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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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