That’s where I’ll be arriving at midnight to meet Stephanie, my wonderful roommate from Paris. I have not seen her since June 2007, so this is bound to be an insanely fun weekend. I miss that girl. Now might be as good a time as any to tell you more about how Stephanie and I met.
We met in an elevator of a hotel near JFK airport. I was with my family, who had accompanied me to New York to see me off. Another girl who was already in the elevator said a cheerful hello and moved her luggage to make room for us (and my luggage) in the elevator. One of us noticed that the other also had Sweet Briar College JYF luggage tags. “Oh, are you also doing the Junior Year in France? Nice to meet you!” We introduced ourselves and made nervous but excited small talk, as we knew we would soon be embarking on a completely new experience.
We arrived in Paris and took a long bus ride to Tours, where we would spend our first two weeks. When we got to the Institut de Touraine, we all got off the bus and wheeled our luggage into a courtyard where there were a hundred people waiting for us – our new host families.
“In the de Penfentenyo family,” the director announced, “Stephanie Robinson and Sarah Gilmour.” Cool! I thought. At least it is someone I know! Ironic how the first person I met from the program ended up becoming my roommate!
Really, I was not so sure about rooming with Stephanie at that point. She was just so outgoing compared to me. However, I quickly learned to enjoy her company, even when her extrovert antics sometimes made me feel embarrassed (sorry, Steph). We made a good pair, said our host dad, Tanguy. And we had to agree – somehow, we complemented each other in all the right ways.
One night, soon before our departure, Tanguy sat us down and said, “Vous devez demander à la directrice d’être placées dans la même famille à Paris. Vous parlez français tout le temps entre vous, et c’est fantastique. On n’a jamais eu d’étudiants qui ont été si sérieuses.” (You should ask the director to be placed in the same family in Paris. You speak French together all the time, and that is great. We have never had students who were as serious as you two are.) That evening, we went to a goodbye party to which all of the students and host families were invited. Tanguy spent a good deal of time talking with Mme Parnet, la directrice in charge of rooming assignments.
A few days later, in between our busy schedule of language, culture and orientation classes, we got our room assignments. There was a buzz in the room, and everyone was excited. Everyone started comparing cards – all those who had roommates had their roommate’s name listed on the card. I opened mine and was disappointed not to see a roommate’s name listed. I knew I would be happy with whatever I ended up with, but I was still a little sorry that we could not stay together. I didn’t get to see Stephanie until I got home that evening, right before dinner.
It was a beautiful August evening, and we were sitting on the steps of the house, chatting with Tanguy & our host siblings as they sat outside at the garden. Tanguy asked us about our room assignments. “Nous ne serons pas ensemble à Paris…” we told him sadly that we would not be rooming together. He asked if we remembered which arrondissement we were in. Stephanie informed us that she would be in the 9ème…which sounded familiar. We ran to get our cards, only to find out that THE ADDRESS AND FAMILY NAMES WERE THE SAME! We would be roommates after all! Much laughter and cheering and hugging ensued, and our host dad looked on with a twinkle in his eye. “Félicitations. Je savais que Mme Parnet allait vous mettre ensemble,” he said.
Goodbye Tours…bonjour Paris!
We made it to Paris, met our host parents (Christine et Olivier) and started our Parisian adventure with a tour of our quartier by Christine and our first of many lectures from Olivier. For this particular one, he pulled out a highlighted map of Paris and yapped on about which areas not to frequent at night, pointing to the highlighted neighborhoods. (It’s so funny to look back on that!)
Fast forward through the year…
Stephanie and I made some great memories and really enjoyed ourselves. Fun or awkward conversations with the host parents, going to class or cafés or stores together, cooking and drinking and eating together, other excursions, many jokes and laughs and sometimes tears – we shared an awful lot together. It was nice to be able to share experiences with her. We really needed each other sometimes to cope with living with our host parents, which was good overall but not always a walk in the park.
We got especially close during the second semester. I had initially been sad that, out of all my other friends from my university, only I would be staying for the second semester. But that turned out to be the best thing for me. It was then that I grew the most, became my own person. I made new friends, like Jacqueline & Emma, and spent a lot more time with Stephanie. It was good for both of us.
I have much more I could share about our adventures if I had the time. But I must go pack and make sure I have all the things I need for the weekend. I will make sure to post pictures and tell stories upon my return.
We are going to have a blast.