I have always been attracted to French culture. French cities, French food, French music, French architecture; everything has always amazed me. Maybe it is because I was enrolled in a French Lycée since I was three years old. Or because I am from Barcelona, Spain, which is really close to France. Or because I have family in Paris. Or maybe because my parents lived there when they were younger. I don’t really know. What I’m sure of, though, is that when I read the words:
‘Maria GILBOY, of Spanish nationality, has been admitted in the first year of the Master of Science and Technology of École Polytechnique in Environmental Engineering and Sustainability Management Master, for the academic year 2022- 2023’, from my admissions letter, I could not do anything else but jump from the excitement.
The situation was kind of comical: I was in Milan for my Erasmus exchange during my bachelor's. I had come to love living abroad. And alone! Which was an extraordinary feat for me and my crippling anxiety. I had proved myself so much during the time I had lived in Italy: I could live alone and not die, I was so strong for battling alone the never-ending rush of emotions that came with an exchange, and I made amazing new friends. I felt so empowered for having had the courage to live this experience. So, to replicate the feeling, I decided it would be a good idea to apply for a master’s degree abroad for a non-negligible period of 2 entire years.
Everything seemed tailor-made for me. École Polytechnique is one of the most prestigious schools in France, the master’s content is the perfect fit for my passions, Paris is one of the cities of my dreams, and I could be close to my family. What else could I ask for?
Since Paris is not far away from Barcelona, my parents decided to accompany me to the campus by car. That way, we could bring more (and extremely necessary) luggage without paying extra for it on a plane.
The week before I was in a frenzy, so much had to be done. I had to pack EVERYTHING because obviously even the top I never put on had to be inside my suitcase. I had to go to all my medical appointments before leaving in case there was a problem. I went on a shopping spree to buy everything I deemed necessary for my 2-year long stay (not even half of it was actually necessary, by the way). I had to meet with all my friends to say goodbye to them and to remind them how sad they were going to be once I would be gone. I don’t think I have ever been so productive in a single week. I might need to move more often so I finally get things done. Joking.
The trip lasted ten EXTREMELY long hours. I wanted to be productive, so I tried to look for everything I wanted to visit once I was installed in France. Less than ten minutes later I was fast asleep. I’m incorrigible. Put me in a car, and the first thing I will do is fall asleep (with my mouth open evidently).
Already past the border, we stopped at a gas station to refill the tank and took the opportunity to buy a croissant. You will never believe me when I say it was one of the best croissants I have ever tasted. In a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Just imagine the best bakeries in Paris. France was going to be pastries dreamland. I definitely had chosen the best country in the world food-wise.
We continued the trip and finally, after more sleeping, talking, planning, and laughing, we got to the destination.
We arrived in a motel in Villebon-sur-Yvette, just five minutes away from campus, which, alas, is on the outskirts of Paris.
Sadly, the moving-in day to the campus residence wasn’t for another two days, so we decided to use the remaining time to explore Paris and its surroundings. My parents know A LOT about Paris since they had lived there, and they had just been there earlier in the year, so we chose to visit the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. It is not Versailles, but we would make it work.
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by an imposing breathtaking palace. The only drawback? The burning heat. We were SO lucky the castle was built with stones and that it was cooler on the inside. We could appreciate the stunning architecture and the magnificent decorations. Inside the golden rooms, I could imagine myself three hundred years prior, wearing a fabulous Epoque dress and dancing and twirling in the ballroom with an exotic prince.
The garden extension was extremely vast, and we had the option to rent a golf cart. I begged my parents to rent one because duh, who doesn’t want to drive a golf cart? After my incessant pleading, my parents agreed to rent the golf cart to visit the gardens. Best idea ever, by the way. We could feel the breeze in our hair while driving the golf cart on this very warm day in early September. The gardens were immaculate and splendid. Visiting the castle was a good choice: we learned a bit of French history while delighting ourselves with the marvelous grounds and architecture.
In the evening, we went into the city to have dinner with my French family and had the chance to glimpse the Eiffel Tower. I was brimming with anticipation since it dawned on me that my French adventure was really about to start. We had an Italian meal. You are probably asking yourselves: ‘Why did she go to an Italian restaurant the first day she arrives in Paris?’ I still don’t know to be honest. But let me tell you, I ate one of the best ‘Pasta alla norma’ that I have ever eaten. I had plenty of time left (2 years to be exact) to go to a traditional French bistrot so it wasn’t dramatic.
The Eiffel tower in the distance
That night I went to sleep nervous, excited, anxious, and happy... Every feeling you’ve ever experienced was there.
The next day, THE day had arrived: I was about to move into the campus. After arriving at the main quad, we completed all the boring administrative procedures, and I was shown to my dorm, which is an 18 m2 room with a bathroom included: this was going to be my home for the next two years. Not bad actually. I just had to find a way to make it mine.
BUT, drama incoming. The anxiety and dread overcame the excitement and just when I was starting to unpack and get installed. I got blocked. Like really blocked. I couldn’t do anything except cry. This was a Panic attack with a capital P. After the scare of the moment, I pulled myself together with the help of my parents. Thanks mom, thanks dad.
In the afternoon, we got the campus tour, where I met those who would become my future friends. I have to say, I got very lucky with the group I was in. If you continue reading my blog, you might discover why.
Thank you for reading my article, and I hope you will continue reading my blog. Feel free to like and share if you enjoyed my article!
Getting accepted into Université Bourgogne Franche Comte in Dijon for a first year Master program was an absolute dream come true for me. Now that I'm enrolled and fully engrossed in the program, I can only say it was well worth the search.
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