France: A Day in Carcassonne

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As I’ve been really, really bad about starting on this blog, I’m going to offer a basic overview of how things have been going in the…. god, has it been over a month and a half already?  since I got to Montpellier.
I got to Montpellier on January 2, with a horde of other students in the University of Minnesota program (ironically, there are exactly… four of us from the University of Minnesota.  The rest of us are from all over the place, although, I think I might be the only one from a university south of the Mason-Dixon Line).  We spent the night at a hotel, then headed out to the university the next day for placement tests and an explanation of how the Université Paul Valéry (also known as the Université Montpellier 3) worked.  That evening, we were either taken to our appartments or introduced to our host families, as was the case for me.  The next day was dedicated to selecting our classes and trying to figure out how Montpellier operated, and Sunday was a free day.  Classes started on Monday.
On the plus side:  I believe I have the best host family ever.  Period.  I know host families.  I understand how they work.  I’ve been on both sides of the equation more than once, as my family has hosted exchange students, and I have been hosted by families as part of the two other exchange programs I did in high school.  The Dequéker family may be as close to the ideal as you can get.  They’re incredibly nice, and they actually seem to want to spend time with me.  My host mother has threatened to adopt me.  There’s nothing that beats a host family that genuinely wants you to be there.
On the down side:  The Université Paul Valéry may just be the most disorganized organization that I have ever seen, and that’s saying something.  Signing up for classes was a nightmare, because here?  Nothing is settled until the absolute last minute.  Students in my program are participating in integrated classes, meaning we’re in there with the French students, so if the teachers don’t feel like posting details such as, oh, final exam dates, we don’t know them either.  It’s irritating.  And every exchange student feels this was- that includes the German and Dutch exchange students that I’ve talked to as well.
Still, being here has been overwhelmingly positive.  I love Montpellier.  It’s a beautiful city, and it’s so rich in history.  Speaking in French everywhere I go has been a really good way for me to practice.
So, last weekend, I went to Carcassonne with one of my American classmates, a girl named Katherine.  We may have had just a little too much fun at the Château Comtal, but for two medieval nuts, it was well worth it!

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