My first week of school in Paris has just come to a close, and c’est le weekend! I’ve taken 7 years of French and my family is Tunisian, so I’m no stranger to the French language…even though my conversation skills could use some work. I’m just a little rusty but I’m brushing up! I’m finding that I love France and have adapted to fit in to the culture. My biggest hurdle has been the fact that other than in Starbucks, air conditioning in this country is extremely rare and people seem to be able to just live without it. My peers and I in the Temple in France Summer Program have found this new sweaty lifestyle to be quite difficult, especially when we have been averaging around 10 miles of walking a day, often in the sun (it has been setting at 10pm!!!), and we all share two communal showers per floor in our student housing building.
Classes everyday at the Sorbonne have been incredible, and not just because our classroom is equipped with air conditioning and I get to cool down for a few hours each day at school. My professors are wonderful, and there are students from all over the world in my classes who are all also trying to better their French.
Yesterday we had our first trip as a group, and we spent the day in Giverny visiting Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s gardens. Walking through the expansive property, I recognized some scenes from his iconic works of art. We even had the chance to walk through the home where he lived that has been preserved for historical accuracy, and is filled with plenty of his paintings that I had never seen before.
After a long sunny day of exploring the gardens, we decided to stop for lunch at a nearby restaurant. From the outside, it looked somewhat like a tourist trap, but the meal that followed was the stuff of my dreams. I ended up having the best chicken of my life for a little over 10 euros. It was so worth it! Our server there recognized the writing on my necklace (it says Allah–the Arabic word for God), and bonded with me (in French!) over also being Muslim. I have been having plenty of cool experiences like this since I arrived in France, and often, when I ask people on the street for directions who happen to be Arab or Middle Eastern, they actually answer me in Arabic! This has been an unexpected pleasant surprise, and I’m grateful that people have been so kind and helpful!