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France and Benin 2005

Journal 1

September 9, 2005

Week one is fast coming to a close for us, and it feels like it has been a year. We arrived in Montpellier, France Saturday evening and have been adjusting to the culture, which seems not too different from the U.S.

On Monday, we began language study in the heart of Montpellier. It is hard to say what a normal school day really looks like - the night before the second day of class, a string of thunderstorms hit the city with incredible strength. The next morning, many students had to make their way to school on narrow patches of dry land in between rushing streams. Other students did not even make it to school that day. Those of us who did make it were let out early because of the threat of more storms. With that said, we typically have class from 9-12:15 each day.

After we find lunch at one of the nearby restaurants, we either either go on a field trip or have conversation in French with our professor.

At night, we return to our host families. I am living with a single woman and eight cats. Probably even more so than class, I find myself getting frustrated easily when I hit a wall of miscommunication with my host mum. She patiently waits as I stumble through my limited proficiency, and I have been grateful that she is as understanding as she is!

While I can definitely tell that I am in a foreign country, it is amazing how little culture shock I feel like I am dealing with. Of course, there is the strangeness of constantly hearing another language...and, to our amusement, there are always piles of dog poop on the ground (as it is not law that people clean up after their pooches. France actually employs people to clean it up...how is that for a "crappy" job...heh). Anyways, we are enjoying our time thus far, and are looking forward to a weekend of some serious time on the beach!

- Valerie Showalter