I have fallen in love with a town just forty-five minutes outside of Paris, France. Etampes is a small community filled with extraordinary character. The small town hospitality simultaneously embraces you, and the experience of the world-famous Paris is less than an hour away.
My trip to Etampes started off as a student exchange program, but then it turned into much more. For two weeks, I stayed with a French family and a correspondent that I was previously introduced to via e-mail. From attending a French school to experiencing the life of a normal French teenager, the trip was incredibly remarkable. When I came back to America, I realized why French people were not obese. The answer lies directly in how much we walked or ran while we were there. We ran to the bus stop and to catch the train. We practically hike a mountain to get to the school. On one occasion towards the end of the trip, my sister and I asked our correspondents if we could go to the supermarket to buy food before we returned to America. Since the legal driving age is eighteen in France, our correspondents couldn’t drive, but they assured us that the supermarket was just around the corner. Needless to say, fifteen minutes later my sister and I were panting as we were entering the doors of a supermarket equivalent to Wal-Mart.
Along with the life-long friends I met and outstanding culture experiences, French food was absolutely delectable. I was proud to say that I only ate fast-food two times at a KFC and McDonalds. Both of these American fast food chains were different in France with better desserts. The rest of the time I ate home-made French cuisine. While I was there, I had anything and everything covered in goat cheese. I had at least five pounds of the bread and more than thirty of the best sweet bread with chocolate filling treats. Fried food was kept at a very low minimum and nutella was available at every meal. I severely missed the French food when I returned to America.
The Etampes culture was filled with hospitality. I never got a gaudy look because I was clearly American with my North Face jacket on. Everywhere we went, people were fascinated with our French accent or how we spoke English. The town of Etampes even held a ceremony for us visiting from Columbia, Mississippi. The thirty or so correspondents that kept American students helped us experience the real French life by taking us to Paris whenever they got the chance and having many parties where us English students taught them how to dance to “Soulja Boy.”
I can easily say that I gained a lot from my trip to Etampes, France. I learned that teenagers in America and teenagers in France share a lot of similarities. I found out that language is not a huge barrier if you are able to act out the message you want to get across. Finally, I also realized that your best friend maybe living across the world, and that if you get the chance to meet them- take it. You won’t regret it.
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