Week 4

So my scholarship money finally arrived on Wednesday—meaning that, at last, I could eat at the university restaurant and cafeterias. While I did have to make lunch for myself and sometimes my brother during the summer, the refrigerator was always stocked with food. I’m not at all used to having to live on my own and cook almost every meal. 22 days isn’t that long, but it felt like forever. Granted, being able to choose what I eat is still much better than trying to pick out the most edible-looking Estes food, but I missed the convenience of not having to worry about cooking/cobbling together every meal, if that makes sense?

The university has three places you can eat: a tiny cafeteria attached to the actual academic building, and a cafeteria and restaurant inside a separate building called Restaurant Carlone. I ventured into Restaurant Carlone an hour and thirty minutes before class started, and since the line for the restaurant was ridiculous, I headed over to the cafeteria. After maybe half an hour of waiting, I finally got to pick out my food. The cafeteria here is completely different from Estes in the sense that it’s not an all-you-can-eat sort of thing (although I can’t imagine anyone would be excited about eating everything in Estes). Instead, all the food, from drinks to salad to fries, is charged separately. From what I could tell, you can choose pasta, savory tarts, rice, vegetables, desserts (slices of cake or pie, or packaged beignets and cookies), fruit, yogurt, and dishes like hamburgers and fries. I just ended up grabbing a 3.20 euro salad because I’m a slow eater, although I got a free piece of bread too.

The salad was artfully arranged, and had corn, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, and thin white strips that I originally mistook for noodles. I’m still not sure what they were—potatoes, perhaps? I couldn’t really tell since they were covered in some sort of sauce. But the salad was actually fresh—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wandered over to Estes’s salad bar in a desperate attempt to forage for healthy food, only to discover that half of the options were wilted or very obviously not fresh. The downside of actual edible food is that the restaurant and cafeterias aren’t open at night, or on the weekends, meaning that I still have to cook for myself. So while I’m lamenting the remnants of my adolescence, I’ll also welcome the opportunity to learn how to cook things that aren’t pasta or stir-fry.

*******

Thursdays are simultaneously my favorite and least favorite part of the week: after suffering through five hours of class (or seven hours every other week), I’m finally free to enjoy my three day weekend.

*******

On Friday, I ordered a sandwich américain from the cafeteria, which consisted of an actual sandwich complete with lettuce, tomatoes, and meat, along with a side of fries. The meat (I think it was beef? I don’t eat beef very often) was a bit dry, but the bread was delicious. Food is definitely lighter, and fresher, than the grease-slathered, butter-heavy, frozen, canned, or “Asian-flavored” stuff you get at Estes, or the passable burgers and subs at the Commons.

After eating, I went to the other cafeteria, where I ordered a turkey panini to stash in my fridge until dinnertime. Then I walked to the city, where I finally bought my bus pass—I’m never walking up that massive hill after buying groceries again. I then tried to find places to buy SIM cards, since there was this whole mess about my bank and my SIM card—I ordered a free SIM card online, but online banking kept telling me I needed to give them a cell phone number, except I couldn’t put any money on my SIM card because I couldn’t make any online payments. When I walked into FNAC, a store that sells electronics, school supplies, and books, I got a bit distracted from my SIM card mission, because books. I spent some time wondering if I should buy the fifth Percy Jackson book in French for 6.90 euros (I eventually decided not to, because I needed room in my purse for groceries), and after browsing the English section, I attempted to read Attack on Titan in French. Eventually, I forced myself away from the books and went into Monoprix, where I managed to find a card that I could use to top up my SIM card.

*******

Saturday’s mission: find a cutting board. It took a lot longer than expected, mostly because I first visited an Asian supermarket and then the library. At Asiana Supermarché, I almost cried at the sight of delicious, familiar foods. I resisted the urge to buy half the store and picked out a bottle of oyster sauce and a package of instant pho.

Then, I fully intended to go to Monoprix to find a cutting board, except I got sidetracked when I walked past the Louis Nucera Library. I spent a while ogling the French versions of my favorite books and skimming through some of them, and now I need to get a library card ASAP so that I can reread a bunch of my favorite books and hopefully improve my French.

Finding a cutting board in Monoprix took a ridiculous amount of time, mostly because I wandered the entire downstairs before giving up and going upstairs, which was falsely labeled “fashion.” The second story had clothes, school supplies, and bathroom and kitchen supplies, so I guess Monoprix is like the French equivalent of Wal-Mart or Target? Anyways, that’s about the extent of the weekend’s excitement (I was going to visit a bunch of museums on Sunday, except I must have slept funny because my right foot hurt whenever I walked down stairs, so there went that idea).

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Week 3

Monday afternoon, it rained for the first time since I arrived in Nice, which was actually kind of nice because the weather cooled down for a bit. But earlier that day, I bought a bottle of water and a “Sandwich américain” for lunch, only to discover that the so-called sandwich consisted of nothing but a piece of beef and some fries. Like, who puts fries inside the hamburger bread?

*******

Tuesday was a bit bumpy. I froze up during class, because the professor called on me and wanted me to choose a subject and spontaneously talk about it. As a shy person, extemporaneously talking is the very last thing I want to do in front of an entire class. Fortunately for me, someone else volunteered to go, and after most of the class went, thus giving me time to think, I felt more prepared when it was finally my turn. I chose to talk about one of my favorite books, Unwind, and the experience wasn’t too bad. The professor looked impressed when I used the term “au fur et à mesure,” and when I finished, she said that my presentation had been interesting and thanked me.

Here comes the worst part of the week: while I was walking back to my dorm, two boys passed me, and one of them put his hands together, bowed mockingly, and said something that sounded like “chienne.” I had a pretty good sense of the word, though I wasn’t sure whether he was insulting me for being Asian or for being a woman, so I looked it up online. He’d called me a bitch. Great. Thanks. I hate misogynistic men.

*******

Fortunately, things went uphill from there. On Saturday, the Czech girl and I went out for breakfast at 9am. (Way too early for me, but hey, it’s lonely here in the dorms. I’ll take what I can get.) We forgot that most places, except touristy areas, are closed during the weekend, so we ended up buying random food from the supermarket and eating at the beach for maybe an hour or so.

At 2:30, I met four of the Marylanders at Place Pierre Gautier to visit museums with them. (I felt bad for intruding, but the Czech girl’s basically the only person I know in the dorms, and she doesn’t speak French… But they’re all really nice, so I don’t think they minded? At least, I hope not.) Anyways, we looked at some books—which I resisted the temptation to buy, even the gorgeous old hardcovers—and then visited the Masséna Museum. Although the architecture was pretty, I didn’t think the museum was all that special; there were just a bunch of random paintings and artifacts, though I guess the stole that Josephine wore to Napoleon’s coronation was pretty cool.

Some of the architecture:

I must have been on my feet for about five hours, so around 5:30, I took the bus back to the dorm. There was no way I was going to walk for another hour, especially up those three hills, when I was tired and starving. But even though my feet hurt, the exhaustion was worth it, because I’d almost forgotten how nice it is, to be able to just socialize with and be around people from your country and culture.

*******

Sunday, I met two of the Marylanders at Place Garibaldi at 2 to visit the crypt. (It still takes a lot of courage to message them on Facebook and ask if I can come along, because I feel like I’m being clingy, but I don’t know who else I’d travel with, and I’m afraid to go alone?) Except, this weekend was Heritage Days, meaning that a bunch of museums and historical sites are free of charge, and there was a long line to get into the crypt.

After moving maybe half a foot in an hour, one of the other Marylanders and the nephew of her host family walked by, and we abandoned the line to go to the Grotto of Lazaret with them. Unfortunately, after at least an hour and a half of waiting, we were in the cave for all of five minutes, listening to some dude talk while we stared down at a bunch of rocks and theoretical mandibles that nobody could see from the platform. All five of us had thought that we’d be able to walk around, but nope. I mean, I’m grateful for the experience, but in the end, it wasn’t really worth the ninety minutes of standing.

This was legitimately all you could see:

The walk to and from the grotto was far more interesting:

I don’t think I’ve ever done so much walking in my life: I basically walked from one end of the city to the other, and I was on my feet from 1:15 to 6:30. Even though I all but inhaled my dinner when I got back to my room, and don’t want to move from my chair for the next few hours, I think this weekend went pretty well—I got to talk to people and explore the city, although I’ve realized there’s still so much of Nice that I haven’t yet seen.

Weekend Tales

Thank god there’s no class at all on Fridays. Three day weekends are lovely, although the fact that I’m all alone in my room makes me miss my roommate even more. In the morning, my contact took me to the bank so that I could get my French bank card. Then, she helped me with getting a stamp, an envelope, and my student card, which I can put money on for meals. After lunch, I went off in search of a post office so that I could mail four postcards.

The people at the post office were really nice—a lady working there spoke a little English to me (probably because she could tell that I was incredibly confused) when telling me how to work the stamp machine, which prints off these weird sticker-stamps for you. I stopped at the supermarket on the way back to my dorm, hopefully for the last time in a while since the university restaurant finally opens on Monday. (I also had the deep misfortune of accidentally picking up a rotten bottle of milk or something, which I immediately put back down, except my hands smelled of rotten milk all the way back to the dorm. Ew. Ew. Ew.)

After vigorously washing my hands with soap, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, so like the nerd I am, I proceeded to study. (Fine, maybe some reading and Internet browsing was involved. I promise I didn’t spend the rest of the day studying. I’m not that much of a nerd.) I don’t know whether this is just first-week luck, but the only homework I got were three brief worksheets and a ten-question writing exercise. I know that, if I were back at R-MC, I’d be swamped with homework. (America, you should seriously reconsider your education system.) Still, it’s so weird, having all this free time during the academic year.

 

Saturday didn’t have the best beginning—I had a near panic attack because my laptop refused to start, and that was probably one of the longest half-hours of my life. But I can happily report that my precious laptop seems to be working normally again, so I made plans on Facebook to go into the city with my Czech friend at 12pm. We took the bus to Place Massena, and fortunately she told me what to do, otherwise I’d have never made it past the driver. A single trip costs 1.50 euros, so a round trip is 3 euros—I can’t wait until I get my student bus pass. Busses here are much tinier than the buses that I usually took in Hong Kong, a lot more expensive, and a much bumpier ride.

For two hours or so, she and I wandered the city, and I learned that she watches Game of Thrones too, which is pretty awesome. She even has the same favorite characters—Arya, Sansa, and Khaleesi. After stumbling upon the port/harbor, we stopped at Jazz Café to rest for a bit, and I had a tiny scoop of coconut ice cream for an astonishingly high price of 2.90 euros, 0r 3.76 USD. At 3, we met up with one of her friends, a girl from Poland who lives in a different dorm, and then we sat on the beach and talked. Let me tell you, pebbled beaches are painful. My butt and legs still want to revolt at the memory of sitting cross-legged on a bunch of pebbles.

After perhaps an hour or so on the beach, the three of us decided that we were hungry, and we sat down at a sort of restaurant/café. I split a Reine pizza with the Czech girl, which was a pizza with ham and mushrooms. The pizza here is different—it’s a lot lighter, AKA less greasy, with a thin, crispy crust. Around 6, the Czech girl and I parted ways with the Polish girl, and we got back to the dorm around 6:30. Later, I Skyped with my family for a couple of hours, and that was pretty much the extent of excitement, because I refuse to leave my dorm and venture into the dark unknown at night.

Sunday was essentially unadventurous. I tried to go out and explore, but there was just too much sun and it ate all my energy. It didn’t take long for me to trudge right back to my room and plop down in front of the fan that the girl in Nice before me kindly left behind to save my life. Once I get my year-long student bus pass, you can bet that I’ll be doing a lot more adventuring, since I won’t have to walk everywhere.

The First Week of Classes

Tuesday’s class was…adventurous, to say the least. I had Oral Language from 1-4, which consisted of listening comprehension and speaking. The professor, is, uh, very interesting? I’m not sure that I’m going to learn a lot in that class, and it felt like I’d spent all day in the classroom rather than just three hours. We all had to go up and introduce ourselves in front of the class, and talk about where we’re from, and she expected me to know why R-MC’s mascot is the yellow jacket. Uh, I have no idea? And then she wanted me to talk for two minutes about Virginia’s climate, and I thought, “I can’t even talk about the weather in English for two minutes!” All the other students were also totally befuddled by that class.

The Czech girl I met helped me with finally getting Internet in my room, which I’m still ridiculously excited about! Now I don’t have to go to the computer room every time I want to use the Internet.

On Wednesday, I had my second Written Language class from 2-4. Then, I was supposed to have French Society Through the Media for an hour, from 4-5, except there was this whole mess about incorrect scheduling or something. So I ended up sitting for an hour in a class that I didn’t even sign up for, because I didn’t want to risk being impolite by standing up and leaving. Oops? But afterwards, I talked a bit with a Taiwanese girl in my main classes, and she asked if she could speak in Chinese to me. So we spoke in Chinese and French, which was quite an experience.

As for Thursday, I was supposed to have 7-8 hours of class today, but luckily I ended up only having 5 hours of literature, from 10-12 and then 1-4. While the professor seems nice, frankly, I thought that the classes were pretty boring. The first class, Literary Themes and Courants (I’m not really sure what that last word translates to), was basically history, which is supposed to complement the periods of literature we’re learning about—but I’ve already learned the history in Professor deGraff’s Civilization class. In the second class, Literary Texts, there’s practically no interaction or conversation; the professor basically just lectured the entire time and I could feel myself starting to lose focus. (It’s not my fault that the classroom windows offered a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean coast.) But at least I met two other people from the University of Maryland, which was nice, especially since one of them is also staying for a year! I ate lunch with them—we all had chicken sandwiches from the pub that’s near the university, and although the chicken wasn’t amazing or terrible, the bread was delicious. After class, I went to the library and borrowed two Les Adventures de Tintin books, which are sort of like graphic novels for children, and hopefully I’ll be able to work my way through those. Always start small, I guess?

The Start of Classes

Monday marked a bunch of firsts: my first day of classes as a junior, and my first day of classes in another country. As I was leaving my room, I ran into an English speaking student, which was awesome, except I was rushing to leave the dorm and she was going into the kitchen.

Admittedly, when I walked into the university, I was overwhelmed before I even began classes; there were just so many students, and they were all speaking French, so I just sort of wandered around in a daze. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like a foreigner, which is saying something, considering the fact that I’m frequently mistaken for an international student at R-MC.

I had Grammar Practice from 12-1, which wasn’t too bad, especially because I met three Americans from the University of Maryland. (Two of them had even heard of R-MC!) So the four of us, along with a Swiss girl and another European girl (I forgot where she’s from) went off to get lunch together. So for the first time since arriving in France, I had a French meal that wasn’t supermarket-purchased—a chicken panini, which wasn’t superb, but was definitely better than Estes/Commons food. Then, we went to our next class, Written Language, from 2-4. This class was more confusing, since the professor thrust a worksheet at us, and we were supposed to fill in all the missing prepositions, but everyone ended up being confused together.

The students from Maryland, though, all live with host families, so I had yet to meet someone from my dorm. When I got back to the dorm and sat down in the computer room, I met a girl from the Czech Republic. She was very excited to meet another English speaker, since she says that her French is awful, so I guess I can say that I’ve made my first international friend! Later, I met a girl from Spain who also speaks English, and since she said she didn’t know where to buy food and had been living off of cookies, I took her to the supermarket so that she could get some actual sustenance. After another random dinner, I ran into another international student, a girl from China, who was actually hoping that I spoke fluent Chinese. (I’m sorry my Chinese isn’t that great.)

So all in all, today was actually a pretty good day. I don’t have that much homework (yet), and although I’m still living off of random meals from the supermarket, I’ve finally made some friends!

Days 5 and 6

Day 5

I didn’t really do much on Saturday—I just walked through the city for 3 hours and 15 minutes straight. How was that? Exhausting. However, it was fun exploring L’Avénue Jean Médecin. The street is incredibly crowded, and has hundreds of shops and restaurants lining either side. I found a shopping mall, Nicetoile, which had free wifi. There was also a Hollister inside, and I contemplated buying a pair of shorts for a rip-off of 25 euros because I’d only brought three skirts with me, but decided against it. Until I actually have money in my bank account, I’d rather spend what remaining euros I have on food.

Fatigued and starving, I returned to my room and immediately collapsed in my chair, hoping to relax, only to discover that the previously nonexistent person in the room to the right of me was loudly playing some bass instrument and singing. They stopped after a while, though, so it wasn’t too bad. Too tired to even think about walking to the communal kitchen to cook pasta for dinner, I put together a random meal of milk, chocolate bread, a carrot, and a sandwich of chicken and Gouda. (Don’t judge. I’m sure college students have had weirder.)

 Day 6

Sunday was just a lazy day. Yes, I could have gone into the city again, but that meant I’d come back tired. Theoretically, I could have taken the bus, but I’d probably would’ve ended up getting lost and taking the bus to Italy or something. So I just browsed the Internet, reorganized my room, sat down and took the time to peruse the various guidebooks and maps from my contact, and got ready for school tomorrow.

Days 3 and 4

Day 3

I panicked a bit after waking up, because I’d somehow managed to sleep for thirteen hours. But I decided to dedicate Thursday to actually exploring the city, not just going to the supermarket and collapsing in my room.

That plan fell through when I learned that I had to do more important things, like pay for my room. There goes 488 of the euros from my parents, though I’m supposed to get 244 back if my room is undamaged at the end of the year.

So Day 3 was just as (un)productive as yesterday: I went to Leader Price again, bought some more things, and had a nice lady let me in front of her in line. (She kept calling me “jeune fille,” so while I suppose it’s annoying to be repeatedly mistaken for a young girl, looking years younger than you actually are does have its benefits.) Then I wandered into a pharmacy, where I learned that, at 4.30 euros, floss is more expensive than 1 liter of milk, 6 eggs, a 135g bag of chips, a tuna sandwich, and 500g of pasta combined. And then I sadly began my trek up the three giant hills, which was probably more grueling than yesterday’s trip now that I knew what to expect. Up until now, I never realized how small and flat R-MC’s campus is.

That about sums up the excitement of the day. Maybe tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday, I’ll explore the city for real.

 

Day 4

The night before, I’d agreed to meet my contact at 9:30, but unfortunately and embarrassingly, my alarm never went off, and so I woke up to a concerned knock on the door.

She shepherded me to the Office of International Relations, and then dropped me off at the amphitheater where I was supposed to sign up for classes. I walked into a fairly large lecture hall (maybe the size of Copley 100 or 101?), where there were approximately 15 equally overwhelmed and confused students. Oddly enough, there were also a few adults (when I say adults, I mean actual adults, not college-aged students between 18 and 22). I was hoping to meet or talk to some students, but we were rather occupied by a professor shoving a bunch of class-related information into our heads. I did, however, talk a bit to some lady next to me, but mostly to borrow a pen and to exchange bewildered questions. Finally, we just sort of walked out in a daze.

Classes start on Monday, and I have 15 hours of classes from Monday to Thursday. I’m taking: Grammar Practice, Written Language, Oral Language, French Society through the Media, France in the Contemporary World, and Literature, which consists of Literary Themes + Literary Texts from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century.

After eating lunch and glaring at the multiple mosquito bites I somehow manage to keep accruing, I decided that it was time to go out and do some exploring. The weather was actually really nice; it was partly cloudy, and there was the occasional cool breeze. I found le Promenade des Anglais first, and wow, the Mediterranean is impressively blue. The water’s basically a gradient of blues—a clear, light blue closer to the shore, and then it gradually grows darker, but it’s still so…blue. (Yes, I know I’ve overused the word blue, but I don’t know how else to describe the water. I suppose I could try using azure, cerulean, sapphire, etc., but that requires too much effort.)

You can kind of see how blue the Mediterranean is in this photo:

I nearly got lost on the way to the more touristy area of the city, La Place Masséna and L’Avenue Jean Médicin, but with the help of a map from my helpful contact, managed to find it. First stop? A bookstore, of course. Then I just sort of wandered around, taking in the gorgeous architecture and bustling streets. Eventually, I decided that I should head back since my feet hurt from all the walking, and I stopped at a self-serve gelato place to rest for a bit. (There’s no tax on food here. It’s weird. Also, my order was 1.73 euros, but the lady rounded it down to 1.70, and I’m wondering whether that’s because I look so young, or whether she didn’t care about the three cents.)

Sadly, the sun had come back out, and the trek back was pretty hot. When I was almost back to the dorm, I ran into a perplexed girl asking an equally puzzled lady where the university residence was, so I took one of her suitcases and helped her out. Soon, some guy came along and took her other suitcase, and apparently thought that she was my mother (Sigh. Seriously? Do I look that young? The girl couldn’t have been more than twenty-four, and I think that’s stretching it.)

Who knew that four hours of trekking through an unknown city could be so exhausting?

Day 2: A Failed Exploration

After ten hours of sleep, and another half-hour of lying on the bed because I was too lazy to move, I finally decided to get up and explore the city. Of course, like the expert that I am, I promptly got lost and somehow managed to find a dead-end. After doubling back, I took the direction I’d originally planned on going in, but had decided not to because it meant that I’d have to walk down and then back up a giant slope.

When I reached the bottom of the hill, I found the little supermarket, Leader Price, my contact had pointed out to me yesterday when I’d been too sleep-deprived and jetlagged to remember much. Even going shopping was an adventure here:

The store has an upstairs—where all the produce items are—and a downstairs, where packaged foods and household items are. To go up or down a level, you use these weird escalator ramps—think of an escalator, but without stairs. Eggs and milk aren’t refrigerated. The eggs are still in cartons, but they just sit on a rack. Milk is either bottled or boxed, and the bottles come in packages of six or eight, but you can take however many bottles you want. Nutella is a different color—instead of a dark chocolate-y brown, it’s like a light tannish brown (almost peanut-butter-colored), and it comes in massive jars. (Edit: Apparently I’m blind when I’m tired. Nutella’s still in a 1kg jar, but it’s just a slightly lighter shade than US Nutella.) I thought I’d found a pastry covered in powdered sugar—turns out it was a pork sausage. There was some man angrily shouting at a cashier, and everyone was pretty much staring at him. While rooting through my euro coins for twenty-two cents, I nearly handed over a penny.

After I successfully paid—without American money—I started walking back up the massive slope. Along the way, I passed a guy who looked like he was struggling to lug three grocery bags and a box of beer up the hill. I wanted to stop and ask if he needed help, but my brain decided it couldn’t remember how to ask that in French, so I trudged on.

By the time I reached the top of the slope, I grumbled to myself when I realized that I’d have to walk up another hill. When I reached the top of that hill, I almost stopped and groaned. My mouth and throat were dry, my legs burning, and the sun relentlessly hot. But I had to go up another hill. It was ridiculously exhausting.

Finally, I stumbled into my room and resolved to never leave it again. A promise that I immediately rescinded, because if I trap myself in my room, there goes my Internet and means of obtaining food. (I have to scrounge around the city for meals, since the university restaurant isn’t open yet.) Sadly, by the time I realized that I’d need enough food to feed myself until the restaurant opens, I was too tired to leave the room.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from staying in my room for the rest of the day. At least I unpacked everything—that counts as being productive, right? Plus, I figured I deserved some recuperation time.

Finally in France

Well, after about 15 hours of rushing through airports and flying in planes, and then missing my flight from Paris to Nice because of walkway problems, here I am, in Nice, France!

To be honest, my first glimpse of France didn’t give me a very grand impression. Granted, it was about 5:45 in the morning when I gazed upon Paris for the first time, so all I saw were scattered constellations of city lights. Also, I was running on two hours of sleep, so my attention may have been lacking. As for Nice, when I finally set eyes upon the city, I just saw miles and miles of brown, sad-looking mountains. I watched the terrain stretch below us, and couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated. Where was the beautiful Mediterranean coastline I had been promised?

It turned out to be a pretty good promise. Clusters of tiny trees and houses started appearing, and soon afterwards, I saw the Bay of Angels. The coastline provided a gorgeous contrast, highlighting sandy houses against an expanse of blue sea. In fact, the Mediterranean was a shade of blue that I don’t even know how to describe—it’s not that gross brown or gray of some disgustingly polluted waters, but it’s not gray-blue or green-blue either. Just blue, the sort of blue that would make a flawless gem. I wish I had taken pictures, but like the idiot I am, I’d put my camera in my backpack, which was, in turn, in an overhead compartment.

When I finally left the plane, grabbed my luggage, and stepped out of the terminal for good, I was so relieved when my contact (I’m omitting names for the sake of anonymity) started speaking in English to me, because my brain was in no condition to process French, much less conjugate verbs. She was incredibly helpful—she drove me around the city like a personal tour guide, helped me set up a bank account, made sure that I ate and bought food and drinks so that I didn’t starve or die of thirst, and helped me sign into the dorm—even though I was sort of just deliriously following her around, thanks to jetlag.

My dorm, Baie des Anges, is a lot different from what I’m used to at R-MC. I was trapped in the horrors of Smith Hall freshman year, and then lucky enough to get into the Honors House (RIP) last year, but this is like another world. It’s tiny, and I don’t have a roommate, which is so weird—I already miss my lovely one back at R-MC. But at least Smith and the Honors House had AC, though in all fairness, the gorgeous view sort of makes up for the lack of AC. (It’s too bad that the sun sets in the other direction. All I could see during sunset were pastel blue, lavender, pink, and yellow, and a departing airplane. No sun.) I have my own tiny fridge, as well as an equally tiny bathroom. And when I saw tiny, I mean tiny. Even if I wanted to lie down on the floor, I wouldn’t fit.

Close-up of the view from my window:

The furniture is this bright teal blue, mixed with white, which is a lot more interesting than the depressing brown-and-white color schemes of Macon’s dorms (or brown, white, and weird green, if you have a carpeted floor.)

Most of my room (ignore the stuff everywhere):

Unfortunately, thanks to a very unlucky fluke with the Internet cord, I also have no Internet in my room, and the wi-fi signal is too weak, so I have to walk over to the computer room in the lobby in order to access the Internet. At least I’m on the first floor, where everything is within easy access, meaning I don’t have to run up and down multiple flights of stairs.

It’s just so surreal, being in a different country, immersed in a different culture, surrounded by a different language. There’s so much to get used to—the fact that milk isn’t refrigerated and instead sits in boxes on the shelves, that I have to essentially rehearse what I’m going to say before I speak, and that French fashion isn’t all that different from America’s (as long as you don’t wear holey clothes, ripped jeans, and baggy sweatshirts, you’ll fit in.)

For the past few days, I’ve been counting lasts: last Saturday in the US, last time I see my friends, last homecooked meal by my parents, last time I see my house. But now that I’m here in France for good (well, for another eight months), I should start counting firsts.