Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Nice and other nice things

So two weekends ago was my fabulous (and much needed) vacay to the sunny south of France.  So as we planned to leave Monday morning and head to Nice for the week, because hey, class wasn't starting till the next week (or so we thought) we headed to the train station to plan our trip and buy our return tickets (80 euros), only to find out an hour after, that classes did indeed start the next day.  So in a panic, I called Elise ten consecutive times (to finally get a hold of her!]) and off we went back to the train station (mind you its a Sunday and the tram happily runs every 25 minutes..if it feels like it), to what we were hoping would be some kind, understanding lady behind the counter. Luckily, when we told her we wanted to change the date of the tickets, there were no questions asked and we were smooth sailing.

So Monday as we wished we had been waking up and en route to the plage, we sadly showed up to 8h30 morphosyntax class. Luckily the week flew by (as they seem to do here) and before we knew Friday had arrived and we were heading to the south, with only one minor problem that is.

See when the SNCF (France's train company) sets up a trip for you, they arrange the tickets, including all layovers, for you. So en route to Nice we had to change trains twice (soon to be three). The first time we stopped in Valence, about one hour from Grenoble via the TER (a regional train, somewhat equivalent to the GO train), where we had 40 minutes and weren't the least bit stressed.  That was, however, until we saw that the train to Marseille (our next layover) was ten minutes late. Doesn't seem like all that much of a big deal, until you add in the fact that we only had 14 minutes (now 4) in Marseille before needing to be on the next train.

So as we arrived at our second change, and what we thought would be our last, we had exactly 4 minutes to get off, find, and board the next train, Luckily for us, the conductor came on the loudspeaker to tell us that the connecting train to Nice would be on platform D, directly across from where we would be pulling in.

I guess what he forgot to relay to us was that the track number for the Nice train was actually changed and would now be on platform A.  Unknown to us, we climbed aboard the train stationed at platform D.  With a minute to spare before the train would depart, we were so proud that we had done it, the odds were against us but we had done it...except not quite.

It didn't take long to realize that we not in fact headed to Nice, but instead to Toulon, a city 2 hours west of there. After talking with another passenger, and then the conductor, we decided it would be best to stay on the train until Toulon (just over an hour). Then in Toulon, we would have to go to the ticket counter to see what we could next to get close to Nice.

Luckily, once again we encountered a very understanding woman at the ticket counter, who have us two new seats on the next train to Nice, free of charge. We were finally on our way.

Arriving in Nice brought back memories.  I had traveled to France and spent an overnight there in the summer of 2014, which is what made me so keen on getting back there while the weather was still warm.

Overlooking the French Riviera and the Promenade des Anglais

Out for a day cruise around the coast of Nice!

Despite the events that had occurred there this past summer, Nice still held a beautiful charm.  Walking through Vieux Nice, through the streets with small shops, restos, and markets, it felt as though we were in a movie.  Everything you picture about classic European style, is seen in the streets of Vieux Nice. Our studio that we had rented, not to mention, was on the top floor of one of these buildings that made up the old part of the city.  It was not even a 2 minute walk to the beach, nothing could beat the location, not even the fact that we slept in a bunk bed in the petit 10m2 loft!

After "setting in" somewhat in Grenoble, it was nice to take a break and feel like a tourist for a bit (never thought I'd say that). Grenoble is not a tourist spot whatsoever in my opinion, so the diversity of Nice in terms of tourists, not to mention the flow of Canadians there, was oddly refreshing.  Not to mention its always fun to take tourist pictures without feeling out of place, and frankly eat and drink like a tourist every once in awhile, while abroad.

Petite pause after climbing up 500 stairs...well worth the view!

Elise and I enjoying our last dinner in it really a meal without a glass of wine?!

After hours of lounging on the beach, a boat cruise, crepes, galettes (simply the word for savoury crepes), pizzas, and numerous glasses wine, the weekend in Nice had come to an end, and it was time to head back to what was now my reality.


Which leads me to my final mark of this blog, basically where I'm at now.

So I've been thinking lately (thinking is always good), its quite an interesting concept, leaving everything you know to just suddenly pick up your life again in an entirely new city, country, and oh wait, continent. I really don't know what exactly possess an individual to do so but I guess I'll soon find out. I was expecting to feel a lot more when I finally started to get settled here. Talking with a British exchange friend today, I think she put it very well; I feel as though I've literally been dropped in a foreign land, and I don't necessarily stick out but I also don't fit in either, and alas, I am sort of just floating here. No real direction, no one telling me what to do, just floating around, trying to make my way, and mumbling the occasional sentence in français. Its more difficult than I had originally anticipated. I can honestly tell you after having left home a month ago today, that life as an exchange student isn't everything it may be stereotyped or seen as. It isn't every picture of a vacationing student on the beaches in the south, it isn't the mountains, the hiking, or even the consecutive Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday late nights out on the town drinking with friends. It's being uncomfortable and awkward, being forced out of your comfort zone, it is literally feeling like you know nothing and are known to no one, at times.  It is perseverance, it is homesickness, it is a void for things you never even knew you cared about. It is long-distance, fb video chat, and and endless amounts of I miss you's. But what the life of a student abroad really is, is worth it.  No matter how many of the points made above would lead you believe otherwise, it will be worth least that's what we're told to tell ourselves anyway.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Lost in translation

So fast forward to today, September 12th. Lost in translation pretty much sums it up. In other words, I had my first lecture of the year. A class in morphosyntaxe, and if you're wondering what that entails well I suggest you consult google because I still have no idea. Its definitely not the same as listening to a prof lecture in English, where you can pretty much text, check your email, online shop and take notes to prepare for your final next week all at the same time.  I don't think I've ever heard someone talk French so fast in my that will definitely take some getting used to. I've decided I'm going to stick it through because right before lecture started, a French girl leaned over to tell us that this is one of the best profs in our department..on verra, je suppose!

On the bright side, here's the view from campus. Campus life here is really amazing, and a lot different than I had expected. I definitely undermined the size of Grenoble and the size of the Université Grenoble Alpes. Grenoble itself has a population of about 155, 000 and campus is home to 45, 000 students. A benefit to me really, because that means I have 44, 999 friends to choose from. Metaphorically speaking, at least I think?

There's also a downside to 45, 000 students attending a publicly funded University in France, and that is French administration. Now this is something you really have to experience for yourself (although I hope you never do) to truly understand, and my fellow international students can attest to this.  I was warned a thousand and one times by past exchange students (and even some of my French friends) not to expect much from the French admin.  Now don't get me wrong, they are some of the nicest and (try to be) the most helpful people I've ever come across, their mind set is just more "lax" than that of the North American system, which has proven to be a hard adjustment.  I will end this rant off with the fact that I spent 3 and a half hours in a small office Friday morning, sifting through a list of courses offered, manually making my schedule by hand. Needless to say I will never again take the Canadian system for granted.

It's probably a good time to introduce my North American friends and to wrap up this post. When I say "us" I'm simply referring to my band of north american friends who have kept me grounded and sane the past few weeks..and our group appears to be growing by the day. You will never fail to find groups of English speakers around Grenoble, especially on and around campus (the international population is seriously huge here, although I still manage to feel foreign).

One thing I was warned about, that I really wanted to overcome, is the fact of making french friends. Which probably seems simple, seeing as I'm living in France..(duh) but actually they don't have much interest in becoming friends.

This was explained to me in two different reasonings: the first being that the students in my classes have been taking every class together since they began uni in their first year (completely different than in Canada, here there are given a timetable and have limited to no options of courses they wish to take). Therefore, by third year, they already have their established friend groups, with whom they have every class, every day with; and frankly aren't looking to be friends with any international students.

The second reasoning is simply the fact that there are so many English speakers here, cet-à-dire que when they are to hear English they aren't quick to turn an ear and chat you up. Unless, of course it's that weird guy at the tram stop who thinks its a good pick up line to say "Ah yes I hear you speaking English, maybe I can practice my English with you some time" in the thickest accent possible. Basically, however special you may feel as an international here, you really aren't.  My mom still thinks I'm special.

A step in the right direction

So here goes my first real post. I have a solid two weeks to catch up on in my next few posts, so bear with me.

Sunday, August 28th honestly feels like it happened in a different life. I don't know if that's a good thing, because I've so adjusted to life here, or if it means time is passing slowly..thoughts?

Anyways, although it feels like ages ago I still remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I said goodbye to the fam at the airport. There's something about the unknown that freaks the shit out of me, as it does any sane person, but at the same time, holds so much excitement. So as I checked my bags, and printed my boarding pass, I finally felt ready. Then there was my mom. Of course she was going to cry, she was about to send her baby off.  So that of course, gave me doubt (and of course made me tear up) but I was still ready.

From customs all the way to my arrival at Charles de Gaulle was smooth sailing which definitely put me at ease. I was met by a friend at the airport in Paris and headed towards Chalons, my home away from home.

I spent a few days catching up with a few old friends, with a diet consisting mostly of baguettes and cheese from the Fromagerie, and for anyone who knows me, you'll know for certain that I definitely wasn't complaining.

Departing from Chalons wasn't easy, and it probably never will be, but I was excited for the next leg of my journey. I had a layover at Gare de Lyon before heading down south so I had arranged to meet up with my exchange partner from 2013, Marie-Lou, to catch up.

For anyone who has ever passed through the Gare de Lyon in Paris you will probably know of the famous "Le Bleu Train". You will also probably know that a 20 year old with a 65L backpack plus a suitcase does not fit in with the "regular" clientele. Needless to say we made ourselves right at home anyways. This had to be of been one the classiest places I've ever been. And if the 8 euro glass of orange juice doesn't speak that, then I don't know what does.

Then it was time to leave Paris, but not without buying a postcard.. or 5... of course. Leaving Paris, and saying goodbye to Marie-Lou was no easier than leaving Chalons, but again, I think about how lucky I am to have made such amazing connections on the other side of the world. I was excited and ready to begin the next part of adventure, settling in, in Grenoble. 

Hey, its me..I'm really here

Well. Here it is. I'm lying in bed tonight, its ten after nine and it dawns on me. I've been here now for exactly two weeks. That means exactly 14 days, 336 hours, 20 160 minutes that I have been procrastinating starting this blog.

I'm not the first person to do what I'm doing, nor will I be the last, but if you're somewhat interested in my life (hi mom) or need some traveling motivation, I'm your gal. Disclaimer, I'm going to use this as a personal blog, with a (major) hint of travel, and I'd love for you to follow along.