One week down?! It feels like only 2 minutes ago that I was stumbling off the train in the dark, absolutely exhausted after nearly 30 long, lonely hours of travel. With a week of classes now under my belt I can already feel my French improving immeasurably! I never appreciated just how much being surrounded by the French language would help to get the gears in my head turning.
I will admit, getting to Vichy wasn't the easiest feat. After travelling by plane for 24 hours the thought of having more travel ahead of me once I arrived in Paris was more than a little daunting. A few trains later and after a lot of dragging a suitcase up and down stairs, I was finally seated on my last train en route to Vichy. Having a 3 hour ride ahead of me, I took full advantage of my large, comfy seat and decided to get some sleep to recuperate. Before I knew it, I had finally arrived at what would be my home for the next 4 weeks. To say I was nervous would be possibly the biggest understatement of the decade. This was easily the biggest and scariest thing I had ever done and here I was diving head first into it! And honestly, those nerves were for nothing! Before I knew it I was in class, making friends and feeling right at home. As someone who is most comfortable in routine, starting classes instantly soothed any nerves I had and made me feel in control of the situation again.
To decide which class we would be placed in, we started Monday morning with a grading test to determine our level of French. There was such a range of students here from those who spoke no French to those who had been speaking it their whole lives! It was so interesting to talk to everyone and find out where they were from and what they studied. We had a small break after our test and to help defrost our fingers we had some coffees and hot chocolates. Classes commenced shortly after and were over in a flash! To end our first day, there was a walking tour of Vichy organised by CAVILAM to give all the students an introduction to the town. Despite being much colder than anyone had expected, it was amazing! Everywhere you looked you were surrounded by stunning French architecture and culture unlike anything you could ever find back home in Australia. From the churches to the appartments, to the casino building from 1845, everything felt so special. Even the trees seemed fancier solely because they're French!
The rest of the week has flown by in a blur of class, chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) and plenty of pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants). To end our first week, we were surprised with snow! Despite being freezing cold all week there had been no snow in sight until now. During our Friday morning class a little flutter of snow was noticed and before we knew it everything was white! Unfortunately the ground isn't cold enough yet for the snow to stick around for very long but with temperatures of -13°C forecast for next week I think it's very likely we could be living in a winter wonderland before we know it.
And so just like that, the first week of the biggest trip of my life is over! To celebrate, an evening of hot, mulled wine with the other students is waiting for me. Vichy already feels like a second home to me so I can't even begin to imagine how I'm going to feel at the end of this month. I'm so excited for everything that is still yet to come but for now…
A tout à l’heure!