Before I departed for my study abroad program, I had many expectations. I thought I would be eating a lot of escargot, baguettes, and spending my evenings under the Eiffel Tower every day. Out of those expectations, only one of them were reality. I eat a ton of baguettes. Like, at least one whole baguette a day. I haven’t actually seen any restaurants that serve escargot, which isn’t too bad for me since the idea of eating snails really grosses me out. And since I only spent the first 3 days of my trip in Paris, I have not been able to spend all my evenings under the Eiffel Tower.

Now, my expectations have changed a lot. I expect to focus a decent amount on my classes and studies, something I had not previously anticipated. I spend a few hours a day focusing on my homework and reviewing the notes from class. I have to spend so much time on it because since I am being taught in another language, it takes me longer to understand what I am learning.

But my expectations differ in good ways as well. I never expected to get so used to living here, but I now know my way around all of Nantes. I know how to get to school, the movies, hundreds of different restaurants, and how to return home from several different places. I made friends with locals who I hang out with weekly. I better understand french culture, language, and architecture. The latter not being something I expected to improve upon.

I am definitely more comfortable in the city after being here for a few weeks. I am not afraid to walk by myself (though I seldom do). I know this city like the back of my hand. I know which restaurants have the best food or the best lunch specials. I know what fun things I can do on the weekend; Like go to the movies, main city attractions, soccer games, etc. This trip has been so liberating, I truly feel like I am a citizen here and not simply an outsider. I have a metro/bus pass that I use weekly so I can go wherever I want within the city and outer areas.

o When did it first hit you that you are away from home and are
experiencing a new culture (Aka. Your, “Oh my gosh, I’m abroad”
moment!) What was that like?

The first time it hit me that I was actually in France was as soon as I got to Nantes after being in Paris for the past couple of days. Paris was amazing, but you kind of know what to expect because of all the famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and L’Arc de Triomphe. Being in Paris just didn’t feel real, it felt more like a fantasy or a dream. But once we arrived at Nantes and met our host families the feeling completely changed. It finally became a reality that we were in France and we were going to spend the next 6 weeks here. I experience everyday with an overwhelming amount of excitement since I am in the country I have dreamed about visiting since I was little.
o Have you experienced any moments of culture shock? Describe those

I have experienced one particular instance of culture shock here that has struck me as the most odd. French people do not like giving hugs. They find it odd and uncomfortable. Instead, they give la bise, which is a kiss on each cheek of the person they are meeting of saying hello/goodbye to. This was very strange for me, since in my opinion, kisses are much more personal than a hug is. I miss hugs very much here, I don’t feel like there is enough physical interaction between people. I make sure to give my friends at school lots of hugs to make up for it.
– For the following question, if you are participating in an internship, please
answer part (a). If you are not participating in an internship, please answer
part (b).
o (b) Reflect on your first few weeks of classes. How did you feel studying
under professors from a different culture than you? What differences
did you notice in the way classes are taught at your new university
versus how they are taught at Pitt? Did you have any major adjustments
you needed to make? Describe any challenges you faced during your
first class meetings and give tips to others who plan to take courses

Classes have been going really well too. It is a little weird having to take a class in a language you are learning, so it is a little difficult. You really have to try not to daydream because if you zone out and then zone back in, it will be very difficult to figure out what the teacher is talking about. One of my teachers only speaks french and the other is bilingual in french and english. This is a bit difficult when we have a question for the french speaking teacher and we are struggling to find the right words to say. The tests are graded differently here as well. Scores are out of 20. But, that doesn’t mean that they are scored the same. If you get above a 12 on a test that means that you did really well on it. a 14/20 is a B+. This gave me a heart attack when I received my midterm grade and realized I got a 13/20 on it. For those planning on studying abroad, make sure of a couple of things before hand. 1.) Know the grading scale before-hand so you don’t have a heart attack and think you failed your exam, and 2.) Don’t daydream during class. It is difficult to catch up to what is happening and you could really miss important information.

Overall, my trip is going so well and after it is over I might just decide to stay here forever I love it so much! I am so attached to my family and friends that I have made here, it is truly my home away from home! 🙂

A+ ! (à plus!)