After being in Lyon for just one week, I can already say that I am enjoying every minute of it. Nonetheless, there have been some things that have taken more time than expected to get accustomed to. First and probably most obvious is the time difference. Here in France, I am 6 hours ahead of Eastern Time in the U.S., making it more difficult to communicate with my friends and family back home. Additionally, my body is still operating on my old schedule, which often means I have trouble falling asleep at a reasonable time and then also trouble waking up. It’s getting better as time goes on, but it can get lonely at times, such as when I want to tell my boyfriend a funny story but he’s still sleeping, or when my family is singing happy birthday to my cousin via Facetime and I am unable to join in. Nonetheless, I can always find time to check in with my loved ones, which is important to me.
As for my living situation, I am experiencing both positive and negative effects. Foremost, the family I am staying with is very lovely, welcoming, and kind. I was definitely nervous when arriving as to how I would be welcomed. The French are stereotyped to be somewhat cold to foreigners – especially Americans, but so far I have had such a positive experience when speaking with them. I am living in a small town outside of the city called Francheville. Once I first settled in, I needed to buy some groceries and other necessities. I went to a local corner store called Franprix and filled my basket with everything I needed. The clerk recognized I was new to the area and sparked up some conversation. In Europe, it is normal to pay for one’s bags, but he was kind enough to give me one for free as a welcome gift and he wished me a successful semester as I exited. The next few days I visited some other local places, like bakeries, a pizza shop, and the local grocery store – Carrefour. Time after time, I was treated kindly and workers did not hesitate to answer my questions when I needed clarification or wanted to know more about something. This was such a pleasant experience and renewed my admiration for French culture.
The negative side to staying in Francheville is that it is further out from the city than what I had imagined. When speaking with other international students, many seemed to be living pretty close to campus – either within walking distance or just a short bus ride away. I, on the other hand, was not. The bus rides to Place Bellecour (the city center of Lyon) and to Sciences Po (my university campus) take approximately 40 minutes each. The long durations make it essential that I leave my home with ample time, in order to get to my destination without any rush. Unfortunately, this took some time to adjust to as well, as I missed a few buses this past week and ended up having to call Ubers to get to my destinations. Still, I have been incredibly impressed by the transportation system in Lyon, which offers a student pass that costs about 25€ a month and can take you nearly anywhere you want to go; and it even offers a mobile application for ease of use. Overall, I don’t have an issue with taking public transportation since it is so easily accessible, but I just wish that it was closer so that I could more easily get together with friends to hangout, go to class together, and so on.
An incredible part of my experience so far has been meeting the other international students. Our introductory meeting had to be moved online due to Covid which left many of us upset, since we wanted to meet one another. So, in our WhatsApp group chat, we decided to meet up at a restaurant in Place Bellecour. As soon as I arrived, I met many new faces from all over the world! It was truly incredible, there were students from Spain, Germany, Norway, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Italy, the Czech Republic, Russia, the United Kingdom, and more. As a Puerto Rican, I was also able to connect with other Latinos in Spanish, which made for instant connections since we could communicate easily and shared similar cultures. We have continuously met up as a group to get to know each other better and learn more about one another’s home countries. I cannot wait to form stronger bonds with the people I have met!
Curious about resources concerning culture adaptation? Visit the Education Abroad website to get answers to the questions you may have!