shoutout to Diana for bringing us to Paris & not getting tickets for fashion week <3

Jack & Satinder, signing off 

Hello to all!! I’m currently writing from the Paris hostel as everyone is preparing to leave for our flight. I am feeling very melancholy about our departure. We are all so excited to see everyone and return to our lives at CSW, which we all miss so much. Simultaneously though, we will all miss the constant hustle and new adventures everyday that we have experienced in both Paris and Montpellier. We were forced to make an early departure from Montpellier due to a planned strike from the national French train services. Though this was a stressful last minute change, our chaperones took quick action, booking us sooner trains and adding one extra night to our stay in the hostel. The silver lining though was that yesterday, we had the opportunity to explore more sights in Paris. We started our day with an amazing visit to the Musée D’orsay. This museum is renowned for its collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works from artists like Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and many others. The museum is housed in a former train station from the 1800’s with grand and stunning architecture that creates a beautiful setting for the works within it. The paintings and sculptures were so beautiful and moving. We all left the museum still in a daze from everything we took in there. That night we had an amazing “final” dinner at a Bistro just a few metro stops away. The food was such a fulfilling end to our big day of exploring, and a delightful last meal as a group. Today we are wrapping up our experience, packing our lives back into checked luggage and preparing for the eight hour plane ride back. Our emotions are heavy but the promise of our long awaited home waiting for us is comforting, and will help get us through. I can’t wait to see everyone back at school shortly!! – (JACK)

It is crazy to think that exactly a month ago we were all packing our bags to catch our flight to Paris. Now, we’re doing the same to get back to Boston — not exactly my dream destination to be flying to, but all good things must come to an end. Coming back to Paris has been a dream, though I still feel bittersweet about leaving my life in Montpellier behind. La Place De La Comédie, Le Jardin des Plantes, and all of the other beautiful, relaxing places in the south of France. Reflecting on Montpellier, I think one of the most rewarding experiences was staying with my host mother; we did not have much in common, but we always found something to talk about. We said our goodbye with three kisses on the cheek, but I didn’t say goodbye to everything I learned from here, ranging from the French language to relevant information in the world.

Yesterday, we spent our day walking around in Paris. We went to the Musée D’Orsay, a delicious restaurant nearby the museum for lunch, to the Catacombs (Diana’s favorite part of this trip), the Bateaux Mouches, and wrapped up the night with a dinner full of laughter and dress shirts. Walking around the museum was rewarding because I saw a lot of Van Gogh pieces that my elementary school art teacher would constantly show us on Google Images, and it just felt nice to finally see them in person. Getting down to the Catacombs took us about 15 minutes, but it was worth being able to walk through the history of Lutetia (Paris). Ensuite, I was so glad that we were able to go on the Bateaux Mouches—we saw the Statue of Liberty! In all honesty, it was a lot smaller than I expected, but I’m glad I don’t have to be bitter about not having the opportunity to see it. I ended the day/night with lots of happiness and lots of selfies.
There is so much more I could say about our stay in Paris this time around, or even about the overall experience, but I can’t find the words to express what I think. While this experience has flew by, all of the relationships and memories I have created will definitely stay with me for the long run. Plus, I don’t see how I can avoid them; I get to brag about how I spent a month in France during my junior year of high school for the rest of my life. On a different note, I have to unpack my bags right when I get back to the dorm and sort what I’ll be bringing back home with me during spring break. The game plan is: Paris —> Boston —> link up with the “squad” —> unpack & sleep —> hop on a bus to New York —> go to New Jersey —> sleep. But, lets hope this all works out—my suitcase is definitely over the TSA weight limit and I plan on making it work—wish me luck! Thank you to Awa, Diana, Charlotte, and others on this trip for the month we have spent together! & of course, thank you to our blog readers! We will be back home soon – wish us a bon voyage! – (SATINDER)
see you soon!
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Final Destination

Hello world! It’s Michaela and Will, blogging from the lobby of our hostel on our last day in Paris (and France, for that matter)! Today was an action packed day. From the Musee d’Orsay, to the Bateau Mouche, to the Catacombs, we covered it all!

We started off the day bright and early with a quick breakfast at the hostile consisting of warm croissants with a variety of spreads: including but not limited to prunes, mulberry, apricot, strawberry, and orange. As it turned out, rained poured from the sky all throughout the morning. But we stuck it out, and embarked on the cold, sopping wet journey over to la musee d’Orsay. It was Will’s first time in the museum, and he was astounded by the incredible selection of art in the restored train station. Michaela had been to the museum a couple years back, but was exhilarated to return.

Michaela and will shot straight up to the impressionist exhibit, bounding up all five floors to the top of the museum. The moment we entered the exhibit, we were both enthralled. We were both mesmerized by the incredible brush stroke techniques of Monet and Renoir, in particular. After spending about an hour taking in the beautiful artwork in the impressionist exhibit, we headed down to the section to see Vincent Van Gogh.

After a successful visit to the museum, we headed off in the light drizzle to a quaint classic French bistro. After filling our bellies with French goodies, we ran to catch the metro to the catacombs! We dashed off to the depths of the mass grave hidden underneath the heart of Paris. As we went down the spiraling staircase that seemed to last forever, our imaginations swirled to find out what lay ahead. As we took the final step, a cold seeped over our bodies, and we knew we had reached the…… Catacombs. We were blown away— stacks and stacks of skulls covered the walls, forming a sight completely different than anything we had ever seen before.

After our visit to the Catacombs, we got to the metro just in the nick of time to catch the train to the Bateau Mouche, and took a lovely tour of France by boat. It was a peaceful time to reflect on some of the incredible opportunities this trip has offered us. It was an amazing moment to conclude an incredible module abroad in France.

We look forward to seeing you all when we return to the United States!

Signing off ❤

W & M

Lions and Tigers and CSW students oh my!

Bonjour from Jeffrey in France! As were winding down to the last few days of the mod, all of us here in France are working hard on our final projects. Earlier this week, the first group went (Matt and Maisie). They did an amazing job giving us the history and significance of the zoo in Montpellier. They talked about how the land was donated to the city which is why the admission is free. The zoo has also done a lot of work towards curing wild animals of diseases. They used the animals in their zoo to understand illnesses and how to cute them. They also said that there were giraffes. After the presentation we were given free time to explore. While some people wandered, another group of us spent the time desperately searching for the giraffe exhibit. At first we thought that they would be near the African plain exhibit but there weren’t any giraffes there. So we continued to search. Some how we made it past the giraffe exhibit and went in a massive circle around it. All that way across the zoo from the entrance and with 15 minutes before we had to leave, we realized that we had to give up our life long dream of seeing French giraffes. We started to walk back towards the front of the park in defeat when we found a map of the park. Excited by the spark of hope, we hurried towards the center of the park and found the giraffe exhibit! Sadly we spent five minutes looking into a giraffe-less exhibit. Apparently the giraffes were not there that day. I guess it just wasn’t our time to see French giraffes.

Together, we took the tram and preceding bus back into the heart of Montpellier with Diana Awa and Charlotte. There we spent the rest of the day working in a small cafe, eating crepes waffles and ice cream. We worked on our own final projects in a desperate attempt at following up the killer presentation on the zoo. We’ve ended spending a lot of time in cafes here doing work. I guess it’s very “French” of us. However the service in restaurants here is very different to the service you would receive in the United States. While in the US, servers rely on a tip, here servers get paid a lot more. Tips are optional and usually you don’t tip a lot. So if you’re planning on going out for a snack, don’t stop and sit. We’ve ended up sitting in a cafe for two and half hours after ordering crepes and water. However I can confirm that the food is very much worth the wait.

*written by Jeffrey, posted using Michaela’s account*

Trains They gøôd

Bonjour from the TGV.

As I write this very phrase, I’m high-speed floating down the rails of the French countryside! Different modes of transportation can really help one experience a new place- looking out of car windows, rolling through town on a rent-a-bike, flying over a city at night, and of course, peering out of a train.

Very special indeed these trains are equipped with the best in comfort technology. They even have bathrooms! Can you imagine? So when you drink waaaay too much water after eating all those tasty sodium filled treats you have a place to pee! Sleep is no problem there’s just a little technique to help even the worst sleepers out, here it is. Begin watching the lively vineyard covered countryside. Perhaps don an appropriate pair of sunglasses to lessen the glare of sunlight. Then pop some great tunes into your good old noise receivers (ears) and recline. Now as you’re watching the countryslide just sloowwly let your eyelids close as your forehead smacks against the cold window and you slip into sleep. Not gonna lie, it’s real cozy! Woke up with a bit of a cramp and Rihanna’s music still echoing in my head to more countryside glistening as we swooshed by. And I’m talking real countryside. That kind of green rolling hills you see in a picture book about where all the good cheezes are made. Horses roamin, goats munchin, sheeps crunchin, beautiful mediterranean roofs zoomin’ by at a pace described as haste. We keep goin! The flattest of farming plateaus gave way to rocky slopes as we skipped off into mountain pastures with a sudden rush of igneous enclosure! Every once in a while we would pass through a beautiful french town with street art directed towards those traveling the tracks.

 

The trains are just a different thing here just an olympic swimming pool of a difference. Trust me when I say it I’ve had to rush cases full of suits up cramped stairs with angry travellers grumbling foreign obscenities under their breath. The train lands for four minutes and then it flew the coup. Panic is the word of the day on train day. But once everyone has rallied to put all of the luggage into the corners of the train cars, we then relax in sweet smelling velvet seats.  They don’t run late and they don’t wait for you either so you better have your food grilled and ready to roll by the time the whistle blows.  I’ll miss these trains, they seem to know how to get from point A to point B in a flashy fashion.

Nate and Noah

a post written by Matt & Austin, but posted by Satinder!

As our journey reaches its close, we all realize that some of us shall be going our separate ways. Though most are going back to their relative homes in Boston, some are to stay behind or go to other places unknown.   I (Matt) shall be taking the flight to Boston tomorrow after which I shall have a good night sleep in my very own bed. I will certainly miss being in such close proximity to such a wonderful group of people. Honestly being among people who haven’t been with me for the last four weeks will be lonely. I’m sure I will say “omg remember when…” and then realize that no one else will remember the “…” as it will probably be something like “when a cat brushed up against Diana’s leg in the Jardin des Plantes and she yelled for a very long time,” or “that restaurant with the ridiculously huge salads that made everyone extremely emotional.” It will be hard acclimating to the school environment, but the two-week break will smooth the transition.

I also foresee myself switching between French and English mid sentence (as I do here from time to time) and then experiencing a full failure to communicate, as not many of my friends at home will understand what I intend to say. I will do much better in French class though! That I look forward too. But speaking French does require an amount of effort and there have been a few times I’ve just had to give up on whatever I wanted to say because I could not translate the words, and I look forward to not having to worry about that.

All in all, I look forward to the comfort of home and the familiarity of Boston. I will miss this place like no one’s business but I will be much more relaxed. This is Matt, signing off

 

 

I (Austin) am not going home with the rest of France trip and that is kind of weird to think about. I’ll be meeting my parents in Paris tomorrow morning and leaving the hostile with them and not the group I have spent the last five weeks living with. That is not to say that I am staying here alone, Kate and Noah will be staying in France as well. I am very exited to go on vacation with my parents because I haven’t seen them for over a month but it is going to be very weird to leave the entire France trip family and the new friends I have made within it.

As Matt said previously, I too think it is going to be hard for me to speak solely in English from now on. Tonight’s dinner was solely in French and that came naturally to us all. I know I am going to end up yelling in French from on room to the other while staying with my parents. It’s been amazing to put four years of academic work into use and I have become proud of my language skills so I don’t really want to stop now haha!

I really am looking forward to going home though, seeing my friends, my family, sleeping in my bed, making art, and much more. Anyways, I hope you all have had fun reading along and keeping up with France Trip! Goodnight to you all!

Why We Get Four Credits for a Mod Abroad

We can’t believe this mod has already come to an end! But on the other end, it seems like the beginning of our trip in Paris was a year ago. While we are currently on the Bateaux Mouches, a boat tour of Paris through the Seine, we are looking back on all the memories and lessons which came out of our time abroad. While many of us often slipped up and referred to this mod as “The France Trip”, this was nothing like a vacation.
Every morning, we attended French language classes at ILP. One of the most intriguing aspects of the ILP classroom, was the racial and age diversity of students in the classroom. Whether the three Swiss teenagers or 60 year old couple from Holland, we were met with a variety of perspectives which we don’t typically hear. The two of us were in the same class and are both coming home with a strengthened understanding of the French language. What really made ILP classes stand out from typical language education was how much we focused on listening comprehension. Listening to radio news programs was challenging and frustrating at points but with patience, we were able to follow along. Our conversational skills flourished as well. At the beginning of class everyday, our teachers would engage us in casual discourse regarding our previous evening. Through regularly being given the opportunities to expand our vocabulary, we compiled a list of over 250 words and phrases, which we were tested on at the end of the week. As a final culmination of what we learned in our 16 day course, we each gave brief presentations on a topic of our choosing. 

While we lived in Montpellier, we went on several excursions, which you can read more about in past blog posts. These day or half day long trips gave us the opportunity to explore the south of France beyond Montpellier. And these trips were much more than eye candy– Our tour guide, Jeremy, always informed us of the historical and cultural significances of where we were visiting. Whether it was a fortified city nestled into the French countryside, or a quaint fishing port with canals running through it, we were able to learn about the rich history of the area in which we spent our mod abroad.

While the more typical educational opportunities were superb, much of our learning occurred outside of the classroom. Whether spending time with our host family or reflecting in our journals, this trip made us realize more about ourselves and about the culture of the world around us. Our final projects required us to research a historical location in Montpellier and present it to our group (en français, bien sûr). I (Sheer) vividly remember the moment when I sat reading various historical sources in the mediatechque and realized that so much history is surrounding us at all times.

In conclusion, the last step of our journey is thanking Diana, Awa, and Charlotte for supporting us throughout the entire experience. We recognize that we are extremely fortunate to complete this module abroad.

 

Thanks for reading! Au revoir France! Sheer & Will
 

Au Revoir Montpellier!

Wow! I can’t believe this course abroad is coming to an end. This last day in Montpellier was very emotional for me. I have sincerely enjoyed everyday here and having to say goodbye to all the people I’ve met, especially my host parents, was tough. I will miss the pleasant, long meals I had with my family and the lively discussions we had over diner. I will miss my nice walk to school in the morning, going to the park after school, playing chess on the esplanade…There’s really too many things to list!  For me, the best part of this course abroad has been getting to experience something new everyday and that is what I will miss the most. 

 Each day I’ve had the opportunity to learn a new phrase, meet a new person, discover an ancient building, try a new food, the list goes on. For example, during the first week I met a girl named Chloë who goes to high school in Montpellier. That day I learned countless new phrases including  “Laisse tomber” which translates to “forget it” and “ t’inquiete pas” which means “Don’t worry.” I also learned that when greeting good friends, one gives only a single kiss on the cheek versus three when the person is a stranger. Through experiences like this my french has improved and I have grown accustomed to french culture. In addition, I have lived more in the moment and have maintained a more open mind.

As a quick side note, it has been interesting getting by with out cell service! Its been great not being glued to my phone, constantly checking snapchats and whatnot. Also, it actually forces you to build trust with others. For example, if you only have wifi in one place and you arrange to meet a friend somewhere else you have to trust they will get to the right place and on time. You don’t have the ability to check where they are or instantly change the plans. Although this may sound stressful it has done quite the contrary; overall my lack of internet accessibility has made me more relaxed and less anxious. 

….ok back on topic: opportunities. You have to take advantage of them. When in a new country and environment it can be difficult to go out of your comfort zone, but doing so is extremely rewarding and it is what has made this experience so incredible for me. Time to end with a classic quote about opportunity: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Churchill  

 I must say: I am truly grateful for this trip abroad and will never forget the places I’ve been and the amazing people I’ve met.

Gros Bisous

-Aiden

What we’re taking with us and what we’re leaving behind: Goodbye Montpellier!

Hey there friends and family, it’s Emma and Maisie!! We are writing this blog post as we speed through the countryside of southern France. A mere few moments ago we rapidly boarded the train, 17 suitcases in hand (actually more because light packing is not a strength for everyone haha…), as we depart Montpellier. This morning we all had our bittersweet goodbyes with our host families, who have been unbelievably generous and caring to us for the past 3 weeks. Before leaving for work, my host mom (Emma’s) woke me up to hug me goodbye and give me some lovely french chocolate to bring back to my family (get excited Rybeck’s!!). I’ve really adjusted to my bright pink room and double bed at my host mom’s house, but of course I’m excited to see my family back in Cambridge in a few days.

So as we sit here enjoying the view on the train, we think about what we will take with us from Montpellier despite having to leave so much behind (due to logistics). Although we leave behind our host families (and maybe a sock here or there), we are bringing with us all that we have learned about their language and their culture through our countless dinner conversations and fun family outings. And even though we won’t return to our school ILP, the time we spent in class and getting to know the other students from all around the world with stay with us. Thank you everyone in Montpellier who has contributed to our education on the french language and culture!

Today we took our last walk around la Place de la Comedie and our other favorite spots in Montpellier. We spent some time this morning sitting with friends on the steps of a building, soaking in the sun and reminiscing about the trip. We talked about the numerous times we had used the Cafe Riche bathroom, the funny encounters with waiters at cafes, and unforgettable host family stories that we had shared over the weeks. We will take these memories with us, despite the fact that we won’t be seeing the fountain in la Place everyday (or maybe we’ll construct a duplicate on the quad???). Also, we worry that the economy of Montpellier will struggle after our departure, for we all took advantage of the inexpensive yet delicious food stops (see Nate, Noah, and Kari’s post for an overview of the wonderful falafel place).

As for now, we are off to Paris for a last several days together as a group. We are grateful for all that our chaperones have done to make this trip what it has been and are still talking about all the fun times we have had this mod. We look forward to seeing everyone at home again and sharing some photos (and possibly gifts) with you all. Sending love from train seats 111 and 112!!! Merci beaucoup, Montpellier.

~Emma and Maisie

Bonjour, enchanté!

One of the best parts of this experience has been making connections with other people along the way. Being in a new country speaking a new language is already quite vulnerable, so reaching out to new people can seem scary at first but can end up being extremely rewarding. Of course we have our host families, with whom a lot of us have gotten really close to, but there have been other instances of these connections outside of our families.

Emma: Every morning we start our day with classes at ILP which Satinder has talked about a bit. A great part of this experience has been the chance to be in class and get to know students of all ages who come from all over the world. Today on my walk to school, I bumped into someone who recently joined my class from Germany. He speaks a little english (which was helpful for a few vocab words), but mostly we spent the 5 minute walk making small talk in French and talking about our different experiences with language learning. I’m so used to studying french in classes at CSW with students I already know and who are mostly coming from similar language learning backgrounds, so I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to study at ILP.

One morning on the tram to school, I noticed another student who was sitting near me. We began talking in french and ended up walking to school together. Sometimes we will see each other on the street or in the park and chat for a bit, and being able to recognize and connect with someone like that makes Montpellier feel even more like home.

Often other students from our classes take the school run excursions with us which is another fun time to get to explore different small towns and get to know other students. Today on our excursion to the beautiful little town of Carcassonne, we were delighted to see a friend from our class who then spent time with the whole group in a cafe and when wandering around a castle. It’s great to get in class experience talking with new people in french but also experience out in the world like on our excursions.

Kate: One night my host family held a small party of about ten other people in our apartment. It was terrifying at first to introduce myself to everyone (also with three kisses on the cheek for each person, it takes some time), but slowly I came to realize that everyone there wanted me to feel comfortable and they all wanted to help me with my french as much as possible, since no one spoke much english. I was constantly asked if I wanted something to drink, something to eat, or if I was having a good time. I ended up playing the game “Celebrity”, kind of like charades but with three rounds and only the names of people/celebrities/characters. It was hard because I didn’t know some of the names that I had to explain or act out, and I also didn’t know how to explain some of them (for example, I forgot the word for alien when trying to explain E.T, so I just said “le petit homme qui habite dans les étoiles”). I am also usually shy when I first meet people, so doing the Hotline Bling dance to act out “Drake” in front of a bunch of strangers was way out of my comfort zone but something that was definitely needed in the moment. At the end of the night, or actually it ended up going until the early morning, I felt affection for a lot of the people there. I went around and gave the three kisses again, feeling very content with having put myself out there. The next morning, walking down one of the street that I walk frequently, I saw one of the women that I met the night before inside a shop. I went in to say hi and apparently she owned the place. We talked for a bit before I had to leave, but knowing that I had made a new connection made me feel more at home, especially when I now walk up that street and wave to the owner of the shop, knowing that there is another person in Montpellier who cares about me.

 

As the trip comes to a close, we are excited to see who we may meet in the time we have left, but we are even more excited to continue to spend time with those that we will soon have to leave. Although it can be hard to say goodbye, having friendships with people in Montpellier and around the world is a unique experience that we are so lucky to have, and we look forward to continuing these relationships.

Bisous!

Kate and Emma

Fish Can Be Friends and Food

We (Jeffrey and Rina) are currently on the bus on the way back to Montpellier from Sete. We 90% sure that we are carrying the peninsula’s fishy smell back to Montpellier. The town of Sete is the Boston of France, it’s known for it’s fishing industry but the people here are much friendlier than Bostonians. Sete is the largest fishing town in France and it’s often compared to Venice because of it’s long canals that stretch through it.

We started the excursion by going to a fantastic view point at the top of the peninsula where we got to see the town and it’s surrounding cities. While we were enjoying the view, Jack got too overwhelmed and wound up spilling Awa’s youngest sister, Fatu’s completely full bubble tea. Diana was ready and willing with her selfie stick (fully charged this time). After, we went into yet another church (maybe our tenth of the trip) but in our opinion, it was one of the most beautiful. It was very modern, built in the 19th century, and was decorated with almost street art-like paintings of biblical figures covering the walls.

Next we went to the port of Sete. We were yet again able to experience the magnificent beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. We were slapped in the face by the smell of raw fish. While it wasn’t necessarily the most pleasant smell, it fit the vibe of the city which was covered with seafood restaurants and markets. Some of us tried one of the local delicacies, a small pastry made with octopus and tomato sauce. The vegetarians of the group decided to take a step back.

One of the unique aspects of Sete is that they have their own sport. It’s similar to jousting except instead of horses its two massive boats with a full crew charging towards each other from separate bridges. The goal is to knock the other boats crew off the deck until there is only one boat’s crew remaining. This is done annually in the canal. The water is pretty nasty so that gives people some incentive to stay on board.

We were then given an hour of free time to explore the city and it’s treasures. Some of us went souvenir shopping, some when to try local cuisine, and others walked around enjoying the beautiful weather and the ocean. Even though we were only there for a few hours, we all got a feel for the relaxing fishy culture of Sete. See you guys in a week! Hopefully we won’t still smell like fish at that point. 

XOXO Gossip Girl

(Jeffrey and Rina)