A Day in the Life of an Exchange Student

A Day in the Life of an Exchange Student
A few weeks ago I promised to give you a detailed tour of my daily life in Paris, but until now, I have neglected to come through. I can positively hear your chair squeaking with anticipation as you lean forward, your breath caught in your throat. Well, here you are, my faithful readers, the long-awaited description of what I do in Paris when not gallivanting around museums or embarking on dangerous adventures involving cell phone theft and uncomfortable metro interactions. This entry will not have pictures, as I felt weird about having random French people take pictures of me doing things like buying sandwiches or sitting in my room reading. I’ll leave the images of my daily life up to your imagination. I wake up around 9am with sunlight pouring through my thin curtains. It usually takes me a while to become coherent, so I stealthily avoid my host family until I have my contacts in, my teeth brushed, and my brain intact. Fortunately, I have been dreaming in French a lot lately, so it doesn’t take too much extra effort to chat at breakfast before I’m fully awake. Breakfast always (and when I say always, I mean I haven’t had anything different the entire time I’ve been here) consists of 1) cornflakes, 2) green tea flavored with mint, 3) two pieces of toast with either Nutella or some type of jelly, and 4) a glass of water or orange juice. If I’m feeling particularly creative or hungry, I’ll add a little bit of plain yogurt or ‘fromage blanc’ (a cross between sour cream and yogurt that I’m really going to miss when I go back to the states) with honey. After breakfast, I jump in the shower, which is not a shower at all, but a bathtub with a hose attachment. I still haven’t mastered this apparatus, and the floor surrounding the bathtub inevitably ends up with an inch of water on it by the time I’m done. I get changed and bundle on my scarf, gloves, three layers of shirts, and wool coat before heading out the door. The weather has begun to warm up in the last week or so, but it’s certainly not Stanford, flip-flop weather. I was really excited when I left the house this morning and found I didn’t need my scarf at all. The walk to the metro is only two blocks from my house. I head underground and find my way into a spacious car so I can sit down and read. After the first few weeks, I learned which cars to sit in according to where the walkway is for my next transfer. Now that I’ve got the system down, my metro ride to and from school takes about 30 minutes, each way. I always make sure I have something to do: catching up on reading, glancing through the free metro newspaper, mindlessly toying with the buttons on my cell phone, or intently examining my shoes or fingers. I exit the metro and head to ISEP (Institut Supérieur d’Electronique de Paris) where the Stanford Center is located. I have to climb six flights of stairs to get to the study room, and I usually rip off my coat and scarf on the way up; classes are on the fourth floor. Our classroom has a view overlooking the elementary school next door, so classes are often interrupted by the noise of the children at recess. Yesterday was Mardi Gras, and our WWII history class was disrupted by parades of little kids in costume down on the playground below. I usually have one or two classes per day, with a break for lunch in between. Next time, I’ll write about my classes more in depth, but today it will suffice to say that they are all in French and are the perfect amount of time before my capacity to concentrate really hard runs out. Lunch usually consists of a ham/cheese baguette sandwich or a panini, a thin sandwich smashed in a grill with cheese or other goodies packed inside. There are also some good discount places for students, like this Catholic University that sells a sandwich, drink, and yogurt or fruit for 2.90 Euros. That is awesome compared to the cost of a sandwich in a sit-down cafe! After my afternoon classes, I generally hang out in the study room, catching up on emails and chatting with friends about weekend plans. Our course materials are on reserve here, so if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I try to get my work done. Around 4:30pm, I leave the center and go to a cafe to sip a café crème and read. I like this time…I get to be productive, drink yummy coffee, people watch, and practice speaking French with strangers all in one spot. If it’s not too cold, I often stroll around the streets in my school’s district…there are always markets to stop at, statues to see, and window-shopping to do. I hop on the metro to go home around 6:30, and then rest in my room before dinner. I usually practice piano, listen to music, read for fun, write postcards, or take a short nap. It’s a rough life, I know. Dinner is a fun time. I get to hear about my host parents’ days, and we usually end up talking about some amusing parts of French culture that I encountered during the day. My host father in particular always has something funny to say. For example, last night we…
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