Hello all! I have finally got myself fully situated in Montpellier, France!
Even though the plane ride to get here was about 9 hours and my first international flight, it really wasn’t that bad. The plane left at about 3:45pm on Thursday and we got to Paris at about 8am the next day…it was like time traveling! Through my program (which is a U of M program) I was able to take a coordinated group flight with other participants, which was helpful because it made navigating the airport less intimidating. During the flight to Montpellier from Paris I saw some mountains and what I think is the tallest bridge in the world, le viaduct de Millau, from the plane. Also on the flight, a friend and I got confused when the flight attendant came around because when she asked what type of snack we wanted she said “sweet or salfty” in French instead of just saying peanuts or cookies. We had a French man sitting next to us that was nice and cleared things up for us. We finally arrived at the very small Montpellier airport around 12:45pm. My suitcase, however, got lost along the way somewhere. Another benefit to the group flight was that the program leaders met us at the airport, so they helped me and a few others whose bags got lost too fill out a lost baggage claim. It was still frustrating though and I suggest putting as much as you can in your carryon, so that you have some stuff to last a few days just in case your checked luggage gets lost.
The first night the program had us all stay in a hotel in the center of Montpellier. We had the afternoon to do whatever, but since I didn’t really sleep at all on the plane I fell asleep at 4:30pm and didn’t wake up until 8am the next day! That morning we checked in with the directors, got a very brief tour of the city center, and had orientation at the program office. People living in apartments got to move into them, while those in homestays were free to do whatever until their host family picked them up later in the evening. I’m in a homestay so I got to walk around a bit. I went to the Polygone, which is an indoor shopping center in the city center. We actually arrived on the first day of the “soldes” or sales, so the mall was crazy busy! Even more so than I’ve ever seen Mall of America! This is because in France sales are very regulated and there is only a 5 week period for sales in the winter and a 5 week period for sales in the summer. There are a few promotions during the year, but those to periods are really the only time to get stuff 50% or more off their original price. So, I guess it’s good I arrived when I did! Also, the French dress nicely everyday…lots of nice boots and high heels. Yet another reason to go shopping!
Anyway, later that evening my host mom and dad came to pick me up…I will talk all about that in the next post.