Abroad (Pre-Study): Iceland & France

Written on Feb. 2nd, 2018

I just finished rereading my last blog post and I’m really struck by how big of a difference two weeks has made in the way I view this trip. The details on which I focused so intensely before, like how many pairs of socks I should pack, or how I would stay awake in Reykjavik, or the logistics of catching all my planes / trains / buses, seem incredibly insignificant now. Will I learn from this and stress less next time? TBD!

Hello World! Today marks two weeks since I left my state, country, continent, and cOmFoRt ZoNe and it has been, how you say, “incroyable.”

Since my morning departure on the 20th, I have spent at least a day in nine cities (Reykjavik, Bréval, Versailles, Rouen, Paris, Marseille, Genève, Nyon, and Lausanne) in three countries (Iceland, France, and Switzerland). Although I’ve been trying my best (“my best”) to document every moment in my trusty travel journal, the reality is that there’s far too much happening to record it all, and thus, I have not. 🙂

So, here are some of the highlights of (the first 2 weeks of) my grande adventure so far!

Reykjavik was a strong combination of serene and surreal. I spent the majority of my brief time there trudging through the uniquely beautiful, impressively windy, and almost completely silent streets of the small city. I was shocked to learn that everything there is incredibly expensive (seriously couldn’t find a breakfast for under $20 and quickly learned how to really savor every bite of a meal) but I made do and had a wonderful time nonetheless.


Splurged on ONE meal, panfried fish balls with potatoes, onions, carrots, arugula, and cucumbers. Ljúffengur!

By far my favorite moment of the trip was watching the sunrise at 10:30am from a steaming and almost empty thermal pool surrounded by piles of snow. The sensation of sitting in warm water while freezing winds blew on my face was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and I loved it.


Tied for second place were my visit to the Icelandic Phallological Museum (!!!) and an Icelandic poetry reading (which I can only assume was good?) held at my hostel.

An early flight brought me from Iceland to France, where I stayed with some of my extended family for one very full week. I explored a new city / neighborhood / cathedral every day, ate cheese with every meal, and mastered the art of showering without a shower curtain (rlly grew a lot from that last feat). Among the highlights of the trip were:

A day at the Château de Versailles, where my cousin and I got lost — really lost — in Marie Antoinette’s gardens (no complaints there!);

An afternoon in a city called Rouen that, based on the narrow streets, cathedrals on every corner, and bakeries every 20 feet, made me seriously doubt that I wasn’t on a Disney movie set;

A weekend in Marseille on France’s Mediterranean coast with my 20-something year old cousins Clément and Antoine. I was surprised by how different Marseille was compared to the other French cities I had visited. While it bore many stereotypical French characteristics, such as the architecture of the official buildings, its placement on the Mediterranean Sea transformed it into something completely unique. The climate was similar to that of parts of southern California — dry, warm, and sunny — and the colorful apartments and homes crowded on oceanside hills could have been featured in a “Twelve Months of Italy” calendar. I absolutely loved it.

My time in France ended almost a week ago and I’m still not over how amazing it all was.

La galerie des glaces, Château de Versailles

Le Grand Trianon, Château de Versailles






This period was vraiment fantastique, but it was also highly transitional. There was a specific moment when I noticed that my seemingly constant state of awe and easy happiness was suddenly disturbed by another sentiment. I experienced an unexpected combination of unease, fear, and thrill that I can only assume stemmed from a sudden recognition of my new reality and represented the transition into my new environment. In that moment, I stopped viewing my travels as simple vacation and noticed myself beginning to adapt to this new, albeit temporary, way of life. It isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world, to face the fact that you’ve just willingly left behind your community, routines, and, saddest of all, jars of Adam’s crunchy peanut butter for awhile… but it’s also incredibly exciting to feel completely out of your element and know that you’ll soon feel at home in an unfamiliar place.

I took a train to Geneva a little less than a week ago, where I met my fellow SIT participants and began orientation. Since then, I’ve started classes, made some friends, and gotten to know my host-family (I’ve also gotten lost in the world’s tiniest metro system, but that’s for another time). It’s definitely different than Whitman, but things have been going really well so far.

Before I conclude, here are 2TWO2 money-saving tip$ I learned throughout the aforementioned adventures (in case you didn’t read the “about me” page, I’ll be doing this in each post as part of a scholarship requirement):

  1. Shop for food at grocery stores when possible ! Not restaurants ! This saved my life (almost literally as I would have starved without it) in Iceland.
  2. Take advantage of friends / family ! In a good way! (?) I was only able to spend a week in France because I have family there, and I saved a lot of money that way. It was also 1000000x more fun 🙂

Thanks for sticking with me through this scattered — and very late — blog post. It’s crazy how much more difficult it is to write when I actually have things to write about…

Tune in next week for (finally) actual info about my study abroad program !!!

À bientôt,


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