A Short, but True Story

On a day when I was disheartened with Montpellier, it managed to surprise me once again. I had eaten at McDo alone, and was very much lost on what I knew would be a futile attempt to start my on-the-ground research. There I was, eight o’clock at night, on a strange street lined with dilapidated medieval structures. I followed the only reasonable direction there is, forward, and the buildings began to grow more and more impressive.

In the goldening light of first evening, the stones seemed to glow with the secrets of hundreds of years of life, and in front of me appeared a palace. As lovely as it was, however, I was several tram stops from my neighborhood, the evening was quickly approaching, and I had still not found the gardens integral to my studies. I leaned against a lamppost, unfolding my map and staring blankly at it. Then, like a cat would have, a friendly young French man appeared. I was immediately at ease with his mop of brown curls, big smile, and beachy sandals. He asked me what I was looking for, then quietly walked me in the right direction. On my left developed an increasingly incredible botanical extravaganza, a fantasy in plants. I was seduced and intrigued by the foliage, but once we reached the tall iron gate, we found it to be closed. My new companion, Romain, worried I would I would be sad and told me of another garden I could visit nearby, but I wasn’t sad, nor did I want to see another garden. At a moment that should have been disheartening, I was inexplicably filled with hope. I knew I would return tomorrow, with more daylight and a camera prepared to shoot. But for now, I was content to see the sun set over an iron gate, reflecting off of a cascading fountain, making the flowers and trees within sparkle with one last ray of light before being extinguished.

I explained to my accompanist that I was studying vitalist discourse in the Enlightenment, and instead of being confused by my big ideas and little French, he listened, nodded and said “vitalism wasn’t very Enlightened.” I admitted that it is the exact opposite of my biggest philosophical tenets, those of Descartes, and that this is why it interests me. My new friend did not ask me to repeat myself, nor did he have any trouble understanding me. He said very little, in fact, and was only confused once he asked where I lived and found I was in North Carolina, in the South of the US. He smiled when he talked about summer in Montpellier, and I knew I was lucky to be here in such a time.

Romain walked me, completely platonically, to the train stop before heading on his way with a pleasant “enchanté” and an attempt to pronounce my name. Now the sun was really setting, and when I stepped off the train, I remarked that the swallows, always present in Montpellier, were flying very high in the sky. It brings good luck to see them so situated, my host mother once explained to me, because they have the sense to fly lower if it might rain. I plucked a pink flower for my hair, and walked the last few paces home in an overwhelming state of pure contentment.



Bienvenue a Montpellier!

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!

A bientot,