My first month in Montpellier has been full of adjustments, both big and small, to the French way of life. From mourning the dollar-to-euro exchange rate to getting lost in the twisting and often unmarked city streets, the differences between life here and life at Geneseo are striking.
Perhaps most striking is the fact that university life and daily life are very separate. Most university students live at home while attending school, and the dorms associated with the University of Montpellier III Paul-Valéry can often be a fair distance away. My commute from my dorm to the school is 20 minutes on foot, 10 to 15 taking the tram. While there are a few French students from outside of Montpellier living in the dorms, most of my neighbors are other international students.
Part of this separation is that dorm and university life is far less social than it is at Geneseo. Extracurricular activities are few and far between, and the dorms are very quiet. Hermit that I am, this doesn't really bother me and I've managed to carve out a friend group of American students and other international students.
But for people so used to the very open atmosphere of American colleges, this could come as a bit of a shock. To their credit, the coordinators of the international programs are trying their best to lessen this blow for us. We all got a very sweet and hilarious email saying, essentially, “Hey Americans, there's an Ultimate Frisbee team here! You all like Ultimate Frisbee right? Right?”
Another shock was how the city almost completely shuts down on Sunday. I know most of us at Geneseo use Sunday as our laziest day of the week; activities include catching up on Netflix, eating way too much and not doing our homework. Well, here it's almost impossible to do anything else. Nearly everything is closed on Sunday, and if it is open, it's only for a short period of time.
The local supermarket's hours sign translates to “Open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., open Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.” Sunday, it appears, is not a real day.
So far, my friends and I have used this free pass of a day to take long walks around “Comédie” searching for “pain au chocolat,” ride the tram down to the Mediterranean Sea and explore a flea market and watch terrible American movies. Okay, okay, I know I'm supposed to be out there embracing all that France has to offer at every moment, but sometimes you just have to watch A Walk to Remember, you know?
Finally, one of the biggest joys of day-to-day life here is thinking you only have a pocketful of change, which upon closer examination reveals itself to be €10 in €2 coins. Score!