I have finally arrived in France! As soon as I arrived at Charles de Gualle airport I had my very first taste of culture shock. Unfortunately a passenger had left a “mysterious” black bag and the police evacuated the terminal where I was supposed to be meeting the other SMU students. As I started running for dear life toward the nearest exits screaming “Pardon! Pardon!” to get out of harms way, I soon realized that no one else in the airport was moving. In fact most of the French people around me were grumbling and fighting with the police. When I had finally found the director, Dr. Roynier, outside of the terminal, she told me that in France this sort of thing happened all the time and therefore the people weren’t usually phased by “evacuations.” I was so surprised, but then again, I had to remember that I was now living in one of the largest cities in the world and “evacuations” must happen all the time.
For the past four days we have been in a small, picturesque town north of Paris for Orientation called Compiegne. We have about 20 SMU students on our program, which is a nice sized group. At Orientation I was able to easily get over jet lag while retuning my ear to French with the help of Dr. Roynier and a French professor from Switzerland, Fabienne.
Luckily for me, Compiegne and its surrounding countryside is full of history! On our first day we visited a former Roman ampatheatre and a Roman temple which reminded me that I’m living in a country that had a thriving civilization nearly 2000 years ago! Around Compiegne we also visited Pierrefonds, an enormous 14th century fortress that played an important role in the Wars of Religion, as well as Laon, a medieval town that holds the cathedral Nortre-Dame de Laon. At the Cathedral, we had a private tour and were allowed up to the roof of a bell tower to get a view of the city and surrounding countryside. It was absolutely breathtaking to see a medieval city from an aerial perspective! All of the roads are tiny and houses seem to be built one on top of the other. It was an experience I’m sure I’ll never forget!
Today we visited the exact point where the Armstice agreement was signed for World War I outside of Compiegne. Even though I have learned about World War I before, it never seemed “real” to me until I was on the exact soil where Germany surrendered and spiraled downward until World War II. It was a really strange feeling to know I was walking on the same path that Hitler walked on 20 years after the first Armstice. I have to admit, as dorky as it sounds, I had goosebumps.
While I’m glad we had the opportunity to sleep off our jet lag, get ot know one another, and relax before we met our French families, I’m definitely ready to get to Paris! I am a bit nervous though about meeting my French family for the first time and becoming a Parisian.