Travel: La Rochelle, France + Thoughts on Juggling Social Media while Adventuring

La Rochelle, France
la rochelle
tour st. nicholas la rochelle
la rochelle
vieux port de la rochelle
la rochelle
la rochelle
savory crepe and crepe with ice cream la rochelle

The crisp, sweet taste of the lychee-rose sorbet lingered on my lips. 

I glanced wistfully at my empty ice cream cup, wishing I had been able to properly document the novel food experience--wishing I had been able to capture the fresh yet subtly earthy flavor with my camera. 

A snapshot of the unassuming, frozen pink scoop wouldn't have done it justice, I convinced myself. Yet I still wished I had a tangible memory of what I'd consumed. I wanted something more than an ephemeral experience.

Oh, yeah--I also really wanted a photo for my blog.

The precarious balance between documenting my adventures and savoring them remains an enigma. On trips, I snap away furiously with my camera, hoping that at least a few of the photos will be insta-worthy. I see quaint architecture in square frames. I see breathtaking landscapes in terms of snapchat story potential. 

And even when I intentionally leave my gadgets off to relish an experience, I can't help but wish I'd been able to properly document those moments. In reality, savoring doesn't exist for me--"savoring" only means wistfulness. 

But why am I wistful? Do I want photographic evidence to relive the adventure myself, or to flaunt my oh-so-glamorous, exotic, perfect (ha) study abroad life? Would I even take photos if I couldn't share them?

These are questions one uncaptured sorbet can't answer (well, also that scrumptious vegan lunch). I'm not expecting answers as I continue to live and learn in this foreign life, but I'd love some more clarity.

I also wouldn't mind another sorbet.

*                                                           *                                                    * 

Just a quick, rare mid-week update with photos from my recent trip to La Rochelle, a historic port city in southwestern France. 

I promised myself that I'd avoid stereotypical, superficial travel writing, but I can't resist offering a tidbit to any vegan/vegatarian/gluten-free/organic folk who may be traveling to La Rochelle. I stumbled upon the loveliest grab-n-go (or sit down if you like) restaurant called RawCoco and I died. My lunch was also something I wish I had captured--the loveliest veggie wrap and chocolate banana crepe.

The meal that I did capture was at l'Epi de Blé, a crêperie that was equally delicious (though not so vegan friendly haha--I need my exceptions). I had a savory mushroom-egg buckwheat crêpe, and a friend had a sweet apple-vanilla ice cream crêpe. 

If you'd also like to find the divine lychee-rose sorbet, make a stop at Ernest le Glacier for me (and take a photo!).

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Feels like Fall: Textured Mint Sweater + Tie Knot Shorts

college style, fall transition outfit, study abroad style
college style, fall transition outfit, study abroad style
college style, fall transition outfit, study abroad style
college style, fall transition outfit, study abroad style
college style, fall transition outfit, study abroad style
Sweater, Target | Shorts, Zaful | Boots, Old Navy | Necklace, Walmart (we're talking haute couture here)

To the exasperated lady with a killer glare, who waited behind me at the produce scale as I obliviously deliberated over my groceries--

To the woman who nearly throttled me after we collided in the chaotic lap pool--

I'm legitimately sorry if I inadvertently inconvenienced you, but I'm not sorry for my adjustment to this foreign way of life.

To the cell phone salesmen who told me one thing, sold me another, and then declared I must've misunderstood our conversation when I returned to seek what I thought I bought--

I know the difference between 500 mb and 2 gb, thank you, even if my French is far from perfect. 

To the little boy next to me on the tram, who not-so-surreptitiously declared to his mother that he didn't like the "madame" sitting by him--

To the professor who automatically assumed I was from China--

To the girl who spoke to me in Chinese before I ever uttered a word--

I'm not sorry for looking different. I'm from the United States. I can speak French. 

There's much more to story than what meets the eye--beyond my language goals for study abroad, I hope I become more patient when people seem clueless (maybe they're still learning!) and I hope gather deeper insight about others before treating them a specific way.

And of course:

To the woman who stopped me in the middle of the street when my wallet fell out of my backpack--

To the countless people who gave me patient directions before I had phone service--

To the classmates who carefully explained the academic system and class norms--

To my host family for enduring my daily dying-cat-noise violin practice, and for accomodating my strange dietary preferences exceptionally well--

To the natives who have shown me around the city, praticed French with me, and shared their culture--

Thank you.

And to the people who have told me my French is good--

Y'all are liars, that's what. 

Okay, maybe that's a little harsh--more like very, very nice. It's funny; before I came to France, I always I thought I was fluent--I even put it on my resume. After 8 years of studying French, reading unabridged French classics, writing 5-10 page French papers, and carrying conversation decently, I was convinced I could call myself fluent. 

Here, it's different--there are so many everyday phrases I never encountered in my sheltered life of academic French. And conversation is really a completely different field with natives than with other American students. And lectures? Ha. 

But I'm learning, and that's what's important.

As of this weekend, I'll have been here for 4 weeks. It's mind-boggling that almost 1/4 of my time here has already disappeared--especially since several of my classes just started. Unlike in the U.S., I find myself counting how much time has passed since I arrived, rather than how much time is left in the semester. Life is definitely no easier here--I actually consider it more complicated--so perhaps it's a sign I'm learning to just be, rather than forever flailing for the rose-tinted future. 

Study abroad was emotionally draining before I even arrived--before I even accepted my spot--before I even applied. I was always afraid of drastically altering my life for the worse. I had to let go of a lot to be here, but I gained a whole other world. 

I'm learning, and I'm grateful.

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Artsy Endeavors + Life Updates: Seeking Equilibrium

succulents bordeaux france
Little friends
universite bordeaux 1
Favorite building on-campus
dune du pilat
Worth the sore legs (also thank you random couple for being in the right place at the right time)// La dune du Pilat
grand theatre bordeaux
Whoa // Grand Théâtre
Ivy enthusiast
boulanger bordeaux
Going poor from buying food
bordeaux france house
Forever that creepy girl snapping shots of every cute house she stumbles upon
hotel de ville bordeaux
Shoutout to the 10+ people who gave me directions in my beginning phone service-less days
passport study abroad europe
And so begins this 10-month European adventure...

All photos from my instagram

I went to a bar the other day.

Season 2 debut of my soap opera life: Lily goes to a bar for the first time...

...and drinks...apricot juice.

I was visibly flustered when the bartender asked what I wanted to drink. I really wished there were a menu. Good thing I didn't ask for one.

"Uhhh...what are the choices?" I stumbled, in French, "There are a lot, I imagine"

"It depends," the bartender replied, "What do you like? juice..."

Still afraid to exercise my new power to buy alcohol (and still afraid of alcohol), I lit up at "fruit juice."

And so there I was, turning up on Tuesday night with my non-alcoholic apricot juice. 

I like the dramatized episode title, but the true headline should be this: Lily goes to a bar for the first time to participate in a legitimate linguistic event.

I was there for an organized French-English conversation exchange that was unfortunately cancelled due to the torrential rain. Luckily, several others missed the memo, so I did what people do at bars and mingled. It was a very bilingual mingle.

I was fascinated by how we leapt deftly from one language to the other--the conversations bore little resemblance to my "Chinglish," my domestic Mandarin-turned-English when I have no idea what that one word is in Chinese. We spoke in French when we felt like it, and we spoke in English when we felt like it. It was a win-win for the native French wanting to practice English, and the non-French wanting to practice French. It was cool. Chouette.

The past week has been a whirlwind of novel experiences, stressful ordeals, and the usual everyday. Classes have yet to be finalized, and it's been weird not staying in every night to tackle my preliminary work seriously, like I would have done in the states. But tonight, as I danced exuberantly (and probably awkwardly) at an international students event, resonating with the carefree energy of the hip med school band, I knew that I was where I should've been. I'm here to study, and I'm also here to experience, to adventure. Balance is my mission, and I'm here to find it.
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Glamorous Uncertainty: Cat Skirt + Braided Necklace

Jardin Public; Bordeaux, France
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
cat skirt outfit, study abroad france outfit, college style
T-shirt, Old Navy | Skirt, Persunmall | Necklace, Target | Shoes, Target

Most college students get one freshman year. 

I get the rough equivalent of four.

I get four terrifying, invigorating, angsty, novel, hair-pulling experiences--one, my real freshman year; two, study abroad in Bordeaux; three, study abroad in Oxford; and four, my return to an unfamiliar campus for my senior year. 

As I navigate this foreign adventure, I can't help but feel a strong sense of déjà vu--this disorienting experience is uncannily similar to my freshman fall, only magnified by the language obstacles. 

I wonder who my close friends will be (or, if I'll even find any kindred souls). I am both fascinated and terrified by my anticipated classes. I yearn to finally have a routine. I become emotional at the slightest of disturbances. I often find this new environment stressful and overwhelming. I wonder how life at home (aka college) is going, and whether my absence has left a hole--I hope it has, even though it's terribly selfish of me. I question my decision to take the more unfamiliar, challenging route. I crave comfort and stability. I am totally, horribly lost. 

Everything is uncertain.

As another student and I waited indefinitely for a broken tram to start today, I suggested that we walk instead, declaring that I strongly dislike the uncertain. She laughed, finding it ironic that I decided to study abroad. I admitted that it was hard for me to leave--she countered that I would grow immensely this year. And that's exactly what I hope. 

My freshman fall was trying--I took a difficult music course with sparse theory background, I struggled in disciplines in which I usually excelled, I daydreamed of what could've been had I gone to my state school, I wrestled with a running injury, I even bawled once in front of my professor. 

But with time, college became my home, and I now feel as if my life didn't really begin until Amherst. I met incredibly supportive, resonant souls. I became more resilient, open, proactive. I was challenged and inspired. I began to stumble more gracefully, weaving each misstep into this wild waltz of life. And grow I did. 

I see my life in phases--before and after close friends, before and after lifestyle changes, before and after major experiences--and I wonder how I ever lived in the "before".

I may never know what would've happened had I stayed. I may be dizzy with worry and uncertainty. But I'm here because I wanted a new "after". I wanted to become more.

And you better believe I'll do everything I can to make sure that happens.

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P.S. A note on the post title--again, like freshman year, my life appears much more glamorous on social media when if fact it's still just my life, full of challenges--just different ones--in a place full of gorgeous architecture and tempting food. This is my attempt to share the more raw side of this experience.


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