Paris, ENFIN!!!

Bonjour à tous! After living in France for the past five months, this weekend I finally made mon premier voyage (my first trip) to Paris! Although it was not the most ideal time to visit the City of Lights, (I’ll touch upon that later), it was a very cliché French weekend that allowed me to put my many years of studying the French language/history/and culture to good use. I saw this trip, not only as another fun adventure with my friends, but as a chance to see all that I have read and heard about Parisian culture come to life in this one city.

I arrived in Paris on Friday evening and met up with my friends Carley and Jason(yet again) to start our busy weekend filled with sightseeing and food tasting. After catching up with one another, we decided to have a little goût (taste) of home at a restaurant that was located only a short seven minute walk from our hotel, Chipotle. The burrito that I had made me very excited to be back in the States eating Mexican food and sipping iced coffee during the rapidly approaching Christmas break. After notre repas (our meal) we made the decision to actually start enjoying actaul Parisian life by visiting la tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower). I had yet to see the Tower at this point of our trip and was anxiously awaiting the first moment that I would lay eyes on it. Then, while walking towards the 7th arrondissement (part of Paris where the Tower is), I saw a glimpse of the lit up wrought-iron figure and was instantly flooded with emotions. I found myself on the verge of tears just from seeing the symbol of the French people and their culture while simultaneously thinking about all the work that I have put into being apart of what it represents. After standing with Carley and Jason utterly stupefied at the base of the structure for about an hour, we were able to get our pictures and leave feeling extremely accomplished and proud for being where we were.

The next morning the three of us woke up bright and early to get a head start on the day. We first went to a classic boulangerie (bakery), where I forced everyone to have a typical French breakfast of pastries and coffee. Ensuite, we headed to the Louvre where we were able to see la Jaconde (Mona Lisa), Le Sacre de Napoléon (the Coronation of Napoleon) , and Les Noces de Cana (the Wedding of Cana). After that, the three of us visited Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame on île-de-la-Cité, where I was able to forcibly relay dozens of boring history lessons about Paris to Carley and Jason. After visiting the churches, we met up with some other Holy Cross kids who were also in Paris at the same time we were. It seems like whenever you’re traveling while abroad, you will always be in the same city as other friends who you did not plan to see.

We decided as a group to make our way from the Louvre to go see the Eiffel Tower while there was still some sun out. Unfortunately, the weekend that we visited was also the weekend of some of the most violent manifestations (protests) that Paris has seen in a decade. The protesters, also known as the gilet jaunes (yellow vests), were protesting throughout Paris about taxes on gas. From the Louvre, we were able to see clouds of  black smoke coming from the Champs-Élysées, which is more than two miles away. On our route to the Eiffel Tower, dozens of rues (roads) were closed as well as some crucial ponts (bridges), adding at least 30 minutes to our walk. Even though this scared the non-french Holy Cross kids, it was funny how normal it seemed to me due to the fact that the chants of various riots have been a constant background noise throughout my stay in France. My time in Dijon has taught me how much la manifestation is a part of authentic French culture.

Once back at the Eiffel Tower, we were still starstruck. I have seen my fair share of monuments and large buildings, but the Eiffel Tower is incredibly special. And when it twinkles during the first five minutes of every hour, the only word that to describe it is “magical”. After seeing what we could see on account of the massive protests, Jason, Carley and I split off from the rest of the HC kids and went back to our hotel to eat some wine and cheese, which we hyped up almost as much as the Chipotle we ate the night before.

Although it was a short weekend and we only saw fraction of what Paris has to offer, I was incredibly happy with my first time in France’s capital. Being able to show Carley and Jason around the city and giving them history lessons, without ever having been to the city myself, was truly a great feeling. It really confirmed all the work that I had done up to this point in my French studies. I know that I will be back to Paris very soon (Hi Carol and Caroline), and I am exited to explore different parts of the city during my next visit.

À bientôt!

-Sean

Leçon du jour: « Ajoutez deux lettres à Paris : c’est le paradis »- Jules Renard

Add two (three) letters to Paris, and its Paradise

Photos from Week 16

First stop on our tour of Paris!

The Seine, the famous river that runs through Paris

Wherever you are in the city, seeing a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower is magical

Memorial of the late Princess Diana RIP

Carley and I shortly after crying tears of JOY from seeing la tour Eiffel

Selfie King Jason??

Early morning boulangerie stops w the bestie!

The Louvre

“Monsieur! Levez-vous si vous plaît!!” – the security guard yelling at me to stop imitating a Beyonce music video

The Wedding at Cana

Us and Mona

Me absorbing all the culture of Paris

Yet another leg kick flic

Can you hear the bells?

Carley, Jason, and their AMAZING Parisian tourguide

Updates from Dijon

Bonjour à tous. As my first semester in France begins to wind down, I have been spending more and more time in Dijon, appreciating the city and des gens (the people) that I have come to know in the past couple of months. After all of my crazy trips, and oftentimes misfortunate traveling scenarios, I am always relieved to come back to the one city in Europe where I know that I belong. Since my last blogpost about Dijon in September, I have met so many new people and discovered much more of what Dijon has to offer and I cant wait to share about it all with you!

For starters, I am pretty engrossed in my classes à la Fac (at the university) now. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of blunders à la Fac: sitting for 10 minutes in a German class that wasn’t mine, waiting outside of classrooms for courses that either hadn’t started yet or were canceled without notification, or simply not having an answer when asked about my opinion on America’s latest des impôts agricoles (farm taxes) in my Econ class. Yet overall, classes have been going surprisingly well, considering the fact that not a single word of English is spoken in any of them.

Since my last post about Dijon, I have also started mon boulot (my job) as an English Foreign Language Assistant at a local collège (middle school). Between Thursday and Friday, I have four conversation classes with 15 students each ranging from ten to thirteen years old. For a majority of mes élèves (my students), I am the first American that they have ever met. So, naturally I was bombarded with questions about common American stereotypes  on my first day. Its funny how foreign the American way of life is to the French people. My students were repulsed by the ideas of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and taking a bright yellow bus to school every day. I am excited to keep sharing my culture with mes élèves so that when they visit America they will be able to make connections as I did when I came to France, thanks to my French FLAs at Holy Cross.

Although I have deeply enjoyed my time in Dijon so far, the most difficult part is la solitude (the loneliness) that I have encountered when faced with the fact that I am the only Holy Cross student in my city. Not having HC friends to eat lunch or explore the city with is tough, and it’s difficult to find the motivation to be social when none of the faces around you are remotely familiar, but luckily my solitude has forced me to go out and meet new people in Dijon. While there are a few other American students who are also in Dijon, its very rare to come across one, due to the fact that they all take similar classes outside of the university and don’t interact with anyone but each other. Heureusement  (fortunately), I have met few British and Irish students through various ERASMUS events (ERASMUS is Europe’s version of study abroad) that I really enjoy being around. And while we all speak the same language, it is clearly evident that their cultures are similar to each others’ and quite different from my own. One minute I’ll be fully engaged in a conversation with a group of them, but as soon as slang is used like “ey-up” or “quid,” and references from shows like “Coronation Street” and “the Inbetweeners” are made, it’s like I’m listening to another foreign language.  If I have learned anything while abroad, it’s that smiling and nodding with a simple “ouais” or “yeah” thrown in there can get you through most conversations in most circumstances, but not all. 

À bientôt!

-Sean

Maxime du jour: c’est du chinois pour moi ” its all Chinese for me”- the French version of “it’s all Greek to me”

 

 

Living a lifelong dream en Italie

If you know me, then you know that I have dreamed of traveling to Italy my entire life. Hearing my grandparents’ stories of their times abroad in Italy is what sparked my interest in des cultures étrangères (foreign cultures) in the first place. With this in mind, when I realized that I would have a week long break from classes for Toussaints (All Saints Day), booking an extended trip to la mère patrie (the mother country) with a few friends was a no brainer. Once booked, it finally dawned on me that I would finally be completing one of the top goals of my study abroad experience, and of my life in general, which caused major excitement to commence.

The first stop on our tour was Venice, a city that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. There is no other place in the world that I can compare it to. Its one thing to see pictures of des ponts (the bridges) and the gondolas, but to actually walk along the pavements of the city with water next to me instead of paved roads was truly a captivating experience. Although we went during tourist low season, the small city pathways were still crowded with people. I couldn’t imagine visiting during the peak summer months when its even more jam packed. Néanmoins (nonetheless), Venice’s  unique way of living and scenic views truly lived up to my expectations, which causes me to firmly attest the fact that Venice is a city that every person must see in their lifetime.

Next on the list was Florence. Florence was the quintessential Italian experience that I had always dreamed of. The pasta was to die for, the people talked with les mains (their hands), and there were old men playing accordions on the streets. The first thing on our to do list while in the Tuscan region was to travel to Pisa for obvious reasons. After somewhat of an underwhelming trip, the leaning tower of Pisa is much smaller and not as tilted as you would expect, we went back to the birthplace of the Renaissance to be cultured by des musées d’art (some art museums). Walking into Academia and seeing the statue of David was actually breathtaking. I have never had a real reaction from seeing art before, but the statue of David actually took my breath away. In this singular masterpiece of a sculpture, I came to understand the rebirth of culture that came about during the Renaissance and gained a much deeper respect for artists of the day, especially after our great tourguide (Stasie) told us that David was meant to represent Florence battling the Goliath, who represented Rome. After soaking up as much culture as humanly possible, my friends and I met up with some of the Holy Cross kids who are currently studying in Florence. I was beyond jealous of them for being able to live in such an amazing city, but it was clear that their lives in such a famous city had some cons as well. English could be heard almost as much as Italian in the city due to the immense American study abroad population. After a few amazing nights in Florence, my friends and I had to trek across the city to the bus station in the pouring rain in order to catch our bus at 5am, which turned out to be an hour late.

After finally reaching Rome, we headed straight to the Vatican where we were able to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis celebrating All Saints Day Mass. The Vatican was yet another place that I’ve always wanted to visit, and the grandiose church that is St. Peters Basilica definitely did not disappoint. Then, after une longe sieste ( a long nap), the group and I did some sight seeing of the rest of the city. Seeing the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon all lit up at night was magical to say the least. Being able to put a face to the name of what was the capital city of one of the most dominant empires in history was incredible to say the least. Its crazy to think how rich in culture and history just one country is. By the last few days of the trip I was épuisé (exhausted), and I sadly found myself not appreciating as much of Rome as I should have. Luckily, I have another semester to go back and revisit!

Au total (All in all), I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Italy. It was amazing to experience all the sights and sounds that I have dreamed about for so long. In the past, when asked for my life long ambitions, my answer would always be “to travel to Italy,” and I am so grateful that studying abroad has given me the opportunity to achieve this goal. The only problem is, now I need to find new  goal in life to set. So, I’ll let you know as soon as I think of one.

À plus tard!

-Sean

Leçon du jour: faites ce que les romains font “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”- a saying that I find myself repeating a lot while trying to assimilate to life in Europe

Photos from Week 12

The Duomo in Florence

Inside the Duomo

The ultimate leg kick @Isabel

The only piece of art that has ever taken my breath away

Met up with a few fellow New York Italians while in Florence

Showing off my new shoes

The travel squad

Feeling #blessed

Can you tell that we love history?

Italy is truly what dreams are made of

Photos from Week 11

I finally realized why they call it la Côte-d’Or (gold coast)

I had to replace my cover picture

My host mom Jocelyne and I at a restaurant!

Unplanned HC meet up in some obscure city in France

Stasie, Me, Ava, and Abby  in Venice

Piazza San Marco

FINALLY living my dream of coming to Italy 😀

My grandparents used to have a painting that looked EXACTLY like this hanging up in their house when I was little

A pretty cool view in Venice

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