Friday, January 22, 2020 | Written by Kaitlyn
Hello, all! As I sit at my desk in my dorm room, I believe I’m just starting to take in the fact that I’m in France, about as far away from home as I could be. Gone are the days of enjoying the comfort and security of home cooked meals and only ever leaving my house to walk my dog around the neighborhood (thanks, pandemic!). In their place are days full of adventurous attempts at cooking for myself and thrilling strolls around Metz and all it has to offer. It’s certainly a pretty intense shift from the past nine months of small-town America, but I know I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I feel so fortunate to be embarking on this journey.
In the past ten days, I’ve learned so much about the French lifestyle, met so many incredible people, and seen so many beautiful sights, that it is all a bit overwhelming – but, I think that I can summarize my experience so far into a few key learning experiences and observations. Let’s jump right into it.
French customs agents? Anything but intimidating. When packing for this trip, one of the most important things we needed to bring was a plethora of documents. Documents showing proof of residence, negative COVID-19 test results, visas, insurance – you name it, we needed it. However, when we stumbled off the plane upon landing at Charles De Gaulle, and lined up to go through customs, we had a much easier process than expected. Maybe it’s because we are innocuous American college students? Either way, I was more than happy for the straightforward procedure.
Come physically and mentally prepared to Cora. After arriving at our dorms, a group of us decided to head to Cora, or as I choose to call it, French Super Walmart. When I and a couple others went to go check out, we realized that unlike most places in America, there were no grocery bags available; all the locals we saw around us had brought their own. Upon seeing this, I’ll admit I started to get a little nervous. How was I going to ask for a bag from the cashier? There wasn’t enough time to frantically Google “How to ask for a bag in French,” so I stuffed my newly purchased goods into my backpack (tragically crushing my chocolate croissants in the process), and resigned to hugging my bundle of paper towels against my chest on the walk back. My goal for my next trip to Cora will be to ask the cashier, “Je peux avoir un sac, s’il vous plaît?”
GTL couldn’t have been put in a better location. On Saturday we were given a tour of downtown Metz. I was instantly enchanted by the cobblestone streets lined with bakeries and shops, the cheerfully yellow buildings, and the general infectious liveliness of the city. We stopped at the most notable areas and buildings, then were left on our own to wander around. My group and I headed toward the Moselle river. We were greeted with a breathtaking view of Temple Neuf, lit up with its reflection shining in the water, and the cathedral glowing warmly in the distance.
The next day, we headed back downtown. It was a bit of a struggle catching a bus – we were about ten feet from making it to the bus stop when the bus we intended to hop onto blew right by us and the bus stop, not even slowing down for just a second. However, I am happy to report that we did eventually catch a bus and arrive downtown. We walked around the quiet streets (most places are closed on Sundays), taking in the sights with no specific direction in mind. A few of my favorite things I saw included: the Cathedral of Saint Stephen, where the sunlight shined vibrantly through the stained glass, a pair of ambitious swans looking for food along the river, and last but certainly not least, a delicious crepe that I consumed within seconds.
Make the most of our time here. As a very wise person once said: “YOLO”. I like to think that this applies to studying abroad. Even just after a few days of living in a new country, I’ve had so much fun from figuring things out, experiencing French culture, and exploring Metz. Though it may be slightly more difficult to abide by this saying with certain restrictions in place such as a curfew, I like to think that there’s still so much at our fingertips while here in the heart of Europe. I’m very excited to see what’s coming up in these next four months, and I can’t wait to continue documenting it all here on the blog.