Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reims and Paris

After spending five days in Strasbourg, I packed up and set off for Reims in the Champagne region of France! I am lucky enough to have a friend, Tiphaine, who lives in Reims and was able to spend time with her and her friends and family! The first night in town, Tiphaine introduced me to her many great friends. Everyone was so welcoming and patient with me when I spoke French and that was a relief. I was so happy that I could spend time with a group of French people, like I’ve always wanted. This especially means Tiphaine as she is leaving for China very soon for her semester abroad!

 After learning that I was not doing anything for New Year’s Eve, she invited me to stay with her and her friends in Paris! I was so excited and immediately accepted the invite. The next day, Tiphaine and her family showed me around Reims, shared a hot chocolate with me, and invited me home for dinner. I got to enjoy the luxuries of a home: decorations, a Christmas tree, television, homemade food, and family! Tiphaine even taught me how to make a crêpe!

The next afternoon, we set out for Paris where we would meet Alice,another friend of ours from school, and Laurie with whom we would stay. When we arrived I found a Starbucks and took full advantage. After some walking and grocery shopping, we got to Laurie’s and talked for the night (I mostly listened). On New Year’s Eve Day, Tiphaine, Alice, and I discovered Pont de l'Archevêché where people lock locks together to symbolize their love. Bff’s Alice and Tiphaine locked a pink one! We also went to see La Louvre’s pyramid and we climbed L’ard de Triumph! What a lovely day in Paris.

That night, we prepared for the other guests and I experienced a very French holiday, like I have always wanted. The repas for the evening included fois gras, salmon, and magret de canard. I, of course, ate quinoa atop toast which isn't very French but a worthy vegetarian substitute for me. We shared champagne and I listened, or at least tried, to all of the wonderful French conversations going on. As midnight approached and we counted down in French, I realized just how special this experience was.

Before I left the next day, I got to see my beloved Eiffel Tower with my friends. Starting 2014 in Paris was incredible! I am so thankful to have friends like Tiphaine and Alice and I will be forever grateful for the wonderful experience these girls and our friends gave me! I hope to see them both again in the near future and hope that their time abroad gives them the time of their life like mine has. Have fun and enjoy your time in Norway, Alice and China, Tiphaine! Bisous!

The crêpe I created

Alice and I at Pont de l'Archevêché

Tiphaine and I on top of L'Arc de Triumph

Repas NYE

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Noël à Strasbourg!

Upon my arrival, I surprised myself by how fearlessly I handled things. Ever since I’ve come to France, I have gone and done. No thinking, no nervousness, I just go and enjoy life. I met Philippe and he welcomed me and offered me plenty of advice on what to do and where to go. The apartment is nestled just outside of la centre-ville and has a gorgeous view of the Notre Dame.  After he explained different things about the apartment, he left to finish his Christmas shopping and I went to explore.

I decided to start first at the Notre Dame. Christmas markets lined the streets and millions of people were out enjoying the holiday décor and festivities. It is absolutely amazing how many people travel here for Christmas (2 million). I heard French, German, English, and many other unidentifiable languages. I entered the cathedral and enjoyed a little program put on by local children and lit a prayer candle. I enjoyed seeing the nativity, tapestries, and Napolean figurines displayed at the church. After, I decided to people watch and have the traditional vin chaud! Mmm.

 After speaking with a few locals
who were very welcoming and friendly, I went to a traditional Alsacienne restaurant called a Win Stub and had the only thing a vegetarian could have: soup a l’oignon et une salade avec fromage Alsacienne. I had a cozy little table to myself and really enjoyed the meals.It was the perfect atmosphere for the season and it paired nicely with my Christmas beer.

I easily found my way back to the apartment where Philippe had prepared a degustation of wine. I got to try a Pinot Noir from the region as well as a sweet white wine. It was nice to speak with a native about his culture and the history of Strasbourg. It is incredible how the different regions in France have a strong personal identity with different traditions, food, and ways of life.

The next day (Xmas Eve), Philippe toured me around the city a bit before leaving for Christmas Eve dinner with his family. I also decided to take a boat tour around the city and learned a lot about the city and different buildings that surrounded me. I had no idea how old this area is! I became familiar enough with the city to seek out an Italian specialty store where I bought tortellini that I would prepare for my meal. I decided that shopping in the specialty stores would be the best way to experience my very own French Christmas. I stopped at a Wine Cellar and chose a local brew and went to the patisserie next door for my crème brûlée cake! 

 I was lucky enough to speak to a lot of my family on the phone and wish them a Merry Christmas. On Christmas Day, I was able to Skype with my Dad, Alison, Brooklyn, and family! Brooklyn loved all of her gifts, including a trampoline from Santa!

 I think that this Christmas taught me what the season is really about. I learned what it is like to be separated from those whom you love and share memories with, and I believe it is an important and unique lesson learned. I was lucky not to feel lonely, only grateful that God was allowing me to experience a Christmas unlike any other!

Joyeux Noël! 

The End of Something Incredible

Fall 2013 has been full of so many wonderful opportunities and experiences that I will always hold near and dear to me. I met some of the most interesting and dynamic people you can think of, seen some gorgeous sites, and shared memories that will last a lifetime. This semester helped me find out who I am and who I hope to become.

The friends I made here in Rennes have shown me so much about other cultures and personalities and have made me realize a lot about where I come from and how I am. I am so incredibly happy to have shared my first semester abroad with people who have impacted me so greatly. For the first time I was able to make friends with people who would not judge me for being who I am and I was able to feel like I had a home here in France!

We have done so many things together. Nights out, day trips, classes, study sessions, late night chats, movie nights, and so much more. I am so lucky to say that I have bonds with people from absolutely everywhere and I hope to reunite with these wonderful people again in the future.

Farewell Dinner with Da Crew

We all got together for a final dinner where we each received different "awards" that symbolize what we bring to the crew. I got "Most Improved" which is really special to me since I came into the crew about 2 months after most people. I feel so blessed to have found my place in such a dynamic group of people. I'll never forget what I have learned from these past months and I look forward to learning more during Spring Semester.


One thing that is really cool about the people you meet during an exchange is their willingness to share their culture and to learn about yours. I have learned about so many different traditions that my friends have and as Thanksgiving approached, I knew that the Americans needed to share their traditions too!

The week of Thanksgiving was one of the busiest weeks that we all were going to have so we decided to have a big dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Luckily, one of the American guy's moms sent pumpkin pie mix, which to me is the best part of the holiday! An announcement via Facebook was shared and we all chose a dish to make. I made fruit salad, green beans, and gravy! 

The event turned out to be an eclectic mix of different types of food, including Chinese! It was so cool to spend Thanksgiving with over 20 other nationalities!