Halfway through my study abroad experience, I’ve found a rhythm.
Some mornings I wake up to the sound of travellers with early flights dragging their suitcases down seven flights of echoey stairs (just take the elevator!!), but on most mornings I wake up to the friendly creaking of floorboards under my roommate’s feet and my rumbling stomach’s never-ending need to consume more French bread.
Once I’m up and dressed it is usually too late for me to properly enjoy the breakfast that my residence hall, the Foyer International des Étudiants, offers every morning. As always in France, breakfast consists of baguette with nutella or jam paired with a cup of coffee or juice. For many Americans, this is hard to get used to, but for my carb-and-chocolate-loving self, it works just fine.
My roommate and I head out the Foyer doors, baguette in mouth and nutella in hand, around 9:30 in order to make it to our first class on time. The walk takes about 15-20 minutes and it’s 20 times better than any walk you could have on Temple’s main campus (sorry). We pass the Luxembourg gardens filled with her many joggers, cafés with sleepy-eyed baristas, and restaurants with sidewalk tables already full of people chatting and smoking.
Our first class is phonétique, which is a lab in which we work on properly pronouncing French words and hopefully erasing traces of our accents little by little with the help of our amazing professor. Our phonetics class is small, with only about 7 students, but diverse — I think there are at least 5 different native languages among us.
In the half hour break after phonétique, my roommate and I run across the street to the boulangerie and buy huge smoked salmon and hard-boiled egg baguette sandwiches (trust me, it’s amazing) and grab some tea and coffee.
Our “cours pratique” is where all the real work happens. We have two hours of it a day, five days a week; which is a really different schedule from what us Temple students are used to. Our professor has high expectations for us, and because Temple doesn’t use the exact same proficiency system that the Sorbonne uses, sometimes I find myself being really behind in certain skills that the other students learned in the previous semester’s program. Overall though, the class is challenging in a good way and I have definitely noticed my grammar and comprehension advancing quickly.
After class finishes at 1:30, I usually head back to the Foyer and get a big sorbet/gelato on the way, which is the other staple of my diet here.
Once we drop off our bags in our room and take a breather, anything goes. On Thursdays we like to go listen to our professor give lectures on Albert Camus, but every other weekday we usually pick an attraction off our list, double-check the metro map, and venture out into the unknown.
Yesterday, for example, my roommate and I nearly got heatstroke (okay, maybe not NEARLY) walking out to visit the Rodin Museum in the inescapably horrible Parisian heat. While it is not that hot here (it was only 96 degrees yesterday), the combination of heat, humidity, heavy pollution, and virtual lack of breeze makes Parisian heat the nastiest that I have ever encountered.
After our daily excursion, I will grab dinner at either a panini place or one of the little shops near the Foyer that has a student menu. This is the best way to go in my opinion. You can get a tasty, decently-sized meal for around 5 euros if you’re willing to do take-out (which you should be – go eat somewhere pretty!). One of my favorite places to eat is on the roof terrace of the Foyer, which has an amazing view of the city.
Once I’m back at the Foyer I’ll do the boring stuff: homework, shower, catch up on the internet. The days are really long here since the sun sets at 10pm and even halfway through my experience here, I’m still not used to it. I always end up staying up much later than I’d like because I never realize how late it is. Once I finally get into bed, I usually pass out right away.
Then: sleep, wake up, repeat (for three more weeks).