One month in.

I have officially been in Lyon for one month now. It has been a month of firsts for me, all of which I will cherish and remember, even if they weren’t all positive. Amongst many other things I; flew solo for the first time; got my first apartment; bought my first non-smart-phone in four years and didn’t even care; saw Lyon; enjoyed wine; missed Canadian-sized coffee; swam in the Mediterranean Sea; shrunk a brand-new shirt in the dryer; ate foie-gras; went to Switzerland; attended French class in France..and the list could go on. It has already been quite the amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for me in the next 85 days.

I can’t believe that there are only 85 days left to this adventure. Before leaving Canada, I made my mom and Ian a “Countdown Jar,” which contained 117 jelly beans, one for every day that I would be gone.

Countdown Jar

The idea is that they eat one candy a day so that they can watch the pile shrink until I get home. As long as they haven’t eaten too many or too few jelly beans, the jar should already be looking marginally emptier, and before any of us know it, it will be empty and I will be home! Which is why I must keep reminding myself to enjoy every second of my time here in France, even when I miss my parent’s cooking or my dog’s furry hugs. But with Ian here it feels like I am home again, so that has been a nice change of pace for my French lifestyle.

Ian arrived on Saturday, and I waited anxiously for him at the arrival gate from a very long day of travelling! We had a relaxing evening on Saturday and ventured around the city on Sunday, eating a picnic of fresh-from-the-market food at the Parc de la Tete D’or and touring around on the Velo-V bicycles that all around Lyon. He has been fighting off a bad cold for the past few days, so we have both been enjoying each other’s company from the comfort of my apartment, trying to get as much of our homework done before our big trip to Paris this weekend. I have been to Paris once before with my highschool, but Ian has never been. We are both very excited to see and taste all that Paris has to offer!

I will write all about it when we get back. I hope all is well with everyone wherever they may be,

Lots of love,
B, xox.


Goodbye money, hello adventures!

I’ve heard that money spent on travelling is money well spent because it’s the only thing that you can buy that will make you richer. I have to keep reminding myself this as I watch my bank account balance quickly deteriorate while my weekends become more and more packed with trips to new destinations. Within the next three months, I will be visiting; Paris, Dublin, Lisbon, Barcelona and Berlin. Those are the trips that I have booked so far, and my wallet is most certainly feeling the affects of it, but I am beyond ready and willing to throw my money into flights and hostels if it means I get the chance to see what the world has to offer. I am also hoping to visit London after my exams are over in December, and I’d love to see a bit more of France while I am here. We’ll see how far I can stretch my money – good thing baguettes are cheap here, I think I’ll just live off of bread for the semester. They say carbs are good for runners, right?

With only two free weekends left in November, and none in October, I’m beginning to realize how quickly my semester abroad is going to fly by. It feels like just yesterday I arrived in my hotel in a strange new city, overwhelmed by the prospect of a starting a new life in a foreign country. But here I am today,  eating Nutella and baguette as a late-night snack like any other Frenchy (or so I’d like to think). I’m really feeling settled and comfortable in my new environment, and I am happy to be back into a regular school routine, finding time to run, meet up with friends for dinner and fitting in some time to tackle my pile of french homework. I have already found a favourite spot in the library on campus, which Ian jokes will always be my home away from home, no matter what country or city I am in. I find comfort in being surrounded by books and the silence of concentrating students.

But most of the desire of being an exchange student is escaping the academic life in order to see the world around us, which I will always manage to find time for. This past weekend I went to Geneva for four other girls. Two of the girls stayed overnight, but unwilling to pay the costly Genevan hotel prices, I opted to train in just for the day on Saturday, which only cost me 26 euros roundtrip thanks to student pricing. It was a beautiful city, but I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to stay any longer than a day.

We started our day at the UN, which had a line that looked like it would’ve been over a two hour wait to stand in, so we took pictures of the “broken chair” and the line up of flags, then went to hunt down a fondue restaurant.

Broken Chair

The fondue was quite tasty and cost us each 10 euro, which seemed affordable considering what we had heard about prices in Geneva.

Empty fondue pot after a satisfying meal

On our way back to the city from the restaurant we noticed the line had only about a ten minute wait, so we got in it. Unbeknownst to us, the one day we decided to visit Geneva happened to be the one day in two years that the UN is opened to the public for free. After going through security, we got a short tour and then were given free range to roam around the property and through the buildings.

Proud to be Canadian.

I still can’t believe our luck, and 3/4 of the girls I was with are studying International Relations, so they were in “academic heaven”. The rest of the day we spent along Lake Geneva, which was beautiful. We made friends with some very tame swans and got drinks along the water. It was the perfect ending to a Swiss day.

I should probably be heading to bed sometime soon but I am far too excited to be sleeping. Ian leaves for Lyon on Friday, which means we will be reunited in 3 sleeps! I am so excited for him to see Europe and for him to get a glimpse of the life I have made for myself here in Lyon. We will be sight seeing in Lyon for the weekend, and then next weekend we are going to Paris for my birthday!

I had my frist two non-french classes today, which went well. It’s different than the Canadian learning environment because we don’t have to buy our own books and our mark is based only off 2-3 assignments/tests, but that is perfectly ok with me. I have two more classes tomorrow and then it is my weekend! I plan on spending Friday studying in a coffee shop, and getting my place ready for Ian’s visit. I’ll keep everyone posted on my life in France as best I can.

Love and miss everyone back home,

xox, B.

Beautiful Lake Geneva

Don’t Forget to Breathe

As the youngest child of four, I was put through many extracurricular activities growing up in order to fill my free time and give my parents a break from our hectic and noisy life. I tried them all – gymnastics (not exciting enough for me), dance (embarrassing memories of being a chubby kid in too-small leotards), art (not very talented in that department), Beavers (…realized there was a girl equivalent and tried out >), Brownies/Girl Guides/Pathfinders (ya, I was the super cool kid who went all the way through Pathfinders – even got my Canada Cord to prove it!). But my true loves were horseback riding and drama, and since horse back riding was a little bit less practical and a lot more expensive, drama became what I liked being good at. Drama and horseback riding had something in common though – they required some concentration and a bit of courage, and the combination of those two things often led to me unknowingly holding my breath. I lost track of the amount of times directors and instructors would remind to me to breathe – such a simple request, seeing as it’s a natural part of our everyday lives. But when you’re trying something new and scary, breathing gets put to the back burner, and all you can think of is the task at hand. I’ll never forget that advice though – to breathe even when life gets tricky. It obviously keeps us alive, but it also reminds us that we are alive, it can keep us calm in a nerve-wracking situation, and it reminds me that no matter how much courage or concentration life requires from us, we can’t forget to breathe and to live, our seemingly scary lives.

All that to say, moving to a faraway country in an entirely new continent was a pretty overwhelming experience for me. Lyon is a beautiful city, and I am so excited to experience it, and the rest of Europe, but that was hard to remember when all I could think of was how far away from Ottawa I was, and how I wouldn’t be seeing it or many of my friends and family for another four months. But today was a wake-up call. I realized that it was my choice to come and have this new experience, and that I should enjoy it while it lasts, instead of holding my breath and hoping it would be over quickly. I am all settled in my apartment now (pictures to follow), I have set up my French bank account, and I have dropped off all my necessary forms at school and with my landlord, so things are starting to fall into place. I should have my student card by Friday, and then I get my Metro card for September, which will let me use the Metros, Trams, and Buses all for 27 Euros/month! Seems affordable to me- cheaper than Ottawa, and a better Transit system from what I can tell 🙂 .

Orientation started today, so I finally got to meet some of the other S.E.L.F. (Studying in English, Living in France) students. I don’t really remember what we talked about during the morning half of the presentation, but the good news is that I have met lots of cool people, and we enjoyed our nice French-length lunch break from 11:30-2:00 at a cafe patio with beer and delicious bagel sandwiches with fries! Yum 🙂 We had another presentation this afternoon, which talked a lot about the history of Lyon, and of Jean Moulin (our Uni’s namesake) – a leader of the French resistance during WWII, who was tortured by the Nazis and eventually imprisoned in France, and then died while being moved to Germany. We also learned a bit more about how the S.E.L.F. program works, and the requirements of the program. We also found out that we would have to make appointments with S.E.L.F. staff in order to register for our classes, which result in a mad-dash to the sign-up sheet after the presentation. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, the earliest appointment was for Friday Sept. 7 at 4 pm, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the classes don’t all fill up by then since appointments start tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have more orientation from 2:00-5:00, so I plan on exploring a bit in the morning on a run, and then walking down to campus to find where we need to meet. Tomorrow night there is a party put on for exchange students at a club, so I’ll either be doing that with the girls I met today, or just going to a bar with the girls, depending on whether we want to dance or just enjoy some wine and patios :).

That’s all for now, chat soon.

xox, B.

P.S. Here are my apartment pictures!