1. I'm doing this blog for a scholarship
2. I've done a terrible job of making it useful for future French studiers abroad.
So. Here are some lessons I've found useful to learn during my time in France:
-Many French people are proud to "show off" their "English skills" to you, as long as you speak French to them first. So, even though I don't understand everything French people say to me, I always try to start conversations in French, even if I know they speak English. It helps me learn and it seems to make things flow more smoothly.
-If you're at Université Blaise Pascal, in Clermont-Ferrand or in Vichy, Sue Davis knows what's up and how to get you what you need. So, if you need something, think you might have difficulty getting it, and don't have any French friends yet...talk to her.
-Any time you want to get something done, carry a photo of yourself, your passport with visa inside it, some sort of proof of European insurance, and a Visa card with you. With all those things, you're almost guaranteed to at least get the process started for whatever it is you want. I say almost, because the French have weird reasons why some things aren't acceptable one day but are perfect the next day. However, most of the time it's good enough to get what you want.
-If you're anywhere in France and need an internet connection, look for the wireless network "NeufWifi" and connect to it. Then when it asks for a name and password, type in "lilikim" for the name and "martin" for the password and POOF, you're connected.
-Don't be afraid to talk to strangers, at least once. After that first time, it's easy to decide whether they're worth another conversation, even if the first one was only 30 seconds long. But, French people are hard to become friends with. So, if you think you have an opportunity, give it a chance. It's not a big deal if they turn out to be non-friend material and if they do, so much the better.
-Ask questions, even if you think you know the answers to them. Sometimes the logical answers aren't the actual ones.
-Buy a 12-25 card...it costs 50€ but you'll earn it back through your savings within 2 train trips. Especially if you don't live in Paris and you plan on going to any other countries, the card saves a lot of money.
-Don't try to pretend you're French. Try to find a balance between learning about the French culture and finding things you especially love about your own. For example, I never realized just how much I enjoy an American house party until I went to a French discotheque. They're very different, not necessarily in tangible or describable ways, just...different. Suffice it to say that Cari and I left our first discotheque after 20 minutes of being there and would be quite content never to go back to one.
-Never fear the words "repetez, s'il vous plait" and "écrivez, s'il vous plait"...they can take you far.
-Keep in mind that, while you live in Europe and it's truly an "everyday lifestyle," it's also a million times more difficult to communicate with people in the event that something goes wrong. So, don't do stupid things that would encourage something to go wrong.
-French bread is delicious. Eat a lot of it.
Is that slightly helpful? I hope it is.
Peace and love.