So I just wanted to elaborate on my first Airbnb experience and to let others know what is out there!
The location of the Airbnb was not very good, which of course depends on what your plans are while staying in France. Yes, Herblay is fairly close to Paris, certainly closer than Pontoise, but it is a really small town. There is not much going on there in the way of nightlife, grocery shopping, events, etc. In fact there isn’t any perceptible sign of nightlife and there is one grocery store — but they do have a really nice farmer’s market Saturday mornings!
“I met some really great people who were warm, talkative, and who welcomed me to France as well as to Herblay.”
The studio itself had four walls and a roof, but that was about it. There was a towel about the size of a hand towel (I am not exaggerating), which obviously was not washed because it left teal fuzz all over my body, and the bed simply had a tapestry thrown over it. The tapestry did not fit and I would not have categorized it in any way as a bedding. It was more of a table runner. I did find a comforter in the closet but this was odd as well. It seemed to have come from a little girls room from the 90s, with little pink and purple flowers all over it.
It was also stained, which was a little unsettling. So I ended up using the stained little girls comforter because it was either that or freeze all night. Also what I thought was a “rack” on the wall on which to hang towels, was actually a heater of sorts. It apparently is a kind of radiating heater which, as someone born and raised in Arizona, I had no idea of its utility. Also, to be fair, it is in the bathroom and even after I figured out that it heated up I still assumed that it was a towel heater… an assumption from which I have yet to depart.
Moreover, what seems to be fairly common here is the use of a “clic-clac”, which is basically a futon. At least there was not a problem with the comfort level of the clic-clac. Also on the positive side there was a kettle and some coffee mugs, so I could have my daily fix of coffee. This was my first experience/impression after arriving in France and the place I stayed for my first week.
It was not all nightmarish though! Herblay is tranquil and quaint. I would also consider it to be a place to relax and do some introspection, while still being close enough to Paris for weekend or even daily outings.
I met some really great people who were warm, talkative, and who welcomed me to France as well as to Herblay. I met Nick, who works at Nicolas Wine, as well as Mian, an employee at Le Punjabi. They were really helpful and excited to speak to me in French and to try their English as well. I also had my first, nerve wracking experience with the RER in Herblay as well (France’s train that goes from certain localities to Paris and back). I had no idea what I was doing, but somehow figured it out and made it to my mandatory orientation day at ESSEC.
It was here, during my week stay, that I began my apartment search. I called and/or mostly emailed almost every housing ad/agency that I came across and actively searched out. I mean I used half a dozen resources, which I will list here so that it may potentially help others:
This too was a struggle. As previously mentioned my Internet service was sparse and it seems that the only place in my studio where it seemed to sometimes work was when I sat on the counter by the window. Additionally, as I also previously mentioned, French is not my native tongue. Attempting to conduct business in a language that is not your first language is, in and of itself, challenging. Moreover, doing so over the phone adds a level of difficulty … at least for me.
Let’s just say that the apartment search was, and continued to be, extremely frustrating, time consuming and trying to say the least. It is also important to add, as I was told and discovered through the process, that people will not normally respond to emails. For instance, of the 20-plus emails I sent, I may have received one or two emails return.
In conclusion, I would consider this to be the initial “dark” period about which I was warned in my introduction to being thrown into another country, culture, language, etc. The thought that kept running through my mind, particularly after I had moved to my new location in Pontoise was, that that whole experience was a few bed bugs short from a nightmare. I consider myself a very strong person and I found myself thinking and really wanting to just give up and return to San Diego. I was almost at my breaking point!
From France (somewhat regrettably)
Vanessa Reynolds is a non-traditional senior and transfer student studying international business at the ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pontoise, France for the 2018-2019 academic year.