I was in Lyon for two months studying French with Alliance Française. When I arrived in France, I was trying to figure out how I would spend my time since I only had school from 9-12. I thought I would have so much time alone and what would I even do with myself. That couldn't have been further from what happened!
My days passed trying to be as French as I could. Every time I would have a conversation with a French person at the store or in the street or the metro, and we both understood what happened, it was a success! Every day, I improved. Every day, I tried to learn and grow in the language. I threw myself into the deep end and put myself in every scenario where I put have the opportunity to speak French with the French. The first time I was able to follow a large group conversation and know what was happening and then be able to participate in the conversation, I went running home to shout my victory!
I lived with a French woman named Catherine who quickly became my French mom. She made my time there 1000 times better and I'm so happy to have had that time together. She shared meals with me, we watched a tv series together every night, sometimes I would accompany her to the market on Saturdays. The best part though was how easy and enjoyable it was to talk with her. She was very patient with my French and tried hard to understand me. It was great for me because I was able to share all my feelings and emotions with Catherine and that was such a confidence booster for me in my language learning.
I was very blessed to have connected with people almost immediately in Lyon. I made friends quickly and I am grateful to have met so many lovely people during my time there. I randomly met a woman, Lale, in the street one day and then we happened to see each other the following week (in the street again). The second time I saw her, she and her family invited me to dinner. We ended up hitting it off and I spent the majority of my time with them while I was there. They became my French family and such a special part of my time in France. They helped me so much with the language and gave me a glimpse into the real French life, but more than that, they overwhelmed me by their kindness and generosity. They opened their home and lives to me even though I was a complete stranger who barely spoke the language. I am still blown away by it! I learned a very valuable lesson through that: if you stay open to people, if you are willing to have a simple conversation with a random, that random could become a dear friend, or someone whom you can learn from or see a new perspective from. Because of that experience, I very much tried during my travels to practice that mentality, and I genuinely met so many amazing people, just by staying open.
Through the school, I had the pleasure of meeting the loveliest people from all over. I became friends with a couple of Italian guys who cooked me amazing pasta and laughed until we cried. Emperatriz and Sergio are a couple who celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary while there. They were full of joy and were friendly and welcoming to everyone they met. They challenged me and reminded me to live life to the fullest, no matter your age. Dale is an Australian woman who's devotion to running and fitness inspired me to get a gym membership once I got home. It was nice to have another native English speaker in the class with me, and she was always making me laugh. Several of the teachers and staff at the school became friends as well and were so kind to help me grow and learn more.
I could go on and on about more people I met whom I had the joy of passing time with, even if it was just for a short while, but the number one thing that keeps coming to mind when I think about my time in France is how kind everyone was. When you throw yourself into a situation out of your ordinary life, you meet people who are also doing the same thing. It's the people you meet in the experience that really makes it worthwhile. So big thank you to everyone who crossed my path and shared their life with me, even if it was just for a moment.
My previous trips in France had mostly been spent in Paris, but Lyon won my heart in a new way. I was overwhelmed by how kind, friendly, and patient everyone was with me and my developing French. Living in a city is a different reality than traveling through one, and I'm very glad that Lyon was my home, even if it was for a short time.