Two years ago, I took a semester off from school and decided I wanted to study abroad. It was the quickest process I’d ever been through. I decided, called, applied, boarded plane, arrived. Seriously so simple, I didn’t want to lose time thinking about whether or not It was a good idea. And I’m so glad I didn’t. I’ve never looked back.
Studying abroad was the best decision I’d made in my time in college. Over the summer I had attended a two-week study abroad to Paris for culinary school.
While my time there, I had a host family in which I became incredibly close to and later led me to come back for a full semester.
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t one bit nervous or scared about living in a foreign country with no friends or family. I barely knew any French just the basics – oui, non, merci, ciao and the important phrases such as where is the bathroom and can I have a coffee please (of course).I attended Alliance Francaise and it was such a different educational experience.
My host family was so amazing, they treated me like their actual daughter and till this day I still keep in contact with them. My home was always filled with other foreign exchange students, the most students we had in the house was a total of eight. It was crazy, but so much fun! I became closest to people from Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan, Barcelona etc.
I jotted down 9 FYI’s about my time dans la France.
- Living in Rouen (upper Normandy), no one spoke English or Spanish, just French. It was both a blessing and a curse. It helped me learn French quickly but it was also hard on my day to day life. Let me just note that my host family did not speak nor allow anything other than French in our household. You can just imagine how fun it was to ask for a feminine hygiene product. Ha.
- I walked EVERYWHERE. I signed up at the closest gym (for only 20 euros a month) and it was about a 35-minute walk there and 35-minute walk back. My legs were in such good shape. Not sure why I signed up for a gym since walking did the job.
- You can forget about buying anything after 5 PM. Everything in France closes very early even on the weekends.
- Sundays are family days, there is no way to find any grocery stores, retail or restaurants opened. On Sundays, we had a big lunch, some drinks, and I caught up on homework.
- Family parties were very awkward. I casually sat in the dining room, staring into space. With so many people talking at the same time, it was hard to be involved in a conversation.
- I learned the true meaning of being present because there is no internet connection anywhere. You can forget about the whole “I’m going to use my phone while I stand here to avoid any awkward moments,” because everyone knows you’re not actually using the internet. I used Wi-Fi in two places, at school and a café. I spent most of my time reading and writing.
- Shopping in France is VERY expensive, you’re better off buying it in the states.
- There wasn’t much of a nightlife in Rouen. I went out a couple times with my roommates but nothing like Miami. We headed to a couple Irish local bars for drinks and then went to dance at a club. However, don’t picture LIV at the Fountainbleu Hotel, it was more like a casual drink in hand, move-your-hips a bit kind of club. I probably didn’t go out enough to see the real nightlife.
- You can erase the following from your vocabulary while living in Rouen – Vegan, Vegetarian, almond milk, dairy-free. Although my host family did their best to not cook any meat or chicken for me, going out was a bit difficult. I couldn’t find any cafés with almond milk, nor could I find any at the grocery store that wasn’t expired. Vegan is not a thing, they put cheese on everything and eat it as dessert. My dairy-free life was absolutely gone while I was there.
- I’m pretty sure I drank wine every single night. It’s very common to have an aperitif, my favorite wine to this day is Coteaux du Layon and I can’t find it anywhere. How sad.
P.S Sorry for the crappy picture quality.