Jess en France: Nerves (the Good Kind?)

August 25, 2017

It’s a few days before I fly to Paris, and my hyper-active mind has presented me with a mixed-bag of emotions. I find myself reminiscing the days before I made my move across the country, from southern California, to start my college career at University of Richmond. But as I now face the new prospect of moving across the world, to one of the most gushed about destinations on our planet, the sentiment of these last few days feel similar, yet altogether different than that before I came to Richmond. If you’re like me, you like to plan and over-plan, going over minutiae in your head until planning becomes superfluous (and even unhelpful). But if there’s anything I learned from my move just a few years ago it’s that there’s a finite extent to which planning is actually going to help—especially when you’re travelling and taking root in an entirely new place. This isn’t to say you should “wing it”—travelling can be logistically challenging. However, one of the greatest parts about travelling is letting yourself be surprised by what you find and allowing it to paint your experience, rather than you painstakingly painting it for yourself. And this is where my anxieties fortunately drop-off, at the point where I let myself “be” and let what will come, come.

Hi, I’m Jess. I’m a UR student majoring in International Studies: World Politics and Diplomacy, and I’m spending my first of two semesters abroad studying at Sciences Po in Paris, France. I chose to study abroad in France for two main reasons—to work on my French language skills and to study at Sciences Po, which offers one of the best International Politics programs in higher education. I will be staying with a host family in Montmartre, which is a large hill in the eighteenth arrondissement (i.e. the outer district of the city) as well as a historically renowned part of Paris that artists have flocked to throughout the years, particularly in the nineteenth century. As someone who loves to write, I can’t wait to scope out a “writers spot” and bask in the wonderment this corner of the city has to offer. So I would definitely be remiss not to mention that Paris is a melting-pot of cultural, artistic, as well as musical, and gastronomical prominence! There is quite a lot to look forward to.

I’ve been truly blessed with such a wonderful opportunity to study here, and there are many people to thank—professors and friends who have supported me, but also the Office of International Education and Chris Klein, my study abroad adviser. Without them, I wouldn’t have been afforded such a life-altering adventure. I cannot wait to share my experiences with you and any tips or words of wisdom I may be able to impart as I venture off into Europe.  I will be posting weekly, so stay tuned!

À la prochaine (Until next time),

Jess

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Jackie (Not) in Switzerland: Spring Break!

April 16, 2015

You have not done spring break until you have done spring break in Europe. A few weeks ago, all of my friends at Richmond were on Spring Break – at the beach in warm, sunny weather. Meanwhile, I was still wearing a winter coat here in Lausanne. But it was all worth it. For my Spring Break in Europe, I went to Nice, Monaco, Venice, and Milan and they were all amazing!

I am always happy to be back in France, and Nice was the perfect place to go. Heading from the cold temperatures in Lausanne and seeing people in bathing suits on the beach in Nice was a huge shock! I had another one of those “wow I am really here” moments as I took a nap on the beach on the French Riviera (!!). Other than the amazing weather, the city itself was incredible. It was definitely a touristy beach city, but it was very clear that only the wealthiest people actually vacationed there. I am proud to say that I had the time of my life, even living on a student budget.

This picture of the Cote d’Azur is iconic, I couldn’t believe how blue the water was!

This picture of the Cote d’Azur is iconic, I couldn’t believe how blue the water was!

While we were in Nice, we decided to head to Monaco for a day to see the Monte Carlo and more amazing clear blue beaches. While we thought that Nice was a city for the wealthy, it was nothing compared to Monaco. Everywhere we turned, there was a new luxury car or limousine. Every building looked like a palace, and the stores were all the best European designer brands. I’ve decided that I need to live there one day. I think my love for Monaco was quite apparent to my friends, as I repeatedly explained how I would become the future Princess of Monaco (let me dream!)

 Ayumi and I decided to recognize the fact that we were in one of the classiest cities in Europe. This was the result. Very mature.

Ayumi and I decided to recognize the fact that we were in one of the classiest cities in Europe. This was the result. Very mature.

After visiting Monaco, it was time to head to Venice. Before coming to Europe, Venice was the one city that I really wanted to visit, so I was unbelievably excited to see the city! I arrived at the airport and had to take a water taxi onto the island of Venice, which was one of the coolest things ever. What other city has water taxis and waterbuses? My friend and I stayed in an old, traditional Italian building that had been converted into a hotel, and that experience was amazing! The whole city felt so lively and filled with history, and there were hardly any modern buildings.

In Venice, it is hard to get anywhere. You need to take a boat to get to the mainland, and you can only get to some places on the island by boat. Still, it was an amazing place to visit

In Venice, it is hard to get anywhere. You need to take a boat to get to the mainland, and you can only get to some places on the island by boat. Still, it was an amazing place to visit

Of course I had to be a super tourist and take a gondola ride in the Grand Canal. Even though I knew I was WAY overpaying for the experience, it was totally worth it! We got to see a lot of the city from the water, which was a completely different experience than seeing it from walking around! Our gondola driver didn’t sing to us (which was probably for the best), but my gondola experience was amazing nonetheless.

The gondola ride was actually my favorite part! It was so cool to see the city from the water.

The gondola ride was actually my favorite part! It was so cool to see the city from the water.

After Venice, we made it to our last leg of the trip; Milan. This city was so totally different from Venice with its modern skyscrapers and sleek, new buildings. It was definitely the most cosmopolitan city that I have been to recently, and the change was nice.

We climbed all the way up to the top of the Duomo, the church in the center of town. The view was amazing and we spent about an hour just lying on the roof of the building.

We climbed all the way up to the top of the Duomo, the church in the center of town. The view was amazing and we spent about an hour just lying on the roof of the building.

As the fashion capital of the world, there were plenty of designer stores throughout the city. Prada was begun in Milan, and this is the first ever store!

As the fashion capital of the world, there were plenty of designer stores throughout the city. Prada was begun in Milan, and this is the first ever store!

And now for the bad news. I was being the most American tourist in the world, eating a snack in McDonalds. A few girls came over to our table asking for food or money and it was shortly after they left that I realized that my phone was missing! I went through the whole trip feeling like a savvy traveler, not falling for any of the tourist traps that would make me a target for pickpockets. In the end, I really was *that* tourist that doesn’t notice that their phone was stolen. I never thought that it would actually happen to me, and I thought that I would be smart enough to recognize what was happening, but it really is so easy to get caught off guard. I reported the theft to the police (who were DEFINITELY sick and tired of hearing of phone thefts from American tourists), but I know that my phone is gone.

I think that I handled my first pickpocketing experience pretty well, with minimal tears, but it still feels horrible to feel like something was taken right from you. In the end, the process of getting a new phone hasn’t been too stressful, so I really am just lucky that I didn’t lose anything more important!

In addition to the theft, our train home was almost 2 hours late and I didn’t end up getting home until 1am on Sunday night (before my 10am Monday morning class). Needless to say, I was so overwhelmingly happy to come back home to Lausanne! I really missed being ‘home’ and I’m really excited to spend some time going back to normal life with school and friends.

P.s. There was a slight delay in this post because while I had all of my pictures of my trip all planned out, they were all saved on my phone! I’m crossing my fingers and hoping against hope that all of pictures were somehow miraculously saved onto iCloud even though I have no clue what that even really is (I am clearly a tech genius). Stay tuned for the verdict on the state of my pictures, but for now, special shout out to Ayumi for letting me use her pictures of our trip!


Jackie In Switzerland: More lakes and mountains (still beautiful)

March 25, 2015

After so many weeks of hard work in Lausanne, I decided that it was time to get out of the country for a little break! My friend Ayumi and I picked the small French town of Annecy to spend the past weekend. We had heard that people called it “Little Venice” and it definitely did not disappoint. Canals and rivers crossed the entire city, with countless walking bridges that gave the most perfect picture of the old, colorful buildings which lined the canals. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we found the lake. You would think that a giant lake would be easy to find, but it took us about 5 minutes to get completely lost, and then another 45 minutes of walking to find it. And it turns out, it was about 15 minutes from our Airbnb! We are clearly seasoned travelers.

This town definitely felt like Venice with all of the tall buildings lining the canals. It was the perfect place to spend a relaxing weekend!

This town definitely felt like Venice with all of the tall buildings lining the canals. It was the perfect place to spend a relaxing weekend!

That being said, the view was worth all of the exhausted-walking in the world. I hate to be repetitive, but I really don’t think that I will ever get sick of mountains and water. We sat in front of the lake and ate our nutritious breakfast of cheesy quiche and macarons (which, by the way, are my absolute favorite food on the entire planet) and got to look at this amazing view. The weather was beautiful and so many families were out enjoying the lake with their families. We couldn’t stop talking about how lucky we were to be experiencing this, and how unreal it felt. It finally hit us that we are really here, thousands of miles from home, seeing the things we dreamed about seeing for our entire lives. At the same time, I can’t help but think of all the places I still have to see, all of the places that are on my list and all of the incredible places that haven’t even made it onto the list (yet).

For as much as I love food, I have to say that macarons are my favorite food in the entire world, no exaggeration. Here, there are 2 raspberry macarons, a salted caramel and a violet macaron.

For as much as I love food, I have to say that macarons are my favorite food in the entire world, no exaggeration. Here, there are 2 raspberry macarons, a salted caramel and a violet macaron.

As much as I would love to eat macarons for breakfast, the quiche was so fresh and amazing that it was almost as good as macarons for breakfast (almost).

As much as I would love to eat macarons for breakfast, the quiche was so fresh and amazing that it was almost as good as macarons for breakfast (almost).

Voilà our view from breakfast! This was about the moment when we realized how awesome our lives are.

Voilà our view from breakfast! This was about the moment when we realized how awesome our lives are.

And now onto a slightly embarrassing confession. During our time in Annecy, surrounded by all the beautiful canals and bridges and old buildings, we spent a solid hour in Monoprix, the French equivalent of Target. We had gone in to find snacks, and we left with about 100 euros worth of groceries to take home. I have not mentioned this before but Switzerland is PRICEY. For the first time in my life, I have to shop like a real adult and unfortunately after a month in a half here, I can tell you which brands sell the cheapest pasta sauce per gram (I really sound like a middle-aged mom now and its beginning to scare me). When we finally got to France and saw that everything is about 3 times cheaper, we went absolutely crazy. We came to France for the mountains, but the best find was the cheap groceries.

Words do not do justice to my love for Monoprix.

Words do not do justice to my love for Monoprix.

After calming our thrifty grocery-shopping selves down, we finally got back to the city. We visited all of the little boutiques in town and really just walked around to see all of the amazing old architecture and bridges. Of course, we got a classic tourist picture on “Le pont des amours” and another with the mountains and lake in the background.

[Picture of the city] Caption: Annecy felt like the perfect historic little town, each building had its own character.

[Picture of the city] Caption: Annecy felt like the perfect historic little town, each building had its own character.

So touristy, but so pretty.

So touristy, but so pretty.

With all of our walking and shopping, we were starving and decided to have dinner in a French fast-food restaurant, Quick. I know it sounds weird to pick fast-food while in France, the center of all culinary genius, but all we really wanted was a burger and fries. As an American, I am proud to report that McDonald’s is a much tastier choice for greasy, unhealthy food, even though Quick was throwing some major shade with the caption on their boxes.

This phrase was all over Quick. It means ‘This isn’t the American burger’. Cue the fast food burger battles.

This phrase was all over Quick. It means ‘This isn’t the American burger’. Cue the fast food burger battles.

On the more sophisticated side of food, we also visited the Sunday market in Annecy, which was special because almost everything is closed in Switzerland on Sundays. We were expecting a small market with mostly fruits and vegetables, but what we got was so much more. Throughout the streets, there were stands with cheeses, meats, pastries, spices, and wines in every direction. The market was amazing because of all of the food, but even more so because all of the people. It was easy to see that this market was a weekly event that brought the whole town together each week to enjoy lazy Sundays together. The French use a term called “la convivialité” that is basically all that makes life enjoyable and happy. This market was the definition of convivialité!


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All in all, we had a great relaxing weekend in Annecy, and it made us really appreciate how lucky we are to be spending a whole semester in one of the most beautiful places in the world. That being said, on Sunday afternoon, we were beyond relieved to be heading to our temporary ‘home’ in Lausanne, high prices and all.

Loving Annecy, but looking forward to making it home!

Loving Annecy, but looking forward to making it home!


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