Thursday, May 14, 2015

State of the French Learner Address: May 1 - 9, 2015 in Montpellier

Montpellier is so awesome, you guys! I am absolutely loving it here.

About the size of Madison population-wise (pop 252,998), Montpellier is a city in southern France, not far from the Mediterranean nor Spain. Here's where it is:

Map showing Montpellier in France

I arrived here on May 1 and will be staying through June 30, while taking a 6-week intensive French course at the ILP (Institute Linguistique Du Peyrou). Briefly, here's a little bit about how my first week went.

vendredi, mai 1
May 1 is a holiday in France. I took a direct train from Madrid (1:30 p.m.) and arrived in Montpellier around 8 p.m. The train station is but a 10 minute walk from where I'm staying, and I found the apartment easy enough. Being that it was a holiday (aka long weekend), I arrived to an apartment with my roomie (Tatiana), her younger sister (visiting for the weekend), her brother (lives in Montpellier) and her brother's wife. Oh, and two (real-sized) dogs!

They left for dinner around 9 p.m. with their dad, but had invited me to go to a free concert of Brazilian music afterwards (my roomie's sister-in-law is Brazilian). They rang the bell when they came back from dinner, which meant I should go down and meet them. Her dad is actually a French professor, so it was great talking with him because he talked slowly and knew how to explain things if I didn't understand. The concert ended before we got there, so we ended up at a bar that has live Brazilian music every Friday night. There was lots of dancing that night!

samedi, mai 2
I explored the city by foot on Saturday (gorgeous parks!).

I also did some grocery shopping (Carrefour is just around the corner from our apartment). I scanned magazines in a magazine/newspaper shop forever (magazines are super expensive!) and ended up getting the Montpellier Gazette (just 1.20 euros), which is a weekly newspaper that includes events for that week (Thurs - Weds), along with articles, etc.

Place de la Comedie

On a whim, I bought two DVDs from a store down the street having a sale, thinking I could watch several times with French subtitles...

While reading the Gazette later, I read that all museums on the first Sunday of the month are free, which was tomorrow. Newspaper success!

dimanche, mai 3
Since it was free, I went to the Musée Fabre, which the paper had said is the biggest deal (because regular tickets are pretty expensive). Not really my type of art, I still tried to look at every painting and notice details. It was a gorgeous day, so I didn't linger too long.

Afterwards, while walking through a park, I stumbled upon a free exhibit called "La Vie en Kodak." I guess from 1950-1970, Kodak took panoramic images for advertisements that were 18 meters long—not an easy feat at the time.

Later in the day is when I discovered that the DVDs I bought don't play on VLC (and I can't use my compy's DVD player because I'd have to change region codes, which you can only do 5 times in a computer's lifetime. So dumb.).

That evening I went to a language exchange (French/English) at an Australian bar. It's set up kind of like speed dating—you spend 7 minutes speaking one language, then the organizers tell you when the time is up and you change languages for the next 7 minutes. Then you get assigned a new partner, and you rotate through six people during the event.

lundi, mai 4
First day of school! My teacher this week is Frank, and he's really great. There are 7 of us in the class, and he occasionally splits us into two groups: 3 upper-level and 4 lower-level (that's me!). We have extra class in the afternoon because Friday is a holiday (no class).

On the walk home I discovered my favorite street, which runs parallel to the street I live on (the very next street over). You'll know why I love it so much as soon as you see it:

And this is on my street—my apartment's just a bit past that red overhang you can see in the distance:

An Italian classmate, Agnese, invited Pia (German) and me (we're the two newbies this week) for a drink that night, so we met up around 9. Earlier that evening my roommate left for Paris to visit her mom, where she'll be until next Monday.

mardi, mai 5
Class from 9-12, and then we had conversation from 14-15:30. Normally conversation is 45 minutes long on both Tuesdays and Fridays, but since Friday is a holiday it was combined into one day.

Tuesday night I went to the GoLingo Language Exchange (English/French), which is 5 euros and works basically the same way as the exchange I went to on Sunday. Later I found out they took pictures of us and put them up on their site, so here's my proof!

One of my language exchanges told me about a site "On Va Sortir" ( - Montpellier) where people create events if they want to do some activity (walking, biking, get a drink, have a picnic, etc.). It's not nearly as slick as Meetup, but it's what the people are using. I made an account that night and found out there's an OVS event at a bar on my street Friday night.

mercredi, mai 6
Class as usual from 9-12. Today I had to briefly present on some food item from my home culture or family, explaining the ingredients, history, and tradition (when do we eat it), so I picked crazy cake! It actually worked really well for the assignment, because there's the history of the Great Depression, plus the family tradition of mom making it for our birthdays.

Walked around the center a bit after class with a classmate, and spotted my first Space Invader in Montpellier!

That night I went to GoLingo's Spanish/French exchange. There were just seven of us, I think, but it was fun to use Spanish!

jeudi, mai 7
Class as usual from 9-12.

After class I went to the beach with Pia. You take a tram (I love the trams here!) to the end of the line, then walk about 20 minutes and ta-da: the Mediterranean!

Watched two episodes of "Supernanny" (The French version, of course) that night.

vendredi, mai 8
No class today, so I got in a bunch of work hours, plus French study.

That night I went to the OVS event on my street for about an hour before meeting up with the girls from class for a goodbye drink (Agnese returns to Italy tomorrow). I was the youngest at the OVS event, perhaps the only person in their 20s (which I knew beforehand, you can see who's attending and their profiles). The people I was talking with talked super fast and mumbled, so it was really difficult to know what was going on, but it was good practice nonetheless.

At the goodbye drinks, I met Sophie, Agnese's Brazilian friend who has been studying French as a foreign language here at the university.

samedi, mai 9
Went to the beach again today! With some classmates, and Sophie (who we met the previous night) and three of her friends.

Walking back to the tram from the beach
I feel like I've really lucked out with everything—the apartment (awesome roomie, perfect location), the city (great size, amazing weather, beautiful architecture, fun street art, tons of events, close to beach), my school (fantastic teachers, kind classmates), etc.

The State of the French Learner is strong!*

*Idea inspired by Erik's monthly "State of the Offspring Address"es
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  1. Excellent! Very nice to see what you've been up to. Loving the pictures. Love you

    1. I'll try to do one each week! Love you too xxx