Bonjour! This semester, I'm studying abroad in Montpellier, France. I've loved having the chance to practice my French and experience life at a university in another part of the world. It's been a big adjustment moving from UMass, but I'm figuring out how to navigate my new school, how to get by with my French skills, and how to make perfect crepes (the key is letting the batter rest overnight!)
There's so much planning, paperwork, and decisions to be made before going abroad. Now that I'm settling into my semester, I thought I'd share three tips for a smooth transition to life as an exchange student.
1. Check and double-check everything. As much as I've tried to be thorough with all my application materials, documents, and travel itineraries, mistakes are inevitable. When I arrived at the French consulate to apply for my visa last fall, I'd printed my ID photo in the wrong dimensions and had to race to CVS to have new photos taken! And two weeks ago, I was about to board a bus bound for Barcelona when I learned I'd booked the ticket for the wrong day. "My bus leaves in eight minutes. If you can book a new ticket in time, you can board," the driver told me. It worked out okay, but it was definitely not a great situation to be in!
2. Think carefully about where you want to live. Even after you choose a country and city to study in, you still need to pick your living arrangements. Most programs have dorm, apartment, and host family options. I chose to live with a host family, and couldn't be happier with my decision. With my host family, I've had so much opportunity to practice French and learn about life in Montpellier. (My host mom also loves cooking and food and has the best tips, like "never buy croissants when it's raining." Apparently, the humidity affects the texture of the pastry!) However, I've made friends who love living in apartments for the independence. I think it's worth spending some time thinking about this choice.
3. Remember to stay in touch. The International Programs Office at UMass was a great resource during the transition. At orientation, they gave us a list of apps we could use for staying in touch with friends and family during our semesters abroad. I've been using WhatsApp and GroupMe to keep up with my friends, and I try to FaceTime my parents on Sundays. With the time difference and a new schedule, it's not as easy to stay in touch now as it was at UMass, so I've found it helpful to make plans for FaceTime and Skype calls.
It's been a great few weeks so far, and I can't wait to share more about my time in Montpellier! February is the unofficial "month of crepes" here, so here's a recipe for perfect French crepes.
1 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
Combine flour, milk, melted butter, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the zest of one orange. Cover the bowl and refrigerate batter overnight. The next day, ladle two tablespoons of batter into a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Turn and tip the skillet to spread the batter as thinly as possible, and cook the crepe one minute per side. Serve the crepes warm with sugar, jam, or Nutella!