Eleven Days Down

With eleven days in Europe under her belt, Kaela recounts her experiences arriving in Paris and Metz. Read her blog as she details her first solo travel!

Monday, September 14, 2020 | Written by Kaela

Today, I came to the realization that I have been living in France for 11 days– in Metz, for a single week. In this brief time I have: met people from all different backgrounds, traveled to two countries, visited Cora excessively, and timidly inquired “Parlez-vous anglais?” more times than I can count.

Let me backtrack and lay out my experiences from the beginning of these hectic, but exhilarating 11 days. 

The view out my airplane window crossing the Atlantic.
The view out my airplane window crossing the Atlantic.

PREPARATION FOR DEPARTURE:

While rushing to finish packing the night before my flight, I attempted to wrap my head around a new realization: I would be apart from my family for the longest I have ever been. With everything that has happened this year, three months seems like an eon and simultaneously feels like a flash. Ready to see what lies ahead of me, I was eager to leave the next day. 

In an attempt to more quickly adjust to the seven hour time difference, I tried to get as much sleep on the plane as I could. I arrived at 10am CEST (3am to my CST acclimated body) and felt relieved that I had finally made it to Paris. With the ongoing pandemic, I had to present 5 additional documents in addition to my passport when going through customs, a moment I had been anticipating to go wrong in some way. While packing, I was expecting to be back the very next day having run into some kind of issue: my airline wouldn’t accept my Covid test, I would miss my flight, the french government would bar students from travel, I wouldn’t have the correct documents on hand. To my surprise, everything went as planned. I didn’t expect to make it from ATL to CDG, let alone for it to be so seamless. 

MY ARRIVAL IN PARIS:

La Basilique Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.
La Basilique Sacré-Cœur in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris.

I planned on staying in Paris alone for a couple of days before journeying to Metz for the start of the semester, so I could acclimate to France on my own. I arrived feeling exhausted, somewhat detached from reality, and anxious. My knowledge of the French language, the maze like airport, and the country overall was limited. On the ride to my hotel, I made an effort to observe the differences between the US and France: the landscape, the people, how they drive, etc. I was confused (and slightly concerned) why my driver was going 100 miles an hour, despite our slow pace, when I remembered the speedometer is in kilometers. My general first observations on Parisian traffic? Cars are much smaller. Motorcyclists are more daring. Everyone stops for bikers and pedestrians. 

Though short, my stay in Paris was very meaningful. It was my first solo trip, my first interaction with Europe, and the last vacation before classes began (although definitely not my last of the semester). I stayed just a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel tower, so after a nap, shower, and quick lunch, I headed over to the famed landmark. Overall, my stay in Paris was amazing, but a bit lonely. I FaceTimed my family and boyfriend when I could to show them everything I was experiencing. My timidness, in addition to the language barrier, kept me from connecting with locals. I kept to myself and did my best to visit as many places as possible; my goal was to see as much as possible in the short time I had. However, I enjoyed that traveling alone gave me the freedom to choose what my day looked like. I could change my plans on a whim, make detours, enter a museum spontaneously without having to worry about what anyone else wanted to do. Everything I did was up to me. 

PLACES IN PARIS I VISITED AND RECOMMEND:

Eiffel Tower, Palais du Chaillot, Louvre, Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, Montmartre, La Basilique Sacré-Cœur, Pantheon, Luxembourg Garden, Les Invalides 

MY ARRIVAL TO GT-LORRAINE IN METZ:

With Covid-19, our arrival was slightly different from how a normal arrival might be for our safety. Our luggage was unloaded for us, we left the bus in groups of five, masks on all the time, hand sanitizer at every checkpoint, went straight to our rooms. It felt amazing to finally get to my dorm, unpack, and settle in. A large group of students went to Cora almost immediately. This first trip there was chaos. None of us spoke much French or had the data to translate it, the market is organized differently than ones back home, and not a single person knew what they needed to buy. Needless to say, we all returned multiple times the following days. They have countless options for every item you could ever want; I swear I saw 3 aisles with cheese! 

I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to study and travel at GT-Lorraine. Almost everyday I have a moment where I go, “Oh wow, I’m in FRANCE!” I still cannot believe I am here. I am excited to see where the rest of the semester takes me. Kaela in Paris!

QUICK TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MOVE TO GT-LORRAINE:

Soak your shower head and sink faucet in white vinegar and water. Don’t bring electrical items besides your devices (I almost set my hotel on fire trying to use an American steamer). Get a bike in Metz through the rental service GT-Lorraine has.