#FOMO

FOMO = The fear of missing out

It’s come and gone over the last few months and last night it hit me all over again. My sorority had a formal dance this past weekend and the pictures were everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat… every social media outlet that I use was a reminder that I missed out on a great time.

I was worried about this happening before I left, so I had a conversation about it with one of my friends who had previously studied abroad. She told me:

Time doesn’t stop when you’re abroad. Things happen; people change, relationships change, and unfortunately you miss that.

This couldn’t be more true. With the large role that social media plays in our every day lives, I think it is nearly impossible to be not be plagued by FOMO at some point during a semester abroad. It’s easier than ever to keep up on every single event that happens. I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to on campus but it’s hard to get rid of the nagging sense that so much is happening and I’m missing all of it. Most times its not even big things. A picture of a coffee date or a lyric posted from Chapel are instant FOMO triggers for me.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, “she’s in France! why on earth does she want to come back to Holland?!” The answer is simple: Hope is home. So many people that I love and hold dear are half a world away. The semester is almost finished (where did it go?) and as much I would LOVE to leave my life in the US and eat bread in France forever, I am ready for my FOMO days to be a thing of the past.

But today it’s here and it’s real. However, I think a pain au chocolat and stroll by the Loire River are just what I need to get me back in the moment.

-Rachael

American University vs. French University

Hello dear readers!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last couple of weeks. Contrary to what you may think of study abroad, I am not on a four-month vacation. I take classes at the IES program center and also at the local university here in Nantes.

At the IES center, I am taking classes of art history, religion, and French language. The professors come from the University of Nantes and are used to teaching American students. They understand a little bit of how universites work in the United States and, more importantly, that we Americans are learning French and can not be expected to rattle off lengthy, well-thought out answers on the spot. All of the classes at IES consist of one mid-term, one at-home assignment and one final exam.

My classes at the University of Nantes are very similiar, except that I do not have mid-terms and both of my professors are not used to dealing with American students. My two university classes, psychology and biology, are difficult but enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable. There is something humbling and satisfying about the experience. For starters, both of the courses are what we in the U.S. call “upper-level” courses. My psychology class is for students in L3, the last year of undergraduate in France, while my biology course is for L2, or second year, students. In both of the courses I am the only American student. This has been tough at times but also extremely rewarding. I understand most of the material just as well as the other students and have improved greatly in my listening skills. The real test will of my knowledge will come during the finals, which are in a little less than a month.

Luckily, I was able to take a little pause from all my school work during our winter break which was last week. I went to Rome, Milan, and Paris for Fashion Week. Check back soon for details!

Until next time,

Rachael

An Open Letter to My Host Family

Dear host family (or famille d’accueil as the French say),

Can you believe it has almost been a month since I started living with you?! It seems like just yesterday IES sent me the email I had be not-so-patiently waiting for, telling me that you would be my host family. From that email, I knew the coming months were going be a good time; mostly from your quircky family photo, but also because of the many similarities my family has in common with you. For example, there are five kids in my family and five kids in yours. More specifically, the first three kids are boys and the last two are girls. Everyone in my family is really awesome and everyone in your (our?) family is really awesome. This was definitely the work of magic, fate, GOD.

There are some obvious difference too, like the fact that you are a modern-day replica of the Von Trapps and my family can’t sing a Christmas carol in the same key. But really, the amount of musical talent contained in all of you is astounding. All of you play instruments! You sing hymns in three-part harmonies! Do I need to continue? I think not.

On top of that, all of you are so incredibly caring and welcoming. You loved me before you knew me and share your thoughts, daily dramas, and everything else me. You are also very French; a good thing, of course! You eat three-course meals every night (shout out to ma mère d’accueil, un vrai cordon bleu). What is more amazing is that you have chosen to do this for nine others before me. The 10 of of us are very, very lucky ladies.

The upside of our time together? It’s only February! The downside? It’s already February. Though we have three more months together, I can feel the time slipping from my fingers like a dropped ticket on the tram. I don’t want to think of the day when I will no longer paint the fingernails of les filles, avoid questions about boys from les garcons, and have deep conversations about religion and politics with mes parents. When I leave, there will no doubt be a crepe-shaped hole in my heart that only you can fill.

So let’s make the most of the time we have left together. I have no doubt that it will only be the best of times.

With lots and lots of love,

Rachael

A Weekend in Paris

I went to Paris last weekend, and it was kind of awesome.

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All my life I’ve heard that Paris a majestic, beautiful paradise, and I can now confirm this to be true. The “City of Lights” really is all its hyped up to be, and more. Unfortunately, I only went for the weekend and was unable to explore all it has to offer.

I was struck by how nonchalant all the Parisians seemed to be. I understand that it’s their normal, but seeing the Eiffel Tower in one direction and the Arc de Triomphe in another was breath-taking every single time.

Friday night, I hopped on a bus with Caroline, Ann, Emily, and Emily’s friend Jill, to walk around downtown Paris. Downside: We stayed in a hostel that was a bit of out of the way, so the bus ride took a while. Upside: We got a bus tour of Paris. We got off the bus at the end of the Champs-Elysées and that’s when it hit me. I was standing in the middle of Paris living every French major’s dream. And of course, my dream. I will never forget that feeling. We wandered for a bit before making our way to the main attraction.

Le Tour Eiffel
Le Tour Eiffel

We spent Saturday doing and see as much as we possibly could, which unfortunately was not very much. We took pictures at Sacré-Cœur, climbed to the top of L’Arc de Triomphe, and ate macarons at the world-renowned Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées.

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Louis Francois Bertin
Louis Francois Bertin by Ingres

Two of the biggest highlights for me were the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. I went to the Louvre on Saturday and absolutely loved it. I saw some old Egyptian artifacts and several statues before making my way to the paintings. I recognized several pieces of art, like the painting to the left by Jean Ingres, because I had studied them in my art history class just days before. #OnlyinFrance

The Musée D’Orsay was just as incredible. There really are no words to describe seeing famous, beautiful, mesmerizing paintings in real life. If you’re ever in Paris, it is definitely a must see.

I realize that this post is pretty short, but there is not much I can say in words to describe how utterly amazing Paris is. It really was my dream to go there for most of my life and did not fail to live up to my expectations. Now, I want to go everywhere in France! I think it is safe to say that I have officially caught the travel bug.

-Rachael

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