Friday, February 26, 2010

"Knowing a famous author is better than becoming one. It shows you're connected."

I saw An Education today! So good. It made me miss the dress I have at home that's shaped kind of like one of the last ones she was wearing in the movie. I officially APPROVE of clothes from the early 60s.

I'm leaving now for dinner and a sleepover at one of my friend's houses, and then a bunch of us are taking the early train to Sarlat (in the Dordogne department) for our day trip. Yay! It's supposed to be pretty -- parts of the movie Ever After were filmed there.

Be back Saturday night!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

il fait chaud!

IT WAS 61 DEGREES HERE TODAY. And I don't know what the temperature was yesterday, but I was definitely sweating as I walked down Rue Saint Catherine (where I found my stripes!!!).

Anyway, this is good news (except not the sweating part).

I still can't exactly figure out a straight answer to when I will be done with finals.

Day trip to Sarlat (in Dordogne) on Saturday. YAY. I love Day Trips. Hostels/Hotels are SUCH an ordeal, considering anywhere we can afford to stay is at LEAST a 30 minute walk from the center of whatever town we're in (and these walks have tended to involve construction sites and busy traffic).

SO YAY. ALSO, I took my first test in France today! And can I just say that it's a good thing I don't get worked up about receiving passing grades all of the time? :)


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

histoire de l'art

I think I just decided that I'm not going to finish my Art History minor.

If I try to finish it, then I have practically no leeway in my last three quarters, so if something goes wrong (i.e. if more than one) class isn't offered the quarter that I need it, it will be a major problem. And while I could attempt to finish it, and not feel bad if I have to stop, it means I would have to take a certain class Fall quarter that I don't want to take, which will ONLY be useful if I keep the minor. So if I take this class, and then decide the next quarter that I'm dropping the minor, that will be a whole 4 units of my life that I wasted.

Also, I think that I decided that Art History in general might not be for me. My interests are extremely narrow: the one class that I have completed (Baroque Rome) is pretty much one of the ONLY areas in Art History that I think I'll be able to sit through -- and because I've already taken it, anything sort of like this isn't going to count. I think the history of art is AMAZING, and especially because I love history....but honestly, I just don't think that I can sit through classes on art that doesn't interest me, as (something...I can't think of the right adjective here) as that sounds. I'm taking a European Renaissance art class here (which I don't regret at all, because the professor is nice and it will be easy, I think), but I'm even finding Italian Renaissance art not that interesting compared to Baroque stuff. So This is probably for the best.

SO YAY FOR DECISIONS. All but one of my History classes have at UCI have been AMAZING, so I feel like this way I'll really be able to take advantage of the amazing History department, and learn as much as humanely possible about subjects that I like during my last year at school. These means that I'll also be able to take more French classes, and any other fun (i.e. Shakespeare) classes that I wouldn't have been able to take otherwise. And this means that I'll probably have room to take the Art History classes that I want to take, too.

ALSO: I'm still waiting for two of my professors here to confirm my final exam schedule, but it seems likely that I'll be back in the states by mid-May, which makes me happy :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

"with these things there's no telling / we'll just have to wait & see"

I feel like every time I talk about wanting to be home, I need to preface those thoughts with "BUT I LOVE IT HERE and I'm NOT homesick", because that's true too. I do love Europe, and I don't want anyone to think that I'm homesick, because I'm not. But, as my friends and I have been trying to figure out our travel plans after classes end (a time which is actually rather eminent), I've been realizing that I would be just as happy to be home as I would be traveling around Europe. Is that bad?

I don't get really excited about the idea of traveling here. This is weird because when I'm at home, I count the days until any scheduled trip. And I love my traveling companions here, so it's not that. I don't know what it is, but everyone is always really excited about sightseeing and I'm just not.

Not really having a place in mind to go has it's advantages though, because traveling around Europe is so much easier said than done, so (as I've already told my parents), I won't be really upset if my potential plans don't work out. Or at least, disappointment won't set in until later, anyway.

Another (is there a nicer world for "lie"?) that people told me before I left was that it would be so easy to travel around Europe because I would already be here. So wrong. First of all, my end of school schedule is logistically a mess, which is what makes everything difficult. But besides that, train trips are long, flights are expensive, and the discount airlines seem pretty useless.

For example, everyone in the states always talks about RyanAir and EasyJet. BUT, it's not like they fly everywhere from Bordeaux, or even Paris. And when they do fly places, they only fly on select days, out of far away airports at inconvenient times. AND, according to this link, RyanAir's carry-on luggage limit is smaller than my small travel bag. I'm a light packer when I want to be, but this means that I can't go anywhere for more than a weekend. AND because I have an additional large suitcase, it means I can't rely on the discount airlines to take me anywhere permenantly OUT of Bordeaux before I leave.

Israel is on my list of places to go, because 1) It's Israel 2) I feel like at UCI (among the groups of people I'm around, often) Israel is a topic that's in everyone's collective consciousness EXCEPT for mine, because everyone has been and I haven't, and 3) Best Friend/Roommate/Sorority sister Talia is studying there right now. But it will cost me something like $800 dollars to get there, which I'd rather not spend. Another time perhaps.

And Kayla (my cousin, for those of you who aren't related to me) is studying in London, which isn't toooo difficult to get to. But even London has its own set of logistical problems for me.

So I don't know. There are a lot of things that I miss at home, which don't come with expensive flights, heavy luggage, inconvenient hotel/hostel accommodations, et cetera. I REALLY miss the sorority, and I wouldn't be upset to be back in time to see them before UCI ends for the year, if it meant a little less traveling.....I think. There are other things I miss too, really badly, but I don't really have a choice except to deal.

OKAY: Someone suggest for me a place to travel on this continent (or, nearby) that I can look forward to. Merci!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

l'histoire de bordeaux

It was beautiful out (il faisit beau!) for two days in a row here, and I think everyone was in a better mood because of it.

Us Americans don't like to have class on Friday, so yesterday was spent doing history-related things.

This is us outside of the Centre Jean Moulin, which is directly across from Cathedral Saint Andre located conveniently downtown. Valerie and I are kind of his.

Then, we met up with our friend Jasmine. We walked around for a while and eventually ended up near the river, at the National Customs Museum. Apparently, France takes smuggling seriously.

Then, on my way home, instead of walking down my normal street, I decided to walk down the street that is almost parallel to it, so that I could take a picture of THIS:

This little Roman Amphitheatre is LITERALLY 3 minutes from my house, and it's pretty cool.

In unrelated news, I'm on a massive search for more striped shirts. The stereotype that French people wear stripes all the time definitely has a strong basis in reality, and I absolutely need to own many of these shirts. It kind of kills me when I see people at school wearing them, because I don't have enough. I did get one that I like a lot for Christmas (thanks Mom!), but both my mom and my brotherboth told me that I look like a an escaped convict when I wear it, because the stripes are thick instead of thin. I found another nice one for very cheap at H&M, which I absolutely adore and wear often, but it's an extra-long tank top, and what I really want is one with three-quarter-length sleeves, preferably in dark blue or black with thin white stripes. I'm on a mission. I feel like adopting the the habit of only wearing stripes is a good compromise for my original plan to assimilate (learning how to ride a bike through the crowded streets with one hand while smoking), which my friends vetoed right away.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

what to expect if you ever plan on being in france for more than three months

Apparently, obtaining an official student visa en France is a long process. I thought I'd share how this happened for me, because it's definitely been an experience.

Step 1 (May 2009): I apply for my study abroad program, and am accepted.

Step 2 (September 2009): I begin to receive information about the necessary forms I need to fill out and the things I need to do before I go. The forms that I have at this point all go to separate offices -- both the study abroad office at school, and the general UC study abroad office (the UOEAP) in Goleta, which will forward things to the Centre Californie located at Bordeaux.

Step 5: (October 2009) I receive medical forms which I need to send in to the UOEAP, which means that I need to see my doctor in Burbank. This is my first visit to this doctor (I stayed with my pediatrician for a looong time), which means that I need to have an actual appointment with her and give a blood test. I also get my tetanus shot while I'm here.

Step 4 (November 2009): I am forced to create an INCREDIBLY inconvenient profile on an official French government website called CampusFrance. It must be filled out on a Window computer, and one absolutely MUST print out the final confirmation page right away, because once the window is closed it cannot be accessed again. This is a pain because I don't have a Window, the study abroad office HAS Windows but doesn't let people print from them, and I don't trust the other school computers to let me print something so important from across the crowded library. Finally, I finish it and print it out on my roommate's computer. Then, I mail my confirmation page and a $60 cashier's check to the French embassy in Washington, and wait for the confirmation.

(Side note: The thing about all of this that is so stressful is that all of these steps have to be taken in order. We're supposed to allow 60 days for our Campus France confirmation to clear, and we absolutely won't be seen by the consulate without the confirmation. BUT, we have to make our consulate appointment before we officially have the confirmation in our hands, hoping that it will arrive in time, because if we wait to long to make the appointment, we might not get in. And we're warned that it can take up to 2 months for our Visas to arrive. It's also important to know that we were only allowed to begin this process in October, and considering that we leave around the beginning of January, we're all going crazy trying to complete everything on time).

Step 5: (November 2009) I have my Visa appointment in LA. Luckily for me, I live in Orange County -- and a 40 minute drive is nothing, considering one must apply for their Visa in person, no matter what, AND that France's LA Consulate is ALSO the office for people living in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado :/

At this Visa appointment, I need to bring 2 passport-sized photos of myself (2 additional photos needed to be sent to the UOEAP), my official UC acceptance letter to the program, my official acceptance letter from the University of Bordeaux, my passport, my CampusFrance confirmation page and the confirmation from the embassy in Washington that they received my cashier's check, a notarized paper signed by my parents about something that I no longer recall, $70ish, and my parents' financial records (proving that I will be financially supported while in France), among other things. In addition to having them, I also need to have seemingly arbitrary numbers of copies of each of them, which the guy there looks at but doesn't actually take from me. It was good that I had them, though, because the people without them are turned away right away until they come back with the correct number. The office is only open from 8AM to 12PM Monday-Friday (ugh!), but because there were so many people ahead of my who weren't actually from LA and who probably did NOT want to take another flight out, they made their copies elsewhere and got back in line. It took many hours to actually be seen.

A week later, my Visa is mailed to me (on a page in my passport), but at this point all of our French Visas are only 60% official.

Step 6 (December 2009): I arrive in France!

Step 7: (January 2010): The Centre Californie shows us how to finish our Visa process. I send a form about my nationality and about my current address in France, along with a copy of my passport and Visa (registered mail), to a specific office in France that deals with these things.

Step 8: (the end of January 2010): I receive a bunch of papers, telling me my scheduled OFII (I don't know what this actually stands for...something about being a foreigner) doctor's appointment.

Step 9: (February 2010): I go to the OFII office to finish the Visa process than began in October, more than a month since I arrived. At the appointment, I have one mini consultation with one doctor, then a chest X-Ray (no TB for me!), then another doctor's appointment with a different doctor. These three things go well, so I'm allowed to continue to the paperwork part. I need to show official proof of my resident, my passport, and I need to give them (yet another!) passport-sized photo my myself. I also need to give them a "stamp" that is the same shape and size of a normal postage stamp, and which looks like a normal postage stamp, but which ACTUALLY has something to do with taxes, and which cost 55 euros. I'm still not exactly sure what that was, but it was necessary.

So basically, as of yesterday, 4 months after I received the first part of my Visa, and more than a month since I've already been in France, I'm officially allowed to be here :)

Monday, February 15, 2010


So, this weekend I went to Toulouse! It was kind of a complicated trip, because half of our group had gone to Carcassone the night before and we met them in Toulouse, but people were coming and going and only some of us ended up staying the night. But it was fun.

Toulouse is a big city, so we didn't see the majority of it. One of the draws in Saint Sernin, which is the largest romanesque basilica in Europe! I don't have a good picture of the outside (the outside wasn't very impressive, anyway).

(Me in front of Saint Sernin's big doors).

(Saint Sernin definitely has the prettiest stained glass I've seen since arriving. It's made of more patterns that that of the other churches I've been too...I like them because most of them don't contain images, so they really look like windows that one could put anywhere and they would still work).

(The detail from one of the many World War memorials in France).

(Valerie and I split up from the rest of the group, because had arrived at 8 AM that morning and had already seen Saint Sernin. We went to the park and found a rooster (France's mascot!). We tried to bring him back to our friends but he ran away.)

Something interesting about France: from approximately 12-2, every cultural site closes. Because of our trip to Lourdes, and now Toulouse, we've become VERY used to sitting around in cafes for two hour stretches, or planning our lunch schedule very carefully. Literally, anything that any tourist would want to see (i.e. churches, museums, cemeteries, castles, etc), shuts its doors. It's very weird.

Next time: my French visa experience.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Never fear, I am officially BACK to being happy.

While I'm sure I will have many more moments on not-understanding ahead of me, I'm feeling relatively good about my classes. And I am learning new terms everyday, and remembering and using more of them than usual.

On a different note, there is an official rule here that we aren't supposed to take the CM (big lecture) final exams with the actual Bordeaux students, possibly because they are graded anonymously, and our non-real-French won't be able to measure up to the standard of the graders. This means that the TD (discussion) professor can let my grade for the discussion count as my ENTIRE grade, if they so desire. If this is true for all of my classes, then I won't have to BE HERE for finals. Which means that my time as a student will end BEFORE THE END OF APRIL. I don't know if this is actually my personal situation yet, because I still have to discuss a few more details with two of my professors.

BUT IF this is true, then after the end of this month (which is now officially half way over) I literally will have only two more months as a student at the University of Bordeaux, which I can't even fathom. I feel like I'm still in my adjustment period, so realizing that I'm actually going to be leaving pretty soon is kind of upsetting. I feel like I need more time to adjust to student life here still, so I'm not ready to leave.

The other thing that's unsettling is this: before I left, this trip was being discussed by everyone I know as "Six months in France! You will definitely learn the language!" and now it's almost like "Two months in France! You should probably start learning something now before you find yourself on the plane back to California!". I don't how time flew by so quickly.

Again, this is a happy blog, so I should remind myself that things are coming slightly easier than they were before -- when I learn new words, and really concentrate on them, I actually do remember them, which is major progress for me. The other day, when my new brother Ynel and I were eating madeleins out of a bag and bonding in my room, I accidentally apologized for my room being salty instead of messy. But now I understand the difference, and the little things like that are sticking in my brain.

I'm writing this in a positive mood, so I don't know why it's beginning to sound so un-positive......on the subject of leaving sooner than I realized I would be (because sixth months seems endless at first), I don't know how I'll feel about leaving France. I'll miss the ability to practice my language #2, OBviously, and the public transit, but I don't know about the rest........I won't miss the University of Bordeaux. My friends and I are always talking about how the little problems at our respective UCs will no longer annoy us when we return, because life so easy at school for us in California, and about how this whole experience is making us thankful to go to school where we do. The biggest thing I've decided is this: It's worth paying the price of getting an education at a UC, even with the massive fee increases, and I can't agree with anyone who says differently (I'm sorry!). Going to a university where tuition is free, like the University of Bordeaux = lots of graffiti, terribly kept facilities, gross bathrooms, terribly few choices when it comes to which classes to take, MASSIVE drop-outs after the first year because there is less motivation to stay, un-heated classrooms even when it's freezing outside, no real space for students to hang out, barely any clubs, a library that closes at 7PM on week nights and is not open on weekends (and you can't even eat there!), and no campus bookstore. Some things are worth paying for.

ANYWAY. Long story short: I'm happy with all of my classes, my brain is successfully being taught how to formulate French-style essays, and I'm learning some new words, but I'll probably be home before I realize it.

Toulouse pictures soon!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

le reussite

I'm definitely going through mood swings here because yesterday & today I woke up with a strong desire to studdddy.

Yesterday a friend and I met in a cafe to work on Methodologie homework, and it felt so good to leave the cafe with actual work accomplished for the first time. So there is hope. And today I made progress in Methodologie in class in understanding the form of a dissertation, which is a major deal for me, so YAY.

ALSO, I successfully located my Cicero text in French for, like 30 Euros cheaper than I thought it was, and I ordered that (while speaking French!) at Mollat, the big bookstore in Bordeaux, AND I also succesfully found the American detective novel about Cicero that we'll also be reading in that class, for also less than I thought it would cost and from Amazon UK, which will ship it here approximately ONE MONTH faster than if I ordered it from the normal Amazon. So today has definitely been productive.

I have my meeting with the Professor who leads my Louis XV section tomorrow to discuss, as he put it, "my situation" (i.e. being a foreigner). I definitely read/translated the text for that class too, but it's written in 18th Century French which made it EXTREMELY difficult. It was oddly unavailable in English online. If anyone can find the Duc du Saint-Simon's text from his memoires about the Duc du Orleans' polysynodie in 1715, please do let me know.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

le cinema

Today, Valerie and I went to go see Up in the Air (or, In the Air here, because I guess the studios thought that the French could handle 75% of the title in English but not the word Up).

It was worth seeing...I think. It was almost a not-s0-funny version of Intolerable Cruelty, but about airline travel and people getting fired. George Clooney was good, but I think that says more about George Clooney himself than the roles he plays.

I think I've decided to take Renaissance Art! I feel happy with this decision. I found instructions online in English on how to write a French dissertation-style paper so that takes some of the pressure away for Methedologie, which I still am scared of because I don't know what's being said. But at least I have more of an idea now.

I had a dream last night that my time in France was already over and I still knew as little French as I do now! UGH. But, I finally found my the French vocabulary exercise book that my Methodologie teacher told me to buy, so that's good. Today, it told me that one uses "au" in front of masculine, non-plural countries, while one should use "en" in front of non-plural feminine countries, which can be recognized because they end in an "e". But not the random smattering of the countries that end with an "e" that actually AREN'T feminine, just because. And Israel doesn't use any article before it.

I feel a little weird here, though. Everyone seems to care a LOT about their grades, in a way that I definitely don't. Most people have French majors to finish, or this is their last quarter in school, so I feel like everyone except for me is scrambling to finish requirements that I don't care about. Yesterday people were talking about someone they had heard about in the past who got Cs(!) in their classes here, like it was bad thing. Obviously, this means that I'm lucky, but I feel like because everyone is trying to get good grades, and I only care about how to not draw attention to myself in classes that are 2.5 hours long where I need to sit in the front now, that I seem like a bad student in comparison. And I absolutely HATE being a worse student than other people, almost more than anything, so this is a problem, and I haven't decided how to fix it. Hmmm.

I need to get over this aversion to studying/doing things, but I don't know how.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Yeah, so, Lourdes last weekend was a lot of fun. During the summer, six million people show up. During the winter, there is NO ONE there except for six American college students (i.e., us).

Every single building was a hotel, and if it wasn't a hotel, it was a store that sold holy water bottles (all the same: white, with blue lids, some of them being shaped like the Virgin Mary), and if it wasn't either of those, it was a pizza restaurant.

The first day, we went to Chateau Fort, which has something to do with Henri IV or the Crusades or something. We were the only people there, so one of the guys who worked there was more than happy to give us our own personal tour.

(Candy, Valerie, Jackie and me at the Chateau Fort).

(A view of Lourdes from the top of Chateau Fort).

(Flag with interesting sky).

Chateau Fort was the highlight for me. The rest of the town is famous because of Saint Bernadette, so there are a bunch of churches, but they were unbelievably tacky/not aesthetically pleasing. I don't think it's because they're located in a popular destination -- the Vatican manages to stay classy looking. I think it's because the two/three big ones we went into were built around the turn of the 20th Century, so....maybe they just didn't built nice churches then? I don't know. The older one had too much arbitrary stuff in the wall, in a bad way, and the big sanctuary church looked like a megachurch, with a lot of pink and blue mosaics. The last one we went to couldn't choose what time period it wanted to be associated with, I think. There were oldish looking stained glass windows on one level (still turn of the Century, I think), but a little higher up there were MASSIVE super modern looking ones that didn't match at ALL. And this one had a combination of gothic and romanesque arches that bothered me. Anyway, my point to this story is that Bordeaux's churches are way prettier, and we don't even HAVE our own famous Saint who apparently did cool stuff here.

But I found all of the holy water stuff to be interesting. We went back to the sanctuary on our second day (it's the off season, so we had literally exhausted everything else to do). There were people carrying gallons and gallons of holy water away with them. It was weird though, because if they came from out of town were they really going to lug that stuff all the way back home? Maybe they were planning on drinking in/showering in it in their hotel rooms later or something.

(Me and Collin in front of the big sanctuary. This is actually two churches -- the tall pointy thing on top is onw, and the flat colored part in front is another. It's weird).

(Me & Valerie playing with holy water at the shrine-y thing).

It snowed the second night, which was crazy. All in all, it was an excellent trip, even if I didn't like the architecture. The friends that I traveled with turned out to be excellent travel companions, and I'll be going to Toulouse with them next weekend!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Les cours

This past week has been incredibly tiring, because it was the first week of classes and I've been checking out as many lectures and TDs (discussion sections) as possible so that I can choose the classes that will be best for me. We're lucky, because unlike the French students who pretty much have their schedules set for them, we can take whatever classes we want.

What made this week tiring (in addition to the brain power needed to listen to French allll week) was that I was checking out classes everyday except for today at 8:30 AM (UGH), AND because all of their lectures are TWO HOURS and all of their discussion sections are between TWO HOURS & TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG. Most of the professors didn't give breaks, and there are no passing periods, so on Monday, for instance, I was in four classes from 8:30AM to 5:30PM straight with the only break being one hour for lunch. I've definitely been falling asleep in pretty much every class this week, but that's the French school system's fault, not mine.

I haven't completely made up my mind, but my classes look something like this:

1. A Literature lecture for non-Lit majors (she talked about Racine, Moliere and someone else the first class). It's a big lecture, and all of the TDs have wildly different themes. I chose the one about (drumroll please....) CICERO! We're reading one of his short works, as well as detective novel where Cicero is a character, and at the end of the class we'll be watching parts of my favorite TV show ever, ROME! (actually, when the professor wrote it one on the board, he used an exclamation mark too). There are only seven people in that class. I like the professor because he speaks reeeeeally slowly, and he writes down everything he says on the board, anyway. The first class was an overview of Rome during Cicero's time (i.e. stuff I already learned in a previous class), so it was really cool learning the French versions of the Latin words that I know in their English versions. Also, I was definitely answering questions that no one else knew the answer too, so even if my French is limited, he knows that I'm making an effort. I'm really excited for this class. PLUS, in case you had forgottem Cicero's works are available in ENGLISH, and the other book we're reading is actually a translation of a novel in English anyway. So, worst case scenario, I can't become too lost. Considering that neither of these are originally in French, I haven't decided in which language I will be reading them.

I'm also probably going to take a class on Louis XV. The professor leading my discussion section was kind of mean to me the first day, BUT I think I was successful enough in proving that my French is limited, because he flat out told me I didn't have enough French knowledge that would be required to do the oral reports that everyone else was going to have to do. Score! I have an appointment with him before class next week, so we'll see what the alternative is.

I also might have a class on Renaissance art. The professor leading the TD seems really nice, and he said that my friend and I don't have to do the oral report if we don't want to. I think I might like art history classes here, because there are things to look at in addition to hearing the lecture, which I think will be helpful. I've been getting really excited this week whenever I've been able to take away any knowledge from a class, because I don't understand anything, but yesterday I definitely learned that Saint Jerome translated the bible, and that he had a cute lion that was his pet (or something), so I would consider that TD to be a success.

I'm debating this one, but I might take a slightly higher level course on Rome, from the Punic Wars to Actium (I was excused from the oral report in this class, too). One one hand, the professor told me that since I have studied this stuff before, it might not be too hard for me. On the other hand, it looks like the level of difficulty between my first level and my second level classes jumps considerably, so I don't know how much suffering this class will be worth. I think it's a lot of reading (BUT AGAIN, this stuff is available in English. If I can attempt to discuss it in French was necessary, is reading it in English cheating?!).

Lourdes photos in the next post.