France vs. America

Despite the fact that I have been in Nantes for only a few weeks, I have already noticed lots of differences between the French and American cultures! Here are some of ones that interest me the most:

French people finish their food

I’m not sure exactly why Americans don’t do this, but it is a habit that I have noticed in my host family. Every piece of food on a plate get eaten. No exceptions. I didn’t know this when I first arrived and ended up being really full on the first night!

French people don’t talk to each other

This is very typically of the Loire Valley region. If you don’t know someone, you don’t talk to them. No friendly “hello!” on the subway, no making conversation in a store; nothing. It was a bit strange to go from the “Hope hello” culture to the culture in Nantes, but I’m getting used to it. How people meet new people is still somewhat of a mystery to me.

French people don’t have endless closets

French people don’t have 20 different shirts, jeans in every color, and a jacket to match every outfit. They tend to have a few neutral colored clothing that can be paired in many different combinations. What they do have is lots of fashion savvy, which leads me to my next point…

French people always look their best

Everyone, especially the women, is well-dressed and looks like they just stepped off the runway. I have not seen a single person wearing sweatpants. Black, the chicest color, is very prevalent, along with riding boots and scarves. As a fashionista, this is a dream come true for me.

French people don’t snack

There are only three meals in the day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Midnight snacks, or even snacking between meals, doesn’t happen. The petit dejeuner, or breakfast, is in fact very petit (example – a slice of bread), while the diner is the biggest meal of the day.

France definitely has a very distinct culture. I’m trying to adapt but still feel a bit like a tourist. I can’t wait for the day when I feel like a vraie francaise!

-Rachael

My first full week in France!

Hi everyone!

Sorry I haven’t written since my arrival! I have been so busy getting used to my new daily life and schedule. Last weekend, only a day after my arrival in France, I went to Tours for an orientation weekend.

I spent Friday night exploring the downtown area with some friends. We went on a ferris wheel and I was able to see the entire city in lights!

Exploring a chateau
Exploring the Chateau de Blois

Saturday and Sunday were spent exploring four famous Chateaux in the Loire Valley: Amboise, Chenonceau, Chambourd, and Blois. On some of them, we had guided visits, which was helpful for learning more about their history. Walking around the gardens and interior of buildings older than the United States was one of the coolest experiences of my life. My favorite chateau by far was the Chateau de Chenonceau, which  inspired Walt Disney!

Monday to Friday of the following week was spent getting more acclimated to Nantes and IES through various orientation sessions. We learned about safety, health, transportation, classes, and just about anything else you can think of. We spent some time getting a tour of the area and various places we might need, like the post office and grocery store. We took a test on Monday to be placed into our French language class at IES and spent Wednesday through Friday having grammar review classes. It wasn’t my favorite part of orientation but it was definitely helpful. Friday was spent choosing the classes to take at the IES center and at the University of Nantes. Classes begin on Monday and I can’t wait!

A bientot!

Rachael

Just Arrived in France!!

Hi everyone!! This is my first of many blog posts from Nantes, France this semester! The last two days have been INSANE! I’m so happy to finally be here!

If you follow my Twitter account, then on Tuesday you saw the drama that was my flight schedule. Early that day, my first flight from Des Moines to Chicago was canceled due to the cold weather. The airline wanted to put me on their next available flight to Chicago, which was on Thursday. At that point, I was faced with the decision to arrive late to my program and miss part of my off-site orientation, or drive to Chicago. My parents decided to drive me to Chicago and I notified the airline. However, later that day, the airline decided to book me on a flight on another flight for Wednesday. I spent Monday night trying to figure out if I was actually going to Nantes the next day or not! Eventually, I got my original itinerary back, minus the flight from Des Moines to Chicago.

On Tuesday, my parents and I braved the cold as we drove me 6 hours to Chicago. Ten minutes into the flight, the captain came on the loud speaker and asked if there was a voluntary doctor on board. Uh oh. Everyone started to panic a little bit because of course, that’s never a good sign! About an hour after that request, the pilot came on the loud speaker again; this time to announce that we would be making an emergency stop at the JFK airport in New York because a passenger on board was very sick. He assured us that after the medical personnel came on board to get the passenger it wouldn’t be long before we left. The stop ended up taking 3 hours. Yes, 3 hours. I notified my parents, who freaked out because they thought they would not be hearing from me until I got to France! Because of the delay, I arrived 3 hours late to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. I quickly got through customs and practically ran to the train station in the airport where I had to take a train from Paris to Nantes. Almost immediately, I met some other students on my program. It was such a relief to be with other Americans!

After the 3-hour train ride, I went to the program center with the several other students who were on my train. I made some friends and was then taken by my host mother to my home for the semester, where I am right now!

This weekend, I will be doing an off-site orientation in Tours! I will update again after that! So much is happening so soon! It’s a crazy, beautiful trip already 🙂

A bientot!

Rachael

A Christmas-Themed Study Playlist

Studying is hard. Studying at the end of the semester is really hard. Studying at the end of the semester right before Christmas is really, really hard. To make the task a little less painful, I made a playlist of some mellow, festive tunes that you can play in the background while you study in your room, the library, or anywhere else. Some of my favorite artists are on this playlist, including Norah Jones, The Head and the Heart, She and Him, Sara Bareillis, and Hope grad Sufjan Stevens. I make playlists all the time but I think this is one of my all-time favorites. Enjoy, and happy studying!

Christmas Study Tunes

-Rachael

I’m Going to France!!!

Hi everyone!

Sorry I have been MIA the last couple of weeks. My life has been crazy with classes, extracurriculars, and getting ready to go abroad.

That’s right! Next semester I will be in Nantes, France!!!

Nantes
Nantes

Nantes is about two and a half hours away from Paris by train, and is the 6th largest city in France with almost 900,000 residents. As much as I would have loved to go to Paris, I chose to go to Nantes because the population of native English speakers is very small. This means that I will be forced to use French all of the time; if not in the city, then at home with my host family!

While there, I will be taking classes (en français, bien sur!) at the IES program center in the middle of the city. I applied for an internship to teach English au lycee to high school-aged students, so I might be doing that as well!

The main reason I am going abroad is because it is required for my studies. As a French education major, it is important that I have a solid background in French and authentic experiences to bring into my future classroom. Luckily, Hope and my program IES have been wonderful in helping me prepare for my trip. I went to a study abroad orientation with the 100 other students from Hope who will be abroad next semester, and have been in constant communication with my IES program representative for the past several months. The process has been long and somewhat stressful but well worth it. My forms are in, and I have my visa and plane ticket!

I will leave for France on January 7 and will return on May 11. During that time, I will be blogging and tweeting about my adventures, so check back for updates often! I can’t wait to fill you in on what I will be doing!

A bientot!

Rachael

A Semester in Review

WOW.

I cannot even believe that it is DECEMBER already! Where did the semester go??

It would be impossible for me to sum up three months in one blog post, so instead I will focus on some highlights!

My Field Placement

My education classes this semester required a field placement, which I completed at a local area high school in a French class. It was my first time in a high school placement and I initially I was really worried about whether or not the students would see me as an authority figure. My fears went away as soon as the they started asking me for help and called me “mademoiselle”. It was great to see the concepts I learned in my colleges class applied to a real high school classroom. It made me for the day when I will have my own classroom!

Orientation

I wrote a post about Orientation earlier in the semester, but I’m going to write about it again because it was seriously the best time. My semester would have completely different had I not done Orientation. I made several new friendships and have been able to maintain them. I’m so thankful for the great times we had together and so happy that we were able to put on a successful Orientation program for the freshmen and their families.

The 2013 Orientation Staff
The 2013 Orientation Staff

Nykerk

Fall at Hope College would not be fall without Nykerk. The crazy 3 1/2 weeks of rehearsals are always worth it. Being a coach is much different than being a participant but is just as fun. It was awesome to make new friends, help Gabby create her speech, and of course win the cup!

What were some of the things you did this semester? Tell me on Twitter or in a comment!

-Rachael

Nykerk Odd Year Coach Pictures

A few weeks ago, all of us Odd Year coaches had a mini-reunion for some laughs and pictures. The following are what came out of our time together. Taking coach pictures is an Odd Year tradition, and I was so happy to continue it with the wonderful Song and Play coaches. Shout out to the very talented Brooke for taking our pictures!

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Hope you enjoyed them! Happy Friday!

-Rachael