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44 posts categorized "France"

Leaving Soon!

    Hello everyone! I actually have been so busy with trips, friends, preparing for college applications, etc, that I haven't had much time to make a blog post! As I'm writing this, I actually end the CIEE program in less than two weeks. It has been an amazing trip! Honestly, the biggest complaint would have to be the rainy weather that prevented me from being outside every day! Currently, it's about 75 degrees and sunny out, so I'm sitting in our backyard. With the sounds of the pool, the sight of our chickens in the yard, and one of the cats right next to me, I know I will miss this place. 

    I've been on a few small trips to other ares, such as Provence and Albi. I got to visit Marseilles briefly, and it was beautiful. Out of all areas, however, I think I prefer Toulouse because of it's safe feeling. To me, I think the city is actually quite large compared to my home town, yet I always feel like I know where I am and I can get home safely. The other areas while beautiful were either too large, busy, or just more of a "vacation city". I plan on coming back to France (as soon as possible, really) later in my life, and I would definitely consider staying in Toulouse again.

    I'm not really sure about how I feel about coming back so soon. Of course, I am excited to see my friends, family and pets, and actually I really miss the food in America. Although, a lot of things are nice about living here, too. I love the fact that when I want to go out to the city, all I have to do is take a bus and it knows exactly where to go. No google maps- I just get to sit there in the bus until my stop! While I do miss driving, it is a nice change. However, public transportation can be annoying when you're in a rush! With traffic, sometimes it takes me an hour to get home from the city on a bus when it is only a ten minute drive by car! Also going to school, I take a bus and a tram, and if I miss one, or if one is late, that could be what makes me late to school! I hate when this happens because it makes me seem unprepared when I walk into class late, when really I missed the bus by 30 seconds! Another thing I like about living here is basically the ambience of... the whole country! I love that people just go to parks and lay in the sunshine, or sit at cafes during breaks at school. There is so much socialisation which is incredibly different then where I live. For me, well we don't have breaks during school, but if we did, I'm sure everyone would just go home or to a friends house. We wouldn't walk anywhere, or sit at a cafe together. I feel like meeting people here is a lot easier (when you speak french of course) than it is when you're living the typical American drive-everywhere lifestyle. But anyways, I think I will miss being in France some days but I am glad to be getting back to my normal lifestyle for a while.

Anyways, my host mom's home so I'm going to go chat with her! 

At Starbucks!

Hello everyone! Currently I am sitting inside of a Starbucks here in France. I’d actually like to include this in my list of differences for today, because it’s quite interesting.


In Michigan, Starbucks is everyone’s entire life. We go there for meetings, to do homework, and even wake up early to run and get a coffee before school. Typically though, everyone is on a laptop doing some type of work. Starbucks is known as a place you may meet to do homework or finish work you need to concentrate, however I find here that Starbucks is more of a social outing. People come in between breaks at school or work, and really just eat, drink and talk. I kind of like this better, because when I come in and just sit on my phone I don’t feel obliged to pretend to do homework on a laptop.


Now this a HUGE difference... In France, there are literal police officiers/military-looking guards roaming the street all the time. Of course in the US there might be police walking around if there’s an event or a protest, but once France they just walk around all during the day in groups of three. They’re in a full, and in my opinion a bit eccentric, uniforms, and even equipped with rather large guns. They could seem a bit threatening at first, but they will typically smile at you if you smile at them, because they’re really just there to do their job of protecting the citizens. Honestly, it’s a little comforting because I feel like they’ll always be close if I’m in trouble.


Everyone that knows me knows that I love coffee, so I was shocked to find that in France, their go-to form of coffee is actually espresso. Instead of ordering coffee and getting a cup of coffee and your choice of cream in sugar, when you order a normal coffee here you’re served a small shot of espresso- MAYBE with a sugar. This took some getting used to, but since I happen to like the flavor of coffee, it was pretty easy to adapt to. At my host home, I just make a cup with a few shots of espresso and some milk to get the familiar feeling of holding a warm cup of coffee.

On another note, I think it is getting warmer and I am so excited!

Biggest Differences

    I decided to mainly focus my blog on the differences I observe here in France, compared to my life in America.  While there are plenty of differences you would expect when going to France, there are also many small differences too that even two months in I am still noticing. For today, I chose the most noticeable or relevant differences:

  1. The TransportationWhile in some cities in America, public transportation is heavily relied on, my area is nothing like that. I live in Michigan and I have never taken a public city bus there in my entire life! I, and everyone I know, relies on cars as their only form of transportation. It's not even very common to walk places to get around; If I need something from the cvs down the street, I still drive my car to get there. Furthermore if I have somewhere far to go, I drive there as well. Here in France, however, this is completely different. The citizens aren't eligible to receive a driver's license until they are 18, so no one in high school is even able to drive! That means to get to school they either need a parent to drop them off or they can use public transportation. That is clearly a staple in French life because people from all ages use the tram, metro, and busses. Aside from that, people walk a lot more. It is not common to take their car short distances because it seems to me they are all very used to walking! This difference took some getting used to and honestly I miss driving, but I do think it is very interesting and convenient!
  2. The FashionWhen I say the fashion is different, I am mostly focusing on high school age students. The kids in my American school wear things like jeans, sweatpants, leggings, t-shirts, and other casual attire. They don't really try to keep it conservative or classy and if you dress fancy you will be asked why. I was fine with this- it's easy and quick to just throw casual attire on. In France, however, it's a completely different story. The students in my opinion dress like they're going out every day! They like to wear lots of fur, sparkles, gems and jewelry. Red lipstick is also extremely common, whereas in my school you would most likely be judged for wearing something that bold. The clothing and style in France is really cool to me because I feel like I can express myself more and put together interesting outfits with the confidence to wear them to school. Although, it is nice sometimes in Michigan to be able to wake up, throw on some sweatpants, and go.
  3. The StoresThe stores in Michigan are very generalized and typically have almost every category of item in each one. When people need their typical groceries, they go to the same store to get them. We have a few different grocery stores, some health food stores, and of course the bulk stores like Costco. In France, this is very different. While you can get a good amount of items from one store, this is typically not how they like to do things. The people here like to get their items from specialized stores such as bread from bakeries and meat from delis, rather than getting them both at a supermarket. This way they are getting more quality items as they are the focus of the business they're buying from. This is just a big difference to me personally because if I wanted a baguette one day in Michigan, I wouldn't look for a bakery nearby, I'd just head to the closest grocery store. Here in Toulouse, though, I would walk 30 seconds down the street to the bakery and buy one for .95 euro!

These are just some of the first big differences that come to mind, though there are plenty more. That's all for now, bonne journée!

Bienvenue! First Post!

 Hi everyone! My name is Lindsey Vassallo, and I am a participant in CIEE's high school abroad program. Currently, I am living it Toulouse, France for the second semester of my junior year. I have been interested in France and the French language since about eighth grade, and while I have been trying to learn the language since then, I am still not yet very fluent. I have also looked at boarding schools and schools in different locations for quite sometime, because I have always been ready to travel and live somewhere new! When I met an exchange student at my high school in Michigan, it made me think- why not combine a new school experience and French! I decided to start looking into programs and CIEE definitely seemed like a good choice. There were great reviews and the website was very informative; my mom and I thought it seemed like the best option. At first, when I told my mom I wanted to do this, she thought I was just talking as any teenager does. Little did she, or even I, know, months later we were preparing for me to go away to France!

    The traveling experience was great. I flew with my mom to New York where we waited for a little while before meeting up with the other kids going to France. They were immediately welcoming and I was glad that I was going to be accompanied by these people on my journey. Us students flew alone, with our supervisor also, to Madrid, then from there we went to Toulouse. Here is where we met our host families and said goodbye to Nate. My host mother picked me up from the airport and took me home to meet the rest of my new host family- her three sons. All three are very nice, though I have only seen the eldest once because he lives in Spain. I get along with my host family very well, and after a month I think there is finally a more sibling-like relationship with me and the two boys. We all eat together and talk, and I always feel included in all their activities. I truly think they want me to have a good experience and I feel very lucky to have been placed with them.

    So far, I am loving the country. My visit here has already caused me to start considering a gap year in France or even attending a French University. I love the atmosphere and I cannot even imagine leaving! There has a been a lot of walking, a lot of shopping, and a LOT of eating. I am excited for what is to come, and in later posts I will go into details about the activities I have done so far.

A tout à l'heure!

Returning to the USA

Hello! It's been a while, hasn't it? I said in my last post I'd probably post within the next week, but look how that worked out. Oops.

I've now been "home" for just over a month now. I put "home" in "quotation marks" because almost as soon as I got back to Chicagoland, I packed up a suitcase again and left for Europe. Again. But now I'm back home for good, well, at least until school starts.

People talk about reverse culture shock, how it's almost worse than normal culture shock. In one of my posts while I was in France I talked about how I didn't think I experience culture shock while there, so I guess it makes sense that a similar thing might happen here. Though maybe it's because my family met up with me in France so I had a little bridge between Strictly French Culture and Strictly American Culture.

Being back was really weird in the sense that coming back wasn't weird. Like at all. Sure, life had continued without me for five months, but it was almost as if I had never left. I was pretty tired, but I adjusted to the time change after a night (roughly twenty hours of travel and no sleep messed up my internal clock enough that I suspect it just reset as soon as I went to sleep). I went out with friends the day after I got back, and spent a lot of time in my room doing random projects during the week.

Things I Missed doing in France that I did in my First Week Back

  • Order Jimmy John's. A lot.

IMG_8388I don't know about you, but JJ's is usually my go-to food when I'm with friends or  just want something fast. Here's my first JJ's sandwich and root beer back 

  • Go to breakfast at our local diner with a huge group of friends

IMG_8447In total there were 14 of us. We were that group

  • Play Magic: The Gathering, which was a bit annoying since I was out of practice
  • Play a ton of complicated board games with large groups of people
  • Make s'mores

IMG_8494The first s'mores in 5 months sure taste pretty good

  • abuse my unlimited texting and data plan

I'm Showing Vacation Photos (sorry)

I said at the top of this post and mentioned it in previous posts that I went with my family to the north of France for about a week after leaving Montauban. Then, after being home for ten days, I went and left for ten days to go to Germany and Italy. 

These were both rather interesting experiences because I had just finished being in a foreign place and trying as hard as possible to integrate myself as a local - then I went and was very obviously a tourist.

IMG_7587In Toulouse with my families, my last day in Southern France

IMG_1162At the airport, about to go through security for the flight to Paris

In Paris we did a pretty standard set of sight seeing:

  • Notre Dame Cathedral (pronounced noh-trah dahm, not noe-ter day-m)
  • L'Arc de Triomphe
  • Tour Eiffel (of course)
  • Sacre-Coeur
  • Versailles (I guess that's not actually in Paris but shhhhh)

IMG_1184In front of l'Arc de Triomphe

Going to Italy and Germany with a school group was interesting because I could understand probably about 50-60% of the written Italian I encountered because of its relation to French as a Romance Language. And, if I listened very carefully, I could understand a fair amount of what was being said. It was cool to me that, even though I had practically no exposure to any Italian, I was still able to comprehend so much of it just because of my knowledge of French. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to say anything even if I tried really hard, and in German I was completely helpless, but that's a different story. 

  IMG_8832Some friends and me in front of Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice

So...What now?

I go back to school for my junior year. I'll sleep during take AP French and casually collapse under my workload after becoming accustomed to the French school system. I'm raising chickens that arrived shortly after my return to the US, and trying desperately to get my life together before school starts. I fully expect school to be the hardest thing to adjust back to.

 People (parents) occasionally mention that I've changed, and I probably have. It's like my French. I'm positive I improved in French, but I didn't notice while it happened. It's changes that happen so subtly and under-the-radar that you don't even notice until someone points them out, and even then you're not sure they're right.

Anyways, I have no idea how to end this, so I guess I'll do it like this:

Bye, for an indefinite period of time. I might add something once school starts talking about adjusting back, but personally that hasn't been too much of a struggle so what I say (...try to sleep normally and have fun?) probably will not be very helpful.

See ya!

Au Revoir

    Sometimes, it’s like cradling a snowflake, a singular and intricate creature, in a mittened-hand and bearing witness, helplessly, as it melts away. At other times, it’s more like laying on the water’s surface, deaf to the world, and just drifting farther, farther, into another land.
    C’est vrai, je vous quitte et même presque tranquillement. Mais ce n’est pas à cause de vous. Ce n’est que l’ordre naturel de choses qui me guide vers cette essence de calme complet. Sinon, je serais en larmes, et mon coeur battrait comme un fou.
Vous savez bien que dire au revoir, ça brûle et ça libère.
    Avant de partir, ma famille d’accueil et quelques unes de mes amies m’ont organisé une fête surprise. Je pense aux personnes au tour de la table de cet après-midi-là; une table remplisse de sucreries, de petites feuilles tombées, de vous; et aussi à ceux qui ont partagé le moment de loin. Depuis, ce souvenir me sert comme rappel que c’est dans notre coeur que nous trouvons le monde, mais c’est aussi dans le monde que nous trouvons notre coeur.
    Je suis rentrée il y a bien quelques jours, mais ils me semblent comme une éternité. Heureusement, malgré toutes les différences, les nouveautés, c’est un sentiment d’éternité que j’accepte. J’accepte. C’est quelque chose de très, très joyeux de revoir sa famille, sa terre, ses racines après une telle duration à l’étranger. J'en suis inexplicablement reconnaissante.

    Au revoir la France, mon délice, mon chagrin, ma douceur intemporelle, au revoir!

Packing Lists for Studying Abroad

Note: Apologies this is being posted on Wednesday instead of my usual Monday. Since this was my last week in my host city, my parents came to pick me up and I didn't have a chance to get this up on time (I had to add all the photos!)

This was my last week with my host family, and while this came with the excitement of seeing my biological parents - in France, with my host family (which was amazing), it also came with the bitter feeling of the end.

When I was packing to come over to France, I honestly didn’t fret too much over what I was going to bring. Though in general, I don’t find packing to be very stressful. Maybe it’s because I wear basically the same thing every day.

In total, I probably spent four-ish hours packing everything. This included going around the house and collecting random items, stuffing liquids into plastic bags, and then tetris-ing everything into my suitcase, duffel bag, and backpack.


These are some lists and tips to try and help you decide what to pack. Everyone’s different and has different needs, so my lists should be considered suggestions.

Now, the things you’ll end up using and not using will depend on the climate of the place you’re living in and what activities you end up doing, but make sure you do your research. I looked at Wikipedia quite a bit to find out about the climate, and tried to pack accordingly.

Things I brought but never used:

  • The suit pants and vest that I brought as a nice outfit
  • My winter puff coat
  • My winter hat, gloves, and earmuffs
  • All my exercise shirts except for one
  • An American notebook
  • The big water bottle from CIEE
  • A big tube of rash cream
  • A reflective armband
  • My TI-30 calculator (I'd also brought the nspire my school requires us to buy)
  • My contacts
  • My extra set of glasses
  • Two european USB adapters that were not actually the proper shape to go into the outlet

Things I brought and used, but could’ve done without:

  • My heavy sweatshirt I was wearing as a winter jacket
  • Money belt
  • The pens I brought with me
  • A folder of paper
  • Some Magic: The Gathering cards
  • Cinch sack
  • Bar of soap

Things I bought while in France (that weren’t food, movie tickets, etc):

  • A scarf
  • Two t-shirts
  • A pair of pants
  • Pens, glue, white-out, ruler
  • Notebooks, paper
  • Accordion folder
  • Agenda/planner
  • 2 booklet-type things that are made up of page protectors

Things you should probably plan on buying:

  • Pencil case (or else bring one, I guess)
  • All your school supplies
  • An agenda (if you don't use one at home)
  • Other random stuff that you're going to have a hard time stuffing into your suitcase (trust me it's gonna happen)

Some quick tips for packing:

  • Don’t take your entire wardrobe. Bring enough for 7-10 days. You'll probably buy clothes while there too
  • Roll your clothes. It can make it easier to fit all your clothing into your bags. It’s up to you to judge whether rolling or folding will prove to be more practical (ex: rolling a t-shirt is more space efficient that folding, but the same isn't really true for a bulky sweatshirt) which brings me to...
  • Avoid bulky items. They take up space and are probably more trouble than they're worth
  • Try to pack your carry on pretty light. Those are the things you'll be manually carrying around the most, probably
  • If you can't decide whether to bring something or not, it's probably okay to leave it at home. If it turns out you DO need it, you can probably buy it somewhere in France (or whatever country you're staying in)
  • Pack with a bit of room to spare. You're going to buy things, and you're going to want to bring them back home with you. So think ahead and make sure you have a bit of wiggle room for fitting in all your souvenirs on the way back
  • Don’t overthink it too much. Sure, it’s stressful figuring out what to bring with you for a 5+ month trip, but it doesn't have to be complicated. Bring a few of your favourite outfits/shirts/pants/shorts and enough underwear and socks to last you a week, toiletries, and a few other things for entertainment, etc.


As for me, I'm all packed up. I leave (or left) my host family today Monday (I’m not sure when exactly this will go up). Having my families together was really great. Now I'm going to be visiting the north for a week, during which I'll be meeting up with a friend from Chicago who happens to be vacationing in France at the same time as me.

To be honest, I don't really want to go up north. I'd much prefer to either stick around Montauban for another week or else go directly home, but I'm sure it'll be lots of fun.

I will miss my host family very much, that’s for sure. I couldn't have hoped for anyone better. 

Weekly Recap

  • Last week in montauban.
  • Played basketball with some friends during our lunch break Tuesday 

IMG_7434Playing basketball at the nearby sports complex

  • The music school I was going to had arranged a surprise party for my leaving (which was super nice) 

IMG_7454The director of the music school and me, with the baton he/the school gifted me

My host mom also had me make rice Krispie treats (which I'd made the week before for the family) for the school to surprise them. I didn't want to because I didn't want to make a fuss, but it turned out alright!

  • Had my last day of school, and said goodbye to pretty much all my classmates 
  • The Festiv’Albias, a rock and roll festival that my host parents help organise happened 



  • My bio parents and brother came to came pick me up 

IMG_7497My host mom, my mom, me, and my little brother

IMG_7518My host parents, my parents, and my brother

This week, I'm doing lots of tourist-y things in the north of France, so I'll have a very picture-filled post for you (maybe) next week Monday. Or maybe Wednesday.

Anyways, it was a wonderful last week in my host city. It was a great 5 months, and these coming days touring around with my family will be awesome as well!

One Year

    Reporters discuss Macron and Trump on the television, a blue banner running beneath their padded-shoulders, gesturing hands and painted lips. It’s the Monday of a three-day weekend, and things are rather quiet here. It is raining.
    Two weeks. Blueberry jam and my mother in the other room.

    Il ne me reste que deux semaines avant la fin de cette aventure, voire une semaine avant que je vois les gens qui occupaient mon coeur, ma mémoire, l’écran de mon ordi pendant ces dernières dix mois. Je me rappelle du moment où c’était deux mois, et je me rends compte que le moment où ce sera deux jours va bientôt arriver. This realization hurls me through an earthly gateway of time and space, back to a particular occasion…

    My cousin and I occupied the kitchen. He was perched atop the counter island, while I leaned against the harsh corners that formed the cabinets, facing him. In my hand I held a glass of water, half full, on the brink of transpiring through its thick, greenish glass body. The top was rimmed in a faded indigo shade.
    It was fall; though I could be mistaken. I wonder now if it was actually summer, the world stunned by the high sun and rustled by gentle winds. Or even winter, for I seem to remember being garbed in a loose fitting sweater, my cousin in long pants.
    I sipped from my water glass as he spoke. A poignant and vivid inspiration emanated from his entire being. I watched it being released, as I listened; his extended hands morphed to depict his words.
    Through his language, we traveled. To Italy, notably, where he had lived, years ago, as a high-school student. Just as I spoke of doing the following year. Though in my case, the setting would be France.
    I don’t recall if I had initiated the conversation, or if he had, but nonetheless it was launched and being etched upon my mind as it went. It was a vivid game of persuasion by truth and experience, for it revolved around a debate between two potential durations of time abroad: a semester or a year, six months or ten.
    It was becoming time for me, a prospective student, to decide, and yet my loyalty remained stubbornly split between the two periods of time and their respective amalgamations of dreamed-up possibilities.
    My foot stuck a bit to the glossy surface of the wooden floor boards as I lifted it and placed it atop the bare skin of the other, just to repeat the process in the opposite direction. This was the fidgeting of a fascinated person, for I was enthralled and hungry for the moment of inspiration that I imagined would dawn upon me, thus determining my future.
    I sipped again from the glass of frigid water that I held and noticed that his sat untouched at his side. He was occupied with incarnating the story to which I bore witness, the story not only of the birth of a foreign land, to his eyes, but also that of life in which that very land has grown into a deep set memory.
    Here he was before me, this messenger from the world of seekers. And though I remember many of the vibrant images he painted for me of his personal experience abroad, his simple will to advocate for devoting an entire ten months to the creation of them is what still resonates with me the most profoundly. Not being the first to attempt a shift of my inclination, nor the last, he embarked on an explanation of his opinion with a fierce sense of need; for me to understand, for me to see. Yet despite his firm belief, he encouraged me to listen and to draw my own conclusions from the information he could provide. The following was his argument: the first half of a year abroad is spent developing a new life, while the second half is spent living it.
    I found myself nodding in agreement. Of all the things I’d been told, all the opinions revealed, all the wisdom imparted and all the tales recounted, this singular concept rang with an unprecedented sincerity. I could not know, at the time, the extent to which this message would ring true.

    As I exited the kitchen that night, my path had not yet been determined; I continued to toss around my possibilities, them the resilient vessels, my mind a shifting sea. But that one message, his message, remained with me, its engraving growing ever deeper as the days passed and as the self-debate perpetuated.

    That moment of inspiration, the one I had unwittingly anticipated, did not strike me in the singular way one might imagine. Instead, it was a dawning process; I remember being flooded slowly by said inspiration, an inspiration that would not die, that willed me to pursue the year in its entirety. Its source was just as ambiguous as it was overt.
    I was unencumbered, neither by my school, nor by my parents, who both openly wished me well in what I sought. The choice was entirely mine. I had listened to many opinions and weighed the elements of my known life that would escape me for the year. I asked, and I was graciously answered. And yet I could not say exactly what it was that evoked this inspiration.

    It is June, and here I am. Witnessing the arc of what I have chosen play out and, quite honestly, just finally feeling at ease, wildly content, bold. The irony.
    I am happy with the decision that I made and I concur with the words of my cousin: the first half of a year abroad is spent building a new life, the second is spent living it.
    I don’t mean to disparage the experience of a semester; there is fathomless merit in that initial leap one takes from home, wherever that may be, to a universe of utter newness, which one is then tasked not only with exploring but with adopting, too. Accepting, analyzing and striving to understand. This initial exploration is undoubtedly incomparable.
    But still, I chose a year. And while I not only refuse to deny the influence of outside forces, but thank them and their guidance, I know solemnly that this decision came from within.
    I’ve sat in quiet rooms and on sweltering, humid buses and discussed these matters with others, in the process gaining the knowledge that for some, this is a decision that comes from without. I respect that, as we all have our ways about us. However, I do encourage, I do urge, the prospective traveler to seek the quietness to listen to his or her own intuition. In opting to go abroad, already, you are altering your story as a participant of our modern society; while this experience may not be entirely rare, it is certainly not entirely ordinary either. And therefore I suggest embracing this individuality of the trajectory and landscape of your own life — there is no other sense of liberation that parallels it.


À gauche: une fille de ma classe, Nina/ À droite: moi (coucou)

Tips For Making Your Home

Hello all! I've got one week left with my host family, and in less than seven days, my family is coming to meet me in France. Though my time studying abroad is almost finished, I've got some tips for settling into your foreign country.

1. Cook A Meal

If you read my last post detailing some of the things I've cooked while here, you probably will have noticed the majority of things I put up were not French meals (though I have cooked my fair share of those as well). In the first couple weeks here, I cooked one of my favourite dishes for my host family - fried rice.

IMG_5334The fried rice I made for my host family and I in January

Since France (and many other countries) treat food and mealtimes as more significant events during the day, cooking a meal from home for your host family is a great way to show them some of your home as you settle into theirs.

2. Play Some Games

Play some games - cards, checkers, whatever. I don't have any host siblings living with me, so there were no video games or anything really for kids/teens to play with other kids/teens in the house, but my host mom showed me Rummikub and we've played that a good number of times.

IMG_5339Playing the European version of Ticket to Ride

I really like playing complicated strategy board games back in the US (though my host mom says they're too complicated for her), so I showed her Ticket to Ride. She had actually played it before because her son who lives in Arkansas also likes board games. We ended up buying the European version and playing it several times as well.

3. Buy a T-Shirt

Or some other article of clothing. Don't go insane and re-do your entire wardrobe or feel super pressured to follow the fashion of all your peers at school (though especially for guys the amount of thought going into outfit choices is definitely much more evident in France than America), but getting a few pieces of clothing you like from France can help you feel less like you stick out. Buying things like clothing with your host family or friends makes it feel more home-y too in way. I pretty much just wear t-shirts all the time everywhere no matter the season, so I got myself two t-shirts from the Galeries Lafayette au centre ville to wear here in France. It also works the other way around for when you return home you'll have some pieces of clothing from your study abroad.

IMG_6260A shirt that I bought while shopping with my host mom

4. Help With The Shopping

This one isn't as fun as the other two, especially if your host mom often forgets something and runs off to go find it right as it's becoming your turn at checkout, but it's good to help out. You also get to pick out things to eat during the week, and find new things to try that look interesting. I've tried lots of different types of French tea cookies now because the breakfast aisle is full of them, and I've tasted many different cheeses.


5. Play a Sport or Instrument or Something

I play the saxophone, so I was able to join an orchestra at a nearby music school. This helped me meet new people and be part of a group. And also gave me something to do in the afternoons on Wednesdays when I have half days. Try to find something that you do at home to continue doing in France. If you can't find anything, maybe try something new or ask some of your school friends what activities they do.

IMG_6121The orchestra setting up for the first concert I played with them

6. Keep Your Room Tidy. But Not Too Tidy

This one might not apply to you if you're one of those people who's super neat all the time. They tell you in orientation that you should always keep your room tidy (or something like that). But if you're usually not a super-neat person, keeping your room super-neat all the time at your host home will make it feel less like home. So go ahead and leave that sock on the floor right next to the laundry basket. Your host family probably won't mind (you are a teenager after all). But don't leave all your clothes on the floor next to the laundry basket (then your host family might mind), and pick it up eventually. Keep tidy, but let your stuff spread out. It helps you feel more at home. Just don't turn your room into an absolute pigsty.


7. Spend time with your extended host family and friends

Going to dinners, walking home with friends, going out for lunch - these are ways to get into your host community. Doing things with friends and family helps you bond and explore more of your area. The two guys I usually hang out with during class walk in the same direction as me to get home, so we usually walk together until we've all split up.

IMG_6778My host mom and I playing ping pong at a nearby park

I've gone biking several times with my host mom and sometimes her friend, Bernadette, and I've gone to lots of French dinner parties and met the kids of friends of my host parents. We've also gone on some day trips to see different parts of the region, Le Tarn et Garonne. Your host family will be excited to show you around! 

So those are my tips for making yourself at home during your time abroad. I hope you found them helpful! We'll now move onto the...

Weekly ReCap

Noteable events from the past week include:

  • The Mother's Day gift I ordered for my host mom arrived: 2 kilos (well, 1800 grams) of Walker's Pure Butter shortbread cookies. My dad brought me some during his visit, and my host mom really liked them when I let her try them, so I decided to get her "some" for Mother's Day.

IMG_7370Me and my host mom, who is holding all 12 boxes of cookies that arrived in the mail for her

  • I had a test in Physique-Chimie, and I kind of messed up one part where we had to draw a diagram. I don't have the grade back yet, but hopefully I did well
  • Myriam from STS came by again to check in on how I was doing before I leave
  • Lots of things are being organized for my return to the US, my family's visit, and our short vacation in Paris
  • I made a paper Boba Fett helmet


Well, that's it for this week. Bye!

Cooking in France!

Hello! We're really getting close to the end of my time abroad - just two weeks left with my host family. If you've seen some of my early posts, you may have noticed pictures of me with various things I cooked/baked. While in France, I have cooked a lot more than I did at home, largely due to this thing my host family has called a "thermomix" which makes cooking very easy. It's like an electronic mixer with a removable bowl, but it's also a cooking scale and can load up recipes. Anyways, this'll be a post going over some of the things I made in the kitchen while in France.

IMG_5334Fried rice, January 2017

I think this is the first thing I cooked for my host family and myself in France: fried rice. I was very proud of this and included my recipe for it in one of my early blog posts. I haven't had the chance to make it again, but I remember it being very very good.

IMG_5466Crepes! Also in January

I remember this one because we had a ton of leftover crepe batter after the Tremplin', which is a rock competition that my host dad helps run (and takes place in January). We ended up making a TON of crepes, but it was 100% worth it because who doesn't like crepes?

IMG_5743Loco Moco, February 2017

This one was completed after about 2 hours of cooking or so. I had also forgotten the kilograms are 2.2 pounds. The metric system is used in France, like pretty much everywhere else. Anyways, I bought 750 grams of beef to make burger patties for three people and they ended up being (surprisingly) gigantic. 

IMG_7274Burgers, March 2017

My host mom really wanted me to prepare burgers for us one weekend, probably because I'm American, so I did. They were yummy and we had all the fixings - tomato, lettuce, cheese, etc etc. I even made some fried onions.

IMG_6394Marble pound cake, March 2017

This one is a vanilla-chocolate marble pound cake. This one I made with the ThermoMix. It was pretty easy and really good (probably has something to do with the fact that it calls for 300 grams of butter). I've made this several times without all the butter and it tastes just as good though.

IMG_6741Mac 'n' cheese and roasted potatoes, April 2017

This was what I think we call "carbolicious". Oven-baked mac 'n' cheese with bacon and breadcrumbs and maple syrup roasted fingerling potatoes. It was good. But it was heavy. It was also very entertaining to see French people trying to say "oven-baked mac 'n' cheese with maple syrup roasted fingerling potatoes" after asking me what it was (I made this for dinner one evening when we had people coming over for dinner).

IMG_6928Mushroom tart, May 2017

This is another thing from the ThermoMix. There were 750g of mushrooms and that is a lot of mushrooms. I usually don't like eating mushrooms, but this was actually good. Also the crust was really yummy. It's not that complicated to make either, you basically just steam mushrooms with a bunch of spices and then bake it in two crusts for 40 minutes so.

IMG_7292Quiche, May 2017

This isn't my first quiche I've made in France, but it's the one I've liked the most. It's goat cheese, bacon, and fried onions. Quiches are pretty simple if you already have the crust, and they're tasty.

So those are some of the things I've cooked while in France. I've made a lot of other things, like a bunch of various soups and cakes, but I don't have too many pictures on my computer of those. Actually I don't have too many pictures of me coking and/or things I've cooked on my computer. I was planning for this to be longer. I did not think this through. But I'm at six hundred and fifty words, I can't back out now!

Anyways, since my departure is coming up very quickly, my host mom has started making jokes about how she'll miss her cook when I leave. 

Now it's time......for the

Weekly ReCap

Some notable events from the past week include:

  • Me making the saddest "tripod" ever for my iPhone to record an interview of my host mom

IMG_7291That's the sugar bowl on top of a metal cookie tin on top of a salad bowl. Don't judge

  • I had no school on Thursday or Friday
  • I went to this cool outdoor bar place where my host dad was running the sound for the band Saturday night

IMG_7316Here's the bar. It's called the Bar O

IMG_7346Here's a grainy picture with my host dad at the sound bar

  • Sunday was French Mother's Day, so I made my host mom a card. I also ordered her a gift from Amazon, but that has not arrived as of now

IMG_7344Me and my host mom with the card I made her (she's wearing the sunglasses my dad brought her)

Until next week!