Yesterday we had our first day of a week long orientation. We met the staff, some students, and got an informal tour of the city. Although I’m not yet confident that I know where everything is, I’m pretty sure I won’t get too lost. The best part of the day happened around 6:30 that night; all the students met their host families.
My family is the Zerr family. Caroline, my host mother, and Claude, my host father, have hosted 4 other students before me.
Caroline reminds me a little of my mom. She is very artistic and enjoys Asian philosophy. It’s a little embarrassing how little I know about it compared to her. She is also a great cook, very social, and seems like she is friends with everyone in their small apartment complex. Claude is a manager at IBM and speaks English very well. That helps a lot when I don’t understand a word, but I told him that I am here to speak French. He is also very nice, but so far Caroline has dominated conversation (something else that makes me think of my mom). Caroline told me that both she and Claude have slight accents from Northern France. Hers is Parisian and his is from his home in Alsace, the French province next to Germany. His hometown explains their German sounding name too. Their son, Florian, is 23 and is studying Architecture in Strasbourg. I’m using his room now. Every room in the house has a different theme. The kitchen is Moroccan, the living room is Greek, my room is Chinese.
My first French dinner was very simple. I’m sorry I don’t have photos, but bringing out a camera in the middle of dinner would have been a bit bizarre. Caroline made a vegetable soup with cream, celery, carrots, salt and pepper, and some other vegetables that I understood at the time but can’t remember anymore. We ate it, of course, with a baguette torn into small pieces and put into the soup. I could have been done eating after that, but then Caroline served scalloped potatoes and bread-crusted fish. She said it was a certain type of fish specific to the region, but I don’t know the name in English. After that she brought out two different types of cheese, one was soft, white, and very mild in flavor. The other was hard, yellow, and somewhat sharp.
The next day, Caroline took me out and showed me how to get around. We drove to the tram stop and she showed me how to get to school. The tram is very similar to Minneapolis’ Light rail except there are two lines and the trains look way more fun. The line that takes me to school is blue, but the other line is red with big flowers on it. She also took me downtown, which to my surprise was only about 10 min on foot and probably 3 min by bike. It’s less than a quarter mile from the Arc de Triumphe.
Before coming to Montpellier, I was afraid that I would miss the freedom that came with my bicycle. It turns out, I have a bike here, complete with light and reflectors. The bike lanes over here a little different. Instead of being on the street, they are next to the sidewalk signified by a little bike icon and different colored brick.
Tomorrow I will meet the study abroad group at the University and we’ll start orientation. Hopefully I will get a chance to take more pictures too.