Progress.

 

Okay, I should 100% be studying right now.  On the other hand I studied for like 10 hours straight yesterday so I’m over it.

I’ll just get straight to it, this blog post is titled “Progress” simply because I, like many others, want 2017 to be a year of progress.  Progress in the sense that I visit more countries or meet more new and interesting people.  Progress in my french language skills.  Progress in getting past the awkward.  Everyone who has studied abroad before can tell you that one of the many feats an international student has to overcome is just getting past those beginning awkward phases.

Here’s what I’ve been up to

Life has become pretty regular lately.  I’m currently in that exam week/month slump where my eyes go blurry while reading and I live off of peanut butter, coffee, and rice cakes.  Okay so I have been doing some fun things lately.  I’ve spent the last 16 consecutive days in Belgium.  This is apparently some type of record because I cannot remember the time I stayed in this country for that long.  That’ll all change soon enough!

I was lucky enough to experience a Ghentian NYE and this city did not disappoint.  New Years was interesting because a lot of my European friends were able to escape back to their respective home countries for the entire holiday.  I did ring in the New Year with two of my very close friends and we had an absolute ball.  It was a very crusty and college-y new years, but still super fun, nonetheless.

New years day was bomb as well.  The featured photo above is the 4 pm brunch my french bestie, Ana, and I crafted to celebrate the new year.  Like every basic female, brunch is usually first priority on Sunday mornings and we decided to go all out.  So many amazing versions of toast on one table!

New year, new country!

Oh and four days after the beginning of 2017, I moved to France.  What?!?  Yep that’s right, the Belgian chapter of this story is coming to a close and I will begin my semester at Audencia School of Management in less than three weeks!  This is something I’m really excited about because Nantes is one of the absolutely coolest cities on this continent.  I began the moving process by taking six hours worth of trains across the entire country of France.  I packed only one suitcase full of random clothes, nick nacks, shoes, etc to bring with me on my first ride down.  This hopefully will alleviate half the stress I’ll have when I make the actual move.

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This super not fun journey actually takes forever.

I’d say my trip to Nantes showed great signs of progress because there were many times when I could have (SHOULD HAVE) wimped out but I didn’t.  I sucked it up and dealt with the cards I was given.  I had an hour layover in Paris.  I also had to switch train stations from the north-most (that’s a word in the English language, right?) to a more centralized train station.  Okay no problem, except is was a huge problem because Paris is huge.  The route to the second train station wasn’t the most ideal.  I found myself luggage my suitcase through random side streets.  Of course, I use my phone for every type of navigation and it told me that I had to catch a metro at this exact time, or I’d miss my train.  Okay no pressure at all.  Let me just run through the streets of Paris looking like a lunatic.  I mean, that’s basically what I did.  This is 100% true, I speed-walked on the metro as the doors were closing, fast speed-walked up like a bazillion flights of steps at the train station and then basically ran onto my train from Paris to Nantes. I swear I’m usually not like this.  I could have wimped out and splurged for an Uber, but I think a girl who decides she is going to move her life across an entire country (again) should probably deal with this type of stuff.

The second time I wanted to wimp out was the second I arrived in Nantes.  Wait, what?  I don’t know my way around here?  How does this tram system work?  How do I order an extra large coffee with a shot of espresso in French?!?  So many issues at hand.  Again, I definitely could have caught a taxi from the train station to my place, which was a fifty minute walk!  Instead I figured out the tram system in a jiffy (thanks to Google Maps, of course) and went on my way.  I show up at my building ready to crash for a few hours, but guess what, I had absolutely no power.  No heat, no electric, no hot water.  I guess I didn’t call the electric company in time.  Okay, time to wimp out.  I could have bought some candles and extra blankets and roughed it, but I took the hotel room for the night option.

The next day was spent exploring the city, buying essentials like toilet paper, and finding coffee shops.  I really enjoyed the different atmosphere of Nantes.  I forgot how much I loved french culture, it’s also nice to understand things when people speak their native tongue.  I met up with a friend from BG for dinner and we explored more of our new home together!

I was scheduled to be back in Ghent the next day.  My journey back home was everything I hoped it wouldn’t be.  First strike: the tram system suddenly decided to be super slow (in my opinion) and I was forced to speed walk through yet another train station and literally jump onto the train before departure.  This train was nice though, it took me all the way from Nantes to Lille (small city right outside the Belgian border) so I was almost home.  Unfortunately I spent more time in Lille than I wanted to.  I originally had only like a 45 minute layover, except EVERY SINGLE TRAIN from Lille to Belgian was cancelled.  I was absolutely terrified.  How was I supposed to get home?  I really wish I had my car right now!  Why isn’t anyone else freaking out? This phenomenon occurred for three straight hours as I mooched the station McDonald’s wifi trying not to cry.  Just kidding, it actually wasn’t too bad.  I could have wimped out and got a nice cosy room for the night, except I guess I dealt with it.  Long story short, I caught a train after sitting at the station for six hours and I arrived home after 9 hours of travel.  Wow.

Good News

I finally received my French student Long Stay Visa!  That’s one HUGE thing I can check off my to-do list.  I traveled to Brussels last Monday, turned over my passport to the consular, and spent the rest of the day studying in a cute little juice bar.  So it’s officially official, now. Next on the to-do list is getting a French Bank account so I can actually pay for rent and electric, you know, the things normal adults do from time to time.

Looking Forward

Besides studying for exams, packing up my room, and saying my last set of goodbyes to my friends over here, I really don’t have that much on my agenda until the big move.

I am traveling for the first time since Christmas to Dublin, Ireland next Monday!

Oh, and I turn twenty-one in four days.  My European friends have been really awesome with treating this birthday as special as if I were in the states, and I cannot appreciate them enough!

Gros Bisous,

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Made the Mistake of Going to Paris with a Parisian

Okay, so that title is 100% false.  I had the greatest privilege to visit Paris with one of my bestfriends Oihana (check out the featured photo).  So I’ve been to Paris before, I didn’t exactly HAVE to visit all the touristy attractions.  Ana was a sweetie and not only showed me “her Paris” but also allowed me to check out all of the amazing tourists attractions.  So here’s a quick snap shot of our weekend in Paris.

We left Gent around 6:30 pm on a Friday and arrived in Paris at 11 pm.  The bus ride was around 4-5 hours in total but I do this thing where I will pass out if I’m stationary for longer than fifteen minutes at a time, so obviously I slept through the majority of it.  One of the BEST things about my time in Paris was staying with Ana’s stepfather.  He was so hospitable and friendly, but the second we tried to communicate I instantly lost all of my knowledge of the french language.  We arrived at his residence around midnight, exhausted and dinner-less.  Ana made me some eggs, and bread with cheese.  We sat around the table, sipped on some wine (from Nantes actually!) and talked for hours.  It was so nice to stay in an actual house after so many consecutive weekends at hostels.

The next morning, we woke up super refreshed and ready for a day of exploring.  Of course, breakfast first.  Even though common French (and Belgian) breakfasts usually only consist of different types of bread/pastries and jam, I love them.  Honestly no matter the food, breakfast and brunch will always be my favorite part of the day.  But having Parisian breakfasts with a great friend is something I’ll never forget (she made me coffee?!  Ana is the best).  After getting ready for the day we took the metro into town near Place de La Bastille.  Our other friends from school were arriving in the city later that day and their hostel was near.  For about two hours we walked around cute little side streets of Paris.  Passing by boutiques, cafes, CREPERIES, and other places in Ana’s neighborhood.  She took me to the center where she used to participate in Scouts and to her sports club where she danced for years.  It was so refreshing to see this amazing city through the eyes of a local.

Oh and side-note:  Ana is 100% a typical Parisian; rude, snooty, can’t be bothered.  But that’s why I love her and that’s probably why we get along so well.  She’s also very caring and giving.  She makes a lovely friend because we both appreciate videos of puppies and quotes from Gilmore Girls the same amount.

Ana and I grabbed some quick food at a Chinese restaurant and kept on exploring.  We did stop at this really cool store called Thanksgiving!  As you may have guessed, this store is stocked full of American brands ranging from Jif Peanut Butter to Goldfish Crackers to Stuffing Mix to Big Red gum.  I felt so much nostalgia!  One thing that I have been missing a ton is American Peanut Butter.  Yes, there is pb over here but it doesn’t compare in the slightest.  One of the main staples of my American diet was Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter from Jif.  Unfortunately, a jar of the good stuff at the Thanksgiving Store was about 15 euros and even though I could literally inhale an entire jar in one sitting, wasn’t worth it.  Peanut Butter from the states is on my Christmas List though.

After lunch and shopping we met up with our friends and headed to the Louvre.  If you’ve never been to the Louvre, go!  But maybe only once, in my opinion.  The Louvre is a HUGE art museum that features super famous pieces like the Winged Victory of Somathrace, an Easter Island head, and a really interesting Egyptian mosaic exhibit.  Oh, and the Mona Lisa.  She is extremely anticlimactic and protected by bullet proof glass.  There’s a sign next to her that explicitly says, DO NOT TAKE PICTURES PEOPLE. However, rules don’t mean anything to tourists and there is usually an enormous crowd with their cellphones pointed right at her eyebrow-less face.  Like I said, it’s pretty cool to say that I’ve seen the Mona Lisa but I personally think the Louvre is a one time thing, very beautiful though.

We took a few pictures outside the museum.  You know that glass pyramid that is at the exit of the museum, I think we spent half an hour snapping some “candid” shots next to it.  It was a super nice day so I didn’t mind.  Other fun visits of that night:  Notre Dame, Christmas Markets, and L’Arc de Triomphe.  Each time I’ve been on L’Arc de Triomphe it was night and I honestly think that is the best way to experience this landmark.  The Arc provides an absolutely breath taking view of not only the Champs Elysees but also the Tour Eiffel, and if you’re there at the perfect time you can see the Tower literally explode in lights.

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Sometimes, it takes a view like this to make us realize how small we really are.  

Day two of Paris consisted of same old lovely Parisian breakfast at chez stepfather (look it up).  Then I made Ana promise that she would take me to get crepes and lunch by the Eiffel tower.  Good news, both of those things happened.  My favorite type of crepe ever is Banana Nutella (there’s fruit, it’s still healthy).  We also grabbed some bagels sandwiches and sat by the Tour Eiffel to watch our friends take pictures.

Next stop: Montmartre and Le Sacre Coeur, my FAVORITE spot in the entire city.  Okay so Montmartre is extremely touristy and known for its scamming salesmen and pick-pocketers.  Definitely not the greatest area in town but the Sacre Coeur is absolutely beautiful. And that view though.  The featured photo is one from the top of the hill by the cathedral, please note how you can see basically ever inch of Paris.  It’s amazing to see an entire city boiled down to one incredible view.  I still was taken aback once I arrived at the top of hill.

Here are some more pictures that are also on Facebook:

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So there you go, basically all of the important details from my weekend in Paris.  I also plan on going back for a day with my parents over the holidays.

So American Thanksgiving was last Thursday.  It was honestly the first time I was super homesick since I’ve been in Belgium.  So what do girls do when they are sad/stressed?  They cook and eat and that is exactly what I did.  I volunteered myself to show all of my European friends how Americans tackle the arrival of winter with copious amounts of food.  I think I spent six hours cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for my European Fam (Props to all those Grandmas, Moms, Dads, Grandpas, whoever cooks your Thanksgiving meal, that was not an easy task).  I knew I had to serve around 15-18 people so of course I asked people to bring food as well.  And what a party it was.  It felt just like a real Thanksgiving with dozens of people who care about each other gathered around a table stuffing their faces.  Plus, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is the LEFTOVERS!

What are some places that you like to visit when you’re in the city of lights?  Any recommendations for my family trip soon?

I went to Hamburg last weekend, that blog is yet to come.

Gros Bisous,

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