Category Archives: Months in France

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


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.


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.


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!




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) !

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


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!


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.


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


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.


Vietnamese pasta salad:

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


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.


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)


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.

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.


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


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.


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.

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.


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.


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)



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.

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.


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” (;


Bisous xxx