with two friends from school in a nearby garden.

Some of this months monumental school moments include that I did successfully answer one question when the teacher called on me in  Accompagnant Perso. SES (Science Econo. & Sociales). I also said the introductory phrase for my groups SES presentation in front of the class so that I am proud of. On two Friday’s  in a row I went on field trips, one to a theatre and one to a book festival , and the following week  Stanislas’s celebrated it’s 150th year anniversary.

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Not only was I in that picture, but of course we took and got our class photos- a great memoir from my time at Stan.

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Stanislas’s Premiere ES1 class! I am with these students for every class I have.

Bought my first beret. ( and went shopping 4 times)

Clothes/malls in France are almost the same as the US. There’s some of the same stores like Forever 21 and H&M but also some new stores. The style is also surprisingly similar to the Americans style, although I think they’re more bold with what they wear here.  – And yes, if your wondering my first beret does have cat ears and say meow.

Found 5 new favorite foods.

One new favorite appetizer- toast with tuna and sliced french cheese and one new favorite fruit that grows in my backyard! A favorite new dish, my host mothers vietnamese soup with two new favorite desserts Macaroons, of course, and a classic french from a restaurant in Grasse.

Visited one new country (6 new towns)

Italia

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When you start with a bang you gotta end with a bang and that’s exactly what this weekend was. Because both Maire-Claire and Jean-Francois had the same Saturday off they decided that we should go touring somewhere, and when you live this close to the Italian boarder, where else would you go!! We left Saturday morning and visited Portofino, a beautiful Italian town on the coast. Apparently in the summer Portofino is somewhat like St. Tropez with all of the boats, but there was no big harbor, all of the boats were wrapped up and on the streets- one of the major differences between France and Italy. French beaches are a lot more publicized with shops all along the coast whereas Italy’s coast is still welcome to tourists but a lot more rocky than beachy.

That night we went to a restaurant for pasta and slept in a hotel in the same town.

When we woke up headed for the beach to take a boat to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is 5 Italian on the coast which the only way you can reach them is by boat or a train.

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Me with the best host parents ever on the boat to the first town in Cinque Terre.

Each ‘Terre’ was a colorful, busy town, looking out at the Mediterranean Sea while staying either higher in the mountains or deep within the Valleys. There’s also a walking trail that connects all of them and the route, although long, looks so beautiful. So now I have a new item for the bucket list – hike the Cinque Terre.

 

Not only were the sights just as beautiful on the second day but so was the food.

Conclusion

Month 2 could not have been better if I dreamed it. I started the month missing some classic american snacks or having days when I would think my french would never make progress but that has all changed. I’ve found new favorite foods and snacks that I could only get in France, and in the last days of my second month I feel like my comprehension of the french language has improved so much. I can’t yet have a perfect conversation without grammar mistakes but I can certainly try. At the end of my first month, whenever people would say more complex sentences I could understand the general sense of what they were saying. But now I’m starting to process each word and understand each word in french- it’s less of translating but more of understanding the first time. Of course not everyday’s a good day for my french but I definitely see progress and am very happy with it.

As for emotionally I do miss my home, friends, and family (Kat), very much. It’s nice with modern technology that I get to see and talk to them easily but it’s not the same as being with them. After a long day of school, I’ll be tired and completely worn out from my brain working constantly on trying to decipher the fast french speakers and all I’ll want is my own bed and to see family. Luckily I have an amazing host family who makes me feel as home as possible while showing me french culture, and I’ve met some incredible exchange students that I feel like I’ve known forever. So despite my difficulties with that I am still going on; besides,

“Adventure starts just outside your comfort zone” (;

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Bisous xxx

My first month

After a long 8 hour flight, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 8:10am local time with 8 hours to spare.  We went through customs and found our terminals, and even ran into some French olympic athletes! (pictures below). For us it was 2am so even though we wanted to sleep, we did our best to keep each other up so our jet lag wouldn’t be any worse. At 4pm I was the first exchange student to board the plane to go off on my next adventure! We all said our goodbyes and before I knew it, I was 10,000 feet above Paris wondering what my future would hold.

 

When I got off the airplane at Nice with Kayli Smith, another rotary exchange student who’s going to live in my district, we were nervous, tired, but most of all, we were both EXTREMELY excited. After we got our luggage, we walked out the baggage claim and were by greeted our families, rotarians, and two other exchange students. It was definitely a good way to start the year!

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I’m in the center next to my host mother, Maire-Claire, and my host brother who would  leave for South Korea three days after I arrived. The girl next to my host mom is Sofia. Sofia is not only an exchange student from Australia who’s been in France for 7 months, but she would also be my host sister for my first week in Mouans-Sartoux!  The girl at the bottom is Kayli, the American exchange student from Wisconsin that flew with me to Nice, that is living her exchange life in St Tropez.

Coming into Mouans-Sartoux, the scenary was absolutely breath taking. There were mountains surrounding us, the sky was clear and blue, and I was feeling good! My  house was at the top of a hill, and as soon as you opened the gate I saw 3 dogs  (Taiga, Choupes, and Chippy) and a cat (Skittles) all running around in a huge open space, with a pool to the side, and a beautiful classic french home in the background.

For my first evening in France, I went to ‘Papi and Mams’ (their grandparents house) and met 3 of their cousins, two aunts, 2 uncles, and a family friend from Senegal. Their house was incredible, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, and with enormous mountains in the back.

 

 


 

Before I knew it, I had spent one month in France.

Attended one wedding

My first weekend in France we traveled to Toulon to go to a cousins wedding. The ceremony was in a grand church, and just across the street was the Mediterranean. The reception was further inland, into the countryside at a beautiful vineyard. When you entered, we were given yellow sunglasses, hats, fans, and of course lots of lemonade to match the theme- It was so cute (and basically now my dream wedding). A typical french wedding is two days long- wedding ceremony and reception on the first day, then you go to a nearby hotel, because the next day you go back to where the reception was, and continue the party for brunch! It was truly a beautiful event to experience.

Eaten 72 separate pieces of baguettes (and other breads&pastries)

Yes, I have kept track of the number I have eaten, and I am not ashamed of this number. I’ve had baguettes with any type of spread you can imagine. Nutella, strawberry jam, cherry jam, coconut jam from Malaysia,  honey from Malaysia, tuna spreads, meat spreads, butter and vegemite (courtesy  of my Australian pal Sofia) and then just too many types of cheeses to name.

Tried 7 new foods that I never would have tried if I didn’t come here

Since my host mom is vietnamese, I’m lucky to able to try both french and vietnamese cuisine! Aka: a lot of foods I would probably never ask to try but now that I’m here, I’ve eaten and enjoyed (well some). My new foods include: (not pictured): Caramel Beef (my host mom’s speciality),  vietnamese stir fry, Pigs snout,  and (pictured) Two different types of clams, mussels, and of course snails (which I will totally eat again!!)

Started my Junior year

Every morning I take a thirty minute bus ride to Cannes to attend ‘Institute Stanislas’, or as everyone here calls it, Stan. I am in the Première (ages 16-17) ES – économique et social (economics and social sciences) which means the basis of my classes are between literary and economics courses. The other Stems are L: littéraire (humanities) which is all about the French language, French literature, Foreign literature in foreign language and Philosophy, and not so much about math/science  S: scientifique (various hard sciences)- which is  high-level mathematics, physics-chemistry and biology-geology.

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This is my weekly schedule at Stan (red looped classes I don’t take either because they’re for preparation for the BAC or because I wasn’t signed up for them)

 

School is definitely the hardest thing so far in France. I am my schools first exchange student, so a lot of teachers aren’t sure what to do with me. Nevertheless, everyone is very kind and in my class there are at least 4 fluent english speakers, so that’s nice to have if I’m ever completely lost.

Met and ‘Bisoused’ 77(+) new people

This includes 13+ host family members, 33 kind classmates and 7 teachers, 10+ giving Rotarians and 13 amazing exchange students. (plus a few other friends here and there along the way (;

Visited and explored 4 major cities of the French Rivera

Cannes

Because my school is in Cannes I go here at least 5 days a week and sometimes more. I first visited Cannes with Sophia on my 2nd day and she toured me around. By the end of the month, after going into Cannes for lunch everyday, I could navigate this city with no help at all!

Nice & Antibes

On my 3rd weekend in France my host parents, Maire-Claire and Jean-François, left to go to Paris to visit their daughter and son. Sophia had already changed to her third and last host family, but she came back for this weekend to tour around with me. On the Saturday we visited Nice, and Sunday we went to Antibes.

Nice was so pretty with the old streets, and sea so close. We visited the memorial for the Nice attack, ate some lunch at a sushi place, then went to an old Nice market, and ate the best ice cream ever.

Antibes was just as pretty as Nice. Sophia and I walked through the town, got some lunch and ice cream, then we went and sat on a rooftop and looked at all the boats. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Toulon

I have visited Toulon twice, once for the wedding, and the second time was for a picnic with all of the exchange students in our district 1730.

Our district includes:
One Australian 
Sophia Pepin
One Mexican 
Sophia Lopez
One Argentinian
Ana Paula Pujador
One Brasilian
Pillar Mendes
One Taiwanese 
Hui-Yu Chien (English name: Sophia)
One Japanese
Kazuyoshi Matsumura
One Italian
Giulia Gasparetto
One Inidan
Ashutosh Lawtawar
One South Korean
Inso Song
& 3 other Americans 
Kayli Smith from Wisconsin
Shelby Mays from Missouri 
& Caroline Carter from New York
Everyone was so nice and I was so happy to meet people who were having the same problems I had been dealing with, the language, the new foods (mainly the meat, because to us their meat is undercooked but to french It’s perfect), the home sickness, difficulty with school etc. Lucky for us though we can help each other, and soon France will be our home away from home.

First month conclusion

Honestly, first month couldn’t have been better. I love everything about my host family, town, and country and I can’t wait to learn more about them. It’s really crazy to think that I am away from everything I have ever known but whenever I feel like I’m missing out, all I have to do is look outside and remind myself how lucky I am. I never thought it would be so different either. Even small things like how they write some numbers or letters makes things difficult (the first day of school I confused every ‘1’ with ‘n’ because of how exaggerated it is). And the change in how people greet people (‘les bises’ / cheek kissing), and how open they are to discussing some things (teachers will read grades outloud, and tell you what you did wrong in front of everyone). At first some of these things just seemed bizarre but now I realize it’s part of the culture, and I’m here to learn the culture too(: So although the language is still very difficult, I can definitely tell my french is getting better each day while practicing with my host family. So all in all I am very happy to be here still and although sometimes I have rough days, I’m looking forward to adventures to come.

Until next time,

Bisous !!!!!! xxxxx