Category Archives: Temple Summer

Meet The Students

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My passion for service started when I volunteered at Riverview Medical Center at the age of 13. I started out in a surgery unit and after a couple weeks I expanded my horizons. I worked in several wings of the hospital, including the emergency room, oncology services, and the maternity ward. I wanted to know the entire hospital. There was something very fulfilling about using my knowledge and interpersonal skills at the hospital…so fulfilling that I have chosen to participate in work like this ever since.

13255957_870606639734532_4670003744189328156_nLikewise, my study abroad program in Jamaica emphasizes the role of service learning. 12 of us students applied for this program specifically for the service-learning component. This program offers a complex teaching and learning environment that is designed to enhance learning through the process of connecting academic course content with service opportunities in the Jamaican community. Never before have I met such hard working, passionate, and inspiring individuals. I interviewed a student from each of the five service sites that we partnered with in Jamaica. It was such a pleasure to hear their stories and I want to share them along with mine.

Julia is a senior double major in Global Studies and Spanish. She chose to serve at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority because she is interested in international communities and economic development. She created a system called Farm Smart that encourages farmers to be environmentally conscious. It includes an assessment that extension officers can use to approve farms as “Farm Smart.” She hopes that Farm Smart will become a network of sustainable farmers that help and support one another.

 

13174222_866907936771069_6997818635230605583_nAllegra is a junior Public Health major. She chose to serve at Yallahs High School because she is interested in teaching a Health, Family, and Life Education course. When she met with school and faculty to address common issues, they came to a consensus that they will create a life skills workshop.

Dariel is a graduate student and studies Adult & Organizational Development. Of all the sites, Dariel felt as though the Women’s Centre was perfect for her to exercise her knowledge and skills. She is currently working on a vision board project with pregnant teenagers and teen moms in order to create a visual representation of their goals for themselves and their children. Next, she will start a peer mentorship program, where former students at the Women’s Centre are paired with new students in order to provide support, encouragement, experience, and a listening ear.

13278007_1131085360248332_1036407672_nEmily is a senior Psychology major with an Education minor. She has always been interested in the childhood and adolescent stages of life. When she heard that our program partners with Yallahs Primary School to work with students with aggressive behavior, she knew this was the right site for her. She meets with the students every Tuesday and Thursday to help facilitate the group. Some activities she has planned involve mindfulness, meditation, and role-playing.

13164385_867553450039851_8050133477594204928_n-2I am a senior Psychology major with Sociology minor. I, too, facilitate with Emily. In addition, I do community-based research with the Change From Within team at The University of West Indies. We partner with successful urban schools in Kingston and examine how they succeed despite very trying circumstances. We look for patterns of success and then facilitate other schools in the area that could benefit from our framework. Right now, we are in the early phases but I am hoping to find significant results that the Kingston school district can learn from and use long after I am gone.

It is so refreshing to be around people who are trying to create positive change. At the dinner table we discuss our progress, during outings we point out things that remind us of our site, and before we go to sleep we lie in bed and share our hopes and fears. There is this mutual respect for each other because we all share a common goal: to learn and to serve.

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Ready? Set? No.

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Elizabeth Holleigh Christie        So I was thinking last night… You know how thoughts in your head are just kind of static? Flashes of ideas— ever so often a word or two, but mostly they’re just a voiceless shifting mess in your brain. Until, of course,  a spark hits it. It finds all its parts and translates itself into real words— a sentence. Something you can say and then… it’s real. In an instant. Just like that. It was nothing and then, materialized into something meaningful.

Right now, that’s how this experience feels. It feels like I’m just a piece of the voiceless mess, frantically trying to link things together. But I know, once my plane lands in Berlin, that’ll be the spark. Everything will fall into place, for the inspiring better or the comedic worse.
I’m hopeful. Of course I am. But I’m also prepared for the worst. “The worst” is my specialty. In fact, I’m pretty sure “Murphy’s Law” is etched in my family’s crest. Even still, I hold on to idealistic daydreams of what it will be like.

        But you know how I mention it not exactly being not real yet? That really throws a wrench in my ability to agonize over it, day and night. No, instead I tend to agonize over what I’m leaving behind. My family, my job, and most importantly, my dogs. They’re all pretty much the same thing. My family (my mom and two older sisters) and I run a pet care service. We walk dogs and take them to the park. We post pictures to Instagram and send silly “pup-dates” to their owners. I see those happy tails every day. I desperately try to make my sisters laugh every day.  That’s my life. The chaos of it all doesn’t change much, but I worry about missing a moment of it. I love my job. I smile and laugh every day because of it. I wonder if not having a golden retriever climb on top of me every day will affect my overall mood. I wonder if I’ll be noticeably more solemn without a lab pulling my arm out of its socket on the way to the park. It’s silly, I know. But thinking about things to come, I guess that might be the hardest. But now that I’m sitting here thinking about what could happen while I’m there, I’m finding it easier to fixate on unhappy possibilities. So, in the spirit of “What could go wrong?” I made a list. 

My list of concerns is as follows:  

  • Prez the Boston Terrier and Charlie Rooz the German Shepard not getting enough hugs.
  • Not knowing enough German and the local residents yelling at me.
  • The food being terrible
  • Blanking on what German I do know, and flunking the placement exam causing me to retake a course I’ve already taken and the entire endeavor being for naught.

  • Not being able to keep up.

  • Not having packed the right shoes.

  • Losing socks and having to wear mismatched pairs.

  • The weather being bad.

  • Longing for S’mores, but not being able to obtain or consume S’mores.

  • My classmates thinking I’m an idiot.

  • Getting lost and ending up in The Czech Republic.

  • Trying to get to to The Czech Republic and end up in Poland.

  • Finding Nemo 2 coming out and not being able to avoid spoilers before I can go home and see it in English.
  • Crying myself to sleep and my roommates hearing me…. or joining in.
  • My suite mates knowing less German than I do and no English, so we spend our days communicating through awkward and elaborate charades.

 

  • My adapter plug not working for my hair drier, resulting 4 weeks of uncontrollable medusa frizz.

Maybe I’m worrying for nothing. But at this point, simply seeing the words “placement test” make my stomach knot. I know I’m gonna get that test and forget every conjugation I’ve ever learned. I might just go into a panic-induced trance and do the whole thing in Old English. Who knows.

I have a whole week left to stress out about convoluted circumstances. But here, in the U.S., it’s a holiday weekend, which means dogs, dogs, and more dogs! Maybe even hotdogs!  I’ve still got a lot to keep my brain from spinning too fast around the possibilities. The spark isn’t here yet. But I spend more and more time with each passing night, lying in my bed, marinading in uncertainty… What? I’m sorry. That was weird way to say that. Uh…. I still have time to deliberate over the forthcoming unknown…. Ugh. That wasn’t much better. Okay. Well, then without a proper ending. I’m gonna call this one quits. The next post will have lots of pictures and… I don’t know, probably some funny stories. Stay tuned! I’ll catch you on the other side of the Atlantic!

A New Home & Family

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The Temple Summer Study Abroad Program in Jamaica is unique and separates itself from other programs because it combines service and learning. It stresses ecological perspectives and group dynamics. I have only been in Jamaica for a week and I am starting to appreciate life in a way I am not used to. I am much more mindful of my surroundings and the people around me.

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My bedroom is conveniently located next to the backyard beach.

In order to go on this program, you had to sign up to live at Carleva Bay Villa; a beach house decorated in Caribbean decor. Of course, I did not hesitate at the sound of “beach front villa.” It is simply stunning. There are 3 bedrooms, occupied by 12 Temple students, and there are 5 main common areas in my house.
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Mrs. D and Lisa occupy the kitchen and create authentic home made Jamaican dishes for us to eat morning and night. Lunch is on our own and that offers us a chance for us to go into Yallahs Square and immerse ourselves in the local neighborhood. I always believed food brings people together, so in this short amount of time we have gotten very close to our chefs. We even call them by their pet names, which is an intimate custom in Jamaica. Pet names are given at birth and only significant others address the other by their pet name. We eat our homemade meals in a large dining table that seats up to 20 people. At my house in NJ we do not usually eat as a family. That was a habit I always wanted my family to have. Here in Jamaica, I feast with my new study abroad family.

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The living room is connected to the dining room. Here you can find pictures of local landscapes mounted on the walls and antique African wicker seating. Lovely white mesh curtains flow in the wind as our home is ventilated with the ocean breeze. Jamaican homes are constructed in ways that allow a constant ebb and flow of ventilation and this can be done through intricate wall openings. I am finding my courses to be writing and reading intensive, so this living room offers a place where you can study peacefully. Most of the students study here, sipping on fresh mango and ginger juice to pass the time.

81fd9261-8e46-4cf4-a46c-ebcbb91f4571.jpgAdjacent to the living room is the outdoor atrium. This is where classes take place. Not many people can say they get to learn in an environment like this. It may be outdoors, but it is still very conducive to learning. The sun peaks through the open ceiling and the breeze flows in from all directions. No matter what room I am in, I hear the calm ocean tides and smell the salty beach air. My senses are always stimulated and this keeps me awake for our 2 hour class. So far we have read and discussed books like Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, by Manfred B. Steger and Learning Through Service, by Christine M. Cress. Each of us in the group brings new knowledge and insight to class and I learn something new everyday. For example, Julia’s finance background sheds light on the economic side of globalization whereas Mara’s Africology background informs us on more cultural aspects.

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After a long day of studying, walking around Yallahs, and swimming in the clear blue ocean, you can find me rocking away on a bed that hangs from a shady tree encompassing the backyard. It is a great place to unwind and one time I fell asleep without even trying to. I looked up and woke up to the dark starry sky. I have never seen this many stars in my life before. I wanted to stay out there all night, but I thought I’d sleep early so I could watch the sunrise, too. I made my way over to the outdoor showers. We have the option of showering inside, however, you have to turn the water pump on. These days, I want to take advantage of this beautiful country and do everything outside. As I washed the sand off my body, I looked up and saw the half crescent moon. Every night in the shower I look up and take note of the the moon phases. It is the little things like that that truly ground me. I have seen my share of places, but never before have I felt so connected to a place, both physically and mentally. I am amazed by how fast I was able to consider Carleva Bay Villa my home.

From New Jersey to Jamaica: A Reflection.

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Ever since I was little I have been writing in journals. I knew as I aged I could look back in hindsight and reflect on the pages that documented my memories. A typical journal entry would read as a fun day around my hometown in New Jersey. For example, I wrote about the hot summer days at Pier Village Beach and the thrills of going on various rides at Six Flags Great Adventure. Fast forward a couple years and now my journal entries reflect on the places I explore in Philadelphia and the social and professional connections I am making at Temple University. However, my latest journal entries are about the experience I am about to embark on to Jamaica. Like journals, blogs more or less work in the same fashion. Once I return home to the U.S., I anticipate that I will reread my blog posts and experience all sorts of emotions that contradict each other: happy to be home…but sad to leave a place that became a second home, and relieved to be back in a country that I know like the back of my hand…but already yearning for more cultural assimilation in Jamaica.

Currently, I am experiencing the following emotions such as excitement, anxiety, and curiosity. I am excited to travel outside of the U.S. for my first time, anxious to take on the variety of unknown experiences, and curious to understand another society’s culture. As I feel these emotions I ask myself, “How will traveling to a rural area change my current perspectives…how will I deal with the initial culture shock… will Jamaicans like me?” I try to answer my internal thoughts by utilizing the people and resources around me.

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Vira Heinz Scholarship leadership training in Pittsburgh, PA

On March 18, I took my very first plane ride to Pittsburgh for the Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Women In Global Leadership Conference. I was proud to represent Temple University as the VIH scholarship recipient because those who selected me believed that, as a woman, I have what it takes to lead in and out of my country. That recognition alone inspires me to act as a leader every day. As one of our pre-departure assignments, I interviewed an international student. I reached out to a student from Budapest. I learned so much about Dmitrij – especially about his plan to conquer his long term goals while abroad in the U.S. and the shifts in perspectives since he arrived.

Also, I spoke to members of The Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness (SOCA). Although I do not identify as Caribbean, they happily welcomed me at their meeting. I enjoyed hearing them discuss social, political, economic, and cultural issues that occur within the islands. They also shared with me their favorite dishes, secret hot spot locations, and the terminology that Jamaicans frequently use.

After speaking to various people, I feel more comfortable about interacting with a new population and environment. I learned that Dmitrij was experiencing the same emotions as me and the advice I received from the members of SOCA helps me feel more knowledgeable of every day life in Jamaica. In addition, my participation in VIH Conference prepared me for the global challenges I may face abroad. In a sense, I feel lucky to have all of these people and resources preparing me, but I know it is my hard work and professional relationships that got me here. I can not wait to extend my work and relationships in Jamaica.

Au revoir, et Bon Courage.

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Well, this is a post I do not want to write; my last.

I’ve punched in the three separate entry codes to my Parisian apartment for the last time. I’ve said my goodbyes to the friends I made and to the family that took care of me. Now I’m back in Philly, ready for the next semester at Temple University. Of course, I’m a little sad; as you’ve hopefully read in my last two posts, I have come to really love the city of Paris. It’s not some dreamy romantic place anymore. I’ve come to understand its true nature, urine smells and all. I still love it.

I decided to apply for this program before I even started college. I had a plan; if I took this class fall semester, and that one spring semester, I could test into a high enough class to finish my minor in Paris over the summer. I had figured out how to spend my summer stipend from Temple Honors! I was completing a minor already! It was perfect.

Then before I left at the end of June, I asked myself, “Do I really know enough about France or the French language to get credit for it on my diploma?” And I was certain the answer was “Absolutely not.” Frankly, as I prepared to go to Paris I felt a little guilty, but that quickly changed when I got there. Now not only do I feel like I’ve earned the minor, I’m hoping to make French my second major.

I spent my last afternoon in Paris eating lunch with friends I wouldn’t see again for a long time. I walked through the Luxembourg Gardens and had my last Parisian ice cream cone and observed French children playing with toy boats in the fountain. I snuck up to the terrace at the Foyer where other Temple students live, because even though I don’t live there it’s an incredible view, and I had to see it one last time. Seriously, if you do the Paris program be sure to go up there. You can see everything, and photos don’t do it justice at all.

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Cassis ice cream in the Luxembourg Gardens

I'll really miss the beautifully manicured gardens of Paris.

I’ll really miss the beautifully manicured gardens of Paris.

Saying goodbye to Beatrix, my host mom, was the hardest of all. “You’re welcome here anytime,” she told me. “I’m sure you’ll be back.” And I truly hope she’s right about that.

The foyer rooftop has one of my favorite views of the city.

The foyer rooftop has one of my favorite views of the city.

To everyone who’s been following my travels through this blog and through my Facebook page, thank you so much for your support. It’s time for me to do some work on my personal blog, now.

To anyone considering studying abroad, DO IT. Whether it’s a summer or a year, Paris or New Zealand, something you’ve studied for a long time or something brand new–deciding to go is the first step in a great big, awesome adventure.

Au revoir, et bon courage!

Another Week, Another Life-Changing Realization

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Even after the 4-weekers finished their programs and headed home, it didn’t hit me for a few days: I only had 2 more weeks. And by the time this is posted, I’ll be down to just a few days.

I’m still somewhat in denial. A small, dreamy part of me wants to stay in Paris for the foreseeable future, and put my ‘real life’ on hold. But deep down, I miss my family and friends. And frankly, I’m running out of cash. Plus, college is pretty important to me, y’know, I guess…

I’m trying not to let the fact that my stay is ending get me down. I’ve had an incredible, unforgettable summer. I’ve lived a different lifestyle. I’ve changed.

Indeed it is.

Indeed it is.

Today when I saw my reflection in the metro doors, I realized I’ve become a totally new version of myself. I’m confident and I’m adventurous. I’m independent in a way that I never realized I could be. I feel like in Paris, I became my truest self. I vividly remember my first day here: standing on the metro, sweating like crazy and pulling two suitcases along in the midst of a heat wave. I was self-conscious. I was scared.

I’ve always felt I was pretty good at putting forward a positive version of myself. In the past, if I wasn’t confident, I pretended I was. So my earlier blog post about culture shock, where I admitted to some pretty intense emotion, was a big step for me. Once I admitted how anxious and overwhelmed I was, I found I was able to overcome it. Not just my fears about studying abroad, but my fears and anxieties about life in general–because those issues that scared me so much, like fitting in and making friends, go beyond studying abroad.

Since that day I’ve gone through experiences and I’ve accomplished things that have changed my identity on a fundamental level. The way I see myself has changed completely, and I’ve accepted and embraced the qualities that I once viewed as faults. Now, I really do have the confidence that I always used to fake. I finally feel like I am, on the inside, the person that I’ve always projected on the outside; the person I’ve always aspired to be.

(Insert cheesy reference about how I've blossomed like beautiful flower)

(Insert cheesy reference about how I’ve blossomed like beautiful flower)

What I wonder now is, do I have to leave that behind? Does this fearless, powerful self only exist in Paris?

Taken at the Paris Opera Palais Garnier

Taken at the Paris Opera Palais Garnier

The change I’ve observed in myself hasn’t been exclusively thanks to my environment; it just took some powerful circumstances to make me discover a better way of being myself. I wrote last week that I want to make “explorer” my permanent mindset, and I’m determined not to let the influence of a familiar environment change that when I get back to the US.

So in the end, I think that the answer to my question is no; that my newfound strength is as much a part of me as my caution and nervousness once were. I’m proud of who I am today, after all that I went through to get to this point. Just like I said weeks ago, I’m still moving forward with positivity and curiosity. Soon, I’m going home–but that doesn’t mean I’m going backwards.

À bientôt…

Preparing to Study Abroad the Right Way

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I thought I prepared for Paris. I was so excited and so nervous, I wanted to be ready for anything. So I watched lots of videos on packing a suitcase efficiently, made all kinds of lists, and bookmarked pages online. I even walked through my commute to school on Google street view, to make sure I had it down.

Ah, remember when my biggest problem was rolling vs. folding?

Ah, remember when my biggest problem was rolling vs. folding?

None of that was useful. So for others who would go through the same kind of preparation, I’m hoping to stop you, and to tell you that you can do a lot better.

I wish I had prepared intellectually by reading more books in the early summer. And here’s why I’d encourage any traveler to do the same:

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned here is that studying abroad is not a bucket list experience. It’s so, so easy to go to a historic site and just look around and check it off of a list. But to really learn from it is a much richer experience, and one that I highly recommend.

I’ve realized that intellectual preparation is the key to time well-spent. For example, the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. It’s absolutely stunning and totally overwhelming. In preparation for Paris, I decided I would go there. I even bought a book; but I didn’t read it. So when I went to the museum I wandered through halls of paintings and statues that didn’t interest me very much, and I ran out of time before anything really amazed me. Had I done more preparation, I could have had a better time.

Paris has an incredible and long history, and in my first few weeks I saw many things of historic value and thought to myself “Hm. Okay… Now what?” Since I’m now reading more about the city’s history, I see much of it in a different light. It’s amazing, reading a chapter of my book and then going out the next day to see the very places where the events unfolded not just hundreds, but thousands of years ago.

To be honest, history doesn’t often excite me; but because I’m here, and because these landmarks and locations are becoming a part of my life, their stories are more interesting to me than ever before. But it took until the fourth week of my time here to find that readable history book, and that’s a lot of time I could have spent with a greater appreciation.

My current stack: History, Cooking, Hemingway, Art...

My current stack: History, Cooking, Hemingway, Art…

Even if you’re really not into reading, watch movies! My classmates often talk about their favorite French movies, and I think “Wow, I should’ve kept watching movies beyond just Amélie.” Listen to podcasts, or music. Whatever you enjoy.

Frankly, what bums me out at this moment is that I had zero excuses not to read, or watch movies, or listen to French radio. I was sitting at home, counting down the days and preparing in all the wrong ways. In reflection, it’s pretty rare to not only spend 6 weeks in a foreign country, but to have about as much time beforehand to prepare. So if you ever find that you are so lucky, I would encourage you to use that time wisely.

What I’m hoping to communicate is, you do not have to wait until you get to your host country to be exposed to the culture. Start early–I know you won’t regret it. It’s a much more enjoyable form of preparation than lists, anyway!

So while it is still important to remember such crucial items as socks, toothpaste, and your passport, don’t neglect to pack your brain as well as your suitcase.

À bientôt!

I Like Olives Now (and Bigger Lifestyle Changes)

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If you love the early seasons of How I Met Your Mother, as I do, you’re probably familiar with the olive theory. For a couple to stay together, one must love olives and the other must hate them. It’s a silly thing, but I think it points to the passionate feelings people can have for something as simple as olives.

Throughout my life, I’ve heard some other interesting ‘olive myths,’ including a story often told by my grandfather in which he ate a whole jar of olives, because a buddy told him that if you hate them you can be converted by doing so. He claims it works, and now I have newfound faith in the story.

There were always a few foods at home that I was never interested in eating, and the short list includes tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives; all of which I’m eating like crazy in France. Maybe it’s the quality of the food, or the preparation. Maybe, like in that story, it’s just the fact that I’m more exposed to these ingredients and I’ve come to appreciate them. Not only do I like them, I’m choosing to add them to things because I like them so much.

Olives AND tomatoes in my salad.

Olives AND tomatoes in my salad.

The change in taste made me reflect on other changes I’ve observed in myself here. Why is it that when I’m sitting in my dorm I’m fine with Netflix marathons, but when I’m here I can’t stand sitting still? Why am I so cautious to go explore in Philadelphia, but so eager to go anywhere and everywhere in Paris?

My theory: I promised myself long before I got here that I would embrace whatever came my way.

Standing in the rain on the coldest summer day I've ever experienced = Tour de France memories. Hi Christopher Froome!

Standing in the rain on the coldest summer day I’ve ever experienced = Tour de France memories. Hi Christopher Froome!

Maybe that’s not very clear. It’s not as though I sat down and I said “Self, you’re going to go to Paris this summer and you’re going to take whatever comes. Ok? Ok.” In reality, I just made choices to encourage myself to be open to change. Like my choice to live with a host family: I forced myself to accept a different lifestyle because I chose to be immersed in it. I aspired to not just spectate the Parisian mode de vie, but to make it my own for a while.

Studying abroad is an incredible experience that many people don’t get even once in their lifetime. I feel so lucky, because the way I’m looking at Paris has inspired me to change the way I look at my ‘normal’ life. I explore Paris actively because my stay here is temporary; but why shouldn’t I explore my home city in the same way? Philadelphia will be my next “olive.” As a kid I hated Philly, and it took visiting Temple years later to change my mind and call it home (thanks for forcing me to visit something in-state, Mom!).

I enjoy Philadelphia now; but I’ve never made the effort to fully appreciate it, the kind of effort I’m applying now in Paris. I haven’t exactly “eaten the whole jar” of Philadelphian culture, if that makes any sense. Why should I adopt my explorer attitude only when I know my stay is temporary? I want to make this outlook a regular part of my life. In the future, I intend to get the most out of every day, whether it’s in Paris, Philadelphia, or anywhere else. Adventure is out there, and I will find it wherever it is!

À bientôt!

How I Know I’m Settled In

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A few weeks ago, I shared my experience with culture shock. Since then I’ve gotten much more comfortable here, and I want to share some happier thoughts!

It took just over a week for me to memorize the digital code for my apartment in Paris, but it made a huge difference when I finally did. Not having to pull out that sheet of paper to punch in the code made me feel like it was actually becoming my home. Another thing that makes me feel more local is cooking for myself. It’s made me familiar with markets, grocery stores, and my neighborhood, plus it’s a lot easier on my budget than eating at restaurants all the time.

I’ve also been spending more time talking with my host family, getting braver with longer statements and ideas. They tell me I’m doing really well, and the encouragement of native speakers is pretty high praise when you’re working on a foreign language. Plus it’s a sign that the improvement I’m noticing in myself is not just an illusion!

A city transportation experience also boosted my confidence. Recently I was hanging out with some friends, and was on the other side of Paris later than I meant to be, but I managed to get on the very last metro on my line for the night. What made it a victory, for me, was the fact that I wasn’t stressed out by the experience. If you know me, you know I generally like to have a plan and stay on schedule, especially when traveling. Proof: I made a spreadsheet when my friends and I went to Disney in high school (I’m not proud…well, maybe a little). My lack of anxiety made me realize that at this point, I’m beyond traveling; I’m living here, albeit temporarily. I’ve taken a taxi before and I know that if I needed to do it I absolutely could. I’m still glad I caught that train, though. Taxis are expensive.

Circles and triangles and one-way streets... No way I'd want to drive here!

Circles and triangles and one-way streets… No way I’d want to drive here!

In fact, the metro of Paris was one of the things that worried me the most before my arrival. There was no order, no pattern. But I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with it since I’m staying in a very residential neighborhood. I don’t even have to map out my journeys ahead of time anymore; as long as I know what line my destination is on, I can get there without preparing.

The metro is also full of strangely amusing advertisements. Like Claude, here, who found the djembe of his dreams at a moderate price. Nice one, Claude.

The metro is also full of strangely amusing advertisements. Like Claude, here, who found the djembe of his dreams at a moderate price. Nice one, Claude.

Another achievement was speaking in class. For my first week, I think the only thing I said in class was “Yes, I’m cold,” because the air conditioning in that building is always set for freezing. But more recently we were discussing media and the quality of today’s journalism. Incase you missed it, I’m a journalism major. So I had some thoughts to share and I figured if I was ever meant to speak in class, that was the day. I wound up talking for several minutes about my ideas and experiences. My professor understood me in spite of a few errors, and it improved my confidence immensely.

I’m now at a point where I can say that despite occasional discomforts I’m really happy in Paris. I’m meeting incredible people and doing things that I find fun and interesting. That, for me, is definitely a success.

I’m finished with 3 of my 6 weeks of class now, and I’ve already started to wish I was staying for a semester instead of a summer. On the one hand, that makes me feel great about the prospect of studying for a semester in the future, but on the other I’m already dreading the day I have to leave this incredible city. I don’t think there’s a single other place in the world where I could see rodents in the metro station and be totally charmed by it. If only I could be a tiny mouse, and live in one of the world’s most beautiful cities without paying rent…

À bientôt!

Homestay Pros and Cons

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Today I realized that I’ve yet to address my living situation while in France!

I’m living in an apartment with a lovely retired woman named Béatrix who grew up in northern France. Often her son will join us for dinner, and sometimes so will her nephew or other family members. She hosts as many as 3 international students at once, so I’m also living with a student from Taiwan and another from China. I have my own bedroom and I use the kitchen as I please.

Ah, how neat it looked in here before I unpacked...

Ah, how neat it looked in here before I unpacked…

My own desk and a big sunny window.

My own desk and a big sunny window.

I want to start out by saying that I really love my homestay, but that I wouldn’t recommend the option for everyone. First I’ll explain some challenges, and then some rewards.

Homestays are challenging because…

We only speak French in the house (unless there is desperate confusion). I never knew true mental exhaustion before this experience! Often I get back to the apartment after listening to my professors speak French rapidly for three hours, and Béatrix wants to hear about my morning, and what my plans are for the afternoon, and would I like some coffee? And it’s hard for me to say “I’m sorry, I just need ten minutes to lay down and absorb some things.”

Then there’s the commute. For my counterparts in the Foyer, which is somewhat like a dorm, I’m told that the walk to class takes around 15 minutes. My commute involves 2 metro lines and takes around 25 minutes, and of the 3 Temple students living with host families I believe I have the shortest commute. It’s not easy getting to the metro for the journey to my 8am class.

My biggest challenge by far has been communication with other students. With everybody’s varied phone plans, Wi-Fi accessibility, etc., it can be really hard for me to make plans with others. Since I’m not at the Foyer constantly running into other students, often we just don’t see each other. It’s normal for me to go out on my own and explore Paris independently. I’d definitely emphasize to students choosing their residence that a homestay requires self-reliance.

The last negative I can think of is that there’s a little more responsibility and accountability required to live together with locals. If I decide I’m not coming back for dinner, or if I’m going away for the weekend, I have to let my family know so they don’t worry about me.

I love my homestay because…

Typically your family will have hosted students before, and will know how to help you get the most out of your experience. My family includes me in conversations and will often stop to make sure I understand a word or phrase before I can even ask about it. The best way to learn conversational French is to talk to native speakers, which is much easier when you’re under their roof!

On top of that, Béatrix is a wonderful cook. I have heard of host families where this is not the case, but at any rate you’ll become accustomed to whatever meals are typical in your host country. My agreement specifies that my host family makes dinner for me 3 times per week, which I feel is just enough to take away some of the stress of planning while still allowing me to try restaurants, have picnics, and cook for myself when I want to.

And last: I love having a host mom. She tells me when it’s too beautiful out to do homework. She makes sure I’m learning but I’m not terribly stressed. She even does my laundry. Basically, she’s the greatest. But she doesn’t baby me, get me out of bed, or get on my case for anything. It’s perfect for me because I’m not afraid of exploring on my own, but I don’t always have ideas for what to do. Who better to advise me than a real live Parisian?

So in conclusion: If you’re adventurous, independent, and outgoing, and if you’re not afraid to really dive into the language and culture of your study abroad destination, do a homestay. You’ll learn a ton and have an amazing and unique experience that will truly force you to embrace your host country’s culture!