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The Adfrenchures Continue!

sunny 16 °C

Today is my 13th day in Besançon, but it feels like I have been here for a lot longer than that. Not in a bad way at all, but I am happy that classes will be starting on Monday. This two-week "vacation period" has been such a perfect way to become comfortable here, both physically and mentally. This past week I've kept busy with school preparations (placement tests, paperwork, class registration, etc. - more on that at the end...) and more touristy stuff. On Thursday, I visited the Musée du Temps (the Museum of Time), which is housed in a palace built by a wealthy citizen in the 16th century. It is partly dedicated to the history of the city, and partly to the history of horlogorie (clock-making). Both subjects were very interesting, but I found that the clocks started to tick me off after a while...

My other big event of the week was this afternoon, with ESN (Erasmus Student Network) the international relations group on campus. They have a huge calendar of events, and today we went for a hike starting in downtown Besançon and ending in Morre, a little village on the other side of the hill that the citadel sits atop. We got to see a bit of the countryside and stopped for a very French picnic (bread, cheese, grapes, tomatoes, and wine) on the top of another hill, with a gorgeous view of the Juras. (see photo gallery for more)


Aside from that, I have kept busy with some important business-y things, like mailing off the form for the final step of my visa (now I definitely can't be deported, unless I manage to do something highly illegal), collecting my first monthly food stipend from the University, and opening a French bank account. That last one was pretty big for me. I didn't want to become a helpless pain in my parrain's butt, so I summoned up the courage to do it on my own. Surprisingly, it all went incredibly smoothly, and I'm still pretty proud of myself when I think back on it! But it's a good thing that I didn't realize beforehand how involved it is to set up a new account, otherwise I probably would have talked myself out of attempting it alone. My appointment lasted a good hour with lots of paperwork and questions about my financial/living situation as a student abroad, but the woman who helped me was extremely friendly and helpful. There were really only two times that she had to stop and find a different way to explain what was happening. There is some specialized financial vocabulary that just isn't taught in the first two years of French instruction...

That being said, I am continuing to get more comfortable in conversational settings - I do still find myself planning out the opening sentences to a conversation when I am able to, for instance, "Hi, I am an international student at the University and I would like to set up a bank account." or "Hi, my name is Natalie Kammerer, and I was told to come here to pick up my stipend for the month of September?" But I'm way less awkward at improvised conversations than I was a week ago. (One thing that continues to trip me up is the change at around 5 or 6 pm from "bonjour" to "bonsoir". I have managed to blurt out a few different unintelligible hybrids of these deceptively simple phrases...) I'd also like to think that I am becoming less of an obviously foreign presence (I actually understood everything that was happening when the lady at the cash register told me that the student discount doesn't apply to meals, only to purchases of bulk cheese or bread, and when the bookstore didn't have the novel I need for class, the man behind the counter automatically started the process of ordering it in for me.)

However, one thing that still manages to escape me is a solid knowledge of the town's layout. Many of you probably know that I do not have an innate sense of direction, and this has proven interesting. I know the neighborhood directly around my campus quite well, as well as that of the centre-ville, and I have a pretty good sense of the major connecting streets between the two. But every time I go for a run, I feel like I'm in a rabbit hole. No matter how well I map my route ahead of time, I never quite manage to get home the way I planned to. (It doesn't help one bit that street signs are definitely not something to be taken for granted here - they really only occur at the beginning and end of a street, and there are very few streets that keep the same name for more than about five blocks. Thankfully, I have not yet gotten truly lost, and the fluidity of my schedule these past two weeks has been very conducive to some navigational trial and error.

My adventures with transportive food experiences continues, as should be expected. The Franche-Comté region is known for three cheeses - Comté, Morbier, and Canciollotte. So far I have only tried Comté, but my, is it good! It's a relatively mild white cheese that is equally delicious sliced with bread and tossed on a salad. There are some more involved regional dishes that use it more creatively, and I am excited to check them out, as well as the other two types of cheese. Also, I made the monumental discovery that my neighborhood grocery store sells CANNED VEGETARIAN RAVIOLI. The filling is a paste of onion, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, and carrots, with a tomato sauce with onions, black olives, and basil. I can already see this becoming one of those random guilty pleasures that I will miss like crazy in the US...

On Thursday, I ate the most delicious sandwich of my life thus far. (It was at the place that doesn't do the student discount for meals, but I am TOTALLY going back.) The store is called Le Trou de Souris (The Mouse Hole) and they sell all kinds of regional specialties (mostly cheese), but also breads, yogurts, and wines. And sandwiches. I ordered "Le Grec" (Greek). The lady reached into the case and pulled out a log of the crustiest looking bread I have ever seen in my life, tied off with two pink ribbons. (Side-note: Ready-made sandwiches are a very typical street food here. They are reminiscent of Subway, except that, Subway's bread in comparison is like it has been soaking in water for ten minutes. I feel like a T-rex trying to eat these sandwiches. And they are HUGE. Pretty much baby baguettes.) So anyhow, Le Grec (pictured below, just before I begin round two - it was twice that size originally) was served on a poppy seed sourdough bread. It had lettuce, incredibly fresh and tangy feta cheese, tomato tartine, balsamic vinaigrette, and giant green raisins that added a magically sweet twist to it.


Finally, my classes begin on Monday! I took four placement tests last Monday (written expression, written comprehension, oral comprehension, and oral expression) which would determine the level of classes I will take. The levels are A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1. In order to get into the program, we all had to have a level of at least A2, so they were placing into B1-C1. I managed to receive a C1, so I had some pretty cool course options, including the ability to choose a "dominant" subject. The dominant that I chose is Literature, so I am taking French Literature and Comparative Literature, in addition to "Perfection of Oral Expression and Comprehension", "Perfection of Written Expression and Comprehension", Contemporary French History, and Semiology (which is, as I learned very recently, "the study of meaning-making and philosophical theory of signs and symbols"). I'm pretty stoked. And I managed to arrange all of those classes into a Monday-Thursday schedule, so I'll have a three-day weekend for my anticipated jaunts to the far corners of the European continent!

Also, in case it isn't easy to see for someone who doesn't know the ins and outs of this website, I have uploaded a BUNCH of pictures over the past week. There is a gallery on the right side. I'm not super happy with it, because I can't create different albums, of even really organize the images very effectively, but it works.

Merci à tous pour votre intérêt et votre soutien !

Posted by NKammerer 11:16 Archived in France Tagged food school hike cheese esn museedutemps

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I am very much intrigued by the beautiful pictures, Chapel being my favorite, which go to tell how old/historic the city really is. You have done a great job of handling business-y things all by yourself! I know it's not that simple and it surely gave you a peace of mind. And please don't get lost, use Google Maps to get back home safely. Tip: You can actually mark your dormitory as Home in Google Maps so you don't have to put in the address every time (assuming you have mobile data plan when away from dorm)! Happy Adfrenchuring!

by Ankit

I am reliving France with your comments....I probably won't get there for a few years, but who knows...maybe I'll add a trip to my Polish Itinerary for next year.
When I went to Poland last year, my roommate, took pictures of every plate of food we were served and it is fun to look at in her book....we are such a visual society, that no one wants to hear about your adventure they want to see it..love your reflections.
You are doing a great job of "taking France!"
When I was in Geneva ( if at some point you can get to Switzerland, GO) I was proud of myself navigating transportation, restaurants, train station, etc..most of the Swiss speak English, especially people in businesses, so I was saved most of the time...and so polite...I think I could live there. (except for the euro exchange rate)
Linda Placzek

by linda placzek

I love your post and pictures. hugging you in my heart love aunt betty

by Betty Eckley

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