Margaret-Kay, outbound to France

My 1st month Leon --> Lyon 

I've been in France for little over a month now and I can honestly say it has been the most life changing month of my life. I've made new friends, received a new family, began learning a beautiful yet complex language, eaten too much cheese, baguettes and pain au chocolat, tasted different wines, seen many different places just in my district of France and so much more.

My family:
Parents- Florence and Alain (not married just living together) are my host parents and they are really nice. Alain likes photography and Florence is into scrapbooking.

Siblings- (all Florence's children):

David is the oldest, he is around 25 years old and lives at the house with his girlfriend Julia though they are currently apartment/house hunting :( David works out everyday in the garage with his best friend, Clem, and sometimes Julia as well. They play really loud music, sometimes the playlist from American Pie, and do weight training for about an hour.

Corentin (Coco) is the middle child, he is around 20 years old and did an exchange to Mexico 2 years ago. He swaps houses between Florence's house and his dad's just depending on the day because of University. On the weekends his girlfriend, Victoire, will often stay at the house as well. Coco is really funny and just by talking he makes me laugh. He is also the most wine obsessed out of the whole family though David is a close second.

Violaine is the youngest, about 16 years old, and she is currently on exchange in Chili. There's also a cat at the house who likes to sleep in my room.

Grandparents- Mami and Papi are my grandparents here and are really nice. Papi harvests his own honey and gives me jars of it whenever I come over. They also have a huge fig tree in their back yard and a nice sized garden. They have a dog named Maya who's really sweet and a bit old.

The family as a whole is a very stereotypical French family. They love escargo, and will sometimes just eat it casually for lunch as if it's no big deal. They also really love grenouille-frog legs- which is a specialty in the region of France that I'm in. They eat a lot of cheese and the smellier it is the more they like it, at least for Alain. A lot of the times they eat the cheese past the expiration date and because it smells so bad they keep it all in an air tight box in the fridge and if you open it ever so slightly the whole kitchen will smell like cheese.

They really love wine, again Coco loves it the most but the whole family really loves it. Coco and David read the wine catalogue for about an hour and a half the other day just trying to decide which wine to get and they also use coupons for their wine because they buy so much of it.

The whole family is friendly with whoever they meet and take about an hour to say goodbye even if they just had a 5 minut e conversation. They also smoke... a lot... When they wake up, before and after meals, any break during the day, before and after they work out (because that's really healthy), and before they go to bed. They don't try to hide the fact they smoke and it's more of a social period of time when are smoking. They invite the whole house to come out if anyone else wants to smoke as well and then they just chill out and talk for a bit and then go back to whatever they were doing.

I understand nothing. The first week I tried to understand but now I just go with it. The people are overall really nice. I'm in 1L if that means anything to you and if not I'm basically in France's junior year for the Literature route. Because I'm in literature I have a lot of French, a lot of English, a bit of Geography, very little Science and no Math.

At first it was okay to have so much English but after a while it just got boring so I asked the teachers if I could do the assignments the other students were doing in English, in French. It's helped me a lot with the language and trying to learn the grammar and mechanics more. I also have a Latin class which I understand less than nothing in. The only goal I have for Latin class is to listen and try to comprehend the French being spoken.

School goes from 8am-5/6pm depending on your schedule and on Wednesdays you finish at noon. You have an hour for lunch at noon but if you get out early you can go in at 11:30am. Though school seems like it would be really long, it's not terribly bad because you have 1-2hour, sometimes 4 hour, gaps in your schedule where you don't have class. Depending on how long your break is you can go to the park right by the school (usually for the 1 or 2 hour breaks) or you can go into the town near by and get food or just walk around (for the 3-4 hour breaks). Usually people will either socialize or do their homework during the breaks. I've been taking advantage of my personal French tutors aka my entire class and having them correct the work that I do in French.

To get to school I take the bus and it's not like the typical American yellow school bus. It's more of a charter bus and the seats are pretty comfortable. In the mornings it's really easy because I just wait at the bus stop with Alain and the bus comes and I go to school. In the afternoons it's a bit more tricky because I have to ask the bus driver to stop for my stop and if I don't I will end up in the wrong town. I know from experience. I'm glad that I have to do that though because it forces me to use a little bit of practical French every single day that I otherwise would most likely not use.

Breakfast- school days I usually just drink coffee because I'm in a rush but sometimes I'll grab a banana or apple if I'm really hungry. If I don't have school and I have more time in the morning, I have more options. I can have pain au chocolat (a croissant with chocolate inside aka heaven on earth), cereal (also has chocolate infused in the middle) or yogurt. Usually I just make oatmeal though because that's what I eat at home and I'm more likely to just eat one serving than the other options.

My family was surprised I don't eat a big breakfast because they figured Americans eat huge breakfasts all the time. I don't know for other Americans but for me the only time I really binge out on the Waffle House All Star breakfast is for brunch on Sundays or for an actual dinner. The main difference here is people want a quick grab and go breakfast and don't want to take the time to make eggs and bacon in the morning.

Lunch is an important meal of the day for the French. Unlike my highschool in the United States, almost everyone eats in the cafeteria. The food really isn't bad though somedays I don't know what exactly I'm eating. For about four euros you get bread (obviously it's France you get bread with everything), fruit or dessert, yogurt or cheese, a salad or grapefruit or a really gross option that I would stay away from, meat or fish and vegetables or rice. It's a lot of food for me for lunch honestly. Mainly because I'm not used to eating lunch as the biggest meal of the day so somedays I'll just bring several pieces of fruit and some nuts if I'm really not hungry or I just won't finish everything on the tray. It is a lot healthier than American lunches though as there isn't any fast food involved and often times the dessert option is just more fruit.

Dinner in my family is a big meal of the day as well. There's either salad or vegetables, some type of meat (usually sausage), pasta and a baguette for the whole table. Once you're done with that you get wine (on the weekends usually) and cheese to go with the rest of your bread and then if you're still hungry, yogurt or a dessert that comes in a yogurt like container.

My Rotary club here is really nice though really small. They meet on Thursday nights at a really quaint restaurant. It's not extremely formal as there are about 10 members at most (at least that I know of). They are very welcoming though and I enjoyed talking to all of them and I can't wait for my next meeting.

Outside of my Rotary club I did a service project with a group of larger clubs where we picked grapes for wine. The money from the wine will go to helping out people in need in another country from what I understood. We picked grapes from really early in the morning till about 2pm and it was exhausting both physically and mentally because the whole time I talked to a Rotarian as he helped me with my French.

Everyday is a new challenge with the language. I can hold up decent conversation and I understand more than I can speak though somedays my brain is so fried that people have to repeat what they said about 5 times for me to realize they're even speaking to me. I watch movies in French and if it has the option for subtitles I'll watch with French subtitles and I understand everything that is going on.

Right now I'm working on learning past and future tense more especially when speaking and after I want to learn the imperfect tense and after that all the other tenses that this language has. For only being here a month I feel like I understand a lot of the language though and that probably has to do with studying it for 3 years in high school and my host family just talking in French to me and asking people to talk in French with me instead of English if they try to talk to me in English. Because of all of this my listening comprehension skills for the language have gone up drastically and I'm able to formulate sentences that almost kind of make since.

I'd like to just thank Rotary for giving me this opportunity. I'm learning so much every single day and without Rotary I wouldn't have met my family and friends here and I really wouldn't trade them for the world so thank you so much. I'm eternally grateful for all of this even though this is just my first month I understand why people say it is the best year of their life.