Traveling to France was my first international travel experience. I flew on Norwegian Airlines to London, where I had a seven hour long, overnight layover. When I finally arrived to France I was extremely sleep deprived and generally confused. However, I had arrived in France a day before the start of the program, and my hotel room was not ready when I arrived. I was able to drop off my bag and begin exploring the city.
The hotel that I stayed in was on the other side of the city from where the residence halls were, in the Antigone area. This allowed me to explore a different area of the city. Within walking distance, I immediately came across two different farmers markets. Each of these markets had fresh produce, cheese, fish and meats. One of the vendors had the back of his pick-up truck full with water and live trout, something that I had never seen before. A few blocks from my hotel there was a beautiful plaza. In the center was a fountain called The Fountain at the Place of Zeus. As I continued to walk I saw more fountains, and eventually found a walking path.
Around 2 pm, I returned to my hotel room and took time to rest until dinner. I went out for dinner around 5 pm. To my surprise, it was extremely difficult to find anything that was open. I walked the same route as before, only to discover that every restaurant was either closed or only serving drinks and showing the world cup game. I assumed that this was due to the fact that it was somewhat late on a Sunday. I had almost resigned to the fact I was going to be unable to get food when I stumbled across a small pizza place that was still open.
This was my first time attempting to order in French. I soon learned that I had not practiced my French enough. I had forgotten how to ask if he spoke English, or how to say that I did not speak French. Luckily, he knew the word for pizza. I was able to communicate some of the toppings that I wanted, with only a slight misunderstanding over the word “basil”. I ultimately was able to point out the basil on top of the generic pizza photo on the menu.
Being alone in the city with no other Americans with me was an interesting experience. It forced me to communicate with people in a different way and step out of my comfort zone. Particularly at the farmers markets, the amount of French (and lack of English) that was being spoken around me was equally overwhelming as it was exciting. While I did become eager to be around people that spoke my language, in hindsight I felt more immersed in French culture on my first day than I have since arriving on campus. I believe this will serve as a reminder to explore the culture further, outside of my comfort zone.