The anticipation of traveling aboard hit me as I left the car, waved, and said my goodbyes. Just a mere two hours ago, I was giving a graduation speech and reminiscing about how great middle school had been. Now I was walking into the Philadelphia International Airport, getting ready to board a plane to France. As I walked into the airport, I was greeted by the familiar faces of my French classmates and some not so familiar faces. I soon learned that three students from another private school would be joining us on the trip. Although the first couple of minutes were awkward, we were able talk and become acquainted with each other. It was then clear to me that we would become good friends. We all seemed to have similar interests, and we were all connected by the French language.
Rushing to our terminal, my anticipation turned to turn into excitement. I did not know what to expect, since I had never been to Europe before. The day had been a blur of congratulations, hugs, last minute packing, and rushing around. Once we took our seats on the plane, I finally had a second to take everything in and gather my thoughts. I remember the plane being so luxurious. Watching movies, listening to music, taking pictures, talking, and sleeping seemed to divert my attention from the lengthy plane ride. I will never forget going to sleep in the US and waking up in France. My initial thought was, “I must have been tired”, but then I remembered those funny things called “time zones”.
Landing in Montpellier, my excitement was at its peak. I could not wait to get off of the plane and meet my host family. Upon arrival, I learned that I would be residing in “Les Aubes”, a fairly suburban part of the city, with a student from another private school. As I left the airport with my host family, I felt as though my vacation was just beginning. Riding in the back seat, I tried to take in every little detail of the scenery, the pastoral countryside and the beautiful gothic architecture.
As we arrived at the house where we were scheduled to live for the next three weeks, I was enamored by the mission style architecture, the warm terracotta colors, and the finely preened green lawn. I remember thinking, “I can get used to this”. After being shown my room, we left to meet the rest of the group at “La Place de la Comédie”, or the center city of Montpellier. Climbing the steps of “La Comédie” was like entering into a new world. It was as if the steps were portals. I was leaving the suburban environs and entering a beautiful and vibrant downtown area. Just stepping onto the plateau, I could feel the radiance and warmth of “La Comédie”. There were people laughing, talking and dining. There were children riding on the carousel, an attraction that adults and kids seemed to enjoy. There were winding streets leading to condos, shops, apartments, local restaurants and pâtisseries. I was struck by the tiled streets and the palatial architecture. As we walked closer to the center of “La Comédie”, we passed quaint little museums, modern looking hotels, and even a mall. At the center of “La Comédie” there was a beautiful opera house, which acted as a centerpiece, or ornament to the city. Supplementing the beauty of the opera house was a picturesque fountain that had a very natural beauty to it. This was much different from the architecture that I was accustomed to seeing in downtown Philadelphia.
During the next 20 days, I spent most of my time at “La Comédie”. Moreover, it became like my second home. I shopped there, ate way too many gaufres and crêpes there, and enjoyed spending time with my friends there, whether we were sightseeing or taking pictures. When I was not at “La Comedie”, I spent much of my time at the beach in Palavas-les-Flots. When thinking about this, I always remember the feeling of the cool Mediterranean water splashing on my feet and the warm sun heating my back. I also remember my friends and I playing in the white sand and attempting to organize volleyball games with the locals, using our then elementary French.
Throughout my time in Montpellier, I had the opportunity to gain many great experiences. Every day during the week, I spent three hours in school. Though the classes were very long and we only had one short break, I learned so much about the French language and culture. The information I gained is invaluable and I will never forget it. It has been three years since I left Montpellier, but the experiences are still fresh in my mind. I had the opportunity to visit many other cities in the South of France and learn about new cultures. I can honestly say that this has been the best trip of my life, thus far. The trip helped me to push myself to further understand the French language. I matured as a person, while being immersed in a foreign culture. The memories I made during this trip will be life lasting.
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