How Much Time Does It Take to Apply for Study Abroad at Hope College?

The answer is: it takes only couple hours. A lot of students assume that applying for the study abroad takes a lot of work. Well, I have a good news. I just finished my application and it does not require that much work as one would think.

Firstly, pick a program. I do not count this as a work because it is fun to surf through tons of amazing programs in a lot of different countries.

Fill out the Study Abroad approval form. This form takes about 15 minutes to fill out. It asks you the basic information about major, minor, name, GPA or what type of program. Also you need a student and professor recommendation, which is something that you ask for. The part of the student approval form that takes longest is student essay, which is about 500 words. In the end, it takes you 80 minutes of your time.

Thirdly, get approved. No work for you.

Next, finish the application for the organization that arranges you the study abroad. This application takes longer than the approval form, but it is not as time confusing. I spend about 120 minutes in total.

Adviser fills out her/his part of your application online, so it does no take you any of your time.

Fill out the forms for Health Center and International Office, which takes about 10 minutes.

Then you wait to get accepted into the program, so the application (paperwork, essay, and online work) comes down to just about 210 minutes of work. That is only 3.5 hrs in 1 or 2 months. That is not that bad right?

Reasons to Study Abroad!

Welcome back from Christmas break! Since I went home to California over the break, I didn’t get to see how much snow Michigan got. Hearing from my roommates that there was hardly any really surprised me and once I flew back, inches upon inches piled up and were blowing very aggressively. I’m currently writing this from the living room of my apartment and I feel like the wind is going to break through the windows! Anyway, some people don’t have to suffer through this terrible weather. Why you ask? Because some of them are studying abroad in other places.

One of my closest friends from California who happens to go to school in Illinois just arrived in South Africa to study abroad. From pictures she has sent me, it’s nice and warm there and she’s enjoying the good life full of warmth and sunshine. In addition, another friend from home is going to be traveling to Israel in the Spring! One of my roommates just got accepted into the Vienna June Term here at Hope, which made me really nostalgic because that was me last year, but during the May Term. A friend of mine and fellow blogger, Marvin, went to Vienna with me is going abroad over Spring Break because he loved the experience and exposure to a different culture so much. Obviously he learned the importance in putting yourself in a new environment where you are unfamiliar and vulnerable. This helps figure out how to communicate with others and other skills that are necessary when relating to others.

After experiencing abroad for myself, I cannot say enough good things about it and encourage everyone to at least travel outside of the state. Another one of my roommates took an internship in Chicago and is being exposed to a completely different atmosphere and lifestyle than what Hope offers. I strongly believe that a true education is beyond the textbooks and classrooms—it’s about learning other life skills that are applicable to the future and the “real world.” Staying in your comfort zone and bubble only allows you to master handling your current lifestyle, but to reach your full potential as a person, one must take risks and realize that obstacles will be encountered. However, overcoming these obstacles like simply learning how to speak a new phrase or learning a different form of transportation is a huge accomplishment and gives a new perspective.

I would absolutely love to travel abroad again like Marvin is planning on doing just because it was a tremendous learning experience and way to become more of an individual. I know that Hope offers so many opportunities to explore various areas of the world, so the only difficult task is figuring out a schedule that will allow you to hopefully graduate on time and meet a class requirements. Even if you don’t want to study abroad necessarily, Hope also offers a ton of mission trips that give the same emerging feel but the purpose is different that obtaining knowledge but is instead about being more charitable. If I haven’t beat it into the ground enough yet, I strongly encourage everyone to travel somewhere new just to have a good time, gain experiences and create some funny stories to tell when you return! Hope this helped and try to survive this terrible storm!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @hopeleslie15.

Euroadventure 1

Hey all! About last week, my fellow blogger and friend Leslie Kempers and I collaborated and wrote a blog on our adventures during the Vienna Summer School! If you want to read it (which I suggest you do!) here is the link! CLICK HERE!! The program has two sessions, May Term and June Term. Leslie was there for just the May Term, but I was there for both! So what I’m going to do is split it up into a two-part series, Euroadventure 1, 2, & 3! Here is the first part! I hope you enjoy it!

EUROADVENTURE 1: ROMA, ITALIA

After the May Term session ended, students staying for both sessions had a free weekend. So, what do you do in Europe with a free weekend? TRAVEL. My best bud Joey and myself had planned a trip to Rome for that free weekend in MARCH. Crazy to think we planned that far ahead! But, another companion joined us for an adventure of a lifetime, our very own MEG! So, the day after everyone flew back home, we headed to the airport and were ROMA bound. What a crazy long day it was. After the arriving at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, we took a lengthy bus ride to the Roma Termini station where we got on the line A metro to our “hotel.” I put hotel in quotes because it really was a camping village of sorts, but it was SO COOL! We had our own bungalow, with a fully functioning bathroom and beds. It was neat! After arriving, it was very late, so we just crashed.

We woke up early because we knew it would be a long long day. After getting ready, it was time to explore Rome. This day was perfect weather. The weather was supposed to be awful with thunderstorms, but it worked out in our favor. We literally visited as many monuments and landmarks as possible. Here is a list of what we did/saw!

  • Coliseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Navona
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Vatican City

After our long day, we headed back to our bungalow to just debrief on our day and our adventures, and just hung out which was so fun. The best thing about our adventures was that we didn’t do everything in a particular order. If anything, we LITERALLY meandered the city and ended up at these places. We headed to bed after our long day because our trip back to Vienna was extensive. We took a taxi to Ciampino Airport (Rome’s Regional Airport) and flew to Bratislava, Slovakia. From there, we took a train to Vienna.

If you ever get the chance to go to Rome, do it. There is just so much history and culture to learn. Oh, and the pasta and food are out of this world. Here are some of our pictures from our trip. Look forward for the next part of the series coming soon! Thanks for reading!

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Vienna: Now or Never

Welcome back, everyone! This past May, Marvin (one of our fellow bloggers!!!) and I had the chance to go to Vienna to study abroad. It was such a great experience overall and since we were both planning on writing about our time there, we thought we would share this post and break up our experiences!

Morbisch

Where do I even begin? The whole time on the flight (all 10 hours of it) I still could not grasp that I was heading to Europe! Once everybody met up at the airport and got on their respective buses the trip truly started and it began to feel like we were in a different country. The first day was quite the blur because the time change was so different that we arrived around 8 AM a day ahead of the US, so attempting to stay awake the whole day was going to be a huge challenge. However, the bus ride from the airport to Morbisch proved to be a true test of our ability to stay awake.

The reason we headed first to Morbisch instead of Vienna was to get us all accustomed to a different country and gradually immerse ourselves in a different culture before being thrown into Vienna. I personally appreciated this approach because it allowed for people to get to know one another without the stresses of public transportation and classes yet.

Once everybody got off the bus and put their bags in their hotel rooms, the majority of people rode bikes or walked to… Hungary!!! Just a typical afternoon, right? That was really fun seeing the different and beautiful landscape and being exposed to a different culture and language just passing through towns. That whole day was pretty mellow because we had our first dinner as a group and realized that ice was not offered in water, which proved to be a disappointment down the road, but we managed to cope without the luxury of cold beverages. After that first evening, the only other main activity we did was going on our first dinner cruise. I had such a great time and I’m sure Marvin would say the same because we all got to have authentic, European food while having an acordian player serenading us while we enjoyed the boat ride. It was absolutely beautiful and overall, very relaxing after our hectic day beforehand.

Vienna

After Morbisch, we went directly to Vienna and went to our respective host-family homes. I was lucky enough to be living with three other girls: Tara, Sara, and Sam. I had such a blast with these girls and grew so close to them! I only knew Sara out of the three girls but I’m so happy to say that I gained two other close friends from this trip because our experiences of getting lost, figuring out public transportation, struggling to exchange money into Euros, getting to class on time and various other daily activities that soon became routine that we had trouble with initially.

The first day in Vienna Tara, Sara, Sam and I went to an honorary ceremony for our host father who was a well-known organ player and got lost (we weren’t even on the map anymore) and struggled to find our way. Surprisingly we were only twenty minutes late, but we definitely got some stares when we made our way into the pews. That was probably one of my favorite memories because we were so completely lost and we knew it was going to happen eventually but finding our way around at night was such an adventure. Everybody was so exhausted from the first two days in Europe that when we went to the symphony the night of our third day, nearly everybody fell asleep. Keeping my eyes open and trying not to be rude was one of the most difficult things of that trip because the music was so soothing and we were so tired! Even some of the professors dozed off for a minute or two!

What was really cool about where our school was it’s location across the street from the Opera House. Occasionally we could hear singers practicing from our classrooms for their performance later that day. Crazy, right? At times it was hard to remember that the point of this study abroad May Term was that we actually had to take classes. I always had to remind myself that I was here for more than leisure and experience, but to learn. I took Modern European History while most other people took German, Music, Religion, Art and Architecture or Senior Seminar. From what I gathered from everyone was that each of their classes was interesting and fun in their own way, and although it was a bummer we had class, it was something we definitely did not dread because we were surrounded by what we were learning. We would go on tours of the Treasure Chamber, tours of Vienna, and just take adventures that benefited our learning in a more hands-on sort of way that we couldn’t grasp through reading a textbook.

What proved to be really interesting and challenging every day was figuring out where to eat. We were each given a certain amount of Euros to spend on food each week but it typically didn’t cover all of the costs, so budgeting the money while also being aware of tips that needed to be given was frustrating. I think our group as a whole went to nearly every restaurant in a 3-mile radius just to see what was out there. Typically we would go to food stands because they were relatively cheap but we would also go to Billa (their main grocery store) and buy food there and eat in the local park that was around the corner from the university. That was probably one of my favorite memories because word got around that people were in the park so my roommates and I as well as others all joined us and we had a relaxing picnic in an area that looked like an oversized Pine Grove.

Following each meal, we had to figure out what kinds of places and events we wanted to attend. Some days we would just explore the city, take the Eubahn (subway) to different districts in Vienna and explore or go to more popular sites. These included Schonbruun Palace, the Schonbruun Zoo, the Danube beach, Top of the Hill, and others. These were all amazing locations and the ease in which we were able to get there was astonishing. It was so easy to say, “Hey, I’m going to head to Schonbruun Palace in a few minutes. Anyone want to join?” It would take only about 20 minutes to get there or anywhere for that matter because public transportation was so nice.

One of the definite highlights (and I think nearly everyone will agree with me) was the Manner cookies. Man, those were chocolate wafer pieces of heaven! YUMMM!

Salzburg:

We went to Salzburg on the weekend of May 16-18. Our weekend trips were all a blast, and we learned so much in each city and what it has to offer! Here are some highlights of our Salzburg adventure! On a side note, one not so great thing about Salzburg weekend was the weather and the rain. On our way to Salzburg, we made a pit stop at Melk Abbey, the oldest in Europe. Pretty neat right? There we learned so much about Austrian history and what makes it Austria today.

After our stop at Melk, we kept truckin’ to just outside of Salzburg to our hotel. Before getting to our hotel, we also passed by some important sites where they filmed the movie, The Sound of Music. To be honest, we both thought it was let down because we couldn’t stop and take pictures, and the weather was just not ideal. Anyways, we stayed in Hallein, Austria, which is a small town outside of the city. There, we ate dinner, walked around the quaint village. After, we just went to bed.

Saturday was a long day! It started with an awesome breakfast with the group, then it was to Salzburg to get a historic tour of the city, as well as its landmarks. Although it was wet, we all had a great time. I mean, why complain? It was EUROPE, for crying out loud.

One awesome thing about Salzburg was the chocolate. There was this particular kind, we all called “Mozart Balls,” that was just amazing. It was dark Austrian chocolate with a pistachio filling on the inside. My goodness, each one was about 1 euro, so $1.37. It was definitely worth it because you simply can’t get that in the United States. After touring all of what Salzburg had to offer, we went back to our hotel to unwind and hang out with the group!

Sunday was another packed day. We all had to get up early because the first agenda on our list was the Hallein Salt Mines. What a cool experience! We went inside a mountain through a train, and we were both in Austria and Germany in a span of only a few hours! Inside the mountain, we learned about how essential the mining industry was in Austria, and we also went on a boat because there was a large lake inside the mountain! But, my favorite part of the salt mines were the slides. In order to get through the mountain from the inside, we all had to slide down long slides. It was a blast!

After the salt mine, we headed to Hitler’s Nest which was just outside of Austria in Germany. We thought we were so cool because one minute, you’d be in one country, then a few minutes later, we were in another! It was such a cool experience at the museum. We learned more about WWII, toured the bunkers were Nazi soldiers stayed, and it was hands on. After experiencing the museum located near Hitler’s Nest, we visited Mauthausen Concentration Camp. It was an amazing, but eerie experience. Just to think that not even 75 years ago, people suffered here. To just be present and reflect was great. If you have the chance, visit a concentration camp. History will definitely come to life. Once we finished, we finally headed back to basecamp, Vienna!

Prague

Prague by far was one of our favorite cities. There is just so much culture and history behind it! As nerdy it sounds, it was neat to see the communist remnants of the city. When we arrived in Prague, we had a dinner at an old monastery. After, we had an AMAZING tour of Prague and its historic monuments with our tour guide, Donna. She was a sweetheart. She loves Hope College students and it was just a great time to be with her. One thing we did every time we saw her was say, “Dobry den, Donna!” which simply means hello. After our tour, we headed back to our hotel and relaxed.

On Saturday, we had one heck of a packed day! Firstly, we headed to downtown Prague to experience its culture and get another tour. One of our favorite places in Prague was St. Charles Bridge! There were so many vendors and talented musicians on the bridge performing. It was just a great time! In our slideshow, you’ll find our classic picture. After more touring and shopping in the city, we went on a dinner boat cruise on the Vltava River. It was so much fun to eat dinner and take pictures with friends. Another funny part of the dinner was that our tour guide, Donna, made seagull noises. Everyone on the trip LOST IT. It was one of the Prague highlights for sure.

On our last day in Prague, we had more opportunities to learn about history and culture. We visited the old Jewish Ghetto, now a memorial to commemorate those who died in WWII. We also visited the Spanish Synagogue which was just beautiful! After, we had chances to do more shopping and meandering around before heading home. We could seriously go into so much detail about our weekends, but then it wouldn’t be a blog post, it would be an essay!

The Vienna Summer School was one heck of an experience for the both of us!. Our lives, as cliché as it sounds were changed and we now have new perspectives on life. If you are interested in going, make sure you email Dr. Hemenway at hemenway@hope.edu. He is your man and go to for anything Vienna. Trust me, you won’t regret it. If you have any questions about the trip and experience, don’t hesitate to ask either Leslie or Marvin! Make sure to read our upcoming blogs and follow us on twitter!

 

#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

33 Things I’ve Learned From Studying Abroad

Hi everyone! I wanted to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained this semester with you, so I created this lovely list. Some of these things apply to France, Europe, or studying abroad in general. Enjoy!

1. If I talk really fast and add the word/sound “ba” occasionally in my phrases I can almost sound like a native French speaker. Almost.

2. Celebrities are a much bigger deal in the U.S. than in France. The same goes for the Olympics.

3. The US dollar/euro conversion rate is painful for my head and my wallet.

4. French people don’t drink a lot of water.

5. Public transportation is a godsend.

7. Public transportation is a nightmare.

8. Trying and failing in French is better than not trying at all and speaking English.

9. French bread is hands down the best bread in the world.

10. The “p” in the name “Baptiste” is silent.

11. Family, politics and religion are off-limits in the work place and casual conversation. Around the dinner table, anything goes.

12. Speaking of dinner tables, French people actually use theirs.

13. French phramacies are full of wonderful, cheap beauty products.

14. Escargot is delicious.

15. French students talk loudly and constantly in class.

16. A surprising number of people think Chicago is in Michigan.

17. The local university is only for taking classes. School spirit and clubs are virtually non-existant.

18. How I Met Your Mother might be the most popular American show in France.

19. You’re never fully dressed without a scarf.

20. Speaking only one language is not normal.

21. Paris is truly magical.

22. Not every European has liberal political views. The West of France is well known for being conservative.

23. Attending mass each week in a 1000 year-old church is as normal as going to the farmer’s market.

24. Some showers don’t have a shower curtain or sliding door.

25. WiFi is faster in the US.

26. Despite the exclusiveness and ticket-only entry of Paris Fashion Week, it is possible to attend a show (or 6).

27. French is anything but a dying language.

28. Driver’s Education in France is more expensive and time-consuming than in the US.

29. The free newspapers given out at tram stops in the morning are good for keeping up on current events and playing sudoku.

30. Political correctness has not yet made its way here.

31. Sadly, neither has Jif peanut butter.

32.The vast majority of people are kind and willing to offer help when needed.

33. Study abroad is life-changing.

My Experience at Paris Fashion Week

If you read my last post, or if you follow me on Twitter or have talked to me in some other capacity, then you probably know that during my vacation last week I went to Paris. My four days in the City of Lights coincided very purposefully with one the biggest events in the fashion world, Paris Fashion Week. The eight days of designers presenting their collections for the Fall/Winter 2014 season comes at the end of a month filled with other fashion weeks in NYC, Milan, and London. Paris Fashion Week is arguably the biggest in terms of importance and attracts fashion editors, buyers, reporters, photographers and bloggers from all over the world. In other words, it’s kind of a big deal.

Paris Fashion Week
Paris Fashion Week

For those who find themselves wanting to score a ticket to the hottest shows, I’m afraid I have some sad news: you can’t. Tickets are given, not sold, and only go to those who play some kind of role in the fashion industry (see list above).  So how did I, a person with no connection to the fashion world, get into six shows? Simple: I waited for the standing queue.

Every designer wants to have their Fashion Week show so packed that the only floor visible is the runway and the only ones with a decent view are in the front row. For brands like Louis Vuitton and Elie Saab, world-renowned superstars, this dream is a reality. For a lot of the smaller brands, this is not case. After everyone with a ticket is seated, often times there is space in the room. The solution? A standing queue where people can stand in the back and still watch the show. Almost every show has a line for a standing queue but not all of them let people in. Elie Saab and Chloe have standing queues but the chances of getting in are 0% because everyone in fashion shows up. The only shows left to see are the smaller ones. The best way to get a spot inside is to go to the show 30-60 minutes early and stand in line. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t; of the 16 shows I waited for, I got into 6. The waiting was probably the worst part of the whole experience for me. I spent literally all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday standing. I didn’t have time to eat because I spent all of my time waiting or walking to shows. This method is really exhausting but is definitely worth it. Good things really do come to those who wait.

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Watching the fashion shows was beyond incredible. Each collection is like a very cohesive collection of art pieces. The designers write programs that spell out their inspiration and how it is seen in the collection. For example, Amaya Arzuaga’s theme for her Fall/Winter 2014 collection is “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” To interpret this in clothing, she used gold and black colors and reflective, bright fabrics. The lights, music, set up or the catwalk, and even make-up and hair on the models create an atmosphere that enhances the designer’s vision, much like a frame for a painting. The whole show is actually very short; the longest one I saw was around 15 minutes. The length of time depends on the size of the collection. More pieces=more models=more walking=more time. The models walk out one by one and at the end they do a final walk. After the show, the models, photographers, and other important people leave as soon as its over to rush to the next show. The most annoying part about the shows is that they all start at least 30 minutes late.

My pictures above are from some of the shows I saw. They aren’t the best due to lighting and my shaking hands but I hope they give more insight into what I’m trying to explain!

The final walk at Amaya Arzuaga

A very chic woman acting natural while everyone takes pictures of her
A very chic woman acting natural while everyone takes pictures of her

Aside from the actual shows, street style was another spectacle. Most people looked like they either just stepped off the pages of Vogue (chic) or had their three-year-old cousin dress them (crazy). There is literally no in-between. Some photographers didn’t go into the shows. They stayed outside and wait to get the best pictures of these people. They stood around and talked until someone, famous or otherwise, came along wearing something so outrageous or fashion-forward that the person would be stopped and the photographers swarmed around her until they got the perfect picture from every angle. This typically started around 45 minutes before a show and ended after everyone left the show. I was never photographed but did manage to photobomb a lot of pictures. That must count for something, right?

The back of Grace Coddington
The back of Grace Coddington

On the topic of famous people, I did see a few. While waiting outside of the Jean Paul Gautier show Saturday night, I saw Rihanna for maybe a second before she was surrounded by paparazzi and very, very loud, screaming fans. I saw Grace Coddington, creative director of Vogue US, multiple times outside of shows. I saw well known fashion bloggers like Aimee Song and Susie Lau. I also saw lots of other people who I’m sure are famous in one way or another but whose names I don’t know. Unfortunately, I did not see Fashion Week’s most famous attendee, Anna Wintour. It is said that she receives invitations to every show but I heard of her presence at only the most exclusive shows.

My biggest take-away from the experience was getting to see first-hand how serious the Fashion Week is. Yes there is show, glitz and glam but at the end of the day Fashion Week is about an interconnected web of people doing their jobs for an industry they love. Buyers from stores must pay close attention to the collections so they can provide customers like you and me with clothes that we want to buy. Designers must reinvent themselves every season by creating well thought-out and on-trend collections that correlate with customer’s needs and wants. Writers and bloggers must find a way to translate this language of haute couture into everyday vernacular for readers who want to be trendy. It’s a complicated, glamourous business.

So many things happened during my few, short days in Paris and it is impossible for me to translate them all into words. However I do hope that I was able to show you a little bit of what Fashion Week is like from the inside and what I experienced. If you have any questions or comments feel free to tweet me or leave a message!

Until next time,

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