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 :).

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