Anna: Le Voyage Incroyable
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to France, etc.
My name is Anna Kuertz and I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am 21 years old and currently in university. Being the youngest of 4 children, I thought I would take it upon myself to be the only child to not only spend a semester studying abroad, but an entire 2 years! I spent my first 2 years of university in North Carolina and in August 2013 moved to France to finish my last 2 years of studies. My university in France is in Reims, the center of the champagne region, but I have also had the pleasure of living in Grenoble, in the heart of the French Alps, for the past 6 months for an internship.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I came up with the idea to start blogging about 9 months before I left for France. I wanted a way to document my experiences and share them with friends and family back in the States. I spent several months figuring out what my blog would look like and then began posting about two weeks before I left for France.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Two of my favorite posts are Unlucky…Yet Thankful and Catching Up. ‘Unlucky…Yet Thankful’ was written on Thanksgiving 2013. I wrote it after having taken an unintended hiatus from blogging and it is more of a reflective and heartfelt piece. It’s a nice reminder of why I love France and why I moved here. ‘Catching Up’ was also written after a break from blogging and it has a more lighthearted, funny tone to it. I like to remember even the most stressful and challenging, experiences in a positive and fun light. I want to be able to look back and laugh at all the crazy things that have happened to me on this journey so far, and I think ‘Catching Up’ will definitely be a post to laugh at again and again.
Tell us about the ways your new life in France differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I am still adjusting to life in France. Everyday seems to bring new challenges and adventures. It was definitely a huge adjustment when I first arrived from the simplest of things, like grocery shopping, to bigger things, like health insurance. One of the major changes was using public transportation and walking everywhere. The United States are so large that even living in a city, typically, requires you to own a car. I was so accustomed to driving everywhere and having the freedom to jump in my car whenever I wanted to. Now I rely on public transportation and it has definitely caused me to become more relaxed and flexible. I think I will still be learning the ways of France no matter how long I live here, but I definitely have felt more comfortable and at home as the time has gone on.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in France? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Prepared is probably not the word I would use to describe myself arriving in France. I had no idea what I was in for in regards to school, living, speaking the language, making friends, all of it. Language wise, I was the farthest things from prepared. I had done very little studying of the language before I arrived and speaking with native French speakers is so much different than learning grammar and vocabulary in a classroom. So, if I could do something different, it would be to have known more French before arriving. Everything else couldn’t really be prepared for.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
This is one of my first stories from France and it’s from a blog post I wrote when I first arrived. Keep in mind my French was extremely minimal and I was struggling with the jet lag. Here is an excerpt, but you can read the whole post here.
Once I arrived I headed for customs and was beyond proud of myself when asked, in French, if I was coming for vacation and responded that I was here for school. The agent understood me and my confidence soared, only then to be crushed when he asked me another question and my respond included a smile, eyes the size of bowling balls, and a quiet "Pardon?". He then proceeded to ask me in English only after chuckling to himself. Oh well, my goal next time I go to the airport is to be able to answer two questions in French when going through customs. It's always nice to have goals.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in France?
- Go with the flow – most things probably won’t work out the way you wanted them to, but I have always found that everything always works out, and most times better than I ever expected.
- Speak – do your best to talk to locals and make friends. People are interested in your story and want to share theirs. It makes learning the language, as well as learning about the culture and the people so much more interesting and exciting.
- Look at the small things – the small things in everyday life are really the ones that make the biggest difference. Enjoy that pastry from the tiny bakery down the street or smile at the adorable children walking to school. All those little things teach you about the country and culture and can make the hardest of days the most memorable.
How is the expat community in France? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expats I’ve met in France have all been wonderful. The fact that you share being an expat automatically brings you together and it is so comforting to know others are going through the same feelings, struggles, and adventures that you are. No one else, no matter how hard they try, can understand what being an expat is like, except for another expat. You’ll quickly learn to rely on each other and it becomes this great community.
How would you summarize your expat life in France in a single, catchy sentence?
Every struggle, every belly laugh, every new country, every new culture, every new friend, every self-discovery, has happened for a reason and World! I’m ready for you to teach me more, and continue making this amazing journey of mine even more incredible!