Skiing in the French Alps? Why didn’t you say so?!

After having my second class of Intro to Theater yesterday, I have now officially met all of my teachers. Every one of my teachers seems incredibly knowledgeable and invested in their students’ success. In Thermodynamics and Dynamics, I am thrilled to say that the words “Free Body Diagram” have now been used (whew!) and I am thankful for my past teachers and professors in physics that have given me a solid and advantageous baseline of knowledge coming in. My General Psychology class is my largest with 40 students and seems as though it will be pretty easy, as long as my professor stops flashing a picture of an enormous tarantula on the screen… In Intro to Theater, I have two professors – one to teach theory and read plays, and one to teach the art of acting. My acting professor established a no-nonsense personality within about 10 minutes that reminded me of another of my past teachers, Mr. Nichols. She effectively established unquestionable authority, and yet I have the impression that she would be delighted for me to ask any question and would do anything in her power to help me succeed, as long as I put the work in myself. Tomorrow I have my first Thermodynamics quiz, so I can confidently state that this semester is now well under way.

The weather in Antibes up until this weekend has been unfailingly fair, sunny, and gorgeous. Since then, we have had rain several days and the sea has been choppy. The waves remind me of learning to surf with my family and make me wish for that opportunity again. Albeit different, I find the city and sea in stormy weather just as beautiful.

I had the somewhat depressing realization Monday that MLK day is not a thing here in Europe. I am beginning to realize the rich commitment to history that the United States seems to have. There are no national holidays here comparable to MLK Day or Presidents Day or Memorial Day, and I feel slightly spoiled to have those in the states.

Probably the most exciting part of this past week was getting to learn to snow ski in the French Alps. We were blessed with perfect conditions on Saturday, as it snowed through the night and gave us a 3-inch blanket of smooth powder to experience. On Saturday morning, we went as a group to rent our skis and my friend Julie agreed to give me some tips and teach me how to ski. I made the poor choice of not purchasing snow pants before our trip, thinking that I would be able to rent them there, and so wore blue jeans for the day. On the way to the bunny slopes however, we somehow were turned around and ended up going halfway up the mountain on the ski lift. Upon arriving, we discovered that there were no green slopes or bunny slopes at the height and I had no choice but to learn trial-by-fire-style and start on blue. God bless Julie for sticking with me and patiently giving me pointers along the way! It took us about 3.5 hours to get down that blue slope as my movements were as follows: ski to one side of the lane, wipeout, turn around, ski to the other side of the lane, wipeout, turn around, repeat. I was so soaked from essentially falling down the mountain, that whenever I fell down or slid, I left a splotch of blue dye from my jeans in the snow behind me. After getting down the mountain, I called it a day for skiing, got a late (1:30pm) lunch, bought a much-needed pair of snow pants, and retired. I slept incredibly well that night and had some lovely bruises on my legs to commemorate the event.

The next day, I went out to the slopes on my own and went down the green/big bunny slope for a while until some of the other beginner skiers in my group showed up. We skied for a while and I slowly gained confidence, the limited ability to turn while skiing, and the ability to make it down the slope without wiping out more than once. After an hour or two, one of the guys said he wanted to go down the blue slope and asked if any of us would come with him. I was very against the idea because of my experience the previous day, but encouraged him in his endeavor. A couple of the experienced guys showed up to say hi and upon being asked, said they would come with us to go down the blue slope. Because of their agreement, I went along with the group and the 5 of us, 2 experienced and 3 beginners, went down the same blue slope that I had fallen down just the day before. It was nice to have the experienced guys along as they covered front and back of us beginners and offered advice on how to turn and control our speed. I am proud to say that I was the first newbie down the mountain and this second experience only took me about 30 minutes. I stopped halfway down the mountain and, of course, took a few selfies to remember the event. After completing blue and feeling very accomplished I skied the green slope for the rest of the day and really began to get the hang of it. Looking back, I was incredibly apprehensive of the idea of learning to ski with people I had only known for two weeks and almost didn’t go on the trip, but I am so happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I made friends, learned a fun new sport, learned some things about myself, hurt my wallet more than a little bit, and had the time of my life.

In the next week, I will visit the Italian Riviera, see the Picasso Museum located here in Antibes, tour a lighthouse near here on the coast, and learn the basics of wine and cheese tasting. Oh yeah, I’ll also be taking my first 2 quizzes… yeah, the fun has to end somewhere…

Week one – Classes, Carbs, and Cities

This week was the start of classes, settling in, and getting to know the place I am calling home for the next 4 months, Antibes, France. Needless to say, a ton happened this week and therefore I ask you to bear with me as this will most likely be the longest post I make (but don’t hold me to that…).

To begin, I had to purchase groceries, a bus pass, go to orientation at my university, SKEMA, and figure out the area I was living. I ended up with four classes amounting to 12 hours, with Wednesdays and Fridays off. With this schedule, I hope to have many trips and travels to tell you all about in the near future.

My first day of class was an experience because of the new environment in which I now find myself. While all of my classes are taught in English, the majority of the students (and professors) are French and therefore English is not their first language. This means strong accents, switching languages to enhance communication, and a new style of teaching. It turns out in France, students grow up with the mindset that the teacher is all-knowing and not to be questioned, and so they are quiet and do not tend to speak up or contribute to class discussion as much- quite the dichotomy to American education, if I do say so myself. My courses, particularly Thermodynamics and Dynamics, are definitely taught from a different perspective. Whereas every physics class I have ever had heavily stresses the importance of the Free-Body Diagram, I have yet to see one drawn to solve a problem in any class. Additionally, my professors presented the British system of units by working a problem using slugs. (Now, I have been using the British and International systems simultaneously for many years and that may be the 2nd time I have had to solve a problem using slugs – not the best representation of British units, I’d say.) But all in all, I find my professors to be very driven, intelligent, open people who take joy in their subjects and in their students’ best interests, and I look forward to spending the semester learning from them.

On Saturday morning, all first-semester international students enrolled at SKEMA were invited to a scavenger hunt of Antibes. We were split into teams, given a quiz, shopping list, and 100 Euros, and told to be back in 2.5 hours. The shopping list required us to seek out French specialties to purchase. Upon returning with our wares, our score was tabulated and then each team was told they could eat everything they had purchased. Although my team did not win, I had several foods such as brioche and Socca for the first time.

On Sunday morning, my program went on a day-long excursion to visit the nearby areas of Nice and Eze, France, and Monaco. In Nice, we had a bus tour of the city, toured the old city and explored the market, and spent a good half hour sitting on the coast, enjoying the sun. After that, we rode to Eze, the perfume capital of the world, and famous perfume factory, Fragonard. In Eze, we explored an old castle overlooking the coast, dating back to the first century B.C. At Fragonard, we learned about the process of perfume making and were then given the opportunity to purchase from them in the factory store. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. (Fun fact: Did you know it takes 1 ton of lavender to make 1 liter of incense, and 3 tons of rose petals to make the same 1 liter?) After the castle and perfumes, we rode to Monaco where we toured some more, saw the castle where the prince of Monaco resides, ate on “the Rock” where the castle is located, saw and drove on the Formula 1 racetrack, and then had the opportunity to visit Monte Carlo. In Monte Carlo, we took pictures, saw the original casino, and of course, car watched. I spotted 2 Rolls Royces, 2 Ferraris, 1 Lamborghini, and my personal favorite, a white convertible Aston-Martin. Quite honestly, I spent more time looking for cars than looking at anything else.

Needless to say, I had a very full weekend and slept incredibly well before waking up to attend 2 of my classes for the first time. It has been a very full first week and I have consumed more bread and pasta than is healthy for any reasonable human, and I’m afraid the cycle does not end here. So, here’s to lots of carbs, new places, beautiful views and history, and hopefully still good grades!!

The Arrival

Well, after over 24 hours of travel and airports, I have finally arrived. The apartment is bigger and more beautiful than I ever expected, the girls I’m with seem awesome, and the wifi is good! Our balcony looks out onto the Mediterranean and a Picasso Museum. We are a mere 10 minute walk from the center of the old city of Antibes and everything is simply lovely.

This photo was taken my first morning in France from our apartment balcony. Pretty sweet, right?

The trip over certainly left a little to be desired, but that was to be expected as it was my first experience travelling internationally and also my first experience travelling alone. If there is one thing I can offer as advice to anyone travelling abroad, if you have questions, find someone knowledgeable who speaks your language and ask them all the questions you have until everything is very clear. Due to some misunderstandings and poor directions, I had some complications, but thankfully had the time to figure them out.

I relay my Frankfurt Airport experience so that 1) I will remember it in the future and 2) For others’ amusement and information. I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany 15 minutes after my connecting flight (at 7:30am) to Nice had left. Already, AirCanada had rebooked me on the next flight to Nice, but that ended up not being until 5pm. Well, the airline agent wrote the booking reference code down on the back of my old boarding pass, told me which terminal to go to for printing my new one, and waved in a vague direction where I was to go. I followed the signs (with a big A for terminal A) and ended up in some departures line. I asked a security guard where to go to reach my gate, and upon hearing that my flight wasn’t for several hours, told me to “go get something to eat and then come back” and pushed me through a gate… where I found myself in the front lobby of the airport. Because of this “helpful” security guard, I ended up running around the airport for an hour trying to find someone who could print me a new boarding pass, had to repass through security, but this time in Germany so everyone was trying to talk to me in German, was flustered, got quite a few sideways glances and grins, and finally got back into the airport. From there, I found the correct gate quite quickly and then promptly laid down on a bench and slept for about 3 hours. I awoke to several people around my head because I happened to be sleeping beside the only plug in my terminal. Needless to say, that was an experience for the books. I hope no one else has to experience getting inadvertently pushed out of the airport in a foreign country, but now that I’ve done it, I have confidence that I would survive if it happened again. (I know, comforting, right??)

But it doesn’t matter now because I am in France, I can comfortably speak in French, and I am around others who are experiencing this all for the first time as well. Hopefully, I won’t have anymore similar experiences to the one above, but if I do, hey, it’s a memory I won’t forget anytime soon.

Tomorrow we have orientation at our university, SKEMA, and get our schedules, bus passes, and class time tables.

Ready…Set….Go!

After months upon months of preparation: university program applications, third party program applications, credit transfer approval, scholarship applications, financial aid applications, visa applications, visa documents, visa fees, third party fees, school fees, more scholarship applications, flight bookings, more credit approval forms, scholarship acceptance letters and learning requirements, extra study abroad forms, health physicals, predeparture meetings, brushing up on my French, catching up on European news, shopping, packing, shopping, repacking, researching, getting advice, being forced to watch the movie “Taken,” and so much more, a dream is finally coming true. This process was in no way simple or easy, but I think I can say at this point that everything is going to work out. My trip begins in 6 days and I now look forward to 4 months of new faces, new places, and new foods. I will say goodbye to my family, my friends, the majority of my wardrobe, and Han Solo (inside joke, just go with it).

So, for the next 4 months, I will be (hopefully) updating this page about once a week with stories, pictures, experiences, and general interesting tidbits. My home away from home will be in lovely Antibes, France, only walking distance from the coast and my family will be 4 other girls whom I have not yet met. Let the adventure begin!!

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