Bonjour de Montpellier!
Je m’appelle Lindsey and I’ve just finished my first week of classes at the IEFE here at Universite Paul-Valery in the south of France. I absolutely adore Montpellier; it’s a wonderful mix of old and new, a place where architecture from the Middle Ages can blend effortlessly with department store soldes.
In my first week, I have done the following things:
- Eaten a 5-course homemade dinner in a neighbor’s jardin
- Watched people jump off a cliff into a riviere
- Gotten lost in vineyard country
- Visited an abbey dating from the 9th century
- Gone to the beach
- Met someone from Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Sudan, the UAE, Denmark, and Canada
- Learned how to use the passe simple
- Seen a hedgehog
- Eaten about 10 pains au chocolat and my first macaroon
We started our journey in Paris. As a small-town North Carolinian, the hustle and bustle of this giant tourist-y city was far too much for me. In addition to problems with my flight and getting my luggage lost, I had to take a 70-euro cab ride and also got my purse stolen on the metro. Needless to say, I was not pleased with my experience in Paris. My one day there did yield, however, a breathtaking trip to the Sacre-Coeur and a sightseeing trip down the Seine on a bateau-mouche.
As of right now, though, I strongly suggest studying abroad. It can be expensive, nervewracking and even dangerous, but the experience has already made me more well-rounded and has been very rewarding. That is not to say it’s all fun and games! This is W&M, after all. Our classes are challenging, start early in the morning, and even happen on Saturdays. We took an extensive placement test at the IEFE, which put us into our proper niveaux for oral and written classes, and mine are tougher than I expected, but I am almost certain I’ll be fluent by the time I leave Montpellier, thanks to the combination of total immersion by living with a host family (in luxury, I might add!) and courses that push me to the next level.
My host family, the Courrets, are wonderful. They’re pleasant and chatty, and they have two daughters roughly the age of my roommate and I. We are always greeted affectionately by their golden retriever, Saschia, and our accomodations outshine any hotel I’ve ever stayed in. There is no A/C (climatisation) in most of France, so instead, we have huge windows that are nearly always open. Mine looks out onto a garden with a giant palm tree. Using a claw-footed tub with a hand-shower was tough at first, and I worried the mosquitoes would fly into my room, but thus far, I’ve had no real problems. Living with a famille d’acceuil is by far my favorite part of the program. I wouldn’t be getting the full Mediterranean experience without a sunny house and occasional home-cooked meals. Not to mention, my host family speaks very little English, so I have to practice my French with them constantly. They are very encouraging, even when I make mistakes, and I can tell they’ve taken us students in for much more than just a little monetary compensation.
Much more to follow, including some pictures of the area!