Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lesson 15: Coping with Europe Withdrawals

So you've been back in the states for about a week. You've had seven days to relish in the glory that is air conditiong, Taco Bell, capitalism, and having a car again. And then suddenly you find yourself mindlessly staring at your tv, WANTING TO BE BACK IN EUROPE. It's terrible. I mean you can't just pack up and go, not yet anyway. You're a poor, overworked college student. So, how do you deal with it? Reunions of course!!

Make an event on Facebook and invite all your American friends that studied with you. Rotate whose place it's at each time, unless some of you live in a frat or sorority. Because that would just be retarded. Anyway, try to get together a few times a semester and party like you did in Europe.

Me, Parker, Madeline, Brandon, and Diana

Well, maybe not quite as much. Those Europeans love to party...especially the Irish. Their stereotype is kind of true. But that's why we love them! They're always fun to be around.

Danielle, Me, and Amy

 However, you shouldn't ever drink as much as you did over there because, let's face it people, this is America...we don't walk everywhere.  Anyway, bust out some bubbly, blast the rap music, and reminisce on things.  Perhaps you can think of ways to get money to go back one day, who knows! That's what I want to do. Only this time it needs to be a vacation and not for school...just sayin.

Diana, Madeline, and Me

Try not to be too depressed. At least we have queso over here...and the occasional foreign exchange student. So, God save the Queen, Vive la France, Go Manchester United, and all that crap!

And more importantly...BOOMER SOONER.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lesson 14: Keeping Yourself Entertained on Train Rides

When you're traveling around for the weekend, trains are the best way to get anywhere. This is a new concept for most Americans, especially in the South. I mean we just don't really have great public transportation because everyone has cars. So, how the heck do you keep yourself entertained for 3+ hour journeys? Here are a few ideas...

1. Bring magazines and books - okay, this is obvious...but European magazines are kind of hilarious. Especially French ones because they put naked people in everything, even if it's not supposed to be a risqué magazine.

2. IPod - Now, I'm not talking just sit there and listen to your music. No, that's boring. Share your headphones with whoever is next to you and have an dance party. And don't stop until people look at you like you're insane, and the rest of your friends get embarrassed.

3. Pretend You're Going to Hogwarts - What comes to mind when you think of trains? Well, for me I think of Harry Potter. So yes, talk in your fake British accent about your upcoming quidditch match and how you hope Harry will ask you to the Yule Ball. Hopefully no real Brits will be on the train with you, because they'll think you're morons. But who cares?! You'll never see these people again. Avada Kadavera!!

4. Swap Crazy Stories - There's nothing quite like storytime with your new favorite people. So reveal those crazy ones, and come up with new things to do before you go home. After all, what happens in Europe stays in Europe....sometimes.

5. Flirt with the Train Conductor - Okay, sometimes it's fun to see who you can flirt with, whether it be the hottie sitting across from you, or the dude that checks your train ticket. Why not? Just remember: everyone sounds hot when they have an accent. Never confuse sounding hot with actually BEING hot.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lesson 13: Awkward Subjects

There are just some things that shouldn't be talked about in polite conversations. For us, this usually means religion and politics. I mean talking about it with friends is one thing, but class...ehhh, you probably shouldn't go there. Especially when it comes to abortion.

Well, the thing about French people is they're much more open to talking about these kinds of things. On my last day of class, my teacher decided to have us discuss the issue of abortion. People that know me know that I don't see the problem with it. Sure, people should use birthcontrol and all that, but crap happens. It's more selfish to bring a child into this world that you can't take care of, in my opinion.

My Godchild/ the only baby I actually like

But that's not really my point here. My point is I didn't know how to say a single damn word pertaining to this topic. I mean why on earth would I think about knowing how to talk about that in French? I sure as hell didn't think I'd be having to talk about it in a freaking classroom!

Naturally, everyone that said anything was against abortion. I'm pretty sure I had a disgusted look on my face because my teacher looked at me, smiled, and asked if I agreed with one of the older Arab men. And I was like hell no! Or at least that's what I wanted to say. But, I didn't. She asked me to explain, but all I could manage to figure out how to say was that sometimes people are too young and don't have any way to take care of a baby.

I wanted to be like "what if you were raped?"  But that was completely beyond my capability so I just sat there looking totally annoyed at everything this dude said. He kept babbling on about how people shouldn't be doing things that could get them pregnant. Seriously? We all know that isn't going to happen. It made me laugh, but I was so incredibly frustrated the rest of that day because I couldn't defend my point of view!! I cannot express how damn annoying it is to understand everything someone is saying and NOT be able to respond.


Then we had to go around and say if abortion is legal in our country. I was the only one that got to say yes. It was awkward. Someone asked me if it was legal in every state and  I was like uhhhh, yea I think so. I figured out later that I was wrong and felt retarded, but like why would I know that? I've never been knocked up so I have no reason to know this. Gahh, get with the program America. Why is it not legal in every state? How dare you make me look like an idiot! That's what I get for assuming we have every freedom on earth I guess.

I freaking hate politics. I don't like talking about it. It's annoying. But this might happen to you, so prepare yourself!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top 10 America Songs

Like I've said before, you will experience "America Withdrawals" toward the end of your trip. If you can't find any fast food or a liter of Coke, grab your laptop and Youtube these babies.

1. America, F*ck Yea! - from Team America  

2. Party in the USA - by Slutty, I mean, Miley Cyrus

3. American Girl - Tom Petty

4. American Honey - Lady Antebellum

5. American Woman - Lenny Kravitz

6. American Saturday Night - Brad Paisley

7. The Battle Hymn of the Republic (this one's for you, Jon) - uhh, someone dead?

8. Rock N' Me - Steve Miller Band

9. Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

10. American Pie - Don McLean

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lesson 12: French People

I've grown up hearing how much people hate France. I never understood it really. A lot of Americans kind of roll their eyes when the country's name gets mentioned simply because "they're just SO rude." My grandma always talked about how Paris was her least favorite place she ever visited because they were "mean and not helpful." As sweet as the woman is, she also used to refer to Japanese people as those "treacherous slant eyes" because of World War II, so I took what she said with a grain of salt.

Basically, I've always refused to believe that the rude French people stereotype is real....probably just because I'm obsessed with Chanel and Louis Vuitton, but whatevs. So, EARTH TO FREAKING AMERICA...the stupid stereotype ISN'T REAL!

Maybe it was because Vichy is a small town, but everyone was really nice. The people at the grocery store always asked how we were doing. All of my teachers were sweet. The guys at the kebab place always gave us free tea, and they didn't even get mad when I spilled an entire plate of fries on their floor. Oops! We even got free shots on my birthday from the French dude that owned the bar we were at in Geneva. And, when we all dressed up like obnoxious Americans and painted stars and flags on our bodies, no one even said anything rude.

You know, I went almost an entire month without encountering a single rude French person. Almost. Then we decided to go to Versailles. I've talked about the old douche at Versailles a little before, but let me tell you how this went down. It was Jon, Travis, Diana, Lauren and me. We were, obviously, taking pictures because how many times do you get to see the greatest palace ever built in the history of forever? Not very often. I was walking around like a dumbstruck idiot, getting distracted by all the sparkly chandeliers and gold crap. Out of nowhere, this crazy ass wrinkly trick just starts screaming in English at Diana. 

"Hey! I told you to turn off that flash an hour ago! HEY! YOU!"    

Keep in mind we had literally been inside maybe three minutes. This old hag thought that Diana was part of the group of high school students, who were predominately Asian, that she was giving a tour to.

Diana tried to explain to her that she was  mistaken but this fool wasn't having it.

"HEY! I know you speak more than one language! TURN OFF THAT FLASH. Quit disrespecting my country! You are in FRANCE!"

Wow.. thanks for the update, captain. I had no idea I wasn't at home!

Then Travis, who is usually quiet and polite, yells at the woman and tells her to lay off Diana. I don't think she understood this expression, but it left her mumbling and even more cranky. So, it was a success. It really pissed me off because a) her yelling made everyone stare at us   b) we didn't know we couldn't use the flash  c) I almost made it out of Europe without encountering a douchebag

All in all, I guess one rude ass out of how many ever people we were around isn't that bad. I'd probably be mean too if I were 65 and giving tourists tours of Versailles. Oh well.

I still love France.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lesson 11: In Yo Suitcase and Other Ramblings

I hate packing. Especially for trips that are longer than a weekend, a. because it's annoying and b. because I'm lazy. You gotta have clothes, makeup, phone chargers, the laptop blah blah blah. The list goes on and on. But when you're peacing out to Europe you also need an ADAPTER in that suitcase. This is probably fairly obvious to most of you, but ya never know.

There are many types of adapters out there. Some probably suck more than others, and they usually look like this....

Mine, however, didn't because RadioShack is worthless and they made me buy crap I didn't really need. I had this bulky ass thing that plugged into a thing that looked like the rounded 2-prong converter in the picture.

OU study abroad likes to tell people to go to RadioShack. Don't listen to these fools. These stores usually have greasy looking employees that most likely dropped out of high school. I'm just sayin. They suck balls.

Also, make sure to pay attention to the dang sockets on your adapter. Most of them are two pronged which can be a slight (and by slight, I mean HUGE) problem if your laptop charger HAS THREE PRONGS!!! Fortunately I realized this the night before I peaced out to France, so I could correct the problem. Little did I know that my laptop would refuse to charge, would not get internet service, and slowly die. But that is another tale. Never buy an ASUS laptop.


Thank God I was able to exchange the p.o.s when I returned to the states. I almost got desperate enough to fly to London just to go to Bestbuy. Seriously, you do not wanna have to borrow people's computers all the time. It's super obnoxious and you might stumble upon things you don't want to know about....

I'd recommend going to the Elephant Trunk. I'm pretty sure they have adapters. However, their travel flat irons don't France at least. And if you have a Chi don't try to use it'll fry. But if you're in France, Monoprix has cheap flat irons that are decent! Buy one so you don't have to walk around looking like a street urchin. I tried that for a week before I flipped out and decided I HAD TO find a damn flat iron.

Derrick, my ghetto fab unfixed hair, and Jennifer
Also, don't forget an umbrella! It rains a lot more over there than it does here in the south. Be sure to check and see if wherever you're staying provides bedding (usually will), hangers, and towels (not likely).

And don't forget your passport anywhere!!! You don't want that puppy getting sold on the black market.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lesson 10: La Nourriture

Food. There is nothing better on this planet, aside from lying in the bed chamber all day, than food. Food in Europe can be delicious, and it can be questionable. If you learn not a word of the language in the country you're staying, at least know the God foresaken words for food.

Europeans like to eat weird horses and bunnies. Derrick actually ate a rabbit while we were there to try something new. I commend him on this, I mean not many people over here can say they've eaten it. Unfortunately, I have a weak stomach and meat chunks gross me out for the most part. That rabbit looked like Starkist tuna with random green things in it, and smelled equally as vile. He liked it though!

Anyway, I recommend knowing the names of nasty foods so you don't accidentally eat them and want to die. I ordered a seafood pasta in Marseille and there was a baby squid just chillin' there on the side of my lovely dish. Like seriously? Are we in Japan? I should have expected it though, we were practically on the French Riviera. Naturally, I gave the nasty little succubus to Derrick and he had a grand old time with it.

Let me just say it - I like American food better. Why you ask? It has FLAVOR. The food in Switzerland = bomb. The food in France = not so much. Don't get me wrong, they have some amazing stuff - like cheese, omelettes, macaroons, ice cream, kebabs, etc.  All of their desserts are to die for. But, when it comes to real meals...well, nothing can satisfy me quite like Olive Garden and Taco Bueno/Bell.

Another thing against Europe, no one knew what queso was.

 NO ONE KNEW. Seriously, how in the name of all that is holy can one live without QUESO? People were just like...queso? What? Like Spanish for cheese? NO, you melted cheesy goodness used as a dip for tortilla chips!!! I was dumb founded. America is the greatest country on earth if not only for the fact that we invented queso.

When you think of American food, most people think of McDonald's.

 The vile, carb loading, fake meat using restaurant chain full of booger nosed children and pedophiles. Well, at least that's my impression of it here. It's nasty....except in Europe. McDonald's there is actually, good! I know, shocking right? It tastes like real food and they have real desserts. It was delicious. When you're studying abroad for awhile, you go through "America withdrawals." Out of nowhere, you'll crave a happy meal and Coke and start belting out "Party in the USA." This typically happens toward the last week of your stay. It can be remedied by a healthy dose of Micky D's. They also have Subway and KFC (so random) in bigger cities like Lyon and Paris. The America Withdrawals is a serious issue, friends. It will happen to you, even if you think it won't.

Oh, and the first thing you'll tell your mom when you land in Chicago and can call her?
"Have a mexi-dip and chips, no guac..extra queso and a taco with sour cream waiting for me at that airport."

Disclaimer: McDonald's in the US still sucks, unless you've had a bit too much bubbly. Then it's awesome.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lesson 9: Take Advantage of the Weekends

The point of study abroad is to see the world! Not to be shut in a classroom 5 hours a day all week. Some of us feel guilty about skipping class back at home (not me), but sometimes you need to ditch the goody goody act and LIVE!

It's not that hard to fit fabulous vacations into a short weekend because of those lovely things called trains. The teachers (in France, at least) are very understanding about letting you skip class to travel. Classes in Europe are pass/fail and the homework is optional (though they will sass you if you don't do it). It's quite fabulous really, aside from having to live off coffee to keep your attention span from dying throughout the long ass school days. Once you get to college, it's real hard to get used to being shut in a building for more than two hours again.

Anyway, tell the teacher when you're peacing out for a mini vacay, which should be every Friday if you're smart. They know that you paid gobs of money to go do fun stuff. I mean seriously, when are you going to be in Europe again? You don't know. So make the most of it.

Train Travel Tips
*Carte 12-25 - If you're in France and you want to travel to fab places like Paris, Marseille, etc. then you need this! The Carte is for people between the ages of 12-25, hence the name, and it gets you discounts of up to 60% on train tickets. It's about 50 euros and it's well worth it in the end!

*Don't forget to get your ticket composted at one of the rando machines in the station before boarding

Places We Went on the Weekends

Pros- really pretty, BEACHES!, Le Chateau D'If, really nice hostiles, amazing seafood, Nutella flavored ice cream
Cons - smelled like eggs in some areas, plethora of gross seagulls

Pros - Cooler weather, gorgeous, great shopping, CHOCOLATE, good bars, badass italian food, energy efficient hotels, the US dollar being worth slightly more than the Swiss franc, lots of British people, neat museums, wine tasting, every person you see is attractive, Voltaire's house
Cons - Um...nothing

Pros - Uh, it's PARIS!, shopping, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs-Elysees, Versailles, Moulin Rouge, and EVERYTHING ELSE
Cons -  The rude old French lady that gives Asian kids tours of Versailles. BEWARE. Oh, and don't use your flash on the camera because this douche will scream at you in English. She's senile.


 I loved everywhere that we went, but my fave was definitely Switzerland. It is the most badass country you will ever visit. I'll admit I was kind of disappointed at the thought of going there for my birthday (had my hopes up on Rome) but it was AWESOME! Keep in mind that it's hard to travel to countries that aren't really close by because then you have to take a plane and blah blah blah. It's too much effort, and too much money. Geneva and Paris are definite musts. I'll never understand why so many Americans hate Paris and think it's dirty. I didn't really see anything dirty? Then again, we were only there for one full day on the way back to the good ole US. As long as you attempt to speak in French then everyone is nice. Well, except that crackhead at Versailles but she was clearly mentally unstable.

So, get a group of your friends that are there with you and figure out where you want to go! Pack your bags light (you'll be walking places), get those train tickets and peace the hell out for awhile. You only live once, right?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lesson 8: On Dressing American

At orientation before we left, we were given this stupid piece of advice:

"I mean try not to dress like super American or anything. I wouldn't wear shorts. French people just don't wear shorts even if it's hot outside. They'll stare at you."

Excuse me? Did this trick really just tell me not to wear shorts in JUNE?

Okay people, here's my advice. Wear whatever the freak you feel like wearing! You know what? They're going to stare at you no matter what you have on. Like I've said before, the Europeans have staring problems. They WILL know you're American no matter how you dress. Or they'll think you're Italian, Australian, or British. Point is, they know you're foreign. Now is not the time to start acting and dressing like someone you aren't, because then you just look like a damn idiot. You may be a fluent genius in whatever language you're studying, you may even have their accent down perfectly, but you are still from the land of air conditioning and Taco Bell. You are an Amurrrican.

So instead of trying to be a poser, just embrace it! You are making our country look better by actually going abroad and trying to learn another language unlike the rest of our moronic, self obsessed population.

It's true that most people could probably handle being in Europe in June and not wear shorts. But, if you're like me, it's NOT POSSIBLE and you will get cranky and want to shoot someone. If you want to wear those hoochie mama shorts, then by God just do it.

And don't care when people stare at you, it's just what they do. I mean you probably don't want to look like you just shacked at a frat house and haven't brushed your hair in 3 months, but I feel like that's self-explanatory.

Bottom line: Never try to be someone you aren't, because you will look like a douche bag and the rest of your fellow Amurricans will laugh at you behind your back. And that is a promise.

Poster child of the American South

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lesson 7: Gaydars don't work in Europe

You know that hot guy you see walking on the way to class. His skin is perfect, he's dressed nice but not fratty. You think he might be questionable, but you tell yourself otherwise so you can keep staring at him. You hear him speak and then you know...damnit, he's gay.

Well, in Europe this happens with every guy you see. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Except the thing is, they're not all gay. They all just look like homos according to our American way of seeing the world. The ones you think look straight, act gay. The ones that look gay, act straight. Then there's some that are just all over the damn place, and they don't really know if they like guys or girls. I guess you could call that being bisexual. In reality, I think they just take what they can get. Europeans are very sexual creatures. They will oblige to the goods in whatever package it comes in.


Anyway, there was this one guy. Let's call him Wooden Shoe Boy, for the sake of not embarrassing him if he should ever stumble upon my blog. Wooden Shoe Boy looked kind of straight, I guess, except for the greasy "Fonzie" looking hairstyle. Actually let's call him Fonzie. So, Fonzie could speak English, obviously, so he hung out with us sometimes. He was nice and everything, but young Fonzie didn't understand something. He liked to blame it on the "cultural differences" but, Derrick and I knew the truth. Fonzie is a closet homosexual.

I really thought he was straight at first, I mean I really did. After hearing him say "I love you" to Derrick and other males in his freaking gay accent, I just knew he was lying to us. Fonzie had a habit of flirting with men. In America, and pretty much everywhere else on the damn planet, you don't do that unless you are gay. You also don't play footsie with other guys, tell them "I thought about kissing you in that picture," or buy them drinks at a bar. Sure, it could be a "cultural difference"... but really? People need to just come out of the closet. Gay is gay, no matter what country you're in. You can't just be all up on boys and then be like "oh, I'm just kidding!"  No. You like boys.

Basically, be prepared to not have a single clue as to whether a guy is gay or not. Even if you're gay yourself, you still won't be able to tell. I can't speak for the European girls because I didn't pay attention to them, naturally, because I don't roll that way. But as for the boys, you will never know. Leave your gaydar at home and try to find out the old fashioned spittin' some game.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lesson 6: Not all Arabs hate Americans

Okay, I'll admit it....sometimes I can be judgmental. Who isn't? I go out of my way not to be, but it happens.

I'm not racist. I'm not a homophobe. I'm not even afraid of the Mexican construction workers that stare me down (or anything with a vagina for that matter) and start babbling in Spanish really fast to their greasy friends. Okay, that was slightly racist. But in reality, I have nothing against them. They're just kind of creepy.

The sign has a point. God I love Taco Bueno!

Since 9/11 we've all been paranoid, and with good reason. Nevertheless, anyone that's tan and wearing those head scarf burka things gets stared at. They're not all freaking terrorists, people! I've never been nervous around anyone like that.

Until I got to France.

Let's rewind a bit. My second day in Vichy, I decided to actually show up to my afternoon class. I lied and told the teacher I was sick the day before, obviously, and sat down next to a girl, Uldana, from my other class. I skimmed the room to see if I knew anyone else in there and I didn't. A couple Asian guys introduced themselves to me, Kiet and Paul, and we chatted for a bit before the teacher decided to start class.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a few older Arab men giving me the stank eye. I thought I was imagining this, but every time I looked back at them they kept staring. Then they'd babble to each other in Arabic so I couldn't understand them. Normally I wouldn't be bothered by this, but like I said I was getting the stank eye. They looked like they hated me and I didn't understand why. Then I remembered the fact that I look like a Barbie doll, and they probably had figured out where I was from. I was paranoid, unsettled, and also the only American in my class. Oh, and one of them was named Osama. Great.

Random Arabs giving some girl the stank eye

Our teacher made everyone go around the room and say where we were from. I gave serious thought to claiming Australia, but the teachers already knew what nationalities we were so I refrained. Now, you have to understand that people on that other side of the globe have staring issues. It's not impolite to stare the hell out of someone over there. It didn't really bother me when French people did this. It was a different matter, though, when I was being mean mugged by 30 year old Arab men. I knew they hated me, I just knew it!

me and Amy reppin the stars & stripes during the World Cup.

After all the introductions were made, our teacher decided to have us play a little vocab game. Guess who I got paired with? Those stank eye giving old men! Story of my life. I knew it was coming but I tried to ignore it. I reluctantly moved my chair over by their desks and tried to act like I had no idea they'd been gawking at me the past 20 minutes.

Once they finally decided to stop speaking in damn Arabic and talk to me, they were actually really nice. They made jokes about me not being a "real" American because I wasn't fat. Hardy harr harr. Okay, it was kind of funny.

 I had judged them. I let my paranoia get the best of me, and for no reason. Yes, they had stared at me relentelessly. Did they mean to be douche bags? No. Staring at people isn't a big deal over there, and I only got freaked out because they were Arab....and old. It was stupid, and I felt bad about it later.

So, my fellow Americans, we all know this but sometimes we forget: Not everyone hates us. Yes, lots of people do (because we're awesome!), but lots of people don't. Leave your prejudices at home because you never know who could turn out to be a good friend.

PS - check out my new novel on Kindle and Barnes and Noble