Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Here is a picture of my host mother

She took me to the Eiffel Tower tonight, where I took this picture of her.  Her name is Michele Bonhomme and she is a really neat lady!

J'ai peur

France has a certain smell to it.  Now, I know you are saying "How can you generalize like that? Certainly an entire country can't have a smell!"  You are wrong.  It does.  When I open my door the same smell that I smelled in Nice fills my nostrils.  It is the same smell that I smelled in Avingnon also.  It is a mixture of car exhaust and cigarette smoke, but its more than that.  It is the smell of buildings that are literally centuries old.  It is the smell of ancient Roman ruins built into the side of modern apartment buildings.  It is a humbling and wonderful smell.

That smell can only comfort me so much.  Today we started our orientation classes.  I didn't know that I had a language class this morning so I may have missed that one... Oops...  But in my defense no one told me about it and the Science Po website is a bit confusing!  But I did go to my methodology class.  That is the class where the instructor tells us how to survive the French education system.  May I say I have never been more petrified for anything in my life than my 3 French courses?

Here is a list of the types of assignments the professor may give us:

Exposé: a 10 minute presentation in front of the class on a subject the professor gives us, followed by a          period of questions and answers
Fiche technique: a 1-4 page synopsis of a subject the professor gives us
Fiche de lecture: a 1-4 page synopsis of a book the professor assigns
Revue de presse: a 1-4 page outline of a major article in the news
Débat: Much like the exposé, you get in front of the class and take a position and defend it against another student for 10 minutes
Commentaire de document: an analysis of a text, much like a DBQ from any AP History class
Dissertation: a 3-5 page paper that stresses a rational, organized approach to an argument.

OK, I can barely write in English, how do they expect me to do any of that in French?!  (I use spell check for my blog... a lot...)

The instructor also gave us a list of names we have to be familiar with.  These include Hobbes, Rousseau, Rawls (no, not my father or grandfather but a different John Rawls), Marx, Tocqueville, Montesquieu, Weber, Schmitt, Wittgenstien, etc.

I'm in for a rough ride...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Je suis arrivé

I made it to Paris.  And surprisingly I didn't freak out.

 My Dad drove me down from SB at 7:15AM and we made it there by around 9:00AM.  Since I was flying business class I didn't have to wait long to check in and go through security. The flight from LAX to JFK wasn't bad.  I took a muscle relaxant because for some reason my jaw always hurts more when I fly.  The upside was that it put me to sleep right away.  On that flight I was awake for maybe an hour.

I got into JFK a little a head of schedule so I had an hour to kill before my flight.  I went to the Admirals club where a really nice puerto rican lady kept calling me "mi amor" and she made me a diet Roy Rodgers.  Yes, she did work there.  I'm not really sure how to react when people offer me alcohol like the free drink they tried to give me in the Admirals club.

The flight from JFK to CDG was great.  I didn't sleep that much, but that was fine because I had the row to myself.  I also made friends with the flight attendants.  I watched Date Night which was not as good as I was hoping, but then again I'm not 45 with 2 kids...  The only bummer is that I left my eye glasses on the plane.  It isn't that big of a deal because I have 4 months supply of contacts, but now I HAVE to wear my contacts...  I might see if the French government will buy me a pair.  They seem to be very liberal with their money here.  Or at least that is what my host family would have me believe.

Speaking of which my host family is awesome!  They didn't pick me up from the airport, but I knew that.  Instead I went with this really nice guy (who at first I thought was trying to kidnap me because he was waiting by all of the taxi's but he said his car was downstairs.  I followed him down there and found a van with a guy in the drivers seat.  I figured I would either get a ride into town or my family would be getting a ransom note.)  Turns out he was legit and he gave me his card.  He dropped me right off at my host's house.

Her name is Michele (I will have pictures later) and she lives in a really cool flat on the 4th floor of a really old building.  Her son, Gerome and her daughter-in-law Georgina live with them with their son, Lukas.  Gerome is 22 and Lukas is 8 months.  They are both really nice.  So is Georgina.  Michele is probably the nicest.

Today (after my 2 hour nap) she took me on a little tour of the city.  The main goal was to find my school so I know where I am going tomorrow (which is still a coin flip if I wont get lost), but we ended up seeing the Arc de Triumph, Effiel Tower, Notre Dame and the Assemblée National.  I have to give her credit.  She really did try to teach me how to use the bus and metro.  The metro I think I got, but the bus... not so much.  Mainly because I don't really know where my house is.  But I'm sure I will find it. I hope.

That brings me to dinner.  Dinner was really good.  Gerome made this weird (but tastey) garlicy, cheesey, meaty thing on top of a baguette.  Then Michele had made soup with a little bit of fois gras.  It wasn't very good, but being a good guest, I ate it.  The soup part was good.  The fois gras wasn't.  Then we had pasta with ricotta and spinach.  Then dessert which was sorbet.  It was really melty so Michele served more than normal.

The best part about dinner though was the conversation.  It was all in French (expect for Georgina who is Romanian and doens't speak French very well despite being married to one).  We talked about how I want to go to Euro Disney and how the Gypsies are just terrible people and Obama and the Economy and so much more.  I can already tell my french is getting better.

Well that is all for now because its 22:49 and I am about to pass out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Je ne veux pas aller!

Going abroad and leaving everyone/thing you have grown accustomed to for twenty years is hard.  I was at dinner with my Dad tonight and I was thinking, "the next time I will be in a restaurant, the people at the table next to me will be having their conversation in French..." That thought alone sent the butterflies in my stomach into over drive.

I think this feeling is really only something that someone who has done something like this before can feel. Going to college is sort of like this, but really leaving yourself and your identity behind and going to a foreign country where they don't speak your language is terrifying.  I know that future AJ will look back on this blog post and won't be able to remember the feeling of dread and terror that I have right now.  And that excites me.  But at the same time I can't shake it.  It is going to be the time of my life, but I just can't imagine how much I am going to change.

I think the thing that is getting to me the most is the fact that I won't see my friends or family until December (friends that aren't going to be in Paris/Europe that is).  My Dad and Step Mom have tickets out in February and my Grandma in May.  So I won't see anyone until I come home for Winter break.  They are going to have Thanksgiving without me.  They are going to have Halloween without me.  They are going to have Labor Day without me.  But I will be doing things without them too.
As I write this, I am talking to a friend in Rome.  We are planning our trips to come see each other.  Thanks to the VC, I have friends all over Europe this year.  Anni and Kristin in England, Amara in Spain, Michelle in Scotland, Miles in Germany, the list goes on.

I will see you all in France!

Thursday, August 19, 2010



I've never done this whole blogging thing before.  I have to say I really like the idea, but I know myself too well to really say that I will keep this thing up to date.  I'll do my best though.  The aim of this is really to just keep a record of what happened during my year abroad.  Although an added bonus of letting my friends and family know what I am up to, this is really for future A.J. 

So, future A.J., here is what is going through your head a week and three days before you leave for Paris.  You are really freaked out.  I remember when I studied abroad in High School, the summer between my junior and senior year, it didn't hit me until I was walking off the plane in Nice.  I was 17 and a content and ocean away from anyone I knew.  This time, I will still be that far, but I know a few people in my program.  That at least is allowing me to keep some sort of sanity while working my last week and a half at the VC.  The weird thing is that I am really nervous though.  The anxious anticipation for being immersed in a culture that although not that much different than ours, and one that I have been studying for over six years (with little avail... just ask my French 26 prof) seems to be hitting be now.  About once an hour I get butterflies, who from the feel of it, must be throwing up.

But there is a lot to look forward to.  I got confirmation of my homestay family.  I will be living with a woman, who (I hope) is aptly named Mme Bonhomme.  She has a four bedroom flat in Paris.  One of those rooms is mine.  It is located in the 5th just across from the Sorbonne.  From what GoogleMaps tells me, there is a metro stop just down the block from the house.  I don't really know much more than that.  I e-mailed her, but she hasn't e-mailed me back. 

I am not really sure why I am going to France.  I knew that from my Freshman year of High School I would be studying abroad there, but I didn't really know why.  It was just one of those things that was expected of me (not necessarily by anyone else).  Now that the time draws closer though, I really started thinking about it, and why I want to go.  Sure, it is going to be really cool to come back completely fluent in French, having lived in one of the most amazing cities in the world, etc., but I think there is more.  My thoughts keep going back to my grandfather, who passed away about two weeks ago.  He lived an incredible life, with a lot of ups and a lot of downs.  And I keep thinking that I am going over there to make him proud.

I know that I am going to have a great time.  When I was there before I was petrified to the point where I almost fainted walking down the jetway going to the baggage claim in Nice.  In the six weeks I was there in high school, I survived leaving my luggage under the transfer bus between CDG and ORL in Paris, having my Host mother have no idea I was arriving the day I did, barely speaking French, almost getting into a fist fight (which is a story for another day), and almost getting on the wrong train when trying to get to Avingnon.  I did all of that by myself.  And this time I will have the help of EAP (kind of... again, a post for a later day), plus the benefit of friends all over Europe and a few in the same program I am in.

This is going to be the start of an amazing year.  I can tell