Chloe Grande is in France on exchange for the upcoming year. She will be sharing her experience as a regular contributor for QJBlogs.
In four months I will return from Lyon, France as a fluent French-speaking, love-struck and slightly heavier version of myself. Or so I’ve been told.
Although my current level of French is proficient at best, many promise I’ll soak up the language in a matter of weeks. I don’t doubt it — immersion is proven to be the most effective way to learn a language. The only catch is that I will be studying in an English program, not French. My colleagues, therefore, will be English speakers as well. The solution? I’m signed up for a “sponsor” — a Lyon student who will show me the ropes, speaking only French of course.
The “language of love” may even help land me a French lover. It seems like everyone from the bank teller to distant relatives have cheekily hinted that I’ll fall head over heels in love. I’m sure there are charming French men out there, however, I’ll stick with my long-distance boyfriend back home. Maintaining relationships while abroad, whether with a significant other, friends or family, will no doubt be a challenge. However, forming new ones is just as much part of the experience.
But the most integral part of my exchange experience won’t be the language or people. It will be the food. This isn’t just based off the unsolicited advice of strangers, it’s a fact. Lyon happens to be the gastronomical capital of France, best known for its simple, hearty cuisine. From my research, I’ve concluded this consists of lots of meat (pig’s stomach, blood sausage and liver cake to name a few), cheese and wine galore. And then there’s the allure of just-baked baguettes and pastries. The picky eater inside of me may cringe at seeing snails on a menu, but then again, I’m sure the French would do the same if presented with a plate of gravy-drenched poutine.
It’s idyllic to imagine coming home with a French accent, beret-sporting lover and a newfound appreciation for fine cheeses, but it’s far from realistic. Much to the dismay of those who have told me otherwise, my real experience abroad will not resemble an Audrey Hepburn film. Instead, I’ll take the advice of those who’ve been on exchange to France before: study hard during the week and travel on weekends, try couchsurfing to save money, meet the locals and invest in a money belt.
Even if I don’t master the French language or eat every meal like a gourmand, I’m determined to venture out of my comfort zone. Au revoir, Canada.
Keep track of Chloe's journey. Her next post will appear on Sept. 12.