No one is perfect. I’m far from it. I’m becoming more mature, and I’m beginning to not only put a name to some of my flaws, but I’m trying to fix them. This would be the part where things start to get personal, and I would ask you to hold my hand if you were physically in my presence.
Dear Readers, I am a Negative Nancy. Initially. You probably knew that if you’d been with me since the beginning, or you’ve read my first few posts by now. Out of all the wonder that is France, all I saw was bread. Not bread and cheese, not food in general, just bread. Which we all know I cannot consume. Well, I can, I just really regret it later… For the first few
months weeks after I really had to admit to myself that the study abroad thing was happening (though I knew about it in the back of my mind since 2010), all I could do was… complain.
“Aren’t you excited?!”
“Uh… I guess…”
“Breakfast is a croissant and coffee. I don’t like coffee. Croissants don’t like me.”
“But it’ll be wonderful!”
“But I’m missing out on theatre department things. They’re doing the ‘big’ show while I’m gone.”
Rouspéte, rouspéte, rouspéte… I’m actually disgusted with myself for finding everything “wrong” with my situation. My apologies to everyone who put up with me while I was in that stage of my “development…”
Here we are. Now it’s time for me to revoke my Negative Nancy status, and become a… Positive Penny? Anyway, I’ve done some serious research to make sure I can “handle my business” as we say, and some of the things I could have complained about at the beginning, I’m quite excited about now.
#10 The History
Despite my patriotism and lovingly “brainwashed” adoration of America, I have to admit, we’re a young country. Mighty, of course, but still an adolescent compared to those of Europe. France is a picture of History no matter where you turn. The idea of seeking out the areas where people like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and even Picasso “hung out” during the day, or where they rumbled at night… then standing in the same place that they did so many years before I will(Thank you, Jacob
)? Pretty cool… for a minute or two. The handbook Sweet Briar sent me mentioned that you “get used” to the fact that you walk by special historical places on your way to classes quickly, and life continues. But I know I’ll still brag about it to my kids when I have them… and for the first few days, I will allot a few extra minutes to walk to class, stop at a historical site, drop my jaw, take a picture, and then walk on.
#9 Taking The “Same” Walk Every Day
Living in California has its perks… Our seasons are “mild” when it comes to transitions. We have hot summers, of course, but it doesn’t snow except for the very Northern section during the winter. Parisian seasons are a bit more pronounced, so the walk I’ll take every day to class won’t necessarily be the same as the days go by. The autumn colors will be a bit more pronounced as the season changes. It might rain more, it might even snow! I’ll admit, I “melt” in the rain, so I’ll have my trusted parapluie close by, but I’ll try to keep my griping to a minimum. I’m sure I have enough scarves to get me through by now, all I need to do is buy a good winter coat once I’m there, and I’m all set!
#8 The Art
You can’t mention France without mentioning the art… I’ll definitely be frequenting the museums while I’m in Paris, though I was lucky enough to visit a couple when I was in France in 2005. One of my friends who will be studying abroad with me will be attending Paris IV, and will get a chance to visit the art museums at discounted rates. I may not get the discount (I’ll be going to Paris III), but I’ll try to tag along with her if she’s willing to let me cramp her style… Art isn’t necessarily one of my “things,” but I know I’ll regret it if I’m in Paris and I DON’T go visit the museums. That’d be like… going to Disneyland and not riding Space Mountain. My Mom is writing her bucket list that she plans on crossing things off of once she retires. She’s asked me to takes notes on what things she should see in Paris, and I’m going to put a lot of art museums on the list to be certain! What other things should she see? Let us know in a comment below!
#7 The Theatre and Film
I’ve mentioned maybe once or twice elsewhere on this blog, but I’ll say it again. I’m a theatre person. Perhaps I’m a bit of a heathen by saying this, but I kind of prefer Molière to Shakespeare on most days. I LOVE French theatre. The French class I took last semester was all about French Theatre. I loved it. I wish I could take it all the time. For the rest of my life, even. It was that wonderful. It’s now a dream of mine to play a female French lead in a French production of a French play (Hello, Phèdre). I’m not saying that’ll happen while I study abroad, but I can definitely dream. I’m also a big film buff, so getting to see some more modern French films would be a treat. I’m hoping I can take a cinematography class as well, but if that’s not where the cards fall, that’s okay. Perhaps my love for French theatre and film didn’t change at all since my application to study abroad was accepted, but I’ve definitely become more excited to experience it!
#6 Avoiding l’hypermarché
Though I like the ease of being able to get my contact lens solution in the same place as my clothes, my apples, my video games, my candles, my household cleaners, and Noah’s food, there’s something so much classier about visiting seven different places in a town for the items I just listed. It’s probably healthier too… you’d walk more, I’d assume. While living in Melbourne for some time, my mother got to experience this. She’d visit the fishmonger, then the farmer’s market, then go home and make a meal for dinner that was the epitome of fresh. I may not be cooking while I’m in France, but I do like the idea of taking some gluten-free crackers along with me for lunch, then stopping by a boucherie (did I get that right?) for a few slices of meat and maybe cheese to go with them. While in America, I try to support my local markets and shops as opposed to the bigger markets whenever I can. Going to boucheries, boulangeries, le poissonier, and the other shops in the are definitely sounds like a good way to continue my practice while I’m abroad. I may have to visit a kind of supermarché or hypermarché to get my gluten-free food, but that’s another story…
#5 Changing My Style
Clothing between age groups within the same gender changes in some interesting ways. It’s reasonable to assume that females go from girls to women, much like males go from boys to men. Women get complicated. Girls wear a lot of jeans and graphic tees. Women wear a lot of blazers, blouses, and slacks. So we get a transitional period between the two: Juniors. Juniors get to wear tees, jeans, blouses, blazers, slacks, dresses, plenty of other things. Before the identity crisis mentioned in my second post
, my wardrobe was made up of more of the “girls” side of the Juniors section: tees and jeans. I had a nice blazer that I wore a couple times, I had some nicer shirts, and I had a couple skirts that I never wore. All that was pair with very colorful and loud eyeshadow, just the way I like it. Since then, I still wear the tees and the jeans, but I only wear then when I’m working around the house for the most part. I dress up my jeans a lot more, usually with dressier shoes and a scarf. I’ve managed to tone down my makeup, and I never thought I’d like the more natural style of the neutral makeup… but I really do! I feel like I look a lot more grown up, and I feel like I act a bit more grown up when I look that way. Let’s face it, there are very few industries where wearing jeans and a tee would get me further than a skirt, an updo (like power hair), heels that I know how to walk in, and a nice shirt would, right? The way I see it now… learning how to dress up… I’m making an investment in my future!
#4 Practicing My Conversation Skills
Arguably, my most important task in France is to improve my language ability. I will admit, I’m a little bit apprehensive to talk to anyone and everyone because I’ve got this little complex where I remember every little mistake I make, and I think everyone else around me does too (and I think they judge me for it). That’s another thing I’ve got to overcome, but I do know there are ways around it. Diane over at OuiInFrance has a great post on how she deals with asking people to repeat things, as well as other “French isn’t my native language” hiccups. I love the bit about “clearly I’m a moron” and I feel like that’s going to be my main reaction to having to asking someone to repeat something (more than once). My main goal is to NOT have to ask people to repeat themselves, unless they mumble, or they’ve used some really odd slang (like the Foutre and Verlan things mentioned on the Informal French page here). I’m excited to try to get into a conversation with a local without them necessarily knowing I’m an American, and then having them refuse to accept the fact that I’m an American when they find out. I mean, they’ll ask where I’m from, I’ll say “Je suis américaine.” That person will say, “no, you’re from _____.” and fill in the blank with a region of France. I want to know where my accent places me! My mom took German in high school with a friend, and that friend went on to major in German in college, travel to Germany, and get into a conversation with a local on a train. When the local asked her where she was from, he refused “California” as an answer and told her she was from Southern Germany. Cool, right?
#3 Visiting Key Places in My Family History
It’s fun to dive into your family history every once in a while, and I got the chance to trace some of the Austrian (“eat your wegetables”) part of my history for a project I did last semester. Over the Independence Day holiday, my aunt showed my mom a packet that a family member had sent her that contained copies of official documents dated back to the 1800’s. Those documents were from France written… IN FRENCH. I got called in to translate. The first two pages had pieces of a baptism certificate and a marriage license. I turned the page… and the documents had been sent off to a translator! The transcripts were attached! I wasn’t necessarily needed as a translator anymore, but the information was really interesting. It turns out that my great-great grandparents and my great-great-great grandparents lived in Paris during that time period. Maybe it was the outskirts of Paris at the time, but… either way. We have actual addresses that place the living quarters of those families in what’s now the 4th and 5th arrondissements. My mom and I used Google Maps to plug in the addresses street view showed us that the buildings are actually still standing! Needless to say, I plan to visit these buildings and have my picture taken in front of them. Much like standing in the same place as Hemingway, being in the same place as your relatives, centuries apart is definitely mind-boggling and oh-so-cool all at the same time.
#2 The Food
Considering this was “Public Enemy #1” when this whole project started, having my mindset change on this aspect of French culture is a big deal. I’ve managed to realize that though I may face a little trouble in the restaurants, for the most part, I will not starve while I’m in Paris for four months. Quite the contrary, I’m sure. I’m excited to sample macarons from every shop I can find that offers them (most recipes I can find don’t add flour, but I promise I’ll ask), and if nothing else, I plan on being quite the salad niçoise expert by the end of my stay in Paris. I cannot adequately express my excitement to try out Léon-de-Bruxelles! Mussels and fries… come on. That’s my kind of McDo… My mouth is watering as I type, et je n’ai pas faim.
#1 Being “Forced” To Take the Chance of a Lifetime
I never thought I’d be thanking my lucky stars for my stubborn streak… but I am. I’ve “known” that studying abroad was something that had to happen eventually in my college career if I wanted to complete my French major. Because I tested into third-year French as a freshman, and my university doesn’t have enough higher-level units to fulfill the 24 unit requirement, I had been told very early on that I would have to spend a semester in France if I didn’t want to drop the major to a minor.
I had also been told that taking French 101 as a nap period was out of the question. Now… dropping my major to a minor wouldn’t have been so bad. I do have another. It wouldn’t have been so bad to graduate as a Theatre major with a double minor in Film and French. But that’s not who I am. I’m a double major in Theatre and French with a minor in Film. Because I am too stubborn to drop my French major, I’m going to France for a semester, and this blog exists. And we all have my head-strong streak to thank.
La vérité vaut bien qu’on passé quelques années sans la trouver. -Renard