Lost & found: Exploring New Cities

Week 1 in France, Paris:

I have climbed what feels like every staircase in Paris and I have seen the views that make this city famous. I have endured extreme and humid heat and craved the comfort of American air conditioning, because that’s not a thing here. Be warned. I have oohed and awed over the French coffee (aka espresso), and their belief that bigger is not better, and I’m a fan. I have mastered the metro, and not gotten lost in the sprawling underground system of trains that I’d heard horror stories about before. I promise it’s fun. Paris was all the touristy things I’d every dreamed of and more, and I loved exploring this city. Big shout out to the people of Paris who recognized that we were Americans and shed grace on us by speaking English.

There was a lot packed into our first week in Paris. A boat tour on the Seine, the golden palace of Versailles, the Musée d’Orsay, the Notre Dame and it’s stunning views, the Louvre (holla at Mona), L’Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. I was left in awe of the grandeur of all the history and beauty I saw. The French built a legacy that has lasted in all of their monuments, and it is incredible to experience. Not only was I the ultimate tourist this week, I was also thrown into a new culture, where I made new friends, spoke a different language and tried to get the hang of the fact that the French don’t eat snacks. This week was a blur; a week of little sleep, jet-lag, and running around finding the best views in Paris. The best kind of blur.

Week 2 in France, Grenoble:

Since arriving in Grenoble I have spoken a crazy amount of “Franglish”: a language that combines my love of American abbreviations (aka: lols, perf, brb, etc.), with the small amount of French I know. I have begun daydreaming creative ways to keep cool, because of this European heat wave. This Alaskan girl can’t handle those over 100 degree temps, SOS, please send me a fan. But on the whole, this last week has consisted of getting lost in Grenoble, figuring out where I am, trying to find buildings with air conditioning and working hard to understand people when they are speaking French to me.

Grenoble is all my small town dreams come true. Everything is within walking distance, everything looks old, but feels new, and there are pastel buildings everywhere. The cafes are one of my fave parts about life here, and this city is surrounded by mountains, which means endless adventures are in store for the next month.

My itinerary in Grenoble has been calm so far. I have toured the city and I still frequently get lost, I have started review classes and realized that my French is far worse than I thought, I’ve hiked the Alps, and had all kinds of Sound of Music moments on those hills, and I’ve been to Annecy, which has such teal waters it’s almost a dream. I’m still getting used to this place, and its endless streets that have no foreseeable pattern, but it’s slowly becoming familiar. Little by little, I know what is down each street I walk by, and I know how to get to and from my classes every day. The biggest accomplishments are making friends, and speaking entire sentences in French and understanding all the words people speak to me. Also, shout out to the best host mom around for being the best tour guide, and making us large amounts of delicious food, we love it, thanks for your patience. It’s difficult, for sure. Every day I fall into bed exhausted and unable to think straight because of all the different languages in my head, but it’s exciting and amazing too.

Week 3 in France, more Grenoble:

I know how to get to all the important places now. The café, the shopping, the bagel shop and campus. I’ve taken the “bubbles” to the top of the Bastille and I have looked down on the city of Grenoble in awe of how big it looks, but how small it feels. This place is starting to feel familiar and I no longer question where I am, but know that the next side street takes me to my coffee shop.

Classes have started and my confidence in speaking French has gone up tremendously. But my primary language is still Franglish because my brain thinks in English and French now, and it can’t decide which one to use. It’s a hot mess.

On the bright side it has cooled down in this valley and sleeping at night is now possible. I even wore PANTS the other day and it’s one of the highlights of my week. There was wind, and clouds and everything.

Every day here reminds me how lucky I am. What a gift to be able to study here, and explore this incredible country. Many adventures ahead, and I’m excited to soak them in. I’ll leave you with those happy thoughts and stay tuned for more ramblings about heat, pretty things and new adventures.

Corrine Daniels is a student at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and an official API Blogger. Corrine is studying abroad with API in Grenoble, France.

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