Caitlin Campbell 
University de Savoie
For my program, we were given a handout that listed the trips that were open to us. A while back, I "starred" the most important trips to me and visiting Paris was number one. When we walked off the train and I took my first few steps, I just couldn't believe I was finally in Paris. Paris - the place where Roland Garros tennis champions played, where the Mona Lisa is located, and where the most gorgeous building in the world was built.
    The first thing our group did was visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Instead of graves, this cemetery had what  seemed like tiny houses with one single room. In the single room there was usually one window made in the shape of a cross. Some rooms had chairs, branches, or other seemingly random things. But the more I thought about it, I came to realize that these little rooms are probably prayer rooms. The architecture of each grave was so different and each had a unique door. The size of this graveyard amazed me. It was so beautiful and creepy at the same time. It actually inspired me to image stories or photoshoots that would capture that certain beauty. This graveyard was also the place where I glimpsed the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
    In the morning, our group went to Roland Garros. This was my second place to see in Paris because my brother is a huge tennis fan/player. I pleaded with the guard to let me in, but he said that the facilities were being cleaned. I still can't believe that I was near the place where Roger Federer, Steffi Graff, Bjorn Borg, and so many other tennis players have been. I wish I could have traded places with my brother so he could have seen it with his own eyes.
    Next we went to the Champs-Elysées. I have to be honest - I didn't really know what was the big deal (haha). Yes, it was beautiful and there were plenty of beautiful, expensive stores, but that's pretty much it. In fact, the friends I was with at the time decided to go off onto one of the side streets to eat. There, we found this little pizza place called Flam's. I was rather shocked at Flam's because they gave us English menus and our server willingly spoke English to us. I had always heard that Parisians were not fond of tourists - let alone Americans. I guess generalizations aren't accurate anywhere.Of course, the only monumental thing on that street is the Arc de Triomphe. It was such an experience to see it with my real eyes. So much detail came in sight and I was able to appreciate the grand size of it. This was also the place of the greatest roundabout I have ever seen. Cars were driving and swerving all over the place while honking and slamming on breaks. 
    THE EIFFEL TOWER. The Eiffel Tower is where I went next, and my mind was blown. Pictures, movies, and postcards do it no justice at all. Upon walking under the Eiffel Tower, I started to cry. It's hard to explain how I felt at that time. It was like a big, seemingly-impossible dream finally came true. After having so many little replicas in my room, pictures plastered in lockers and walls, and necklaces with it, I was finally under the real tower. I am a little embarrassed to admit that over half of my pictures taken that day were of the Eiffel Tower. It seemed to look different from every angle and under different weather conditions. I might sound like a dork, but it seemed like a structure from out of this world. It's size is unbelievable. It creates shadows over everything else in the city around mid-day. Luckily, Ivana (my Canadian friend) and I went back the next day and actually went up to the second floor. If anyone has seen Disney's Pixar movie Ratatouille, they know was I'm talking about when I say that the view was spectacular. I have finally been on the most beautiful building in the world. Now, when I look at my little replicas, I'll be able to imagine me on the second level looking around.
   Next, our group went to Notre Dame where I tried to imagine Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame take place (I love Disney movies, by the way). The gargoyles were actually real! I wanted to go into the building and explore, but the line was too long and my friends wanted to move on. Again, actually seeing the real life building took my breath away. I decided to actually run up and touch it to see if it was real. Paris most definitely has the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen.
    The Moulin Rouge was next on our list. After leaving Sacre Coeur, the walk to Moulin Rouge turned from relaxing and beautiful to scary and strange rather quickly. We were warned ahead of time about the district that the Moulin Rouge was in, but that still didn't prepare me (haha). Let's just say that I'm not ever going there when it's dark. But the Moulin rouge itself made me smile. It had the red tower and the sign that I saw in the movie. It's hard to believe that one city contains all these monuments. 
   Now, my three friends and I literally saw everything that was on our list: Roland Garros, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, Moulin Rouge, and the Eiffel Tower at night. But to do this, we had to descend into the depths of Mordor (at least it seemed that way to me) and travel on the Metro. Oh, the metro. At first, I was lost beyond all comprehension and  followed the others. But throughout the day, I became more comfortable. There were a few instances when musicians would hop on the metro and ask for money. There was one guy in particular who had an amp and was singing. That was actually really fun (haha). By day two, Ivana and I had mastered the metro and were able to spend time at the Eiffel Tower and eat our last Parisian crepe by the Seine before heading back to the hostel.


Caitlin Campbell 
University de Savoie

In 8th grade, when my parents bought me my first French phrase book, I became fascinated by how a common English phrase could be easily translated into a French one. I was amazed by how some English words resembled French ones while some were completely different with strange little accent marks all over them. After 5 years of studying French, that amazement hasn't died down, and now that I'm studying abroad, I've thought about so many other things about languages. From listening to other people's thoughts about how languages sound, to using my French in unusual circumstances, and appreciating how creative languages are, I've realized that language is indeed a study all in its own.
    This past week in my French class, there was a young German girl named No Ra. She reminded me of my sister (who I miss A LOT), so I walked right up and started talking to her. I think I've decided that German accents are one of my favorites. Yes, it does sound harsh. But I also think it sounds beautiful at the same time. All the "chts" and "ines" are sounds that would take me years to perfect. The funny thing is, one day during class when No Ra and I were partners, she told me that she thinks English/American accents are the best. She said that my accent sounds fluid and hip. Imagine that! I always thought my accent was rather dull and boring, but I guess to some, my accent is pretty cool. Okay, I have to admit...one night at a bar, these French guys were telling me and some of my friends that American accents are so hott (hahaha). I wish I could hear my accent with an unfamiliar ear.
    During the week, I have had a couple of circumstances where I had to use my French to communicate with people. For example, during this past week, a woman had been screaming from her apartment while a man would harshly whisper. I would yell in French if she needed help, but the screaming would stop and no one would answer. Since this was a major shade of grey area, I didn't know what to do until the third day when the screaming continued. I finally realized that this woman's safety was more important than my getting into trouble for calling the police. Which is what I did. The operator didn't speak English, so I had to quickly think about (probably the quickest I have ever thought) and translate everything I heard. When the emergency vehicle came, the gentleman said "Ah bien, elle peut parler Francais." I have to admit, I was rather proud of myself. The emergency vehicle men thanked us for calling them. I feel I did some good that day. Another example of my having to use French was with a Japanese friend I made on the way to Grenoble. She didn't speak English, so my friend Ivana and I had to help each other with finding words in order to communicate with her. I was glad we took that chance to talk to her. Every conversation helps me get over that anxiety of speaking French.
   One day, on the way back from class, Ivana and I were talking about how great languages are. We both have admitted that we are kind of nerds and that we like "language talk." We talked about how there are thousands of languages in the world and how every language has words to describe the same objects, feelings, places, and people. We thought that "Yes, people can be dumb, but their ability to speak is pretty amazing." 
    France is amazing. I am having the time of my life here. It's still hard to believe that I am halfway across the world, in a foreign country, trying to speak a language that I wasn't raised in. One thing is for sure...I'm glad I'm a language kid and not a math kid :).

Caitlin Campbell
Universite de Savoie - Chambery, France

Mon Dieu! Over the past five days, I have experienced so many firsts! From flying, to navigating cities and airports, to using the French language in "real life," to eating real French food (finally), I have seen, laughed, cried, and learned so much in the first three days that I can't even imagine what I'll learn over six weeks.

Le premier jour (the first day): Let it be known that airports were a foreign concept to me before this trip. I was haunted by how movies portray them (Home Alone 2 was the main reason I was apprehensive about flying). Although I was nervous for the duration of traveling, I learned that I am capable of taking care of myself. I grew to love that feeling of accomplishment of being able to find the correct gate and arrive on time. Luckily, I am easily amused so the plane rides were really fun for me! My boyfriend gave me the perfect song (After the Storm by Mumford and Sons) to listen to while I was consumed in the clouds. Even though, I was nervous, hungry, and excited, I was able to ask people around me how airports work. I gained a little more faith in humanity during my excursions through airports. People are really nice :).
     Being alone in Dusseldorf airport, I was able to "people-watch" the French people who were going to be on the plane with me. I began to listen to them, and I became so excited! On the flight over, our attendant was french and so was everyone around me. Landing in France was unbelievable. Literally everything was written in French. I feel like my mind immediately began to recall everything I have ever learned about the French language. Suddenly, I was remembering words I had learned so long ago. I have to say, I was rather happy about that. After a small panic attack and finding the bus, I met a fellow ISEP student from Iowa who was waiting for the same bus. A wave of relief came over me, and I internally congratulated myself for traveling successfully for 238,900 miles. Culture shock wasn't a bad experience at all for me. I was overjoyed to see all of the different road signs, markings, building names, street names in French. My dream of being in France was finally true.
   After the enjoyment of moving into my room (first floor with a view of the street), fellow ISEP students and I walked around town and found a cute little restaurant. That was just one time where I had to use French. I'm finding that speaking French makes me really nervous. I am trying to get over that fear soon. Every French person that I've talked to has been really sweet, repeated what they said, and slowed down for me. The first night, however, was really rough. Exhaustion, unfamiliarity, and a sense of loneliness came over me. Luckily, the morning went much better, and I have been happy ever since :).

Samedi, Dimanche, Lundi, et Ajourd'hui: These first few days have been so full of observations, making friends, concentrating in class like I never have before, and appreciating all of the beauty here. Honestly, one of the first things I have noticed in France is fashion. Americans have the potential to stick out like a sore thumb. In Chambéry, sandals, neutral colors, cardigans, pants (including jeans), and huge leather purses are apparently in this summer. I feel that no matter what I wear, I will be seen as an American (and that's okay, I suppose). Fashion here, I feel is essential to culture. Everyone in this city looks polished and hip. Speaking of fashion, the clothing stores here are very expensive (comme 100 euros pour une blouse!).
    In my journals before leaving, one of my biggest fears was not making any friends. Everyone kept telling me I had nothing to worry about, and they were right. There are 20 students in our program most of whom are from the United States, but some are from Nigeria, Argentina, and Canada. Every student is nice. So far, every evening, most of us have made dinner together in one of our apartments and shared wine (wine here is around 2 euros, by the way :) ). I am learning that people are alike everywhere. We all have to go grocery shopping, we all have family, we all talk, but the ways in which we do things is different. I love how in this city, the French people ride bikes EVERYWHERE, carry their groceries in bags, and go to many different stores in order to purchase food.
   Yesterday was the first day of class. Summer school here is a wonderful adventure. In the mornings, my fellow ISEP students and I walk to the University. I love it! The University is snuggled between mountains ranges like I have never seen before (and I live in Tennessee!). We will have three teachers over the course of six weeks, and so far we have met two of them. The first day was focused on grammar (a love of mine). Madame Laetitia never said one word of English. Instead of resulting to explaining concepts in English, she would continue to explain things in French. I appreciated that so much. Already, on the second day of classes, I feel like my brain has absorbed so many things. I don't think I have ever concentrated and tried so hard to learn as I have here. Today, as I was talking to my friend Ivana, we both said our heads hurt from concentrating so hard! Even though it feels like we are in elementary school at times, my elementary school kid spirit is trying to take in everything she can.
   I have leaned, in conversations with people, that I am very appreciative of my surroundings. I think everyone who likes to travel is like this. I love to admire buildings, signs, cars, fashion, roads, etc. Here in Chambéry, everything amazes me. The trees seem different, the cars are all so small (I want one!), and the buildings seem to have history seeping from their foundations. I am frequently wishing that America was more like France. I have met people from all over who want to go to the United States. They ask how it is, and I tell them that the US is quite different than France. I wish America was more appreciate of its history and treasured old things like France. Ah, well. I guess it makes me more glad that I am visiting here!
 These first few days have been wonderful! I have gained this new independence and I love it. I have had many adventures (salsa-dancing, ordering drinks?!, meeting people from all over, and finally listening to Mika while walking down a road in France!). I wish I could better articulate my love of being here. Right now, I am too overwhelmed to write anything of major depth, but I hope to soon :).