Bienvenue à Paris!

Today marks the end of my first week in Paris with the IES French Studies program. I left for France a few days before the program started to travel with my sister who studies in Menton. After three flights and a bus ride, we arrived in Menton on Saturday,  January 14.

Our view from the bus as we traveled along the southern coast of France.

Menton is close to both Italy and Monaco, with great views of the Mediterranean. On Sunday my sister and I took a short train ride to Monte Carlo. As part of the most populous quartier (administrative area) of Monaco, Monte Carlo is known for winding roads, casinos, and fantastic ocean views.

On Monday it was time to leave for Paris. I decided to take a train instead of flying because it was less expensive and offered views of the French countryside. Once I arrived in Paris, it cost me under 2 euro to take the Metro from Gare de Lyon train station to my homestay.

Many students in our program choose to live with a French family to learn about daily life in Paris and practice French with native speakers. My host mom prepares dinner for my housemate and I three nights each week. So far we have had great meals such as beef and potatoes, vegetable soup, and turkey with a mushroom sauce. I could write an entire post about food (and I will…stay tuned).

After a breakfast of tea, toast and fruit, my housemate and I left for the IES French Studies center to start orientation. The program begins with an orientation and intensive French language classes. There are also cultural activities including street art tours and food tastings.

Street art livens up buildings in the Belleville district.

The rest of our courses begin on January 30. This means we have plenty of time for sightseeing.

Outside Notre-Dame de Paris.
The beautiful stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle.

Some highlights so far include Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie is known for detaining criminals and political prisoners (such as Robespierre and Marie Antoinette) during the French Revolution. Best of all, the student ID card provided by IES allowed me to visit Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie for free! Many tourist sites, movies, etc., are free or discounted for students and young adults.

My first week in Paris has not been without challenges. Communicating almost 24/7 in a foreign language (even one you have studied) can be frustrating when you’re a perfectionist like me. Adjusting to new time zones and new customs takes patience. But the benefits of improving my French and learning about a new culture far outweigh any difficulties so far. I cannot wait to explore more of what Paris has to offer.

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