La Vie Quotidienne (The Daily Life)

Studying abroad has been an amazing experience so far; there is no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice to come to France. While in Europe, I have gotten the opportunity to bike ride in Spain, take a thermal bath in Budapest, and walk up the 700-step stairs of the Eiffel Tower.

However, studying abroad is not just traveling all the time, no matter how much it may seem that way from social media.

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SciencesPo and Reims: A Reversal of Expectations

At 7:30 a.m. the day before my flight to France, I registered for six classes that I was ecstatic about. My host university, SciencesPo, boasts prestigious alumni and small class sizes, which make it one of the most well-known universities in France. I was so excited to have been accepted into the program and looked forward to studying “the French way.”

On the other hand, the university was in Reims (pronounced rahnz), which is a smaller city about forty-five minutes outside of Paris by train. I had heard rumors of cold weather, unwelcoming people, and lack of things to do. But weighing the pros and cons, I decided that the school was worth the lackluster location. Now, halfway through the semester, reality has shown the reverse of my expectations.

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Supermarché 101

CLINK! I stare at the carts at the supermarché, or French supermarket, reusable bag in hand perplexed as to why the cart I’m grabbing won’t move. It’s only when a French man sidesteps me and grabs a rolling cart that I see the coin slot to unlock the American-sized chariot I’m used to. Following his lead, I take a rolling cart and marvel at the rows ahead, as I ready myself to experience the cultural feast.

While I can only speak to the French experience, I am sure that grocery shopping is the fastest way to find the art de vivre, or art of life, of your study abroad host city. For my first week, I went to our supermarché almost every day, each time learning more about the local customs and finding new tips I wish I would have had to start off. So, here are some cultural differences and tips for surviving the French supermarket.

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On Being Alone

At SciencesPo, my university here in France, we’ve just finished our orientation week; a week filled with non-stop socialization from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. After each long day, I’ve taken the elevator up to my floor and walked inside my room to find the deafening silence of my apartment.

The gentle hum of my mini fridge coupled with the rhythmic chugging of the fast train outside my window are the only sounds here. I live in an 18-square meter flat in a student residency about a minute’s walk from the central train station and a three minutes’ walk to the closet bar.

But surprisingly, human voices are few and far in between.

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The Dream Continues

Our time in Séguret — although very, very hot — was very refreshing for the mind. During our time there we had the opportunity to visit Vaison La Romaine, a beautiful town with Roman ruins and also Le Naturoptére, an interactive insect museum in Sérignan du Comtat. At the end of each evening we made our way back in Séguret to have a wonderful dinner cooked by Brigette and Norbet Langlet, who together run L’Atelier de Séguret where we stayed.

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Is This Really Home?

Three hundred and thirty-six days: That is how much time I spent away from home this year. Well, that is how much time I spent away from my San Diego home. Eleven months: That is how much time I spent exploring the world. Seeing things I never dreamed of seeing. For years, I dreamed about how my time abroad would be. The anticipation killed me for so long. Now it is all over.

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Coming Full Circle

Though I am still in Europe, my time in France has come to an end. The semester ended two weeks ago, and I am finishing up my last bit of travels as I write this. It is now time to start thinking about transitioning back home after a full year abroad. Home feels so foreign now, and I have very mixed feelings about returning. I am almost more scared to return than I was to go abroad in the first place.

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