Au revoir

These past 189 days have been some of the best and worst days of my life. The whole experience overall has been amazing. Having the opportunity to live abroad has opened my eyes and made me see things from 8 new angles. Things in France (and Europe) are so different than the USA. When I first got to Paris and there were no elevators anywhere I was like WHAT!!! I have to use the stairs?!?!?! SO. MANY. STAIRS. The climate was different. The people were different. The smells were different.

Although it was an unpleasant experience for the first month because I had nowhere to live and little to no help finding housing, when I finally found it I was quite happy. It was my first time living on my own, and I got to do it in another continent. I do, however, appreciate all my parents do much more now. I hated having to go down and buy groceries (which by the way do not last as long since there is little to no hormones and crap put into the food) and then walking back up with a huge heavy sack of food. Not a fun time. Paying rent also wasn’t fun. Specially because the ladies that worked in the building were really rude and treated me like I was stupid. But that’s French people for you, the think they are the bomb.com so everyone is below them. Pfft.

I quite liked not having to drive anywhere. If I was tired on the way to school in the morning, I could just take a nap on the train. Coming home at night super tired I could just sleep until I got to my station and then I had the energy to make it home. That was all very nice. BUT. It was inconvenient when the RATP or SNCF decided that they wanted to go on a strike and the trains would be delayed or just not come (which got me fired) and it sucked that there was absolutely no way for me to get anywhere without public transportation. My favorite were all the colis suspects that would delay the trains for a while .that was a fun time. And on the weekends when you were having loads of fun with your friends it hit midnight and you were like “ok time to catch that last train.” I do miss driving and having control of when I leave a place. But enough of that.

The one thing I will not miss (pas de tout) are the people. As I stated above they SWEAR they are the shit and above everyone in the world so they look down on you or are hyper rude when (if) they answer your questions. The worst of all though are the men. The men in Paris are the sketchiest people I have ever met in my life. They look at you like they are devouring you in their mind (which they are. ALWAYS) and they will stop at nothing to make your skin crawl. They relentlessly hit on you in the most disgusting manner possible. They don’t speak French, they speak cat call. You are minding your own business, walking along and they feel the need to go out of their way to ask if you are single or to say “yummm” and it’s like do you hear yourself? Who the hell is that going to attract? And it does not matter if you tell them you have a boyfriend, husband, wife, girlfriend, if you are into animals or into nothing, they continue to say all this nasty stuff to you. If you ignore them, they follow you for a bit. If you reply they just continue. And no, I am NOT exaggerating this. I wish I was.

There have been quite a few times (many more than I care to admit) that I seriously questioned if going abroad had been a good idea. The start of this whole this was most definitely very rough. Having always lived chez my parents, not seeing them for such a long time was hyper bizarre. I didn’t like that when I was having a bad day I couldn’t just run down the hall and go hug my mom. That seriously sucked. And the times I was sick (in other words, the entire trip) my mom wasn’t there to love me back to health. Being an adult SUCKS. There was actually a good 2 full weeks when I seriously considered finding a way to go back home as soon as classes ended. I didn’t even care anymore. I am glad, very glad, that I pulled myself together and stuck it out, because the good times totally outweigh the crappy ones.

I knew that going abroad was going to open me up to new experiences, but I didn’t really know what that really meant. I figured new foods and being a grown up, but it was much more than that. I slept on the floor outside a friend’s door, on the couches in a Starbucks, I peed in a tunnel  (sorry parentals) and also in a bush (again, sorry), I built a snowman and had a snowball fight, I partied (hard) on the metro [TWICE], I took shots with strangers (thanks Welly),I fell in and out of love (not necessarily in that order), i thought I was going to be kidnapped, I sang karaoke in a bar, I reconnected with family I hadn’t seen in years, and so much more. Never in a million years could I have thought that all that would come out of this trip. I figured I would make some friends and go to school. Paris BLEW my expectations right out of the water.

Now, would I do it again? Yes* (some restrictions apply). I would not come back with the same program, I would try to find housing before getting here instead of a month in, I would ask a crap load more question regarding schools and classes because I most definitely got screwed, I would save up a whole lot more money and I would get a job since the get go. That would make the ride a bit smoother than it was this time.

Would I live there? HELL NO. Paris is nice to visit, but honestly six months is way more than enough. I would not make that my permanent residence. Things are so expensive, and so depressingly grey, I can’t see myself living there. If I had to go back for a long period of time I would make sure it wouldn’t be for more than six months and it would have to be a must, for like work or school. I loved the experience I had but, thanks, but pas thanks. I would, however, go back and visit for a few weeks.

And on that note:
France, thank you for this amazing experience and à bientôt.

 

 

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La Tour Eiffel

Everyone and their mother knows what the Eiffel Tower looks like. If you don’t you probably live under a rock. When you think of Paris, one of the first things that pops into your head is the Eiffel Tower, or at least for me that happens. This being my first time in Paris, I was more than excited to finally see the La Dame. I went a little picture crazy so I probably have a picture of the tower from every angle.

so many anglesWe pretty much knocked out all the touristy things out of the way pretty fast. Within the first month we had done a lot of the “must-do’s” while here. Going up to the top was pretty fun. A group of nine of us met up to see Paris from the tip top, and while getting tickets the man asked is we were all under 26 (our friend Jeff wasn’t). We, of course, lied and said we all were. Well, here is Alexi who really doesn’t mean harm, he is just very very very innocent, he pipes up and says (while standing next to the man selling us the tickets) “Well you will just have to pretend to be 26 tonight Jeff!” We all wanted to kill him, but thankfully, the man I didn’t hear, or didn’t care. Oh Alexi. The view from up there was spectacular. You can see everything, all the lights, the cars, the buildings, etc. It was extremely beautiful (and cold as hell!!)

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I have completely fallen in love with The Eiffel Tower.  I love looking  at it. I find it extremely beautiful. Watching it light up at night is quite the experience.

 The first time we went to look at it was at night. I was with Jordan, Jeff and Juan. We had heard that it sparkles but didn’t know when. Jordan swore it was every 15 minutes. We sat and waited. And waited. And waited. Turns out, it sparkles every hour for 5 minutes. Well, once we finally saw it sparkled, it was magical. I have to say I still get mini butterflies in my stomach if by chance it catch it sparkling. (i apologize for size)

I have been putting off this post for so long that I forgot all the wonderful things I was going to write.

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transportation

Being the metropolitan area that it is, Paris has a plethora of choices to get around: walking, cars, motorcycles, bikes, bus, metro, RER, Tram, train, GTV, and suburban trains. Frankly, I tip my hat to those who drive cars or motorcycles. The streets are hectic, there are no lanes on some of the streets, people coming and going from all directions. It’s pretty crazy. And don’t even get me started on parking- it is pretty much bumper cars, you squeeze your car into these tiny spaces and if you hit the others cars around, c’est pas grave.

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The metro-tram-RER-train system is pretty amazing. It is very organized and it takes you everywhere. There are are 14 metro lines, 5 RERs, 5 Tram lines, 8 suburban train lines, and 351 bus lines. The only “complaint” I have is that they do not run 24/7. This makes going out on weekends a little hard because you can only stay out until around 1:30.

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Since I live right outside of Paris, I need to take the metro to be able to get into the city, to work, and to my friend’s houses. It connects to a lot of the other lines I need, making it very convenient. Also, since I live at the terminus, I will never miss my stop, because a voice will come on telling me to get off (which comes in handy when I am sleep deprived or playing games).

Let’s talk about the pass that gets me around, the Navigo.                                                                       It works by zones, 1-5. Paris is 002zones 1-2. On weekends, the passes are dezoned, which is pretty cool because we get to explore the surrounding areas without having to pay 20€. They have an option called the ImagineR which is yearly pass. It costs around 300€, which at first sounds a little crazy but that is so cheap. My 3-zone pass costs me 84.10€/month. That is a whooping 504€ for 6 months, solely on transportation. Ouch.

 

Just last weekend, we rented a car to go on a mini road trip. When the idea came up I was so excited because I was going to be able to say that I drove in Europe. After about 15 seconds of being excited, it dawned on me that I would not be able to drive seeing as I have yet to master driving stick. Bummer. BUT! I took it as an opportunity to find the silver lining and pretend I was a queen and get chauffeured around, which was nice. We didn’t know the rules of the road, the traffic lights are not like they are in the states, there are cars speeding by. It was pretty crazy. And to our complete amazement, gas stations actually CLOSE here! When we noticed we were in dire need of gas we panicked looking for a gas station that was open. There was ONE which only has one pump open. I don’t get why they shut down gas stations at night. 

 

All in all, I have really enjoyed riding the metro and the bus and the trains but I miss my car. Granted, not having to drive is nice because I can have a beer here and there, and I can be able to get home even if I’m falling asleep at 1 am, but there is nothing like having your own car, and being able to dictate when you leave. Lulu, I’M COMING FOR YOU BABY!!!

 

 

.: hostel, hostel, home was updated:.

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hostel, hostel, home

*WARNING: Get ready for lots of rambling*

Through my program, I booked a 10-day stay at Hostel BVJ. I get there extremely late at night, I check in, and I get the marvelous news that I get to lug my 50 lb. suitcase, plus my carry-on, plus my backpack, plus my laptop up  4 flights of stairs because Paris doesn’t believe in elevators. Once I finally got them up there I also find out that if I want to eat, I have to go searching because only breakfast gets served here.  I panicked for a little bit. The room was pretty small, had two twin beds and a sink. Thankfully the bathroom/showers were right in front of the room so we had access to them all the time. And I was also blessed to be rooming with Cathiana because we go to FIU together and I no longer felt alone. Come 10 pm we are starving and we went on the hunt for food in our pjs, looking like some crazy people. At around 1 am we get our other roommate and we totally love her, even though she woke us up. We then spent the next hour of so trying to fend off these creepy group of dudes that would not leave our door. They kept asking if they could come in and share the room with us. Ummm…. no.

During these 10 days we had to attend different activities and classes to get acquainted I guess.. We found it kind of stupid that we had to waste our time going to sing with some random lady or spending 4-5 hours in class instead of, you know, finding a place to live for the next 6 months. When it was time for everyone to get back to the hostel, you would see every table and chair and outlet used up by the MICEFA kids and there would be crying, and angry phone calls, and whining because as the 10 day mark got closer, there were still lots of us without housing. This is how I met, and got close to, a lot of my new friends. We would spend hours using wifi card after wifi card (yes, the wifi wasn’t free so we had to buy cards for 2 or 4h. And they only worked in the lobby. It sucked) crying to each other on the floor looking through countless internet pages for a place to live. It was ridiculous.

When these 10 days were up a group of us (Marissa, Jordan, Katrina, Erin, Andy, and I) still had no housing so we booked another hostel. We tried to make the best of it.

Hostel Woodstock

Luckily, one by one we found housing and were able to leave that place. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’tt move into the place I found for another 2 weeks so I crashed at Cathiana’s place (which meant sharing a twin sized bed). This was yet a crazy experience. She went out one night and Boy Sam and I were stuck sleeping on the floor outside of her place. Boy, that was an adventure. Finally, February 4th came and I could finally move in to my new home. Très exciting. 

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So finally, after lots and lots and lots of crying and after being in France for a month, I was no longer homeless. The whole experience was crazy! Since, at home I live with my parents, this was the first time I had ever had to deal with looking for, and renting a place to live. It’s scary! Especially in a different country that has different rules and a different language. It made me grow up a lot and although it was extremely difficult to overcome all the obstacles that were thrown my way, I’m glad it all happened.

 

 

_UPDATE_

How could I forget about all the places I looked at. The ones that involved me living at someone’s house meant I could never have visitors and I could not stay out late. The first one I looked at told me that the rent each month would depend on whether or not I had to babysit that month. Um…no. Another one, I had to share the room with this man for two weeks until he left: mind you, twin size bed was the only bed available for us both. The ones where I could live by myself involved me either climbing up 1554989625684 stairs and down sketchy hallways and living in jail cell sized places,  or crapping in a hole in the ground. Thanks, but pas thanks. Finding housing here honestly made me appreciate the little things in life, like elevators and toilets.

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Paris: first impression

I have been preparing for this trip for a really long time before coming. I was excited, overjoyed, anxious, you name it. The thought of being scared was always looming in the back of my mind, but it never surfaced until right before I left. The few months before zoomed by and before I knew it, I had a week left in the sunshine state. The anxiety was starting to get to me, but I was so super excited.

I left January 1st at like 8 or 9 in the morning. So, of course, right after New Year’s celebration it was finish packing and take a nap to wake up at 6 am to go to the airport. Quick flight to Chicago and by this time I am starving. I get the lovely pleasure of waiting at the airport for some 5 hours and then on another plane to my future six-month home.

who is completely exhausted?? this girl

who is completely exhausted?? this girl

Thanks to the lovely Beatriz, I had a place to stay that first night, seeing as the hostel was booked for the 3rd. Thankfully, I arrived in Paris pretty early in the morning so I was able to  take advantage of the day, or so I thought.

My first culture shock experience was trying to get the stuff into the tiny elevator! That was an ordeal! That was also when I had my first scare. Long story short, a man had snuck into the building with me and then squeezed himself into the tiny elevator with me and was being a total creeper. All that was going through my mind was OH LORD I AM GOING TO GET TAKEN!! But thank the heavens nothing happened. I took a stroll and found the Jardins du Luxembourg. Gorgeous.

da gardensss

da gardensss

While trying to head back, I got yet again to experience the creepy french men. This man stopped me on the street and kept trying to walk with me or get my number and he would just not give up. He ended up writing his number on my map. The men DO NOT give up.

Everything is so different here. The sun isn’t always shining, the people aren’t always smiling, everyone is smoking everywhere. And there most definitely isn’t romance on every corner. Paris is definitely not like they make it seem in movies.

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