I first heard of this program 2 years ago, I saw this poster with pink details in the Arts and Sciences Building, TC and it immediately ignited a spark in me that inspired me to take up French for my FOLA 1 and a year after that I then saw the poster again at the DHM Department. I was even more determined to grab that scholarship more than anything. The requirements were pretty simple, all you have to do was to get a grade not lower than 1.7 in French and you have to be enrolled in any program/degree offered by USC. After that, you have to write a short letter of intention of why you’re interested in the program and have it noted by your department chair and attach your official print-out of grades highlighting your grade in French, and that’s just what I did. Sadly, I didn’t make it the first try because I got delayed in applying so I tried again the following year. It was my dream you see and letting it go would be like passing a day’s breath. So I never gave up and tried again the year after that and with the grace of God I was chosen for the scholarship in France and I drifted to a state of bliss and I can feel a sparkle of excitement rising through me like a fountain. One thing I learned was that if you want something bad enough you shouldn’t give up on it that easily, never!
The Scholarship program was all expense paid by the French Embassy which includes the accommodation, food, plane tickets, transportation, tours, the fee to study in Alliance Francaise Rouen and 200 Euro worth of allowance. When I first heard about it, I could not believe my eyes that someone like me would be granted this kind of blessing. I kept asking if this was really true or am I just dreaming while awake? But it was real, everything was, and it was awesome…
We rode the Cathay Pacific going to Hong Kong for a lay over there for about 9 freakin hours!!
I just love the Cathay Pacific plane. It was so neat and modern like it was still so new.
I got bored on the plane since I had no one to talk to and diverted my attention to watching Glee instead.
After 2 hours of flight... Hong Kong at last!
Boy! Their airport was humongous and they had free wifi! Walking from one terminal to the next would be like light years away so we had to take their express transport, it was like a train but with very less seats.
The airport back in the Philippines doesn't even stand a chance with their infrastructure. Looking at how modern things are there, it makes me feel like a cave man.
Since I had to wait for 9 hours for my next flight. I didn't want to be stuck in the airport so I did a little exploring in the city of Hong Kong.
Look at all the Chinese people going about their own way..
Sorry, I can't translate that to you even though I may have studied Chinese when I was younger but I didn't really pay attention to class so "mi no entiendes"
9 hours went by so fast and it was time to hop aboard Air France. If you ask me, the Cathay Pacific plane was much nicer and newer than the Air France and our flight took 12 hours!!!!! The seat was so uncomfortable since it was in the economy class and there was not enough space for my legs to stretch around. I wasn't able to take enough rest at that time. Good thing we were served meals after every 5 hours. hmmm..
Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport.. IT was just as huge as the airport in Hong Kong. I even got lost and I only got to access their WiFi for 15 minutes after that it comes with a fee! hmpf!
I wonder where my huge luggage is?! Can you help me find it?
By the time I arrived in the train station in Rouen, France – I was greeted with a woman holding a placard with my name on it and I immediately knew it was Chantal Coiffe, my host family for one whole month. Below is a picture of her and a part of her lovely apartment.
She then gave me a tour in Rouen, the capital city in Haute-Normandie. The city is 70 minutes away from Paris by train and it is known for its soft cheese, cider, and gothic cathedrals. It was also the city where Joan of Arc was burned to the stake. The photo below is near the Gros Horloge, the heart of the city with extravagant shops like Hermes, Zara, H&M all lined up for a little feast for the eyes.
This is an ideal starting point for any visitor to take a short stroll away from all the main sights of Rouen including its gothic cathedrals, museums, and their boutiques. You’ll surely enjoy the beautifully-designed buildings of the city under sheltering French sky with the cold temperature seeping through your skin even with your jacket on.
An experience here is indeed nothing less than artistry, you see style at every corner and every view was like a picture waiting to be taken. With its clean streets and medieval designed houses I was left at awe gawking around because it was not the usual scene that I would see back in my homeland.
The trees with yellow and red leaves add a dash of freshness and color to the crisp Autumn air.
The people here really enjoy long walks and they walk so fast like a hundred miles an hour. The weather in Rouen is always rainy and there was a time when it dropped to 0°C most often smoke would come out of your mouth when you talk out of the coldness of the temperature. There was a time when they were passing the winter season and they had to shift from the daylight saving time. That means they minus an hour to their time to welcome the winter season and then its goodbye summer time.
The first week there was a real challenge, all the words were such a blur, they were speaking French so fast and it was very hard and tough trying to communicate with them since we were also not allowed to speak English in school and the French are not really big on the idea on aspiring to be fluent in English. They love their language and they want the people to learn their language and not the other way around.
My classes there were 5 hours a day. It usually starts at 9 am to 3:30 pm. For the first week I was lucky to be able to join their “A week of taste” Atelier Thematique. With the pictures below, we made some “Pâté” for the bread.
“à la fête du ventre” de Rouen, the festival where people were celebrating the week of taste and were selling all kinds of foods from Normandie: chocolates, wines, cheese and sometimes there were also free taste.
One time during the week, we tried the different types of cheese from France (Neufchatel, Camembert, Livarot, and Pont l’Eveque). My favourite was the Neufchatel since it was not as strong smelling as the others. The cider wines and the apples were really good as well.
For one time, Patissiere Arnaud taught us how to make French Macarons. There were very delicate since they would break easily so one has to be very careful on making them. The ones we made were delicious and very colourful. It was a very memorable experience since it was my first to make them along with my Cosmopolitan classmates. A mix of different races – Japanese, Arab, Australian and yours truly, a Filipino.
Part of the program was the museum visits like the Musee de la Ceramique, Musee de Feronnerie, Musee Beaux Arts just to name a few. It showcases exquisite ceramics, paintings, and metal works from the times way back 300 years ago.
I don’t know if you can call it lucky or my host family was just kind enough to take me to “Etretat” where we ate the French moules and to take in the beautiful works of God. It was like the scenes that came out of the movie which reminds me of the films I used to watch when I was a kid. It’s a place where artists come to find inspiration, to realize their dream and to entertain their fantasies. It’s very beautiful. Enough said.
One of the most popularly visited places in Normandy, France is Mont St. Michel. Voila! The Minas Tirith Castle from Lord of the Rings was said to have been inspired by Mont St. Michel. It was built in the middle ages so you can imagine how it sustains the romance of its medieval foundations. It is also famous for its Omelette by La Mere Poulard. It’s a bit pricey but it can also wake up your taste buds.
We also visited Parc Asterix with the Russian group, the park was named after a famous French comic series called “Asterix”. It has loads of crazy rides where you can feel your stomach twirl.
Another thing I love about France is the people, they’re not as rude as I thought they would be but it’s rather the contrary. They are very endearing, fun-loving and affectionate people. Although knowing that you’re a foreigner when you start talking to them in English they would reply in French but when you would start talking in French they would reply in English. It’s quite funny and weird. But I admire the French culture, language and their expression like the “Bisous”. I find it rather cute when they kiss each other in the cheeks, even the guys do that with one another. One thing’s for sure though, I’m very thankful that I’ve met such wonderful people in France, the experience was unforgettable and I would cherish it for as long as I’m alive and well. The picture below was a lunch date at Pascaline together with my classmates and with our funny teacher, Laurent (the guy on the right wearing a scarf). Our teacher decided to have a lunch date together the day before Linjie and I left Rouen. In hindsight, I’m still retrospecting about my experience there, it’s rather nostalgic.
France is an enchanting point of departure for cultural and epicurean exploration, it is where the French food speaks for itself and that’s certainly what placed France in the culinary map. Their food is so good with lots of cheese and herbs and it’s perfect when you pair it with wine. The French really love food and their experts with it. You don’t call France the center of gastronomy for nothing.
Of course, a visit to France is not complete if you would not go to Paris, the city of lights. Its burgeoning cosmopolitan is bright and clean, 24 hours a day. It’s such a beautiful city that it makes you want to take pictures all the time because you don’t want to miss a single moment of it and every time you take pictures the outcomes are always so lovely, full of style and inspirational.
The thing about Paris on why they called it the city of lights is that they use different colors of lights to give a romantic ambience to the whole city and if you happen to arrive in Paris at night by plane it’s as though the constellations are underneath you. Everything you’re looking for is all packed in this beautiful city.
When we went to Paris, my friend and I decided to take in some culture so we went to the Louvre museum. Displayed here is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and other century old paintings. The biggest painting in the Louvre is the “Wedding at Cana”, the horizontal length of the painting is an astounding 10 meters and it reaches about 15 ft. high.
Every moment is truly treasurable here - Ten times over!