Mara, outbound to France

Read more about Mara and all her blogs

I have been in France for nearly 4 months now, and I am so in love with this country and this language. I am so proud of how far my language skills have come; I tell my French friends to always correct me when I spell something wrong or say something wrong, and at first my friends were always correcting me, but now they say that I am almost never making mistakes, which is super exciting for me! I can follow every conversation, and understand everything, and I speak pretty well too (don’t worry, the French accent is also coming along). 

School is kind of difficult still because it is such a huge change from the American school system. Some classes aren’t so hard to follow, like French class, but others I am completely lost, like in Physics. I am very appreciative though because all the people in my class are nice and will always help me and answer my questions. The mornings are hard though because I wasn’t accepted into the school in my little village for complicated reasons beyond my, or Rotary’s control, but long story short, I take a bus at 6:40 in the morning (so I wake up at about 5:30 or 5:45) and it is about a 40-45-minute ride, and then I take the metro for about 20 minutes, and then I walk for 10-15 (depending on how close I am cutting it on time). So, as you can see, it is a TREK in the morning to get to school, and the same in the evenings. It’s cool though because even though it is kind of far, the school is in the big city, Toulouse, so it’s nice to be able to go into the c ity after school or at lunch with my French friends!

Since I have been here for almost 4 months, I have changed host families once already. It was kind of hard to change because I got so used to this one life style that I had been living for 3.5 months, but all 3 of my host families are good friends, and live close so I see all of my host families fairly often, and each family is so amazing. I really like how changing families allows you to experience the different lifestyles in that country, you get to see how different people live, and experiencing the native lifestyle is really useful to immerse yourself in the culture. In France, everyone eats dinner together every night (and lunch on the weekends) and I am pretty sure that’s how it is in most countries other than the US so when I explain to people that my family back home doesn’t always eat together, and most of my friends’ families don’t either, people are really confused because here I find that kids don’t typically hang out on school nights and have dinner at their friends’ houses during the week, so everyone is at home at the same time to be able to eat together. Also most of the parents finish work at about the same time, so they can come home and make the meal real fast. 

Something that is very different from in the US is that on Sundays, nothing is open. The grocery stores are, but the hours are shorter (which is similar in the US), but none of the boutiques or chain stores like H&M or Sephora are open on Sundays. There is freedom of religion here, but I remember one time I wanted to hang out and shop around with my friend after the Rotary “Walk to End Polio,” and we forgot that everything was closed so we had to change course a little bit.

Since this is the Christmas season now, there are Christmas markets and I LOVE them! In the small villages, the Christmas markets are only 1 or 2 days usually, but in Toulouse the Christmas market is an ongoing thing that they have every single day (I think it ends on or just after Christmas). The stuff that they sell there is so cute, you can get holidays gifts, or food/snacks and said snacks are DELICIOUS. They have crepes, waffles, beignets, churros, sausages, etc. (I don’t have the sausages) but the sweets are so good, and usually served with Nutella, and I cannot get enough of them, I will be super sad when the Christmas market leaves and I can’t find anymore churros.

We have a 2 week vacation every 2(ish) months in France, which is nice, so right now we are on Christmas break, and I am looking forward to all the fun things coming up soon here. It is going to be fun to celebrate Christmas here because I don’t celebrate it normally, and bringing in the New Year here, and all the Rotary weekends that are coming up in the next year! It is so crazy that I have been here for 4 months already, and I wish the time wasn’t passing so fast.