It’s been a pretty exciting and packed last few days! Here’s a recap…
I arrived at the airport at about 7am having had under an hour of sleep and some very questionable food. Adrenaline kept me going, and I was incredibly grateful for all the signs written in English. I found my way to the taxi stand, but upon realizing that I had many hours to kill and nothing to do but try to stay awake, I opted to use the public transportation. I made it to the RER and got on with all my bags, which was kind of obnoxious but was saving about $50 so it was definitely worth it. I eventually transferred to a metro and got to the hotel.
The hotel was at Place d’Italie, which is essentially a shopping mall and a number of other restaurants and shops. I told the woman at the front desk that I was there with my program, and once she realized I was in the group of Americans visiting, she switched to English, which was sad but also relieving. She told me that there were two others in my room and that it would actually be ready in just 10 minutes, so I waited for it and then went to check it out. I was the first one there, so I chose a bed and rested a bit until Sara arrived. We chatted about how confused we were about many things and what the plan for the week was, then navigated the metro together to our program’s center.
The staff greeted us and said that the last Sciences Po student was running late. When Daniella arrived, the orientation began. So there I was, exhausted, listening to four women talking to me in French for about 2 hours. I was very close to falling asleep multiple times and every time I opened my mouth to speak to them in French, the result was not exactly ideal. But we made it through, they wished us good luck, and we went back to Place d’Italie to have a meal and get to bed ASAP.
For some reason, all three of us had been briefly wide awake in the middle of the night, but once 7am came around, we woke back up, got our things together, and left for orientation (of course, I had to snag a pain au chocolat from the hotel breakfast along the way). The Président of Sciences Po and many other administrators and student organizations introduced themselves during the commencement of the Welcome Program, and once we split up into our groups, the fun began. Icebreakers in French, of course! We played a name game, and halfway through, two students revealed that they spoke absolutely no French and had no clue what was going on. I think everyone was a bit relieved to finish the game and go over the practical information in English instead. Lunch was a traditional French baguette sandwich, and after our quick tour of campus and “meet the services” session, the day we were done for the day. I met Katherine that day through my group, as well as many, many people from all over the world (except France, with the exception of our group leaders). I was especially amazed by the fact that while our group conversations kept switching between French and English, there were many side conversations in Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, etc.
We returned to the hotel, and while the others went to go to their homestay families, I waited in the lobby for a while then left for my university housing. I got to the front desk to see a British student struggling to communicate with the security guard, and once he was gone, I got my room key and headed upstairs. More info about my room/housing in a later post! Exhausted but hungry, I forced myself to go explore. I found a grocery store and bought a bottle of rosé for 2 euros, then a pizza from across the street. Once I got back to my room for the night, I had a solo pizza and wine night, complete with Netflix and followed by lots of sleep.
I allowed myself to sleep in a bit then met up with Sara for lunch. We then split up into our groups and went on the “Paris Charms and Secrets” bus/walking tour. We saw many of the typical French monuments, as well as a number of places that I never would have noticed otherwise. I was, however, surprised that I understood so much and could retell the stories, considering that the majority of the tour was in French. After all the walking and time socializing, Sara and I got another pain au chocolat and waited for Daniella. We spent of time reflecting and recuperating, then did more walking. We passed over Pont Neuf at sunset and got some photos as we watched the people dancing beside the river. We found a Mexican restaurant, then left to check out some bars around the area. Once everyone was ready to go, we divided to get to our metro/RER stations, and while the others easily got back to their homes, I was not so lucky, as the RER apparently shuts down earlier, so I had no choice but to pay for a pricey uber to get back home.
I slept in again, and once I finally felt like I had caught up on rest, I got ready for the day. Everyone was meeting up at a metro stop today, and once I got there, I recognized a few people and chatted with them. We were divided into teams for the scavenger hunt also known as the “Paris Amazing Race.” We were team “La Vie en Rosé,” complete with a rewrite of the original song. The three hours consisted of challenges such as taking photos in front of different landmarks, but also singing the French national anthem and dancing with Parisians and acting out scenes from French movies, etc. When we hit the finish, we added up all our points, getting all our photos and videos approved by our team leader, Sébastien, and we won! They told us to sing our song in front of all the Sciences Po participants (as well as a number of confused French people walking by) and then gave us each a cup of pastis. It kind of tastes like licorice, but also a bit like mint… I was not the biggest fan, but apparently it’s a big deal in the South of France when they play pétanque. I went with a number of people in my group to a local bar to celebrate and found out that there’s a popular drink that consists of beer, grenadine, and limonade (so basically a dirty shirley but beer instead of vodka?) that is surprisingly good. Katherine and I met up with her friend to get Italian food, followed by ice cream. I went to the RER stop like normal, and yet again, I ran into an issue. They were closed, and I still have no idea why. I found a bus that would take me back to my dorm, but I got on it on the wrong side of the street and ended up on the other side of the city. Oops. It circled back and I made it home eventually, and I actually got to see a lot of the city and orient myself more because of this mistake. When I got to my room, I explored the building some more, finding the laundry, vending machines, and water dispenser, and here I am now, sitting on my bed prepping for another full day tomorrow!
Leave a Reply