So here I am, sitting in the Lotus cafe in Besançon, France. I don’t even know how to start describing the past few days. It’s just been a whirlwind of new experiences and plenty of culture shock. One would think that there is not a huge difference between American and Western European cultures, and I suppose there’s not, but there are a lot of little things.
The bathrooms in our dorms, for example, have neither toilet paper nor toilet seats. There also seems to be much more attention to the environment and not wasting resources. To take a shower, you must press a button and the water comes out for about 10 seconds. To keep it going, you have to continually press the buttom. I’m sure a lot of water is saved, but it can get pretty cold. Also, lights in hallways either have motion sensors or you have to press a button and they stay on for 30 seconds or so.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the cultures, however, is the sense of history. It’s everywhere. The city that I’m in now, for example, is not very well known. It’s in the east of France near Switzerland and not terribly large. Still, near the center of town, there are Roman ruins and Julius Cesar wrote about an existing Gaule village here when he came. It’s amazing to look at these Roman ruins which are thousands of years old and to know that below that there’s even more.
I haven’t had too much of a chance to explore the rest of the city yet. Every day we have orientation which consists of grammar review for our placement test next monday. There are 10 people here from New Paltz, Plattsburgh, and Buffalo and we’re all at slightly different levels but we’ll all be taking classes at the CLA which is the applied linguistics school in the Universite de Franche-Comte, the region that Besançon is the capital of.
This city is also really interesting because it has a large international student population. It’s been hard to really meet anyone because classes haven’t started yet and most French students go home on the weekends and we’ve been spending weekdays doing our orientation. Tuesday nights at the University Cafe is a night for international students to get together and Thursday’s are a big night to go out. I didn’t get to go out Tuesday because it snowed and the bus system shut down (our dorms are about a 20 minute bus ride from the center of town) but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to meet some other people tonight. I hope to update more soon but I have to get back to campus and take a nap now. Jet lag is still a factor but hopefully I’ll be fully adjusted in time for classes to start a week from monday!