Madrid et le mal du pays (home sickness)

Coucou! (Hey!) Now I know that these blog entires might make it seem like I’m rarely in France, but I swear, I spend a majority of my time in Dijon, speaking and learning French. Understandably, the stories that I have recently found the most worthy of blogging about do not come from my 6 hours of one-on-one French classes, or from mes conversations du dîner (my diner conversations) with my host family, but rather from my travel experiences. So let me fill you in on my most recent trip to Madrid, Spain!

Le week-end dernier, I traveled to Spain to meet up with two of my best friends from Holy Cross, Matt and Jason. Unlike in Munich, there was no main event taking place in Madrid to occupy our weekend, so we were able to leisurely explore, which I have come to realize is the best way to experience a city. While touring Madrid, I found myself making many comparisons between Spain’s culture and France’s. Although the spoken language was incomprehensible to me, I could, for the most part, read signs and make inferences with my knowledge of other romance languages. Since Madrid is easily walkable, my two friends and I were able to see so much of the city in the three days that we were there. The Spanish Royal Palace, the Prado Art Museum, and Plaza Mayor were just some of the must-sees on our tour. Madrid is also well known for its night life. Donc (so), my friends and I went to a seven story tall discoteca that we were told would give us an accurate feel of what Madrid’s night life is like, and all I can say on this blog is that the discoteca did not disappoint. I had been warned that the Spanish stay up well into the early hours of the morning, but I did not realize the accuracy until I fell asleep on the wooden floor of our Airbnb as soon as i walked through the door at 4am. Overall, I genuinely loved Madrid. The city helped me cross items off my bucket list and gave me the opportunity to catch up with one of the people that I’ve missed the most from home. Sightseeing and the disctoeca were très amusant (very fun), but the best part of the whole trip was spending Saturday night watching dumb youtube videos and laughing about inside jokes with my friends, just like we did back on the Hill.

Leaving the high that was Madrid and being forced to say goodbye to some of my best friends really sent me on a downwards spiral while waiting for my train in Charles de Gaulle Airport. I would confidently say that this was my first severe case of homesickness. While in CDG, having nothing to do but get lost in thought, the pain of missing my friends and family really got to me. Coincidentally, my other friend Jullia was also in CDG at the same time as I was, so we were able to meet up, which ended up only spiraling me down further in to my homesickness after she left.  At this point, it really struck me that I was alone in a foreign country yet again. While listening to “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel on a hard cement bench in the train station, I couldn’t help but question all of my recent life choices. “Why did I choose to leave HC, somewhere that makes me so happy?,” “why did I choose to study abroad for a year?,” and “how am I going to make it the next seven months without my friends by my side?,” were all questions that I was asking myself while waiting for the train. After finally getting into my bed after the long weekend, still sulking, I remembered reading this article on a former HC study abroad blog when I was researching where to study. This article provides the stages of living abroad, and gives reasons for commonly felt emotions. It’s effrayant (scary) how accurate it is. I am definitely in the second stage at the moment. After the flashbacks of the easiness of living in America, it really hit me how much I missed it and how far out of my comfort zone I truly am each and every day I am here. After feeling emotions that I never have really felt before, it was comforting to know that what I was going through was a normal part of the study abroad experience, and that it will get better…. eventually.

C’est tout pour l’instant

-Sean

Leçon du jour: On n’a rien sans rien , no pain no gain

-HC’s frank response to culture shock and homesickness

Photos from Week 10

Had to document my first iced coffee in three months

the streets of Madrid

I was told that this bear and a tree symbolize Madrid??

Plaza Mayor

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

El Prado

The Royal Palace

Bucket List!

Kapital: 1 Sean: 0

I was diagnosed with a severe case of homesickness shortly after this picture was taken

Photos from Week 9

Trip to Beaune with Erasmus

See, I’m still in France. I swear!

A wine cellar in Beaune

“The wine of Burgundy is the wine of kings”- King Louis XIV

A trip to Talant with my Méthodologie class!! (aka just me and my professor)

Small cars and wine shops? Yup, I’m in Europe

l’Oktoberfest

Slaut à tous! It has been quite a while since my last post, and I have SO much to fill you in on, so lets jump right in!

La semaine dernière (last week) was my long anticipated trip to Munich, Germany for the world famous Oktoberfest. It was decided weeks ago that I would take the same bus out of Strasbourg with the other HC kids headed to Munich, which gave me the perfect excuse to come visit all the other French kids a day early. To be honest, I was un peu nerveux (a bit nervous) to visit Strasbourg, due to the fact that it’s the “what could have been” of my study abroad experience. I couldn’t help but think to myself on the train, “what if I actually like Strasbourg better than Dijon, with its giant cathedrals, scenic bridges over the Rhine, and 11 other Holy Cross kids??” How would I be able to stay in Dijon if i found out that life in a bigger city was a better fit for me? Regardless, when I arrived in the Strasbourg I was met by none other than my old French FLA Élise! Finally seeing the person who I’ve had countless conversations about France with, in France, was surreal. Élise showed me around her city and we reminisced about all the good times we had on the Hill last year, just like we said we would do while in 301 level  French practicum. After our tour, we met up with the other old FLA, Mathias, and the rest of the Holy Cross students at a local restaurant. Upon sitting down at our table, I realized that this was my first time being face to face with other Americans ALL MONTH. I loved catching up with all my fellow Frenchies’ adventures and relaying my own. While walking the streets of Strasbourg after finishing at the restaurant, I came to conclusion that Strasbourg really was not for me, and that I am beyond happy with where I am in Dijon. From what I gathered, Strasbourg is a totally different experience than Dijon, it’s much more of a city vibe and I really could not see myself living there without feeling overwhelmed. I love Dijon and its warm small city feel, and I guess it’s where I was always meant to be.

Now, after that boring introspective discourse, back to mon histoire (my story). Following a small passport dilemma and a five hour bus ride Friday morning, the France gang finally arrived in Munich.  Right after getting off the bus, we all went out in the city center to buy our drindls and lederhosen for the fest. Once equipped, we split up to go to our respective locations, mine being an Airbnb with six of mes amis (my friends) from other study abroad locations. Meeting up with friends who have been in (des différents pays ) different countries, such as Spain and Ireland, was by far the best part of the whole trip. I loved being able to compare my many stories and hear the different experiences of whole new audience of friends. Saturday morning, at the ripe hour of 6 am, my friends and I left to get a good spot on* line. Unfortunately, the Munich public transportation system is not the easiest to navigate when you don’t understand German,  so our 25 minute commute turned into hour long odyssey after ending up on the complete opposite side of the Munich from where we planned and then having to turn back around.  Once on the camp groups, American college students could be seen for kilometers lined up at the gates. After the clock hit 9:00, the gates opened and there was a mad dash for the tents in order to reserve tables. Luckily, Holy Cross students are good sprinters, and we were able to secure three tables in the Hofbräu tent, also known as “the American tent.” Although I probably did not get the most authentic Oktoberfest experience, it was fun to be just like every other American student for the weekend. Speaking a language that I missed, and seeing faces that I missed even more, definitely made all the hassle of the trip worth it. 

All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Munich. It was really strange experiencing a foreign country other than France for the first time. I found myself having the impulse to use je vais prendre (i’ll have) and merci (thank you) when attempting ordering pretzels and potatoes. Being in Germany definitely made me appreciate France and being able to speak French a whole lot more. While leaving Germany, I kept thinking to myself how excited I was to get back to Dijon that Sunday night. I wanted nothing more than to be in mon lit(my bed), in ma maison(my house), in ma ville(my city), but that was before I missed the last train to Dijon from Strasbourg, forcing me to wait nine hours for the next one. 

Expression du jour: French: Je comprends seulement “la gare” // German: Ich verstehe nur “Bahnhof.”// English: I only understand “train station.”- a common German expression that means “I don’t understand this foreign language.”

À bientôt!

-Sean

Photos from Week 8

I have the feeling that we’re not in France anymore…

München

This train stops at Pasing and Otsbanhof, but not Central Station??

this picture was taken SECONDS after a 100 yard dash from the entrance

Meggie( a HUGE fan of my blog) finally makes an appearance

Wait, this isn’t La Guinguette?

Bros and Beers

Ava being cool, what else is new

“Jason if you don’t stand on this bench to take a picture with me right now I SWEAR TO GOD”

oh how I missed all these AMERICANS

 

Photos from Week 7

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

Cool buildings on the Rhine river

Finally met up with Élise (my old French FLA) in Strasbourg, something we have been planning since our 301 Practicum

Petite France

Strasbourg is nice… I guess

Finally seeing French squad (sans Drew and Stasie) after a long month apart

France: un amie ou un ennimie?

Bonjour à tous! It has now been two weeks since my arrival in Dijon. These 14 days have honestly felt like an eternity, each day a totally different adventure of its own. I’ve done everything from one-person museum tours to getting x-rayed for Tuberculosis, and I can’t wait to tell you all about my new life here in ma nouvelle ville ( my new city). Donc, allons-y! (so, lets go!)

For starters, I really do love Dijon. From what I have experienced, Dijon is the perfect mix between ville (city) and village (town). The city is filled with tiny cobblestone streets and old fashioned French houses, but yet still has its fair share of large bâtiments (buildings)Carrefours (a grocery store chain), and tram lines. When I first arrived, I was astonished by how unfamiliar the city was, but yet so warm and inviting. This might be due to the fact that many buildings in the city are centuries old and have a cozy, lived-in look to them. The city is quintessential France, and I am astonished how quickly it has charmed me.

I also have really lucked out with my new host family. When I first stepped out of the train station two weeks ago, I was worried that I would not be able to find/recognize my host mom. Luckily, seconds after resting my luggage, I clearly spotted a woman sprinting towards me, with a giant smile on her face, flailing her arms to get me to notice her. When I finally met Jocelyne, my new host mom, we “faire la bise”(the super european kiss on both cheeks) and she gave me my first tour of the city. After our tour, Jocelyne brought me to her house were I met her son, and my new host brother, Martin. Ma nouvelle maison (my new house) is perfectly located in Dijon, right in between the city center and my university’s campus, so I’m hoping there wont be any public transit mishaps in Dijon*.

So, I have absolutely no complaints about neither my city nor my host family. What I CAN complain about, however,  is the awful reality that I have discovered of the infamous French bureaucratic system. I had heard complaints of French bureaucracy while researching French study abroad stories in the past, but had no idea how much I would despise it as well. To put it shortly, it has taken me roughly two WEEKS to sign up for classes at l’Université de Bourgogne. First I had to have an x-ray to check that I did not have Tuberculosis before I was even able register for the university. Then, I had to search all over campus for each of the school’s department and their respective paper handout of offered classes. After choosing my classes, I had to fill out paperwork to enroll in the classes and the hand it in to each department’s respective secretary. This process took me more than a week to complete, taking into account that all the department offices are not open at the same time because that would be too easy, and the fact that the French like to take two hour lunch breaks in the middle of the day. Needless to say, this painstakingly long process has made me appreciate the easiness of Holy Cross’s enrollment system, even though HC’s system has its flaws as well.

I am happy with my decision of choosing Dijon and I am excited to see what my alone time abroad has in store for me.

À bientôt!

-Sean

Leçon du jour: “La bureaucratie est l’art de rendre le possible impossible.”(Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible.) – Javier Pascual Salcedo

Photos from Week 6

My first french manifestation (march for environmental laws)

La Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne

Place de la Republique

One of Dijon’s many mustard shops

“Dijon… yes, like the mustard”

Seconds before the mustard burnt my nose

trip to Ornans

Another picture from Ornans

Me after a long day of speaking French

Photos from Week 5

My first picture in Dijon

le marché ( the market)

du formage (some cheese)

awkward pictures because I was alone on the tour

A city street

Typical old French street

l’Église Saint-Michel (St. Michael’s Church)

A meme that I could not stop laughing at one night, yeah I’ve already spent too much time alone

Adieu à Tours

Salut à tous! (Hello everyone!) I am happy to announce that I finally made it to Dijon! As I lie in my new bed, in my new house, in my new city, I can’t help but reflect on all that has happened this past month. To put it frankly, I LOVED my time in Tours. It wasn’t one thing about the city in particular that I really liked, but rather an assortment of factors that lead to me genuinely enjoying my stay in the city.

Premièrement (firstly), Tours really helped me to improve my French. I would not directly credit my improvement in the language to the 84 hours of class that I had to sit through at the Institute this month, but rather to the many situations that I encountered where I was pushed out of my comfort zone to use French while in Tours. Whether it was when I had to frantically ask the bus driver why my bus was stopping for 20 minutes at a random station -it was to wait for the train commuters-, or when I had to explain to a banker that I couldn’t make an account because I did not have any legal documents of a permanent address yet, Tours forced me to speak French and that is how I successfully “broke the language barrier.” During the past month, I went from waking up and accidentally saying “good morning” to my host parents, to being able to hold up an hour long conversation about immigration with them at dinner. There is definitely not one particular event that I could pin down as being “that moment” when I knew I had really become able to the country and the language in Tours, rather it was a gradual process that I am finally realizing as I look back at the previous month.

Deuxièmement (secondly), Tours was a great way to ease my way into the study abroad experience. As I have previously discussed, this is my first time ever being outside of the U.S., so you can probably guess that I had a considerable amount of culture shock when I first arrived in France. Even the small things, like having to pay for food with valuable Euro coins or surviving solely on public Wifi for my phone to work without a sim card, were totally strange first experiences for me. I am also glad that Tours enabled me to get the awkward first time of living in someone else’s home out of the way with the rest of the Holy Cross kids, who were having the same firsts as I was.  In the moment, when you are getting yelled at IN FRENCH for not telling your host mom soon enough that you wouldn’t be coming home for Sunday lunch after mass, you think that it would ruin your entire study abroad experience day.  However, after joking about it with your friends and hearing similar stories from them, the experiences are a lot less traumatizing.

Troisièmement (thirdly), Tours allowed me to form such tight bonds with other Holy Cross kids that I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. By being part of a small 12 student group from Holy Cross in a foreign country for a month, I was really able to spend time and connect with each and every person on the trip individually. I am so happy to have come to know all of them better and will never forget all the memories we shared (partially because I photographed EVERYTHING). Whether it was laughing about Vines on the tiny beach of La Rochelle or just sitting and talking about homesickness near the Loire during one of our frequent trips to La Guinguette, Tours enabled me to gain 11 close friends that I wouldn’t have been able to get to know so intimately otherwise, and I’m beyond grateful for that.

I am definitely going to miss Tours, not just the city, but the people in it as well (shout out to Zélie, Gabe, and Marcos). It was difficult to leave everyone for Dijon, but I am excited to see what this new city has in store for me. I trust that the HC kids in Strasbourg will keep me in the loop of the day to day and I CAN’T WAIT to go visit them in a couple of weeks.

C’est tout pour l’instant! (That’s all for now!)

À bientôt!

-Sean

Leçon du jour: Marcher avec un ami dans le noir est mieux que de marcher seul dans la lumière. (Walking with a friend in darkness is better than walking alone in the light)