This past week has been amazing; partly because I finally have hot water and will never take an ice cold shower again, and partly because I found a loofah! (after a two week hunt).
I haven’t even lived in France for a full month yet, but I feel like I’ve always been here. Everything has fallen into place so quickly and perfectly. I have two amazing girlfriends who I do practically everything with and we have found the Erasmus students; a great group of students who, like me, want to learn and grow in the French culture.
Living abroad is a beautiful experience because you meet people from all over the world that you would never otherwise meet. In Tarbes, a small city in France, I have met Columbians, Brazilians, Germans, Argentinians, and Canadians. These friendships seem to grow so much faster abroad. We all share that same quality that made us decide to leave our comfort zones and live in a new country. And when we meet each other, it just clicks.
I have also become very friendly with large castles and fortresses. In fact, I’ve decided that the theme of October is castles. My brain is now jam-packed with castle trivia, but since I always get my Georges and Henris confused, my facts are not always accurate.
I also had my first week of teaching. I have 12 classes a week and my students are between 7 and 10 years old. I really enjoy sharing the American culture with them, like teaching them about Seattle, and it is gratifying when I notice their improvements in English. And, being around children all day is also extremely hilarious. My students thought I lived in the White House, they thought Seattle was in the state of Las Vegas, England and Australia, and they drew me pictures of the German and Finnish flag (I still have no idea why).
I am teaching three days this week, then I have a vacation. My life is so hard 🙂
After a delayed flight, a missed train, a canceled train and being temporarily homeless, I have finally settled into my new city!
I spent a few days in Toulouse, one of the biggest student cities in France. I already can’t wait to go back and luckily it’s a short train ride away from Tarbes. Toulouse is an incredibly young and vibrant city with so many things to do: there are parks, museums, beautiful churches, shopping and a great nightlife. It’s also called La Ville Rose because all the buildings are an orangey-pink color.
I find the people in Toulouse (and in my city) much more open and friendlier than the people in Aix. Perhaps it’s thanks to the strong Spanish influence; Toulouse has more Spanish inhabitants than any other city in France!
Tarbes isn’t as exciting as Toulouse, but it is very charming. There are a fair amount of students, gorgeous parks, all the major stores (including H&M!) and the most amazing marché ever. You can walk anywhere and everyone is willing to help you out. For example, since the measurements are all different here, a saleswoman spent 30 minutes helping me find the right sized linens for my bed.
I have met a bunch of other language assistants and can’t wait to meet more. This program provides a great network; in almost every city or village in this region, there will be one assistant that could show me around or let me stay with him or her. I am happy I have many friends already, and now I just need to make French friends!
Sometimes I forget that I actually came to France to work. I have an orientation tomorrow where I will meet more assistants, learn where I will be teaching and hopefully meet my teachers. I hope my students are ready for their crash course in American culture – peanut butter included.
“Change is not pleasant, but change is constant. Only when we change and grow will we see a world we’ve never known”
Tomorrow is the big day! After eight months of paperwork and planning, I am off to France. I have a layover at JFK and will arrive in Paris on Saturday afternoon. My contract starts October 1, so I have some time beforehand to travel around and, more importantly, find housing in Tarbes!
I am meeting up with my best friend (who I met in France last year), Nadalee, in Paris to go to explore our region. We will visit Toulouse, the biggest city in the area, then go together to my city, Tarbes, then go to her city. Traveling and living abroad with someone creates such a special bond and I am so lucky to spend another year abroad with Nadalee.
This past week has been a blur; I’ve gone through all the necessary motions (packing, running errands, creating lesson plans), but the fact that I was actually leaving hadn’t hit me. Now, as I am starting to get the pre-travel jitters, I am starting to feel everything: I am scared, excited, happy, sad and anxious.
This has been a summer filled with airports. Amazing, happy reunions and sad goodbyes. The drive to the airport seems so familiar now, with each turn and exit bringing back memories. But this time, the trip to the airport seems different. Perhaps because I am saying hello and goodbye at the same time.
In the spring of 2010, I spent six months studying in Aix-en-Provence. It is a picturesque city with Paul Cezanne’s Mount Saint Victoire cascading in the distance and is bustling with students from all over the world. In many ways, Aix was my crash course on how to live abroad; Living in France 101. I kept a journal during those six months and would jot down tips that I learned along the way. Here are some of the most important lessons:
Here are some items that literally did not exist in Aix. You may be able to find these things in different areas of France, but I’m not taking any chances.
There are endless tips and tricks to have a fun and affordable vacation in Europe, but here are the big ones:
Bonjour tout le monde!
Please follow me on my next adventure in France! This time, I will be teaching English at an école primaire (ages 6-11) in Tarbes, France. My contract is seven months long and I have about five weeks of paid vacation (in other words, I will be completely spoiled when I come back to the states!).
Don’t worry, I didn’t know where Tarbes was either when I learned that I was assigned to the city. Tarbes is in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in south-western France. The city is on the border of Spain and is nestled in the Pyrénées mountains. It is about two hours away from Toulouse.
My best friend from my semester in Aix-en-Provence in 2010 is also a teaching assistant in the Toulouse region (she will be living two hours away from me). It is a completely different feeling going back to France knowing you have a great friend there, as opposed to arriving completely alone. Our first vacation is two weeks after our official start date, so I can’t wait to spend hours researching flights on RyanAir and EasyJet again (Germany is on the top of my list).
I have a little over a month before I leave. In many ways, the time before your trip is the most enjoyable. You are living with the knowledge that you are about to travel the world and start a new adventure and, at the same time, you get to spend time with your closest friends and family. Although I am very used to saying goodbye, this time will be especially hard. Luckily for everyone, I am an excellent penpal 🙂