So I arrived alright, obviously. I got in late, as my plane from Dublin to Paris left 3 hours later. I think airports exist to delay everyone's planes. Almost every plane that day seemed to be late and the weather wasn't even bad. But bah, what do I know? I guess the important thing is that I eventually got here, yeah?
Ashley arrived in France, and it wasn't a sense of intense joy that hit me first
. It was anxiety, fear and exhaustion. Airports tend to make you tired and then the idea of meeting my host family weighed on me like a bag of bricks. What if they were awful? What if they charged a ton of money? What if I hated the school? What if I hated the country? Food? People? Friends? I wasn't really visibly stressed, but I was stressed inside. But, c'est normal, oui? I think everyone that comes to study abroad or makes a huge life decision such as this feels that way (unless you are one of those lucky people who thrives on anxiety-- oh how I envy you). Regardless, the airport wasn't that hard to navigate. We followed the sign to our baggage and got it within 20 minutes. Then we asked a somewhat nice woman at the information desk where we could find the shuttle to the TGV station (take the shuttle to terminal 2 future Angevins) and the ticket office is in the lower part. Ashley and I bought tickets to Angers along with the student discount card (which was 50 Euro) for 80 euro total, so the ticket was around 30 euro, which isn't that bad. I highly suggest buying this card since within 2 tickets you've already saved money (the ticket to Angers would have been almost 80 Euro on its own without the 12-25 Carte). We took the train to Angers and got off at Angers St. Laud (sorry this is so concise, maybe I'll write more about everything at the airport later for a guide for future study abroadees).
Once we got to Angers St
. Laud, we had to call our families. Ashley and I tried to purchase a phone card in order to use the phones at the station, but it goes without saying that we couldn't get it to work. They never do, even in the United States. I can never figure out those damn phone cards. Luckily, the information office was open and I asked the woman at the desk if she could help me dial the number and she did it for me. Before long, Jacques Brangeon, my host father answered on the other line and I anxiously in broken french explained to him that it was Jay, his american student and I asked for a ride from the train station. He told me 10 minutes and I waited. Ashley called her parents and then we waited together.
My parents arrived first and let me tell you, they really are the nicest people. Their names are
Jacques and Mauricette Brangeon and they have a dog named Rodin (like the sculptor). They have a son a daughter, who both live now in different parts of the world. They gave me a fantastic room and bathroom and they feed me delicious food 3-4 times a week for dinner and I eat breakfast every day. It's a good deal really. I talk to them a lot over dinner and we always have interesting conversations. Sometimes they will teach me things about French life and culture and I will do the same in my respective culture. Other times they will tell me stories about their kids, their dogs, their life, or their vacations
. Either way, I am always learning and its wonderful. I came here, above all else, to meet interesting people and to learn the language. I feel as if my comprehension is increasing at an exponential rate. Every day, its a little easier to understand the native speakers. The first few days I couldn't understand a lot of what Mauricette was saying because she used a lot of expressions, argot/slang, and she cut a lot of letters out of words, much like we do in the U.S. But these conversations at dinners are allowing me to understand a lot more and I speak to them quite a bit, so its good. Back home, I was a lot more timid and part of the reason I was nervous to come here was because of this relationship between my host family and myself. I was afraid that I wouldn't speak at all, and that I would be shy and timid. But for some reason, being in a foreign country got me out of my shell completely. I talk to strangers, and meet new people very easily. Not that I was every terrified of confrontation or anything but I'm a lot less shy. And everything seems so much easier now! Back home, it'll be in English. If I have to negotiate rent, order food, talk about the city I live in in front of a class room, etc., it won't be in French. It put everything into perspective, really-- and this is a really good thing for me.
Anyway, dinner. They eat a lot larger meals here. Lunch is the biggest, but I usually do not eat lunch at home, so dinner is my biggest meal since during the day I try not to spend a lot of money on food
. But man, the french eat. They have several courses, some of which do not make sense together in my head. My palette is not used to eating pizza, omelette, salad, bread and cheese all at the same time. It's a little bizzare, but all of the food is so good. I haven't really had anything I didn't really like from my host family (except paté--- not a huge fan). I told them from day 1 that I didn't really like seafood and they said that that wasn't a problem and they would eat fish on the days that I wasn't eating with them, which was very nice of them. Anyway, even for eating so much everyday, I've lost weight since coming here. The food here is so much better for you-- no preservatives in the bread and meats, so its all fresh here. The french shop a lot more often than we do in the U.S. They don't buy all of their food for a week on the weekend, many of them buy fresh produce, bread and meat daily.
I also have another student living in the room next door to me, named Ayana. She is from Japan and she is really very nice and very sweet. She said she would help me with my japanese and I could help her with English. She's only hear for about a month, but it's very enjoyable to meet other people from different places around the world. Since being here, I've met a guy from Texas, a few girls from North Carolina, people from Michigan, Kansas, DC, France, Paris, Germany, China, Japan, Mexico, Italy, etc
. It's really very cool and exciting. Reason number 1 of why I chose this program.
So far my days have consisted of going to class, grabbing a bite to eat, going to class, eating dinner with my family and/or going out at night with friends. We've gotten to know the city of Angers fairly well- at least the part that we frequent a lot. It's really a great time. Charming, pretty, old, new and beautiful. The people are nice-- the patrons of the places we frequent the most are starting to learn our faces and our routines. We get kebabs frequently from La Pyramide for lunch at the man who makes the kebabs remembers what we want and talks to us a bit and same with the bartender at Le Soft. While we aren't best friends, she does recognize us and says Salut, ca va? when I walk into the bar and we talk a bit while she is fixing my drink. I know that happens everywhere that you go, but its worth mentioning.
My classes consist of Phonetics, Grammar, History of France, History of French Art and Language. Language is the core class of your curriculum. The better that you did on your placement test, the less you have to take. I scored a 324 on my placement exam, which I think is pretty good. So, I take 6 hours of language, and then take 4 electives (the classes listed above). I'm not exactly sure of the point of the language class yet-- but it seems to serve as a combination of orientation, home room, grammar/review of basic materials and culture. It may be interesing, it might not be interesting. Either way, my professor i pretty awesome. She's young, is getting her doctorate in french cinema and film and lives in Nantes (and she invited to go and hang out with her in Nantes).
So far, my conquests have not been anything to crazy. I have gotten into a routine and have a core group of friends, so its working out nicely. It's very similar to being at a school back home, just with everyone speaking french and the drinking age being 18. Soon I'll be traveling on weekends, taking more pictures and have interesting stories. So far, I've learned a lot and I love it, but nothing crazy has happened. Theres a few funny or interesting stories, but I'll write about them later. I recommend visiting Angers, if you can. There's nothing amazing in the town really-- theres no Eiffel Tower, or world wonder, but its a typical french town with nice people, good food and a unique outlook on life.
Alright. So I know I suck since I haven't updated this since Ireland. I got behind and then kept putting it off to do other things thinking it would be easier to just write a more concise blog about a whole week instead of doing one nightly but that is not true at all. I just keep doing more and more and then realizing the "one blog" will just get longer and longer. So, it goes without saying that I need to write one giant blog to catch you all up on my life here.