Why did you decide to move abroad?
As the cliché story goes, I studied abroad and realized being in Europe for 5 months was not enough. As graduation approached, I knew I didn't want to be in the United States afterwards. I was in love with Europe, the traveling, the cultures, the languages, the sites, etc. I wanted to solidify a fluency in a second language and live the life I wanted in Europe. I also have a cousin (This is The Milk) who lives in Barcelona, and she assured me it was the right decision and to follow my instincts.
How did you spend your First Month Abroad?
I am going to talk about my first month moving abroad rather than my first month studying abroad. I arrived in France with minimal language skills, no one I knew, and overall frazzled. I spent the first month going from appointment to appointment trying to find an apartment, open a bank account, get a phone, start work, and more all in another language. I was tired and confused about many things, but I was so in love. I immediately knew I made the right decision by moving back over.
What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?
The warm welcomes. While I love France, I was scared that I was going to be greeted with the stereotypical rude Parisians and viewed as just another American coming in without knowing a whole lot of French. However, the French were helping me in every way possible. They were welcoming me with open arms, helping me with my French skills, being patient when I had to think though a conjugation of a verb, give me recommendations, tell me how to "be French", and more. The stress of uprooting my life and going somewhere I didn't know anyone or know anything about was greatly diminished by the helpful citizens. They want to teach me about their culture and their language rather than exclude me from it, it makes the experience just that much better.
Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?
Oh yes, all the time. The amount of phrases or situations that don't exactly translate well into French get people confused and uncomfortable. The French language also has a lot of words that are pronounced similar but saying one vowel wrong can completely change everything. One time in the beginning of my stay I was in a hurry and was trying to say "Thank you very much" aka. Merci Beaucoup but in a frantic hurry I forgot to say merci and just said Beaucoup. However, I pronounced the ending a bit differently and ended up saying the translation of nice butt. Luckily it was a small grocery store that I visited numerous times weekly and became friendly with the owners who brushed it off and made jokes about it instead.
What are your favorite activities in your new town?
Honestly, eating and drinking. There's always something cool to do in regards to those two things. Whether there is a wine festival, a chocolate or cheese festival, or just sitting around and talking with friends over coffee or wine. Everyday you will walk to work and see people sharing a morning conversation over coffee or a wine at lunch and dinner. Much of the French culture is just sitting, relaxing, talking about your day while sipping on something and nibbling at some cheese. Just these little activities make me feel more immersed in the culture. I also just love trying new restaurants and bars and finding new places to experience. I look a lot for new places on Instagram or just looking online.
What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?
My number one rule whenever I visit somewhere new is to walk as much as you can. Sure taking the metro or a cab can be easier, but walking around gives you a true taste of the city and you can see things you wouldn't have been able to see otherwise. Especially if it is a short trip, walking lets you see as much as possible in a small period of time. Additionally, try and speak the language if you know some of it or just be respectful or their culture and language.
Similarly, try to go without a set plan. Montpellier thankfully doesn't have large attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, but it is still a beautiful city with amazing spots and architecture. Following a schedule or planning out your day to a tee could be a bit stressful. Montpellier is the perfect place to walk the alleys and cobble stone streets while looking around and stepping into any restaurant and bar.
What is the one MUST SEE? Place de la Comédie
What do you miss most about home?
My dogs and my family. I always tell them everything about France is perfect except the fact you aren't there. Luckily technology lets me talk and FaceTime with them, but i'm waiting for the day my dogs catch onto it so they don't think I abandoned them and don't care (lol)
I'm constantly asked this question. I'm also constantly asking myself. All I can say is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯... I couldn't tell you if I wanted to. So many things to consider. I want to stay here but my family wants me home, who knows what job offers I would get next year, etc. I'll let you know when I know :)