Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting ready to leave

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to share that I got my luggage tage in the mail a couple days ago along with a letter from AFS France. (Apparently I'm supposed to fit everything I think I'll need for 8 months that I can't buy into one backpack and a piece of luggage that cannot weigh over 44 lbs!) I'm so ready to go abroad - kinda! After all, I did just transfer $3,000 out of my bank account. In any case, things are happening and it's going to be awesome!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Orientations and such...

So yesterday I got an email from AFS about my departure and the country orientations. I'm so excited, even if it's not for two more months. In any case, I found out that when I get to the Charles de Gaul airport in Paris with the rest of the Eastern Seaboard American exchange students, (most likely exhausted from two flights and a layover) we will then go to a three-day orientation "camp" thing with 300 other students studying in France from every other nook and cranny of our planet! I'm really excited for that because when I went to the pre-departure orientation, it was really fun. I went up to northern Maine and stayed overnight at a camp with the other students in Maine, those going abroad comme moi and those FROM abroad who are studying here. It was enlightening to hang out with kids who went through a lot of the things I'm doing right now and I met a lot of really cool people from countries like the Philippines, Germany, Czech Republic, Chile, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Japan and of course France. I didn't realize it before but AFS is an incredibly social program: when I was at that camp for just two days, I met so many people and became good friends with them. And that was just the pre-departure orientation!
Anyway, back to the post-departure orientation: so in Paris, besides meeting other exchange students and learning about what our experience will be like, we will also go on a bus tour of Paris to all the famous sights. As if we weren't already obviously tourists... But that's going to be really cool: I haven't been to Paris yet, just southern France: la Provence.
I also got a copy of the "Host Family App" and got to learn a little bit more about my family (I've been emailing with them for a month already). I found out that my father is a graphic designer and my mother is a nursery teacher. I got the full address of my soon-to-be home-away-from-home and Google-mapped it: I'll be living right on a river! I also found out that if for some ridiculous reason I take up smoking, my host family would be OK with it as long as it's outside the house. Yay, I can pursue my passion! (JUST KIDDING, mom and dad). I also found out that the town I'll be living in, Murs-Erigné, has about 5,500 people, as well as sports and "cultural facilities". Also, the weather has been described as temperate and if you look on a map, it's about on par with Maine, so not too different from home. I admit, I definitely woud not have minded being placed in a more Southern area as well: the Alps would be closer (for skiing) and warm weather year around is definitely not unwelcome. But I guess Maine weather is pretty good, even though as I write this, it's absolutely pouring outside.
Other new information from the host family app: my family likes to go the movies, the sea, the swimming pool or on bike excursions. They are definitely an active family which is awesome. They also visit bigger cities such as Paris or Nantes, both of which are a couple hours away by car. I am particularly excited for that because I want to see as much of France as possible in the time I'm there.  Onto the house: it's been described as large (which I guess it would have to be with two boys and later me), and has a TV, garden, library and computer. French TV is going to be something: I'm guessing very confusing but also helpful for learning more French. Oh, and my brother Guillaume, the one my age, plays electric guitar. Overall, it sounds perfect and I can't wait for next September to roll around.
AFS also sent me a document about the region I'll be living in. It's called the Pays de la Loire (Land of the Loire) and is exceptionally and internationally well-known for it's beauty and old castles. I'll attach the pages to this post as they are rather extensive and I think I've already typed enough for one day but I encourage you to look at them: I learned a lot about my area of France.
In other news, school is out!!! And I found out I will be going to Hawaii for a couple weeks in the end of July which is awesome.
À la prochaine (until later)!

PS: sorry about the four different pictures, Blogger isn't letting me attach the whole thing so I took screen shots. Help anyone?

Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20th: Two Months before Departure

Bonjour, everyone! For those of you who don't know me, my name is Benji Astrachan and I'm going to be studying in France for my entire junior year! Coming from little Portland Maine, this is going to be quite an experience but I can't wait to go! 
So far, I've had some contact with my French host family and they sound awesome! I have two brothers, one who is almost exactly my age but two days younger, and one who is 11 yrs old. They live in a small town called Mûrs-Erigné, at the bottom of Brittany in the Vallée du Loir, which is supposed to be a beautiful region of France! From the picture they sent me, I figure they're an athletic family: they were posed in the French Alps, rigged out in skiing gear so now I know I'll get to ski, which is AWESOME! They also have a cat and will know some English because they're spending their upcoming summer vacation touring England and Ireland. I'll be going to a school about 15 minutes away on the outskirts of a bigger city called Angers. I guess Angers is like our Boston: the big city where we go sometimes to shop or whatever. The school there is called Jean-Bodin and from what I've learned about French "lycées", I'll be taking the S course; it focuses specifically on heavily-weighted math, physics and chemistry. That should be interesting.... (Here's the school website for anyone interested who can read French: 
I recently found out my departure date. It will be August 29th and I'm really excited to go and live in a foreign country for 8 months but at the same time a little bummed about missing the junior year. On the plus side, I can't wait to learn French. One of my goals is to come back fluent so that's going to be pretty awesome. I also want to really get to know the French culture. Undoubtedly, I'll come back spoiled after so much delicious French food for a year but hey, it's worth it! 
I'll try to post my adventures here regularly while I'm abroad so stay in touch. 
À bientôt for now,