Moving to France - The Arrival

Moving to a new country is an exciting experience, but it can also be scary at times and absolutely nerve-wracking.  If you go unprepared, things can go wrong pretty quickly.

When I first moved to France as a student, I only had one contact - Caroline, the university worker who was in charge of exchange programs. I showed up at the train station on a random Tuesday with the name of the student housing building where I was supposed to be staying and no phone. Sadly, there had been no address for the student housing building on their official website, or any other website for that matter, and no one responded to any of my e-mails.

I'm so sad that I didn't have any classes in this awesome building, but I passed it every morning.

In France, most of the country takes the entire month of August off, and when the Frenchies take a vacation, they really stop everything work related. This meant that not only did I have no hope of getting in touch with someone to find out where I would be staying, but it also meant that Caroline, my only actual contact, had stopped answering my e-mails three weeks into July, only 2 weeks after I learned that I'd been accepted.

I didn't even know when school started or when I should fly over there, and despite e-mailing every person on the exchange program contact list, I didn't get a single reply. The school's website was complicated as well and didn't have starting dates listed for my program.

This is the part where I had to put on my cowgirl boots, rub some dirt in it, and get over it.

I just picked a date, bought a plane ticket, told the visa people that's when I needed to be there, and crossed my fingers.

Things ended up working out magically, and I got an e-mail the day that I landed saying that classes would be starting in a week. All I could think was, HOLY CRAP. Imagine if I had waited until they gave me a starting date to buy a ticket.

They didn't list the time or the location though. That would have made too much sense. Clearly, I was an exchange student with no life, and could just show up at the drop of a hat!

Catherine was one of my very first friends, and she also received more e-mails than I did. I still owe her one for saving me.
If I remember correctly, only a handful of students ever got that precious time/location e-mail, and thankfully I had made friends with one of them.

Little did I know that this was all just a reflection of the French Mentality. 

Parking on the side walk. Totally illegal. Totally happens. All part of the mentality.
None of this seemed irregular to my French friends, when I tried to explain the disorganization and madness a few months later.

Since then, most of my experiences in France have been very similar. That's just the way it goes. But don't worry. This story still has a happy ending!

I showed up for church my first weekend in France, looking for a little peace among the madness, and that's where I saw my husband for the first time. It was love at first sight. So in the end, I couldn't have asked for a better kick off week. :)


Life here, especially when it comes to administrative matters, follows an entirely different form of logic than in America. My best advice is not to over analyse it at first. You will end up with lots of headaches and dead ends. Just go with the flow and the reasoning behind the insanity will slowly (very, very slowly) start to make sense!

A demain les amies!


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