Wednesday evening, I attended the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) Welcome Day event for international students, partly because there was a promise of free dinner and free gifts, and partly because it was an opportunity to meet people. The event was scheduled for 6:30pm at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen, a really fancy amphitheater, so I met the Czech girl and one of her friends, an Italian girl, at Place Masséna at 5:45. We walked to the CUM, got tote bags of free stuff, sat through a presentation, and then fought for dinner. (The buffet was nothing like I’d imagined—when I think of buffet, I picture a sort of orderly line, complete with plates and silverware. This was an unorganized chaos of hungry students pushing and shoving for free dinner, which consisted of tiny finger-food squares of pizza pies.)
Afterwards, I didn’t know what to do myself, so I tagged along with a group of students who were going to the beach. They didn’t mind, though; in fact, they went out of their way to welcome me. I’ve forgotten most of their names, and where they’re from, but some of the countries were China, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Most of them speak French and are ridiculously multilingual, so it was good practice for me, especially since switching between French and English became incredibly confusing. I think there were at least 12 of us, and we sat on the beach for about two hours—but at 10:25, a German student and I decided to leave because we had to get up early the next morning.
I tried the university’s restaurant food for the first time on Friday—it’s a better deal than both of the cafeterias, since you can get a meat, a vegetable, a pasta-type dish, an appetizer, yogurt or a fruit, and a piece of baguette for 3.20 euros.
I chose rice as an appetizer, and when I got to the main courses area, I panicked a bit because there were no signs. The only foods I recognized were fish, pasta, and broccoli, and I had no idea how to say broccoli in French. I think the lady serving the food took pity on me, though—when she asked what I wanted, I said, “Fish,” and then she asked, “With what?” So I blurted out, “Pasta and…” and made a vague gesture towards the broccoli, leading her to ask, “Both?” After some relieved, enthusiastic nodding on my part, she handed me my food, looked at my tray, and told me that I should go get yogurt or a fruit because it was included in the meal price.
The food wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t awful either; it was pretty much just mediocre. I was really excited about the rice, and the fish wasn’t bad. The pasta was just pasta, although the broccoli was mushy and sad. But since the menu changes every day at least I won’t be eating sandwiches or hamburgers for lunch every day.
I didn’t do much on Friday and Saturday other than grocery shopping—believe it or not, it takes an insanely long time to buy food, because I have to figure out how much food I need for the whole weekend, and then I need to think about whether or not something can fit in my tiny refrigerator.
Sunday, from 11am to 1:50pm, I hung out with a Russian boy who I’d met on Wednesday. He’d told me that he wanted to practice his English with a native speaker, so I thought, “Yeah, sure, why not?” We met at Place Masséna at 11 and walked to the shopping center Nicetoile, where we ate at a little restaurant called Brioche Dorée (he paid for our food, which was super nice of him). We mostly talked about differences in Russia and America versus each other, as well as France and Europe. I learned a lot about Russia—for example, the weather in the area he’s from varies from -40 to 40 degrees Celsius, or -40 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit! And I thought that 32 degrees Fahrenheit was cold. Remind me to never set foot in Russia during the winter, because I’d turn into a block of ice.
After an hour or two in Brioche Dorée, we went to Starbucks, and sat there for a while before taking the bus back to our respective residences. Talking to him was an intriguing experience, because when he didn’t know how to say something in English, he’d say it in French, and then I’d translate it into English. The few hours I spent with him made me realize that I do like teaching people—whether it’s informally correcting someone, supplying them with the correct words in English, or being a writing tutor. But I don’t think I’d be able to become a teacher, since I prefer one-on-one interaction and not being stared at by an entire class of students.