Hiiiii from Paris. And happy Thinking Out Loud Thursday! I would like to apologize in advance for the lack of pictures here. It’s pretty, I swear, but I’m a little bit in this-is-so-new-and-I’m-just-getting-from-point-A-to-point-B mode. So, there’s a lot of text and I’m sorry, but I have so much to say because, again, this is so new. I’m not going to do much more intro-ing because there’s a lot of context below. Let’s get into what’s happening in my life and mind this week! (P.S. I will reply to all your comments as soon as possible. I read them and I love them, but I haven’t sat down to do more than write for the blog forever.)
1.) Sickness update: I still cough a lot, but I feel better and I can sleep at night. So, I’m completely annoying in class and I go through almost an entire little box of Ricola every day, but I guess the cough just has to run its course. Also, upon Google-translation, I discovered that the odd flavor I’m working with now is elderberry flower. It was all the store had, and it’s not bad, but I don’t think we have very many elderberry-flavored things in the U.S.
2.) From my very first day wandering around Paris on my own, I’ve understood that going out in public is basically an exercise in silence and independence. I don’t mean that in an antisocial way or an “I-hate-Parisians” way. Rather, we just don’t understand each other 90% of the time.
Everyone at the UChicago Center takes French here. For those of us who are beginners, at least, it’s not a traditional beginner language class that just teaches you how to conjugate every verb, but is instead focused on useful conversation and daily interaction. Obviously, the goal is to make getting around easier. While I’ll happily exchange the requisite cheery “Bonjour” with anyone, right now I’m totally taking the self-scan option at any store kind enough to offer it.
3.) Speaking of classes, let’s talk class structure. There are four programs happening at the UChicago Center in Paris while I’m here: European Civilization (in English – that’s me!), European Civilization (in French), Classics of Social and Political Thought, and Neuroscience. All of us are mixed up into different classes for French based on our French background (so I am in the most basic). Based on our programs, we take three other classes throughout the nine weeks. So, I’ll take three European civilization (art, history, culture, whatever the teacher pleases) classes while I’m here.
The weird part is that we take them one by one. So, I’m taking a class on the Renaissance and Baroque for three weeks, a class on the Enlightenment for three weeks, and a class on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe for three weeks. There are positives and negatives to this. If you hate a class – I’m such an optimist, right? – it’s over quickly. You don’t have to worry about balancing a bunch of classes. It’s just one intensive class, plus French. (That’s not to say French isn’t a real thing, but it is a shorter class with a light workload.) You only have one final/project at a time. However, you spend a little over two hours a day in one class and then you have to do the homework the same day because you’re coming back to the same class the next day. It’s like sprints or really heavy lifting: a good way to burn out. At least you don’t have that much time to sprint through.
So, it’s a little over three hours of class with Civ and French on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, plus Civ and a conversational outing with a French university student on Thursday, plus sometimes day trips on Friday. I think I have three or four free Fridays while I’m here.
4.) I knew my room would be tiny, but I didn’t know how tiny. The bed doesn’t come up to my knee. I would be amazed if my bathroom is bigger than an airplane bathroom (and there’s a shower in it). We had a meeting with a residence hall director and she said someone would come in once a week to clean our bathrooms since we all have “luxury rooms”, and we all chuckled a little at that. Obviously, it’s livable, but luxury is a bit of an exaggeration.
5.) Food is a pain here. That’s all. Okay, no it’s not. First, there’s the general fact that it’s a city and grocery shopping in a city is a pain. You can’t get more than you can carry (or, in my case, fit in a mini fridge) because you will inevitably be walking or taking public transportation to get back home.
Second, there’s the fact that some things that seem like obvious staples to me just aren’t common here, examples being broccoli, turkey, cottage cheese, squash, Greek yogurt, and nut butters other than Skippy and Nutella. I had some warning on the last one, but the first five? And if I want something packaged, I’m taking a huge chance because the brands are all different.
Third, when you finally do get the food, you have to lug it, plus dish towels, dish soap, utensils, and cookware to the communal kitchen that someone else is hopefully not using and then clean it all up and lug it all back to your room.
Fourth, right now I am resorting to restaurant meals for lunch (until I have time to do some cooking this weekend), and everything is bread or noodles. I know everyone says Americans eat too much meat, but I thrive on a huge piece of chicken/steak/salmon and a lot of vegetables. I thought it was fake that Parisians walk around eating giant baguettes, but that is actually a very common sight. Sometimes with a slice of ham or cheese shoved in the middle, but it’s pretty much just a baguette.
6.) Along with the dietary flexibility, I’m trying to be schedule-flexible. See, much like in the U.K., gyms don’t open here until around 8:00am, and I need to head to class by about 9:00am. The YMCA by my house opens at 5:30am on weekdays and the first classes at most studios I’ve been to in the U.S. are between 5:00am and 6:00am. Way different. Also, I live in a post-WWI building where you can hear everything, which means a lot of in-room workouts that I could do at modern hotels are not an option here.
So, I’ve been getting up around 6:00am and doing as much reading for that night as possible before I get ready, eat breakfast, and take a walk or do some serious stretching to get me through class. Between the morning reading and what I can get done during the extra hour of my lunch break, I generally don’t have a ton to do in the evening, so I feel free to work out after class (I think I found a gym), shower, eat dinner, and blog, finish up work, or chill a little.
I can’t say I love the new schedule, but I don’t hate it and it’s only for nine weeks.
7.) Speaking of chilling, I truly don’t know why I didn’t give myself time to watch TV during my first two and a half years of school. I mean, I do. I was a little too school-crazy, but whatever. And I’m all for book-reading, but when that’s what you do for homework, it’s not always that appealing.
Netflix is now my friend. What is not my friend is that Netflix is different in every country and France doesn’t have The West Wing, which is optimal background noise for falling asleep. However, if you want a quick and funny show, I just discovered The Good Place and enjoy that. Also, a bunch of people told me to watch Jane the Virgin last year and I didn’t because I wasn’t watching TV. It was one of the few things that popped up on French Netflix, though, and I really like it.
8.) The time difference really messes with my head here. All my favorite sporting events happen while I’m asleep. I’m about to have (or have already had) lunch when my family is just waking up. I think I kind of skipped jet lag because I was on a bus and able to nap all the time, so that wasn’t a problem, but now it’s just the weirdness of communicating with people in the U.S. that throws me off. I’m always thinking, “What do you mean it’s 3:00pm there? I’m ready for bed.”
9.) I’m trying to figure out where all to travel while I’m here. On the weekends when I have excursions on Fridays, I’ll mostly stay in Paris… and maybe take a trip to London or so? I liked London a lot and I have a friend there I want to meet up with. I’m planning on a trip to Spain to visit a friend who’s studying abroad there, and after that… I’m not sure. I have a four-day weekend that I was planning to use on Greece, but one of the other girls in the program just suggested Morocco for that weekend. I know everyone does Amsterdam, but I really couldn’t care less about the Red Light District, so I don’t know that I want to prioritize that. Milan? Brussels? Zurich? HELP ME.
10.) And now I want to leave you with some of my favorite recipes + reads from the week:
- The addictive veggies I crave. –> Apple Cider Vinegar Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Please send me this in Paris please please please. –> Paleo Deep Dish Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie
- Cozy fall food! –> Pumpkin Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Harvest Tomato Sauce
- Do it for you. –> How I Learned to Keep Going When Everything in Me Wanted to Quit
- “Just show up and try.” –> On Feeling Like an Imposter and Doing Things That Scare Us