Yesterday I arrived in France. Getting to my gate through the airport in Detroit was easy enough. The flight wasn’t too bad and I slept through most of it. When I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris it was much easier getting through the passport checkpoint and getting my luggage than I had expected. Finding Frances (who is involved with the program between Albion and UVSQ and was kind enough to pick me up from the airport) was also simple enough. I had been surprised about how easy things were and how well it had all gone. Frances and her boyfriend then drove me to my apartment, where we had a 3:00 appointment set up so I could get my room. We got lunch, got some groceries, and got my bank account set up. Everything seemed to be going just fine.
After this, things took a turn for the worst. When we got to my housing appointment, the people who ran the apartment complex were not very nice to us. They spoke little English and I didn’t really understand what was going on, so they proceeded to yell at me in French. I hadn’t filled out the proper forms because I didn’t understand which parts I was supposed to fill out. The forms were in French, which caused that problem. This led to more yelling in French by the rude apartment people. I was jet-lagged and tired so I was even more frustrated that people were yelling at me for apparently no good reason.
Once we got to the apartment, it was much different than in the pictures that I had been shown. The walls were dingy and the furniture was small and limited. It had said in the papers about the apartment that there would be a tv, but none were to be found. On the plus side, my room was a good size and I had a large window and a balcony. The welcome kit that I had pre-ordered months ago was not in when I asked for it. They had run out of them earlier in the day. This kit included all of my bedding, towels, and cookware, so I could do essentially nothing even though I had arrived. The people in charge of the residence also said that they were too busy to give me the password to the wifi. Frances let me stay with her for the night because nothing could be done for my apartment until I got my kit. Today we are in Rambouillet at the REEDS facility, where most of my classes will be. I met a few of the doctoral students and other faculty members and staff of REEDS and they were very nice. We were there all day today and I got to see the Chateau that is near where my classes are for a bit in the morning. We also got to walk around Rambouillet and see some dogs being trained for “la chasse” (photos to come…).
I have been shocked by the way that some of the administrative people in France function. The apartment complex is not at all concerned that I have the kit that I paid them for. Additionally, they made me pay them some of my rent, even though it had been arranged in advance that I pay the rent in full to Albion and it would be transferred. Nothing seems to be organized and no one seems to be at all concerned about it. I am in the mindset that everything will be worked out in the end. I think what is even more frustrating to me about this is that I am so used to everything always being under control at Albion. Problems like these are not tolerated. Whenever there is an issue it is quickly resolved and people are nice about it. There aren’t a bunch of ridiculous bureaucratic things to deal with (at least from my perspective) before I get help. This really isn’t the case here, unfortunately. It seems that one sometimes has to make a scene to get anything done.
I am staying with Frances again tonight as they still don’t have the wifi password for me or my kit. Hopefully both of these things will be available for me tomorrow. It makes me very frustrated that things like this can happen here and nothing is done about it.
I am praying that everything gets ironed out soon as I start my “real” orientation on Thursday. I would really like to not have to be stressed about this once that starts because the orientation is all in French and I know that will be a great challenge for me.
I really strongly feel that I should have been more comfortable with my French before coming into this experience. I feel somewhat helpless because I don’t always know what is going on, and when I do, I don’t know how to respond to the people that are talking to me. I thought it would be easier to pick things up, but it hasn’t been. I guess I am probably being too hard on myself as it is only my second day here. I guess I must have just thought that once I got here it would just click and everything would fall into place from there.
In better news, I get to visit the chateau at Versailles and the Louvre next week with my orientation program. I am really excited for these trips and have been happy to see the beautiful buildings and scenery around France so far. Today we got to see a chateau, the remnants of a tower from the hundred years war, and a beautiful old church. I can’t wait to post some pictures of these things in the next few days, as well as some pictures of Rambouillet nearer to where my classes are once I take them. Did I mention that I will be having classes in a building that’s about 300 years old? That’s still crazy to me. I believe that once I get in the swing of things and have some more time in France it will all be better. It will also help to meet some other international students with my orientation program since they will likely be able to relate to some of the issues I have been having.