"Becoming a Besontine: A Day in the Surreal Life"
by Obiko Magvanjav, Knox College
7 a.m. -- Wake up! Time to get dressed and head for the kitchen to have a quick breakfast of cereal (French cereal is excellent), or baguettes. Then you head out the door to catch the bus. Taking a bus in Besançon is one of the most interesting experiences, because even in Besançon, you are bound to see people from all over the world, speaking in a multitude of languages. They are not only the many foreign students who come to study in Besançon but also local Besontins. You will soon find that France, in general, is very, very diverse.
1 p.m. -- You have an hour or so to go to centre-ville (downtown) to grab some lunch. The walk is a scenic route along the Doubs River. My favorite place to eat is to grab a kebab at one of the many Turkish kebab places. They are quick and cheap, not to mention delectable, I still have fantasies that I’m biting into one (don’t forget to ask for “arissa” if you like spicy). La Grande Rue, the main street that runs through the middle of centre-ville is always packed with people and students, and on the weekends, it seems that the entire population of Besançon comes out to stroll and window-shop, lounge around and sip on coffee at the outdoor cafes and pastry shops. During the BesançonMusic Festival, you can watch free concerts everyday. My other favorite place to grab a quick lunch is to get a “sand-wich.” In French, this is a whole or a half a baguette (long and skinny bread) filled with fresh vegetables, your choice of meat, and a unique French peculiarity: French fries with mayonnaise insideyour baguette! Aside from the numerous ethnic restaurants and tea places, there is of course the cafeteria where you will find most of the Université de Franche-Comté students, which is a very short walk from the CLA and the faculté.
2 p.m. -- Back at the CLA for your afternoon classes. Then you hit the computer lab to check up on e-mails from home, or meet your language exchange friend, a native French speaker who is learning English and you chat for an hour or two, half the time in French and half in English. Then you head back to centre-ville, grab a croissant, or visit your new friend who lives downtown.
7 p.m. -- You catch your bus home, or head for the Bouloie(campus where all the university dorms are located in northwest Besançon) if you are now living in the dorms. On the way, you grab the daily fresh baguette and some cheese, like French people do. Every room in the dorm is equipped with a small fridge, so you can stock up. The buses in Besançon are frequent, and very convenient. On the weekends, they run until 3 a.m. in the morning! Very thoughtful of the transportation authorities, I have to say, and it's very convenient for young people when hanging out with your new friends on the lively streets of centre-ville.
8 p.m. -- You come home, just in time to help prepare for a delicious dinner of raclette, melted cheese, assorted charcuterie (the assortment of sausages is nothing short of exquisite), fresh salad and fruits! To clear your palette after each course you have a little sampling of cheese - there is no dearth of cheese on the French table and you can try everything from milky and sweet, to firm and pungent as you go along your meal.
9 p.m. -- After dinner, you can do some homework, then gather around the TV and watch the evening news or movies with your host family. French TV is excellent for its wide selection of French movies and independent films. And then you get to hit the sack at about 10: there are no all-nighters here except when you want a night out (on fait la fete beaucoupen France). On the weekends, you can go on excursions to explore different cities like Strasbourg with the CLA’s organized trips, or catch the train to Paris, which takes you there in a matter of four hours. But this weekend, you go on a day-trip to hike along the beautiful French countryside with your host family, visit vineyards, quaint little towns, and ancient castles that are now inhabited by ordinary folk.
-- Obiko Magvanjav, Integrated International Studies major, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
"Un jour dans la vie bisontine"
by Malissa Kent, Knox College
7 a.m. -- As my cell phone rings I’m reminded why I never take first-hour classes at Knox! Luckily I only have one 8 a.m. class once a week. You’re in the dorms now, after a month family stay, which means that you can take as long as you want in your personal shower (which makes up for its smallness). If you’re particularly motivated this morning you can heat up some milk or water for hot chocolate or tea in the communal kitchen; otherwise it’s just fruit juice with your fresh baguette and nutella.
7:45 a.m. -- Catch the bus to go to the CLA for morning classes. It takes about 15 minutes to get downtown from the campus, and the bus stops right in front of the CLA. If there’s traffic and you’re a few minutes late, no one notices; the professors are often 10 minutes late themselves!
11 a.m. -- Get done with the three-hour block of oral and written French classes. Each class is 90 minutes long, and the energy of the oral professor along with the humor and culture of the written professor, makes the time fly by! Not to mention the walk around the world that each class turns into, as you learn about your classmates from Nepal, China, Japan, Switzerland, Chad, Senegal, Spain, Venezuela, Australia…
11:15 a.m. -- Walk through downtown to buy a baguette at your favorite bakery, then go back to the Bouloie residential campus to make lunch: a salad with caramelized apples and boudin blanc(a type of blood sausage), a regional dish from Normandie you learned from your host family.
1:45 p.m. -- Head back into town, this time to the heart of downtown and the Faculté des Lettres for a class about Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame in English). The class is half French students and half American and Erasmus (the European exchange network), which makes it a great place to make new friends.
4 p.m. -- The benefit of starting the day early is that you’re done by 4. Once a week you end classes at 6, but you also have Wednesday afternoon free, and, like nearly everyone else you know, you have three-day weekends. If it’s sunny out you’ll walk around the boucle, or buckle, that the river Doubs forms around downtown, admiring the many views of the Citadelle, or go to one of the city’s many parks. If it’s raining you can go shopping downtown, or sit at one of the many cafésfor a coffee, hot chocolate, or glass of wine. No matter what you do, don’t forget to look up; ceiling and buildings facades are incredibly decorated in France!
6 p.m. -- Go back to the Bouloie to catch up with the other Knox students and get a bit of homework done. That goes quickly, since in France you spend more time in the classroom than the US, which means less homework. Surf the internet on your laptop, since the computer lab at the CLA has a strict half-hour limit -- not nearly enough time to keep everyone back home up-to-date!
7:30 p.m. -- Go to your host family’s house for your weekly dinner. I’m lucky, and my family lives right around the corner from the Bouloie. We chat about our weeks over the aperitif of punch, peanuts and crackers, and then eat a traditional French dinner. This week it’s grated carrots to start, then a Tartiflette, the specialty of the Franche-Comté, with potatoes, onions, sausage, cream and Roblechon cheese. After there’s the cheese plate, and then dessert, (which can range from yogurt or fruit to ice cream or delicious French pastries). And, since your host family knows that you enjoy learning all aspects of French culture, there’s a regional wine to go with it all. After dinner you sit down to watch a movie with them -- most the time it’s a French movie, since they like to initiate you in classic French cinema, but every once in a while they throw in an American one.
11:30 p.m. -- You get back to the Bouloie a bit late to go out, even if it is Thursday, the biggest night for students to go out together, as the last bus runs at midnight. But there’s the whole weekend to discover the many student-friendly restaurants, discos and clubs, not to mention the movie theaters, theatres, museums, galleries and concerts!
-- Malissa Kent, Creative Writing and French major, Lake Stevens, Washington
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