Monday, June 2, 2014

Arrivals!

          After a 16-hour travel day, I have finally arrived at Purpan in Toulouse! I flew by myself from Detroit to Chicago, where I met up with my friend Rachel (who is also in the program) to fly from Chicago to Munich and then finally to Toulouse. There were some stressful moments on the trip over, as my flight from Detroit was delayed 50 minutes, and I only had an hour and 15 minutes layover in Chicago to begin with. By the time I made it to O’Hare, I had about 20 minutes to sprint from my gate with United Airlines gate to the gate at Lufthansa, which thankfully were not that far apart. I was able to sleep for a few hours on the plane, which is more than I originally expected but not quite sufficient for the long day I already had and for the events ahead of me. The airport in Munich was lovely, with complementary tea and coffee and lots and lots of German people who I would eavesdrop on as they spoke with each other (I am currently working on a German minor, but my French level is fairly elementary, so I was much more capable in the German airport and flight than I am in a French city). 

Some of the alleyways in Toulouse
          When we finally made it to the airport in Toulouse on Saturday around 5:00pm, we were greeted right away by Quentin, one of our program assistants holding a sign that said “Ecole d’Ingénieurs de PURPAN”, the full name of the school we are attending. He took us to the baggage claim and then we met four other students in the program: one from U of I, one from CSU, and two from MSU. Quentin and Bailong (another program assistant) drove us to Purpan, where we got a folder full of information about Toulouse and our apartments, and we went up to our rooms. Rachel and I were lucky enough to be placed on the same floor, and the rest of the students in the program (there are 50 total) are living all over the 6 apartment buildings here. There are 7 rooms to a floor, each room with its own bathroom. There is also a common living area and kitchenette that the floor shares. We also received a big bag of food for the first weekend here because we will not be receiving our stipend for groceries until the first day of classes. Inside the bags were a loaf of bread, a couple small bags of chips, cookies, tea, pasta, tomato sauce, a can of green beans, a banana, a few apples and tomatoes, a cucumber, some cereal, a box of orange juice and a jug of milk. We all have an Ethernet cable as well, but we won’t really be able to use the Internet in the rooms until we each get our own usernames and passwords on the first day of classes. After getting everything somewhat situated, it was about 7:30pm. The six of us that arrived together met back in the main conference room and together with Marienne, another program assistant, we took the tram (for which we all have public transportation cards good for the entire month) to the local McDonald’s for our first meal in France because it was quick, but mainly because there was
One of the beautiful bridges leading to the center of town
WiFi (pronounced WeeFee here) and we were all pretty anxious to get a little bit of Internet to contact our families and tell them we made it to the school in one piece. We then walked to the downtown part of Toulouse to meet the rest of the students that had already arrived at a bar, where people were watching a rugby game on TV. By the time we got back to the dorms, we were all exhausted from the long days we had traveling. I quickly took a much-needed shower and went to sleep. 
          When I woke up on Sunday morning, I got changed and went to the kitchenette, where Rachel joined me a few minutes later and we made breakfast from the food that we were given when we arrived. We ate some apples, made toast, and fried up some eggs. I also discovered that the milk here doesn’t actually need to be refrigerated, but I needed mine cold nonetheless. After we finished our breakfast, we cleaned up after ourselves and made our way off of the Purpan campus. Our first stop
was, naturally, McDonald’s…just for a bit, to check to see what the rest of the world had been doing for the past 17 hours. We then made our way back over the bridge to the farmers market and bought some macarons at a café, which were delicious. We explored the city for a while, stopping by the river to sit and take pictures and visiting a park with lots of artwork being sold. We had a lot of fun looking at the shops and restaurants around the city, most of which weren’t open because it was Sunday. When we got back to Purpan, we had a few hours before our program assistants were putting on a pizza party for us. We were able to rest a little before we met everybody back downstairs to eat and to talk and meet
with the students that had just arrived. We spent a while there, and then took a look at the recreation room with a pool table, foosball table, and piano, and then the laundry room (we get coins for the washing machine and dryer every week) before heading back to our rooms and settling in for the night. 
Monday morning we met with the group downstairs around 9:30am to walk over to the school (about a 10-15 minute walk), where we received welcome packets with the schedule for our entire 4 weeks here at the school as well as other useful information like our usernames and passwords for our Internet connection in the dorms. We had our first lunch in the cafeteria, where we are allotted a pretty substantial amount of food each day. I had a quiche for my entrée (that’s actually the appetizer in French, and I won’t be fooled by that again), the duck (which is a specialty of Toulouse and is very good) with a side of carrots, and crème brûlée for dessert. After touring the library and the rest of the school, we had drinks with the staff of the program and then 14 of us made our way to the centre commercial (the mall) to get SIM cards for our international phones as well as buy groceries with the stipend we were given for this week. Getting the SIM cards took up a lot of time, through choosing the best access package to buy and making sure we knew how to use everything, but the worker helping us was very friendly and patient, and his English was pretty good. We got back to our flat, and Rachel and I were just starting to make our own dinners as the rest of our flatmates decided to come eat as well. At first we were a little awkward, not really knowing what to say until I offered them some cucumber that I was slicing up for my meal and we all sat down at the table and introduced ourselves. There are actually 5 other guys living in the same apartment as us, and one of them speaks English fairly well. I’m really glad we finally socialized with them a bit, as we have seen them around this past weekend but never got past the simple “Bonjour” in the hallway before going back to our own rooms. We really only spoke English to them tonight, but hopefully after beginning our French lessons we’ll have enough courage to start speaking a little French to them.

So that’s pretty much everything that has happened so far on this trip! I know this blog entry was kind of long and painful, but hopefully the rest of them won’t be this bad. I have already made lots of new friends, and I’m very excited to start our real classes at Purpan tomorrow morning!

2 comments:

  1. How's your French coming along? I know you'll learn so much from this whole experience, from learning to be self-sufficient in a new environment to improving your linguistic skills, gaining a deeper appreciation for other cultures, learning about the agriculture in France, and I bet you'll even gain some culinary skills from having to cook for yourself while you're at Purpan. I'm very proud of you, Kailey!

    Have fun and be safe!

    Love & miss you very much,
    Mommy

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  2. it's really long -.- well but I still manage to finish it :)

    ReplyDelete