Friday, March 30, 2012


   I ate dinner with my two host sisters tonight because our parents both had meetings for their jobs. After finishing I helped my older sister take down the laundry, that had been hung outside to dry. The door to outside from the kitchen stayed open as there was just a small chill in the air. We had the radio on and the sun was going down over the field across the street. I stopped in the middle of unpinning my dress, and looked around...watched as our cat chased a butterfly, admired the pink and yellow sky over the vast openness, I smiled at my sister, and realized that there was no where in the world that I would rather be than where I was in that moment. 

Leaving here in 100 days is going to be the hardest thing I'll ever have to do. 

Lycée Augustine Cournot

   I waited quite a bit to write a post about my new school because it takes awhile to go to all of my classes and get a good impression on everything. But now, two weeks have passed and I’ve sat through each subject. Which means it’s time for me to tell you about Lycee Augustine Cournot!

As far as classes go, I'm in Premier Science. It's the equivalent of 11th grade, so my classmates are the same age as me. As part of the science track I take:
Geography and History: I love my teacher!! He talks pretty slowly, which may irritate other kids, but I really appreciate it. We’re studying WWII and I’m able to take notes and understand everything.
English: I have three teachers throughout the week, one completely ignores me, one treats me like all the other students and one lets me play assistant!
Physics and Chemistry: unlike at my school in Maryland, these two subjects combine and are one class. I took chemistry last year but to be frank, am not very good at science. I’ve never taken physics, so this class has proven to be the biggest challenge.
Math: the fact that we are studying what I did in the beginning of the year is promising. My teacher is really cool and it’s a fun class. 
Spanish: I still can’t put a sentence together, but we’re going to stay positive!
French: Moliere anybody? This class consists of reading and rereading and rerereading old French texts and identifying themes and literature devices. Yoopie! 
But in all seriousness, I didn’t have French in terminal so I’m glad that I get the chance to study it now. I think I would really love it... if it were in English! It’s a bit of a headache in French but I enjoy using all my colored highlighters and pens.
Sports: I don’t think I’ve said a single favorable thing about gym class in my lifetime. I’ve never enjoyed gym, and I don’t think I ever will. But for the record, we’re playing badminton.
Biology: luckily, I took bio last year so I have a basic understanding of these long multi-syllable French words. It’s a really fun class, and I love my teacher!
Art: A short two hours on Friday afternoon where I get to draw and paint.
    So the major differences are that I now take three sciences (opposed to none), French (instead of philosophy), and art. 

   And now, for the people! People are what made leaving Tournon so hard. As much as I needed to change families, I would have done anything to not change schools. I had all the luck in the world with my class and made wonderful friends, who I talk to regularly today. But all this sets the bar unfairly high for my new class. I made a big effort to go in there with the same attitude I had on the first day of school back in September albeit the past six months. 
I was met with two polar opposite reactions.
   The majority of people stared at me and turned their head to watch as I walked down the hallway. They want to be my friend “to have the chance to go to the United States”. They make me feel like I’m famous, someone to be marveled at. Don’t get me wrong, I like the attention.
   At least... I prefer it to the other reaction. It's mostly girls, who are, to be blunt, just plain mean. They snicker as I walk by, whisper just a little too loudly about me. What makes me appear so exciting and cool to one person can just as well make another person not like me. Maybe "like" isn't the right word, maybe they're intimidated, or taken off guard. They don't know how to react, as I'm the first American they've seen outside of the TV screen.
   So we have the people who act as if I was on that screen, and those who act as if they would rather I was, and not in their class.

   My host mom told me that 70% of people in this region have never left the region. Paris is too far for them, so I might as well be from Mars. Which is pretty much how they treat me. But I can’t change that about them. All I can do is be myself, I hope that will show some that I’m not all that different from them, and if not tant pis, their loss! 

   Through the jumble of reactions and excitement of meeting everyone,  I’ve made terrific friends. There’s one other exchange student at my school, and we were lucky enough to be put in the same class. She’s here with YFU, from Venezuela.
   I have a couple of hours off between classes during the day. And I take the bus now! Which means I have to stay in town until five, even if I finish class earlier. But that doesn’t bother me in the least. It allows my friends and me the time to walk around town and enjoy the lovely weather that we’ve been treated to these past weeks.

Us, sitting by the river!

Our friends, with a giant Kinder egg that we bought spontaneously!

Waiting for the bus after school.
   The economy track is very different from the science track and France-Comté is very different from Grenoble. Which makes my two school experiences as different as night and day. At the end, getting a taste of the two will be a very enriching experience.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mon chat!

We like to cuddle 
Don't believe her tortured look, she loves me.. ;)

I prefer using my pens as toys than for homework!

   This is my darling cat. My host sister got her from a rescue as a christmas present just three months ago. We're both new members to the family and are good friends. She sits on my lap as I eat breakfast and keeps me company while I work. Meow. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just do it

   In my English class in Tournon, there was a girl preparing her application to go to the United States next year. I helped her answer a few questions, as it was all in English. She then asked me for some advice and asked if I would do my year abroad again. 
She didn’t understand when I responded 
“Yes, and then a thousand times over”. 
   We talked for awhile as I did my best to express how much good a year abroad does. How much you learn. How much you grow.

   Before leaving I read on a blog "it won't necessarily be the best year of your life, but it will be the year where you grow the most."

AFS also warns not to go into this expecting a fairy tale. And that is fair, but there are definitely moments in my year abroad that came right out of a storybook!
It’s a 10 month long adventure. 
   What I love most is that for the first time in your life, you're on your own. Of course, you have all the support from AFS but every relationship you make outside of the program is yours. No one around you knows your family or where you grew up, all they know is you. So when that's enough to make friends and a second family, there’s no one to be proud of but yourself.

   I'm young, I have an amazing family, I wouldn't consider a single year of my life as bad, but this year has definitely been one of the best. 
Of course, not every day is easy. Some feel like the worst. It can be really really hard. I shed a lot of tears in the first months here. Imagine the pathetic, over dramatic scene from movies. A girl crying in the bathroom stall, and you have me back in September. I missed my family so much, it actually hurt.
   There are times when I feel beyond lonely. I am relying on italicized and bold words to try to recreate the emotions that exchange students go through because I don't know words that could accurately describe them. 
   No two exchange students have the same experience. Some don't ever get homesick, some go home early, but we all learn and grow. And most importantly, nobody around you wants you to feel like that, so it gets easier and easier every day.
   To be honest, I spent a lot of time in the first few months counting the days and thinking about my life when I get back. But now that there are only four more months left, all I want to do is freeze time. I know that this is a year like no other. Opportunities that I've had this year will never come again. I'll never again be 16 and in Paris with my best friend. I'll never again go to the cafe in Tournon between classes. I'll never again yell out my window to Eliza. I could go on for pages with these moments that make me smile and laugh. But memories of these times will have to be enough. Oh and my pictures of course! 
   And I am getting ahead of myself here. I still have four months and another school to get accustomed to. 
   But while talking to the girl back in English class I realized just how special this year is. And it made me want to encourage more people, like her, to jump in to this and have a year abroad of their own.

Photo album

Petites cites comtoises de caractere

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ribbit ribbit

   As proof to my earlier claim of doing away with my picky eating habits, this post will be about the devoration of frogs
   I've been in France for over six months but in my new family for only a few weeks. Frustratingly, there are things that they would have liked introduce me to but that I had already discovered. (Ie, snails, cheese, vineyards, French music) Frogs, however are not on that list. 
   Grenouille is not something that the French eat very often. My host family wanted me to make that clear! It's quite a special meal. And only prepared for a few weeks in March. I went out to a restaurant in my town to try them for myself. 
   We picked a night when my younger host sister had other plans because she doesn't like frog. And my older host sister ordered pizza. Although neither of the two have tried it! But who am I kidding, if this restaurant had been in Maryland and I had been with my parents, I would have ordered pizza too. Being away from home does something to you I tell you! It's like when my mom used to ask me how come I ate the carrots my friend's mom prepared but not her's. 
   We had a great time. My host parents are good friends with the restaurants owners. They stayed until 1:30 am talking with them while I walked home with my host sister. 
   My host dad told me about his birthday dinner, that they ate at that same place. By the end of the night, they had pushed all the tables in the restaurant together. What started as a small family dinner ended with a large part of the town. I can see why they like living in the country. 

Ribbit Ribbit 

Yum Yum 
I was definitely very hesitant at first. But once I got over the fact that I was touching the legs of a frog, it was delicious. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012


   Over the past few days, I brought my camera along while running errands with my host family. First, we had some books to return to the library. 
The library is 30 minutes away, in a town called Auxonne. 

This is a public library!

In any other circumstance I would think it weird to take pictures of a library. But this one is gorgeous! Floor to ceiling wooden book shelves full of century old books. 

Decorations that remain from carnaval in Auxonne. 

Another day, we went to Dole. It was a relatively warm day, and a very pretty town. 
My host sister and I got nutella covered gaufres (waffles). 

Kind of like a French version of Venice, Italy.

Me and my host sister :) 

The organ at the Church of Notre Dame in Dole.
We had gone to get groceries. Helping to put them away, I opened the freezer to find this creature. 
What would your reaction be if you opened your freezer to find this rabbit?
Mine was, "gotta get my camera!"

Friday, March 9, 2012


   This post will mean little to you if you don't speak French. But I can't help myself. In six months my french has improved a lot. I've gotten much better at grammar and have extended my vocabulary. But not all the words I learned are necessarily appropriate. The French use a lot of slang. Here's some of what I've learned! Try to stay with me :) 

Putain de merde- Just realized I maybe shouldn't have started with this one... it's gros mots/swear words. 
Trop classe- So class, so nice. It can be used to describe clothes, a place, anything that is impressive. 
Tu m’etonnes- Literally this translates to "you surprise me" but it actually means "no duh" or "obviously". 
C’est pas terrible-Likewise, you would think this means "it's not terrible" but it actually implies that things are terrible! For example, a 6/20 on a test is pas terrible!
Je kiff- Kiffer means to love something. Je kiff ce jeu-I love this game.
Tu fais chier- You're annoying, but much meaner than that! 

Verlan- This is going to sound crazy but the French like to talk backwards. Verlan is the French version of pig latin, except it's actively spoken. It is words in reverse or with mixed up syllables.
The name verlan is itself in verlan as it comes from a l'envers (reversed). The most commonly used word in verlan is meuf, which comes from femme (woman). 
Understanding French is enough of a challenge for exchange students, now we have to know it backwards too! 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


   Since my first step to the moment I boarded the plane last September, I was a picky eater. I mean really, really picky. I often ate peanut butter toast for all three meals. Wendy's chicken nuggets was about the only meat I would eat. And I never ever ate vegetables. Rightfully, this bothered my mother, who every night prepared a big, healthy dinner. 
   I learned to eat in France. I don't think my own mom will recognize me when I get home. And not just because of the 15 pounds I've gained. I eat all the normal foods now, vegetables included. But what I really adore is French delicacies. I've learned a good amount about them too, and will now share that information with you all! 

Cheese does not belong in the refrigerator! But instead outside, typically it is kept on a window sill. It should be brought inside before beginning the meal in order to warm up before cheese time! I am a real cheese lover. I don't discriminate against a single cheese, I love them all! But my all time favorites are: 

Goat's milk
  • Chevre 

When it's young the cheese is creamy and soft. As it ages it becomes dry and firm. It's crispy white on the inside. 
Salt is used to prevent decay, which leaves a little bit of a salty taste.
Let it sit on your tongue and melt, it's so good. 
It can also be served hot (called chevre chaud). I love putting slices on a piece of toast and putting it in the oven to melt. 

Cow's milk 
  • Camembert
Camembert comes from Normandie and is soft and creamy.  If you refrigerate it and then leave it out, the center will start to ooze, and that is simply wonderful. 
  • Comté

Comté takes longer than these last two to make. It also is very different in texture. It's a hard cheese and pretty sweet. The most common ones are between 12 and 16 months old. The rind becomes bigger as it ages. It's named after my region, Franche-Comté!

  • Mont D'or 
We had this for dinner last night. Served over potatoes and accompanied by sausage. The cheese comes from cows in the mountains between Switzerland and France. It can only be produced during certain periods of the year and not enough is made to ship all around France.

That covers my all time favorite cheeses, and represents a good amount of the variety that cheese they can come in.


Wine goes so well with cheese. Like peanut butter and jelly, but French style! 
Some people can identify the type of wine they are drinking by the taste. But they may well be cheating because you can actually tell by the shape of the bottle!

Alsace and Bordeaux

Each type of wine has it's own bottle shape. As an example, you can see that Bordeaux wine comes in a long slim bottle, while a bottle from Alsace has more of a curve. 

I prefer white wine but sincerely like them all. 

   Every night for dinner we start with the aperitif. An alcoholic drink and crackers. Then we eat the entree, meat, and two sides.  Afterwards is the cheese course, followed by dessert. Dessert is often chocolate cakes or tarts. Two different wines are served with dinner and cheese to compliment their tastes.  
And that is how I've gained 15 pounds. lol!