Culture Shock in France

It’s been a little over three weeks now since I’ve arrived in France. We spent the first few days in Paris, exploring the city and getting to know the other students on the program. Admittedly, we didn’t speak much French in Paris either, with the exception of interacting with our teachers or waiters. After that weekend, however, we arrived in Nantes and were expected to fully immerse ourselves in the French language and culture. The first day my host parents picked me up was pretty difficult—I was speaking French in an intensive way that I was not prepared for by my high school French classes, and I was doing it with two people I had never met before. Lucky for me, they are incredibly sweet and do everything they can to help me adjust comfortably. Although I was really nervous about living with a host family at first, I’m now really glad that this is the way the program is set up. Not only am I improving my French (especially slang terms that aren’t taught in the classroom), but I’m also getting the chance to see how a normal French family lives their life. It’s also really fun to come to school in the morning and exchange funny anecdotes with my classmates because we can compare our families and figure out what things most French people do and what things are specific to certain families. For example, almost everyone’s family has apéritif (a small snack and usually alcoholic beverage like wine or cider before dinner), but having a mattress on the floor is not typical, as one of my classmates quickly discovered.

School itself has become an interesting part of my new life in Nantes. At home I really take for granted being able to go to class and understand the material with minimal effort. When all of your classes are in French, however, the material doesn’t come as easily and any time spent zoning out in class can make it really difficult to understand. The first few days it was completely exhausting constantly trying to understand, but I’m happy to say that after a few weeks I don’t have to translate too much, and certain words and phrases I just understand, which is super cool. In other news, it turns out my Art History professor in Nantes is one of the most famous art historians in the country and she’s won a crazy amount of teaching awards, which are incredibly prestigious in France!

That’s all I have for now, à bientôt!

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