South Salem to France in 2016

Jul 15 2016

by Daniel Kompolt

Day 11: Today we went to visit Arcachon. Before we left we had a small lunch with ham and cheese croissants that were amazing. Because the French get their foods from specialized stores, everything is usually really good and fresh, especially baked goods. Arcachon was really cool. They showed me lots of houses, all of which were really extravagant looking. I imagine their unique looks come from Spanish influence from the South. We climbed the Observatoire de Sainte-Cécile, a little tower that overlooked the city. Apparently, Gustave Eiffel helped build it, and it's locally known as the Tour Eiffel d'Arcachon. Climbing up the narrow, winding staircase was sketchy- you could feel it sway with the wind. We had ice cream downtown, I had Nutella flavor which I had never tried before, but was very good. When I got back I hung out with Victor (who didn't come with us because of work) and for dinner we had sushi. I don't remember liking sushi that much as I hadn't eaten any in a long time, but it was really good. I also liked how they still had cheese and yogurt with the meal, even though it wasn't French. 
Day 19: Today we left the hotel around 9:30 for the airport. The first flight was around 3 hours to Iceland, like last time. The second flight was fine too. We got hung up at customs because Connor made a funny face in his picture. It was surprisingly nice being home. In the airport all of the English was overwhelming. In France we weren't used to understanding everything around us because you have to focus on what is being said. When I got back home everyone had lots of questions, and it felt amazing to be home. Every small thing contributes to the homey feeling, that you couldn't really place when it's gone. The trip was a blast and I made some really awesome relationships, both with people I might never see again, and with my fellow classmates around town. I'm really grateful for everyone that made it possible and so fun. 
Jul 7 2016

by Janiel Elizarraga Oregel

Well, after spending the first few days here in France. I could certainly say that I felt out of place, but it did not deter from the experience I felt while getting accustomed to France.

I've visited France one other time, however, it wasn't for that long and I only stayed in Paris as tourists with my family. Obviously, the two are different experiences. Having the two experiences just shows how the two contrast with one another. Without a doubt, living with a family offered a greater opportunity to speak and read in French which helps to ameliorate French skills.

It is definitely difficult to talk, read, and listen just in French. At the beginning I was more hesitant and would use basic sentences and a lot of "Oui's" and "Non's" as a response to a question. My comprehension from the beginning was like a 50-60% since everyone spoke very fast and the heavy accent.

The short responces and the lack of total comprehension was when I knew that I had to speak with complexity now and make a greater effort to understand not only what others say, but what I say as well.

I was a little nervous speaking these complex sentences since I did not want to make any errors. It did not go as planned I made several errors when I spoke more with my host family. However, they did not crucify me for those errors. They actually said I was really good at French. As for my comprehension I watched the news and sports and some movies on French so I could get accustomed to the speed that they speak. It was difficult, but now I believe that I understand like 70-80% of what people say now.

I did not really believe that I was good enough to get complimented on my French by actual French speakers. I guess the best feeling was I felt was hearing that I was better at French than the last two Americans they hosted. The compliments did not stop there. I received compliments from my host family's friends. Naturally, I was still suspicious that I could even speak the language well.  I started to believe it when my host family began telling store clerks and ice cream stand people. Well, those people interrogated me and asked which state I lived in and how many years have I studied French.  The strangers even said that I spoke very well for an American. I was like whoa I guess I'm a good speaker. It's a great feeling getting complimenting and actually understanding what people from another country are saying.
Well that's it for now see ya.

Jul 6 2016

by Hayden Hopkins

So far the biggest difference I've noticed linguistically in France has been the way in which the French shorten their words. The thing that stood out to me the most at first was the fact that they very rarely use the "ne" when it comes to negation with "ne . . . pas". Additionally, they speak so fast sometimes it almost seems like the words slur together until "je ne sais pas" can sound like "j'ai pas."

It has taken me a while to get used to their manner of speaking and there are still times when my host siblings are speaking so quickly my comprehension flies out the window, but for the most part I have been able to adapt relatively quickly. It's very rewarding to be able to notice a markable improvement in my ability to comprehend French spoken by native speakers, and now with my two weeks with a host family almost up I'm disappointed i have to leave so soon, as I can just imagine how much better I would become the longer I remained here.

I'm just grateful for the time I have had and I hope I am able to return one day, as being immersed in French culture and speaking French every day truly is the quickest way to improve one's own language skills, in my opinion.

Jul 5 2016

by Emmett Williamson

Driving and traffic have been some of the most culturally different things since arriving in France.  For starters, the lanes of the road are not separated by yellow lines.  In most cases, there is only a white line or dashed white line.  To my American eyes, the road looks like a passing lane, which gave me quite the shock on the first night, when there were headlights on the other side of the road.  I have also learned that at red lights, one can not turn right, even when there are no cars or pedestrians.

While the roads and roundabouts make some sense in Saint Jean d`Illac, the road system in central Bordeaux is beyond me. Sometimes, the sidewalk will become  a road or a Tram railway.  In some areas, people can pay to use a sidewalk to drive down, or a motorcycle will sneak it`s way through an alley to where one is about to step.
Traffic, especially in Bordeaux is also a nightmare to the Salem norms.  The roads are just wide enough to fit a scooter, bike, and bus at the same time.  Apparently French people do not know what the red "Do not cross" symbol means at crosswalks.  Motorcyclists are the dictators of the road as well, as they can and will pass any vehicle whenever they please.  

Intersections are also different, literally, as almost each intersection is unique.  Compared to Salem`s "cookie cutter" system for urban and suburban blocks, in Bordeaux, the city planners must have been drinking a litttle too much of what Bordeaux is known for.  Intersections can range from 2-5 streets all conecting from different directions, with bike lanes, bus lanes, and sometimes the Tram in the middle.  I`m surprised I have not seen any accidents so far. 

Jun 30 2016

by Hayden Hopkins

One of the differences that has stood out to me the most this trip, other than the language itself, has been the architecture and composition of the cities. Today--the 30th of June--I visited the village of St. Emilion, a small city made of old buildings and winding, cobblestone streets, and it served to reinforce my opinion that the cities in France are much more beautiful than those in the US. I enjoy the history offered by them more than the modern cityscapes of America, and generally just find them more aesthetically pleasing.

In St. Emilion I was able to climb to the top of a small château and view the town as a whole, which was my favorite part of the trip--in one direction vineyards sprawled in the distance and in the other, the village. If there is anything I take away from this trip besides the language I learn and friends I make, it will be the beauty of the French countryside and old architecture.

Jun 29 2016

by Molly Balmer

After 5 days in Bordeaux, I have to say that this past week has been one of the most challenging yet best weeks of my lives. I never thought that my language and comprehension skills could improve so much in just a few days. When I first came into my house family, the had to repeat and rephrase their sentences multiple times so I knew what was going on. I, on the other hand, had to do the same due to my lack of grammar. Now, after becoming adjusted to the accent and some of the common phrases, as well as learning grammar through trial and error, I feel a lot more confident in my French.

There are two main cultural differences I've noticed between France and America.
First of all, French people do a lot more together as a family. On the weekends they all go out together and enjoy each other's company. They eat every meal that people are awake/at home for together. If parents happen to be home at lunch, they will all eat lunch together. And if not, my host sisters will still eat a well-prepared meal together.
Aside from that, I've noticed that driving in France is also a different story. There are many roundabouts here. And there's not much room to park on any street. Most of the drivers themselves seem about as aggressive as Californian drivers. And lastly, drivers do not stop for pedestrians!

That being said, my stay in France has gone very well so far, aside from having a few close calls with the cars.

Jun 27 2016

by Sara Komoda


Today (June 27) my fourth day in Bordeaux, I got to go to a French supermarket  (Centre Commercial Mérignac Soleil) with Maëlle and Nathalie which was a lot bigger than I imagined they would be. I don't know if it was just this one in particular but it was split into two sections, one for clothing stores and the other for food, which was huge. My favorite part was looking at the pastry section and all the candy and bonbons and other bread they have. I had to make a huge list of things to buy and bring home, so I hope they fit in my suitcase. They have a lot of Haribo candies and different kinds of cookies/crackers, I wish I had time to try all of it because it all looks so good.  We also went to 'Biocoop', a store that sells organic foods and smells like LifeSource in Salem. 

Today at dinner where we ate a weird French version of tater tots or something, we talked about our (Maëlle and my) day trip tomorrow to Lacanau for a birthday party, and Phillipe wanted to make sure that Maëlle pronounced the 'beach' as it is, and not like the curse word in English. When you ask "Where is the beach?" It's not "where is the bi***".

It was really funny because later he told me that maybe there I could buy a "dress for beach" and I couldn't stop laughing. It's funny how they pronounce things in English, like Maëlle asked how you would order a beer instead of a bear, because the way the pronounce them in English, they're the same. So they decided they could just say "ours" instead because that's the word for bear in French. It's 12:14 a.m and I have to wake up at 7:15 so bonne nuit! 

Jun 27 2016

by Emmett Williamson

So far our trip has started with a bang, literally thunderstorms on the first night!

Friday the 24th I went with Thibault and Sylvie to the center of Bordeaux to walk around and see the sights. The 25th, Valentin and Thibault's friend joined us as we went to the center of Bordeaux to see "X-Men: Apocolypse." Afterwards we went to the riverfront and watched the "La fête de vin" light show followed by fireworks. While walking back to the car, we had the lovely smell of the national sport, going on strike.

The 26th, Valentin and I went to a "fan-zone" in St. Jean d'Illac to watch France beat Ireland. Today, two more friends of Thibault and Valentin came over. We made lunch and played Pictionary, which ended in lots of yelling.

Jun 27 2016

by Daniel Kompolt

Day 3:

Today we all slept in a little more because of the late night [we went to a party]. Then we went to the beach.

There we saw a seal lying on the shore, and lots of paragliders launching off the dune. One crashed in a patch of tree snags. Lots of people went to help and eventually a helicopter came in and dropped somebody down to help. Took the paraglider away but nobody else knew how bad the injury was. There was also an ambulance that came by the beach, but it left after.

We had sandwiches on the beach for lunch. After we hung out and swam in the pool until dinner, we had pasta and chicken which were both very good.

Then we watched TV, catching the ending of the newest Avengers movie. They asked me about the actors and how to pronounce their names. I thought it was funny when the voices didn't match the real actors, because they had different voice actors for the French version.

Jun 23 2016

Chaperone Robert Zenk reports that "everything went smoothly and everyone is with their host families now. Their excited looks said it all!"  Follow this blog over the next couple weeks for some special updates from students themselves!