Jumping off Bench

Having Humor in France

When traveling, it’s important to be an ambassador of your country. What does this mean? It means wherever you are, you are an American and whatever they think of you is what they will think of all Americans. If you strut your bikini top and leggings while you’re walking down the Champs Elysée, the French are not very likely to have the best impression of Americans. However, if you dress as they do, ask for things quietly and politely (even if you must ask in English), smile, and say “please” and “thank you”. You’ll leave them with a nice impression of Americans and thus be an ambassador of your country. It’s important to show respect to their culture, their traditions and their people just as you would if they were to visit your home town. 

That being said, it’s also important to have a sense of humor when traveling. Traveling is predictably unpredictable and if you don’t have a sense of humor about it, then having to take a two hour taxi ride instead of the planned 20 minute train ride due to a strike will send your mood down the drain pretty quickly.

 To put you in the laughing mood, here’s an excerpt from “Wicked French for the Traveler” by Howard Tomb.

 “France has found favor with painters since Neanderthal times. Some of the greatest artists, Picasso and Van Gogh among them, left their native lands and moved to France permanently. Some historians believe that French sunlight has special qualities that bring colors to life for artists. Other experts insist that certain painters had simply bounced too many checks in their own countries. Whatever the reason for their presence, artists have left millions of paintings and sculptures in France.  You won’t be able to avoid seeing some of them during your stay.”

 Art museums have been idea pickup spots for centuries, since they naturally screen out the unwashed, thereby ensuring that the pool of potential mates is held at a relatively high intellectual an social level. But simply entering a house of worship such as the Louvre or Pompidou is not enough. Nor is the ‘knowing what one likes’ and gawking at it. Once muse en mettre plein la vue like Philippe de Montebello to be sure to impress one’s fellow art lover and prospective victim.

Note: Do not attempt to pronounce van Gogh. It sounds something remotely like ‘van gohjgkhh’. Stick with Vincent, ‘van-SAHN’.

Humorous phrases (with French translation) to use in the museum: 

Notice how the fruit is dramatically outlined in black.

Remarquez comme le fruit est soulingé en noir d’un façon dramatique. 

Cézanne’s little limes almost leap into your mouth.

Les petits citrons verts de Cézanne vous sautent pratiquement dans la bouche.

Have you noticed Monet’s bold use of blue here?

Avez-vouz remarqué l’audace du bleu dans ce Monet?

 The lone water lily signifies the essential loneliness of existence.

Le Nénuphar isolé incarne la solitude essentielle de l’existence.

Let’s talk about it over a cup of espresso.

Parlons-en tout en prenant un café express.

And  while you’re out at the café with your new beau or belle from the museum, you should follow some important café etiquette with your new beau or belle from the museum, you should follow some important café etiquette:

No matter how many espressos you drink while you’re there:

  1. Do not sing, even if you suddenly realize how to speak French.
  2. Do not make political speeches or announcements
  3. Do not slap strangers on the back
  4. Do not force-feed strangers or their dogs

 

Enrich your life

10 Ways Being a Foreign Exchange Student Will Enrich Your Life Forever

When studying abroad, especially while staying with a host family, there are the obvious advantages: learning a new language and making new friends. But there’s so much more to it. This experience of being a foreign exchange student and living as the locals do will serve you for the rest of your life.  Here are the top 10 ways it will change your life: 

1. Breaking out

The decision alone to be a foreign exchange student is HUGE! It can be frightening, exciting, worrisome, thrilling all at the same time. Just getting on that plane and taking that step into the unknown is amazing in itself, and not many people have that ability to just go and see where it takes you.

2. Experience a new way of thinking

Living with a host family will give you the opportunity of seeing everything from their eyes and it’s often different than what you learned growing up. Some examples may be: Seeing that bread is a staple in their daily lives and it comes straight from the bakery, not the grocery store. Lunch is a more important meal than dinner. It makes more sense to take public transportation than drive your own car. You need less space than you may think to live. Fresh meals are more important than frozen or pre-packaged meals. Cheese can be a dessert.  School days can be extremely long and rigorous, and sports are often not important in education. After seeing another perspective, in future careers, you’ll be able to see both sides of the coin and facilitate discussions between parties.

3. Respect diversity

People are different everywhere, yet they are also the same. Until you spend some time in another country, it can be hard to understand this. Maybe you’ll feel called to continue with a career along these lines, or doing volunteer work when you return to the states.

4. Become more independent

When traveling abroad, you learn to be very independent very quickly. You learn to speak with strangers to get directions, because you can only pretend you know where you’re going for so long. You learn to read maps, in other languages. You learn that you can do whatever you put your mind to. This is HUGE!

 5. Language Immersion

Yes, if you immerse yourself in another language, you will learn another language. You’ll also pick up slang words, speech patterns, sentence structure, accents, and favorite phrases of your host family. Maybe you’ll even learn to distinguish the different accents of the country depending on which region you are in. You’ll learn the language taking the bus, going to the grocery store, going to the bank, ordering a meal, telling people about where you are from, and when making new friends. And you’ll learn it all much more quickly than learning from a book or language learning podcasts. Your language skills will become remarkable and impressive.

 6Adaptability

 You need to be able to adapt to anything, and without letting it fluster you. Buses will be late, trains will be late, you’ll be wearing the wrong thing, you’ll misunderstand someone about a meeting time or place, you’ll have to eat food you don’t particularly like, you’ll have to wear damp clothes because you didn’t realize they don’t use a dryer and hanging everything to dry takes longer than you thought. Make no mistake about it, this is a SKILL that a lot of people don’t have and it will serve you well in your future careers. 

7. Learn more about your own culture

You may be amazed at how often people will ask you about where you came from while you are living abroad. Sometimes they may even know more than you! You may also be surprised to find that they may ask questions like the population of your state, what the transportation like, what the #1 import in your state is, what the economy and housing market are like in your state, what is your policy on immigration. You will become a walking resource for your state and country!

8.Become a local

 When you’re able to spend some time in a new country and become part of the community, it will go beyond what the famous monument for that city is, or where the best restaurant is. You’ll know the shortest route from your bus to your home. You’ll know which market is the best for cheese and where to buy a pastry or flowers when you’ve been invited to dinner at someone’s house (or even that you SHOULD bring a pastry or flowers when you’ve been invited to dinner!). You’ll learn where the pharmacy is and what to do if you get sick. You’ll learn how to set up a bank account. While doing these things, you’ll also become part of the community… your community. You’ll have an understanding of the country which is much deeper than anyone who just spent a 2 days there on a bus tour.

9. Stories for a lifetime

When speaking with people who have been a foreign exchange student abroad, whether it was 5 years ago or 50 years ago, they still have stories and often they still have friends abroad whom they are still in contact with. These are stories to pass down to your children and maybe even your grandchildren.

 10Travel bug

 The Travel bug is a real thing. Not real in that it’s a real bug, but that it really does exist. Once you’ve traveled abroad and learned ALL the skills above and you realize how amazing it is to discover new cultures and new places, you’ll want to keep traveling. There’s so much to see in this big world of ours, and so much to experience. You’ll no longer be satisfied with learning about a culture on the internet. You’ll long to be part of the culture and to experience it for yourself.

Enjoy the journey!

Paris Plages

A Family Guide to Summer Traveling in Europe

Are you taking your family on the trip of a lifetime?

Europe offers all sorts of fantastic fun for your family’s upcoming vacation – from gorgeous beaches to historic monuments to ancient cities and more, you’ll have fun while making great memories at the same time.

If you’re searching for information on how to make your family’s trip a success, you’re in the right place. Here’s your guide to summer travel in Europe!

Tips for Traveling with a Family to Europe

There are several ways to have an enjoyable family vacation to Europe. Follow these easy tips when you’re planning your trip and on your adventure.

1) Don’t Try to Cover Everything

Unless you’re on sabbatical, you most likely won’t have the time to cover every amazing thing Europe has to offer – but that’s ok! You can still get in many of the major sites and a few of the hidden gems. You should pinpoint various spots to serve as home bases and then venture out to the surrounding areas on day trips. This will cut down on your overall travel time, which can be very exhausting, and may even end up ruining your trip with delays, cancellations and extended plane, train or bus rides.

2) Take Advantage of Free Activities

Traveling with three or more people can really rack up the costs of entertainment. If you’re trying to cut back on costs, but still want something the whole family can enjoy, there are plenty of free or discounted activities to take advantage of. For instance, the majority of European museums waive entry fees for children. If museums don’t quite pique the interest of your youngsters, there are festivals, spectacles and celebrations throughout the summer that are free to attend. Additionally, parks and playgrounds are always a fun and free way to spend your time.

3) Head to Family-Friendly Locations

Finding the best family-friendly location in Europe isn’t too hard – you will just need to conduct a little research on which locales have amenities specifically for families. London, for example, offers a dedicated kid-friendly section on their website; likewise, France also calls out family-friendly content front and center on their home page.

4) Make Sure Your Family Understands the Language & Culture

Cultural norms and languages vary from country to country, and can even differ from town to town throughout Europe. To ensure that your family is prepared, teach them some of the common phrases, manners and norms of the area you’re visiting. If one of your children gets split up from the group, how will he know how to ask for directions and navigate streets?

5) Save on Data

It’s no doubt your smartphone has become a main tool of navigation and communication for the members of your party. Just so you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for international data costs, encourage your kids to use wi-fi when available, as well as Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime as a cost-friendly way to stay in touch with each other. Maybe the most effective tactic would be to limit phone time to emergency-only use. Visiting Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience after all – you and your family should actually experience it in real life. If those options don’t work, there are also international data plans that will help you save on roaming charges.

6) Connect & Reflect

Kids have a tendency to forget things. To ensure the significance of a trip to Europe doesn’t go over their heads, have them keep a journal or diary of their day-to-day activities. Encourage them to record everything they’re experiencing, from the sights that they see, to the people that they interact with and the words that they learn. They may not be keen on the idea in the moment, but they will thank you later when they have a journal full of travel memories.

Best Family-Friendly Places in Europe

Now that you’re armed with some traveling tips, you’re probably itching to choose a family-friendly location for your upcoming vacation. Here are some of our favorite places for families to travel in Europe.

Paris, France

Paris is a spectacular city with plenty of affordable family activities. Simply wandering around the streets, avenues and town squares will offer plenty of exposure to the local culture, including street vendors, performers and painters, historic monuments, and gorgeous scenery.

The summer is an especially nice time to visit Paris, when the city gets a beach. Paris-Plages (Paris Beaches) is a plan run by the office of the mayor of Paris that creates temporary artificial beaches each summer along the river Seine in the center of Paris, and along the Bassin de la Villette in the northeast of Paris. These are the perfect place to layout in the sun and take a dip in the nearby pools during the hot months.

Another added benefit to visiting the City of Lights with your family is seeing the famous museums; the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay and many other museums in the city are free for kids up to 18 years old, with many also offering student deals to those a little older. It’s also free to tour the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.  There is a small fee to climb the tower stairs at Notre Dame, but perched among the stone gargoyles, you’ll have an incredible view of the city.

If you’re traveling to Paris with small children, you may be delighted to know that there is a Disneyland located in the city. In many ways, Euro Disney has been adapted to suit European families and their cultural sensibilities, giving a delightful twist on an American classic that can be well worth the day trip.

London, England

As one of the oldest and largest cities in Europe, London offers endless amounts of activities for every family. A trip to London could last a few days or an entire year – and you still couldn’t fit in all of fun things to do. From fashion and music to finance and politics, London is a gorgeous city, so you want to try to experience all of the best things while you’re there.

If you’re travelling to London during the summer, something you must do with your family is the London eye, an iconic riverside ferris wheel located on the South Bank of the River Thames. You’ll witness stunning views from high above the city, and when you’re done, enjoy food from one of the many local vendors. Tickets can be purchased at a discount online, starting at £18.95 for children and £23.45 for adults for a 30-minute rotation.

Another great family-friendly activity is the London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Major attractions include the Lion Lodge, where you can sleep over at the park, the aquarium hallways, which makes you feel like you’re underwater, or let your kids feed the giraffes, monkeys and birds and watch their faces glow with wonder.

Try traveling the Chunnel of taking a EuroStar train to travel between Paris and London. With the ease and accessibility, you can see both stunning cities in the same day!

And what would a trip to London be without learning a little bit of history? Visit iconic buildings like Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge to marvel at some of the most famous architectural structures in the world. Wherever you go within the city, you’ll always find something amazing.

The French Alps

When you think of the French Alps, winter villages, intimidating ski runs and hot cocoa probably come to mind. However, the area can be even more fun during the summer, with unmatched outdoor activities like alpine hiking, swimming and biking.

If you’re travelling with young children, consider heading to Chamonix, France. It’s an adequately-sized town that has plenty of activities for visiting families. If the heat is getting to you and want to take a dip, head to Lac de Passy which reaches the perfect temperature during the summer, and it’s only a 30-minute drive from the town.

If your children are a bit older, you may score some brownie points by taking them to Tignes, which recently opened a mountain biking park and cross-country ski tracks with difficulty levels from green to double black. There’s even a resort right on the grounds for easy access to and from the park.

Of course, among all the things a trip to the French Alps offers, hiking remains one of the most popular activities – and for good reason. Surrounded by picturesque views, you will see the unique features and faces that make this mountainous region so famous. And you don’t have to be Bear Grylls to see it, either. There are a number of gondolas, chairlifts and cable cars that transport sightseers up and down the mountainsides so they can view the jagged peaks. Additionally, there are fantastic day walks that can be done from many main resorts, and guided tours available in most places.

Florence, Italy

As the birthplace of the Renaissance and once kingdom of the Medici family, Florence is home to some of the world’s most significant art and architecture. The city contains dozens of museums and art galleries that have influenced the fields of art, culture and politics alike. If you want to inspire a lifetime of memories for the entire family, take them to one of the most artistically-important cities in the world.

During summer, a peak tourist time, try the Oltrarno district, located across the river from the Ponte Vecchio. It’s normally less crowded, which is great for families with children. The area offers vendors serving up local cuisine, picnicking spots in the Boboli Gardens and musical performances in the Palazzo Pitti courtyard.

And, of course, you can’t visit Florence without visiting the Duomo. This is the city’s most prized architectural treasure, a grand cathedral toured by thousands of tourists every day. Your family will marvel at the breathtaking size, gorgeous dome and detailed design; something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Zakynthos Island, Greece

This island tucked away on the southwest side of Greece in the Ionian Sea is a popular summer vacation destination. With several popular beaches featuring white sand, crystal-clear blue water and sheer limestone cliffs, many families head to this island getaway for much-needed rest and relaxation.

Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, is an exposed cove on the coast of the island, and is the location of a famous shipwreck of the freightliner the MV Panagiotis. The ship was left there and still rests partially buried on the edge of the beach. Tourists can access the island by boat to explore the area and take photographs.

Another thing tourist families love to do while they’re visiting Zakynthos is to visit the town of Kalamaki, which is a nesting place for the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The turtles are most active during the summer and can be seen from both boats and the shore – they may even come up to you and say hello!

Best of Luck Traveling with Your Family in Europe!

Now that you know the best travel tips and family-friendly locations, you’re ready to plan your trip. Whether you choose to visit the famous museums of Paris, the sleepy summer mountain towns of the Alps or the warm sandy beaches of Zakynthos Island, Europe has something that every family member will enjoy.

Cheers to your upcoming trip!

Restaurant France

Why you should stay with a family in France

From guest blogger Elise! See her earlier post “How a Séjour en France Can Change Your Life” 

Why you should stay with a family in France

When I first decided to go abroad to France, it didn’t actually register that I would be living with host families. It wasn’t until after I received my location, the small village of Ploërmel in Bretagne, learned about my new school, and had to write my first introductory letter to my new “parents” that I realized that I was about to step into the real lives of other people. If you are anything like me, this reality made me a little nervous. But while it may seem daunting to live with a family different from your own, the fear and any negatives are far outweighed by the positives of such an adventure.

Language acquisition

Living with a host family is one of the best ways to become fluent in your target language. Being fluent is not just about correct grammar, and an extensive vocabulary. Fluency requires an in-depth knowledge of colloquial expressions, cultural nuance, and accent. All of these come naturally when living with a host family. Host brothers and sisters make sure that you are using trending expressions. Younger siblings have an innocent yet direct way of correcting the way you pronounce words and parents are quick to offer alternative ways of saying otherwise delicate things. As you spend time with locals, you’ll naturally begin to imitate the way they speak which eventually leads to a loss of your own American accent. By the time I left France, strangers didn’t actually know where I was from! They would start talking to me and then a cloudy look would come across their face. “Et d’où viens-tu mademoiselle?” “And where are you from, miss?” they’d say. To this day, I get a certain amount of pleasure of asking them in return where they think I’m from. People have all sorts of explanations for my accent- “you must come from the north of France,” “maybe Belgium,” “oh I know, one parent is Swiss, and the other German.” To see the looks on their faces when I tell them that I was born in the United States to parents who didn’t speak any French at all, was the best!

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Relationships

Living with a host family is by far the easiest way to become part of a community. When you are in a new place, there is nothing more intimidating than knowing no one and having to make all new friends. Staying with a host family helps a lot! Their friends become your acquaintances, if not your best friends. Their social calendar becomes your social calendar. On the second day of my year in France, my host family arranged for me to spend time with the friends of their daughter who was studying in the United States at the time. On day two, you can only imagine how poor my French was but somehow I got through the day and came away with some new friends! I got to know other people during my year but my first friends remained my best friends– and those are friendships I still hold dear.

Personal Growth

Being a part of a local family meant an amazing opportunity for participation in local cultural events. I joined my host family for Friday evening community dances, Red Cross fundraising events, and my host dad even ran for mayor. At 16, I had a front row seat to local French politics! How thrilling! For holidays, I joined the family for their traditional celebrations which included dinners that lasted 4-5 hours and many delicacies that were new for me. I experienced life at their rhythm and pace. This inevitably left me to reflect on my experience. I spent a lot of time thinking about differences and similarities between me and them, between Americans and the French. Perhaps, one of my fondest memories in my host family were the conversations I had with my host dad each evening. We would spend an hour or two after dinner discussing events of the day, and world news. We talked a lot about nothing and everything all at the same time. I was surprised by the number of similarities between our two cultures. And perhaps more importantly, I learned to laugh at our differences as opposed to 1) fearing them or 2) assuming my own superiority. People and cultures should never be subjected to a ranking system, but despite their differences, can co-exist harmoniously.

I don’t pretend to suggest that living with a family abroad doesn’t come with its own difficulties but every time I think back on my experience in France, I am reminded of how essential the home stay was in developing me as a person. It’s worth it.

Until next time… A bientôt!

Bienvenue Ismaïl !

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Meet Ismaïl, VIE’s 2017 Intern from France!

Ismail

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF…

I am a 22-year-old business student. I was born in Morocco and grew up in a suburb south of Paris.

During the last year of my bachelor’s degree, I had the opportunity to study and live in London for 6 months. It was truly a life-changing experience. I particularly enjoyed sharing an apartment with 7 roommates from all over the world. This experience made me realize how important it is to discover other cultures and languages.

 

atlas

So here I am, starting my 6-month internship at Vistas In Education, living in the United States for the first time and more importantly, taking part in this amazing project aiming at bringing different cultures closer together.

LET’S TALK TRAVEL!

You have spent a big part of your life traveling, what keeps drawing you towards travel?
I enjoy experiencing different ways of life. Traveling enriches my own lifestyle because it allows me to develop new habits, to see the world from a new perspective and to challenge my own way of thinking.

Which region in France is your favorite and why?

C215 - Vitry - Avenue Guy Moquet - Octobre 2010I would definitely say Paris and especially the Parisian suburbs where I grew up. The suburbs have
a very multicultural identity and street art is everywhere. Vitry sur Seine, my home town, is called ‘la capitale du street art’. The municipality offers spots to young artists to express their talent in the streets and to contribute to the beauty of the city they live in. One of them is the internationally renowned stencil artist C215.

C215 – Vitry – Avenue Guy Moquet – Octobre 2010

What is one of your fondest travel memories?stencil3
It was 2 years ago, when I went to a small city in Germany called Karlsruhe. It is not a famous city, people were very simple yet particularly welcoming and therefore made my trip unforgettable.

What area do you consider the world’s “best hidden gem”?
The Atlas Mountains in Morocco for the incredible landscapes.

 

c215

FUN FACTS COUNTDOWN

5 words to describe you?
Curious, foodie, calm, accommodating, ambitious

4 hobbies?
Cinema, photography, traveling, writing

3 obsessions?
YouTube videos, lasagna, chinese collar shirts

2 favorite places?
Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris for the architecture and La Croix Valmer in the south of France for its beautiful beaches.

1 secret?
I am shy… but shhh, it is a secret. 


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Ismaïl with his Host Family upon arriving in Minnesota. He had the double good luck of arriving on a Friday the 13th and the coldest day of the year — bienvenue !

 

 

How a Séjour en France Can Change Your Life

Meet our guest blogger, Elise!  We asked her to share her story of French adventures, which all started with a Family Stay as a teenager.

« Douce France                                                                  “Sweet France
Cher pays de mon enfance                                              Dear country of my childhood
Bercée de tendre insouciance                                         Cradled in tender carelessness
Je t’ai gardée dans mon cœur »                                       I have kept you in my heart”

Charles Tenet, 1943

I didn’t actually spend my childhood in France, but in high school I was a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and spent my junior year in a lycée in Brittany, France. Staying with a family was an incredible experience, which I will discuss more in a future blog post, on its own; it also motivated me to study abroad in France, an experience that changed my life.

Like a master key that unlocks all doors, learning French revealed for me cultures and peoples all around the globe. 

French is the official language of 29 countries.  Its romantic overtures have been weaved into music and works of art for centuries. As a language of diplomacy, luxury, love, and fashion, knowing French has considerably broadened my horizons and deepened my understanding of the world around me. At university, I studied Political Science but was interested in expanding the scope of my studies beyond the political status quo in “the West.”

Because I had learned French, I was able to spend 6 months in West Africa analyzing international development in the country of Mali.

I was fortunate to spend several weeks with a club of mothers in the town of Segu where I faced the realities of colonialism and global poverty. Working alongside the mothers, I experienced the triumphs and pitfalls of women’s empowerment projects.

French Flag

Safe Travels in France, A Parent’s Perspective

A Daughter’s Travels to France

We wanted to share the following message sent to us by a mother in Ohio whose daughter traveled with her teacher and VIE this past summer.

I was a bit apprehensive to have my daughter travel to France. First of all I hate to fly and the thought of her flying over the ocean freaked me out. And secondly, with the crazy stuff going on in the world, I was concerned and had second and even third thoughts about if she should really go. I cannot believe how many people were less than positive about her traveling to France.

Nevertheless, she went. I only got the brief highlights at first but I understood right away that this was a first-rate tour. The transportation was very nice, the hotels were nice, the tours were very good. The number of places the kids got to visit in France was incredible.
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We were nervous for her stay with a French family and our daughter was concerned about speaking French. However, throughout the six-day family stay, she had an incredible experience. Her French host sister was super sweet. They were extremely well matched and when they parted, she gave my daughter a journal with all kinds of information about what they had done during the visit. She had photos of the two of them, brochures from visits, and things written in both English and French about their time together as well as notes from all family members. She also included a CD of pictures and videos. My daughter said she had several “favorite” experiences and the home stay was definitely at the top of the list. 

 

French Flower

Due to my apprehension going in, I wanted to write a note about the trip as I’m sure there are other parents who may have apprehensions too.  This was such a wonderful opportunity and experience for my daughter. I’m so thankful I didn’t change my mind about letting her go.  Great trip!!! Thank you!

Family Stays

You can learn more about Family Stays  at Vistas In Education! VIE has organized Family Stays throughout France for school groups of all sizes.  Students consistently tell us that learning about French family life and making a French friend their own age is the most valuable part of the trip!

Learn More Today! 

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