After riding the bus to the Universite Grenoble Alpes and getting to the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes Françaises (CUEF), we took a placement test to determine which level we’d be in for the month. My mom said the stereotype for the French was that they were disorganized. After today, I might understand where that stereotype comes from. They were all very friendly though!
We headed downtown to do a scavenger hunt and discovered some beautiful sites. I was able to get an unlimited phone plan for the month for 20 euros, and an unlimited student bus/tram combo for 15 euros. I've concluded that Europeans treat their students well. After going grocery shopping, getting lost on the trams, and going for a quick run, I was exhausted. Excited for classes to start tomorrow.
I’m embarking on my last class of my undergrad ever (woo-hoo) by doing a 4-week long intensive french course in Grenoble, located in South-Eastern France. The program is officially called the Ontario-Rhone-Alpes Student Exchange, Summer Learning Program Option. For the full study-abroad option, Ontario students come to the Universite de Grenoble for a semester due to an agreement between Ontario Universities and this University, and Rhone-Alpes students go to an Ontario University of their choice for a semester. I am doing the intensive summer option (and not the full semester) because that gives me the last credit I need to graduate.
Today was one of those days I couldn’t have planned even if I tried my hardest. After walking for about an hour around the residence area buying food from various local shops in 36 degree weather, I was eating a hard-earned peach outside of the main residence building sweating buckets. Somebody mistook me for someone else, which made her walk closer before she realized I wasn’t the person she was looking for. She was very friendly and invited me to hang out with her and 3 other Canadian girls in the ORA program downtown. After running upstairs to my room (and changing my clothes because I was so sweaty, all before 9:30 AM), I went with them after some hesitation and ended up having a fabulous day downtown with three new friends.
We walked about 30 minutes there, enjoying lovely “what even is my life” moments along the way, and sat at a little restaurant eating lunch right by a farmer’s market, where I bought a mini cantaloupe. We walked a bit more and enjoyed a cute expresso at a cafe, where we sat and sipped for probably an hour, before heading back.
I’m reading my first real french novel (yikes, embarrassing) but so far I’m realizing I understand every single sentence without any problems at all. Shoutout to my cousin Melissa for letting me borrow “The Diary of (Le Journal de) Anne Frank.”
Bonus: I met somebody from the Congo who tried to teach me some Portuguese. I later learned he speaks French, English, some Spanish, and four languages from home, too.
Having conversations with people from other countries and with cultures different from my own is consistently enriching. I appreciate challenging my own perspectives and learning again and again that my point of view is limited compared to the impossibly vast diversity of opinion that composes the totality of the human experience. It is humbling to know that I will continue discovering new things for the duration of my life. Every time I travel I learn that the experiences I have collected as the individual that I am are only a drop of water in the ocean of knowledge held by the people who surround me.
I learned in Ecuador that languages not only open doors of communication, but that they additionally unlock new ways of thinking and feeling. It is incredible to have access to people we would otherwise not be able to converse with, but it goes further than that. Conversations in English versus French versus Spanish are not simply translated versions of each other. From different tones used to express emotion, to different humour used to break uncomfortable silences, language conveys so much more than verbs and adjectives side-by-side which create meaning. When I meet somebody who speaks Arabic or Malay or Ukrainian, not only do they have a world of vocabulary completely inaccessible to me, but they also hold a knowledge system I can't begin to quantify. That's why languages, and people, fascinate me.
I learned how to navigate 3 different transportation systems in one day: the interprovincial trains, city tramways, and buses. I'd like to give myself a pat on the back for learning the ins-and-outs of Paris to Grenoble transportation while carrying all my luggage with me and functioning on literally zero hours of sleep (Disclosure: I watched too many movies on the plane, so the zero sleep was admittedly my own fault).
Nonetheless, it was absolutely a wonderful first day in France. The train ride into the valley of Grenoble made me squeal in delight because it looked like a storybook.
Yikes... I slept 22 hours straight
And I’m not even surprised. After I got to the residence Houille Blanche, where I'll be staying for the next month, I jumped in the pool, wrote a quick message to my mom and dad to tell them I was alive, and then fell asleep at around 6 PM… not waking up until 4 PM tomorrow (writing this retroactively). That’s what I get for staying up 34 hours, I suppose. Watching "The Matrix" in French was totally worth it. I’d make a great sleep study.
Also: There is a coffee dispenser downstairs that makes you a cafe latte, cappuccino, regular coffee, or espresso for 0.40 euros. I already know I’m going to be spending quite a bit on that machine.
Off to France!
I left again to go to Ecuador for one month earlier this summer, and now I'm heading to France for at least 5 months. I think it's an easier thing to accept because 1. it's a shorter time period, 2. France is not as foreign to them as Ecuador was, and 3. I speak much more French than I spoke Spanish! Still, I can't thank my mom and dad enough for letting me take these opportunities as they come and encouraging me to do all that I can to keep fueling my ongoing wanderlust.
Tiny Street Art
International Driver's License
Not only did I get a new rain jacket, a new backpack, and new running shoes, but I also got an international driver's license today! The reason I got the license was to be able to drive around in Trebeurden, the little town in France where I'll be living from September to December with Eleanor and Celine. I'm very excited that I'll be able to au pair for somebody who is already 9 and knows how to look after herself for the most part, but also because of the rich cultural exchange that will take place with it.
Spent the day with mom and dad running around for things and enjoyed a nice family barbeque at night. It was actually a beautiful day, but I wanted to wear my rain jacket.
On Thursday I'm off to France for my second intensive French class to finish off my undergrad. I'm very excited because I'm forcing myself to speak french at home now which HELLO I should have been doing for years now. Oh well, gotta start somewhere. Time is ticking and I have lots to do, but I started packing today so I'm not too worried.
Aunt and Uncle Dinner Shenanigans
Montreal with EEF Friends
After dinner we went to a relaxed bar and just hung out listening to live music and sipping sangria. Megan (pictured in the middle) was kind enough to let Nell (right) and I (left) crash at her apartment. The next day the three of us ate at a tasty vegan restaurant for brunch, skipped over to McGill to visit a museum, and then parted ways in the afternoon.
Sherbrooke Soirée Final
Biking in Ottawa
Michele is going to Carleton in September! Woo-hoo!
Since her orientation was this weekend, my mom and dad and her drove to Ottawa on Thursday and I met up with them from Sherbrooke (a 4 hour drive). We had a fun weekend. We biked on Saturday, ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant by the Canal, and did all the touristy things. Unfortunately Camille was working in Kingston so we had to take the family pic without her, but we skyped her in.
Even though I live relatively close to Ottawa (5 hours from my house in Vermont) and have driven much farther distances many more times, we don't have family there... which is why I had not gone since I was 4! How embarrassing. Now that Michele will be there to do her undergrad though, I have the perfect excuse to continue visiting this splendidly green capital city.
P.S. I saw Melissa and it was awesome!
TONIGHT BLEW ME AWAY! I smiled the entire time we were walking around in there. It was phenomenal. We started at 9 PM and the whole night show was a blast. Absolutely going back. The website (http://forestalumina.com/). Since the lights move and we're in the forest, the photos don't do anything justice, but they're a fun reminder that will make me smile in the future. Put it on your list of things to do. Fun for all ages I promise.
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