We are finally in Nice! After out own independent voyages to our meeting place, JFK Airport, and an eight hour cramped, uncomfortable, and mostly sleepless plane ride, we arrived at our final destination: Nice Cote d’Azur. Despite the lost baggage and sleep deprivation, I think it’s safe to say that the adventurous side in all of us has emerged to the surface. We are all very eager to see what Nice has offer each of us. In terms of language, culture, experiences, etc., everyone seems fully prepared to immerse themselves. Everywhere I look, everything I see, everything I hear, everything I taste, everyone I meet, and everything I experience is a part of the French culture that we are studying and living in for the next four weeks.
The one word I would use to describe this day would be unreal. Picture a typical Hollywood “French” movie set: creamy yellow and rusty red buildings with green shutters on the balcony windows covered in drying laundry and blooming flowers, men yelling and joking with each other from across the street, and a few middle-aged women sitting and drinking their coffee while gossiping. That is the exact look and essence of Nice. The city just feels cohesive, interactive, and welcoming.
For example, there are hundreds of rock and stone alleys and streets, making he city very accessible by foot. But while I am stopping and admiring the beautiful old buildings on these roads, a man on his motorcycle zooms down “la rue” without even looking for pedestrians. The many outdoor markets, open stores, and outdoor restaurants that pour into the sidewalk make Nice and enjoyable city to explore.
Our first mission was to find a market and buy 25 euros worth of food for our own breakfast for a week. We were partnered up, given our stipend, and sent on our way to a local grocery store that seemed to only attract locals. At first, I wasn’t even sure it was a market because there wasn’t a sign to indicate that it even sold food. The grocery store was probably my first real interaction with a local and the first time I used French on the trip, only I would barely call it that.
The cashier and I just exchanged a “bonjour” and a “merci”; nevertheless, French is French. The most challenging part for me was figuring out which milk was nonfat, 1%, etc. The milk came in plastic bottles that somewhat resemble laundry detergent containers, which was something that I had never seen before. Eventually, my partner and I bought what we believe is 1% milk… I have yet to try my somewhat mysterious milk.
The most frustrating thing for me (and I think my peers would agree) is walking into a store and making an attempt to have a conversation in French only to have the store owner or waiter reply in English, because he/she can tell that I’m nowhere near fluent in French. I really do want to improve my French, and having a French-speaking person talk to me in English makes me feel less confident about my French. But I know I have to keep trying and sooner or later – hopefully sooner – I’ll be able to hold a conversation.