Bonjour, and welcome to my blog about life as an exchange student in France! My name is Matthew Blair, and I’m a double major in French and history at UT. As of last month, however, I am also a student in Grenoble— a city in southeastern France that sits at the base of the French Alps. I arrived here on the Jan. 10, and it’s so hard to believe that three weeks have already flown by. Going to France has been an aspiration of mine for years now, and finally having the chance to live here is such an unbeatable opportunity.
So much has happened since I got here that I wish I had written this first post weeks ago. I feel like my journey over here, combined with the first two nights here, could alone fill the pages of a small novel.
To be short and honest, the first few days were kind of miserable. I checked into my dorm around 6 p.m. on a Saturday and quickly realized that I was going to be jet lagged, without Internet access to my friends and family and without basic items like a pillow or blanket since no shops are really open on Sundays. I quickly found a supermarket nearby my building to buy a few basic necessities so I’d be fine until Monday, two key items on that list being food and toilet paper. Very important.
After waking up early Sunday afternoon, I left my room determined to do anything other than sit around by myself all day. I had until Monday without very much to do at all, since Monday was when orientation into my university would happen. Following the tram line aimlessly, I ran into a manifestation in light of the Charlie Hebdo crisis as thousands of French citizens marched in solidarity. Here’s a picture:
Once Monday came around, things got exponentially better and I really began to relish in my new life in France. Leaving my building, it felt as though the city had come back to life. Shops reopened to welcome a new week, tram lines that were shot off in light of the Charlie Hebdo demonstration started running again and everywhere you looked people were bustling about. On top of all that, I was finally able to meet all of the other exchange students and have some meaningful human interaction. Orientation week was a great morale booster for everyone. Before we knew it, everyone had made fast friends and become much more comfortable in our new home, Grenoble.
In this blog, I hope to give a candid representation of the ups and downs of life as an exchange student. Because, in all honesty, while I truly am having the time of my life (who wouldn’t be on their first time outside of the states?), studying abroad is a dynamic experience that brings about all sorts of different emotions, thoughts and opportunities for self-reflection—some pleasant and others not as much so.
All I mean by this is that I want to avoid sugarcoating my experience, because I think that downplaying the difficult parts of integrating into another people’s culture is unfair to future exchange students. I’m going to be talking about everything that strikes me during my time abroad, be it good, bad or somewhere in between. In fact, I think that some of the largest moments of cultural understanding come from the times we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations or embarrassed somehow.
Anyway, I really do look forward to sharing my experiences on here, and I hope my blog gives you an interesting taste of my experiences as an American exploring France.
Edited by Jessica Carr