Finally, after spending a semester in France, I’m starting to feel very very French, and I am very, very happy about it. When I first got here in September I tried all kinds of things to make myself feel more French. I ate lots of pastries, I didn’t cringe when I inhaled second-hand smoke, I took long leisurely strolls through the park, I didn’t buy deodorant, I wore striped shirts, the list goes on. But all of it somehow didn’t quite make me feel French, more just like a smelly, stripey, well-fed boy.
But things have changed. Of course, I have still kept up my butter-based eating habits and sailor-like outfits, but now it’s less of a charade and more of a real-live life. This semester I moved out of my homestay in the the neighboring city of Villeurbanne and moved into an apartment in the middle of the Lyonnais peninsula. So now, instead of making a half-hour commute into town to meet my friends, everything fun is at my fingertips. Long park strolls are now just a bike ride away, and I have an endless supply of seriously cute boulangeries within three blocks of my house. I walk almost everywhere, even when it’s raining, and constantly say, “it’s so pretty here” in quick, short, labored bursts (something I haven’t done since walking around the UCLA campus).
I cook for myself now, for the first time in my life. Every dish has ham or blonde lentils, and when I eat I get to gaze out of my window (with shutters and a scalloped awning) to the moss-covered buildings across the courtyard. My shower doesn’t have a shower head holder, so every time I bathe I have to hold the sprayer above my head and soap up one-handedly. A tour through my neighborhood features a 12th century basilica, an old-timey pharmacy, a classic bouchon, and lots and lots of cobblestones. Essentially, every aspect of my life has just become hyper French. I hang my clothes up to dry, I have empty wine bottles in my room, I see the world in different shades of bleu, blanc, and rouge.
The director of the EAP program here in Lyon had told me that the second semester was always the better one. She said that there wasn’t any sort of adjustment period, that we would know how to go about choosing our classes and that our French would already be easy to use.
And while all of those things are true – the French comes easier, classes are better, friends are already made – the best thing about second semester abroad is finally feeling like you aren’t visiting but that you are actually living. I am still an extremely obvious (and proud) Californian, but my life looks and feels very, very French.