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.
Kate and Emma