Thanksgiving in July

While I was definitely already appreciative of the following things, participating in a program like this makes the appreciation even stronger. As I come home next week, these are a few of the things I am cherishing a little more than before (this list could actually be much more extensive but I’m going with my Top 5).

#1. Parents who raised me to be flexible and enjoy life no matter the situation. I’m human, so naturally I complain sometimes. Sometimes I am probably to flexible and it makes it frustrating for people to make decisions because I have trouble expressing my opinions. However when in a large group of people or a tough situation, being flexible helped me to have a more enjoyable time.

#2 Agriculture: I have had a passion for agriculture my entire life. I now have an even deeper appreciation for American agriculture and agriculture around the world. We don’t see eye to eye on many things and I don’t anticipate that we will come to an agreement anytime soon. However we all have a common goal, keeping our people fed. We can point fingers, look down upon each other, and fight about disagreements. In the end we all have flaws, we all make mistakes, and no country’s practices are perfect. That can be said about more things than just agriculture, in my opinion.

#3 Hugs: They are considered very “intimate” here and are not acceptable. Instead they do side kisses…. Makes sense? Not that I want to go hugging strangers by any means but some days having a big hug from certain people can make days a lot brighter and I look forward to returning home to those!

#4 Unlimited refills at restaurants: If I am eating at a restaurant, it means I’m on the move. When I’m on the move, naturally I get thirty. Even in McDonald’s here there is no such thing as a free refill. In some cases you can get water refilled but it never seems to be enough to quench us thirsty Americans. Also… I could really go for a Den Pop right now.

#5. Purdue University and the “Big Move Study Abroad” Scholarship: I love my university and I’ve been a Boilermaker from birth. The scholarships that they have made available for students who desire to study abroad are incredible. After talking with other participants of this summer program from around the United States it is clear, hands down (or should I say hammers down?), that Purdue has the most support. They have made a huge investment in our future by offering these scholarships and for that I am ever grateful, ever true.

Living the Dream

July has been a crazy month! I know I have been blogging but I ‘ve been pretty vague on what I am actually doing. My days are spent traveling to visit students on their internship. This is to check on them and make sure everything is going smoothly but also to take pictures of videos of them working. I have visited kiwi farms, vineyards, a horse farm, and more vineyards!! Djamel will also tell you that my second internship is for music. He quizzes me on all of the classic music and artists that play on the radio station named “Nostalgia” as we drive around. He will also tell you that I have failed this portion!  I guess I need to brush up on my Elton John and Madonna…

Students will be returning to Toulouse at the end of the week to give small presentations about their internships to the rest of the participants. Then Nick, Laurissa, Nicole, and myself are Indiana bound this next weekend! I have had the opportunity to see some beautiful little villages and towns this month. While this list doesn’t include the towns I have driven through along the way, below is a list where I have made some stops the last couple of weeks to visit other Purpan students.

Sarrecave

Cazères

Mayran

Albi

Rodez

Mazères

Haute-Garonne

Moncaup

Flaugnac

Puisseguin

Castelnau-d’Estrétefonds

Rabastens

Sauveterre de Guyenne

This little girl was such a treat! Giggles and smile have no language barrier :)
This little girl was such a treat! Giggles and smile have no language barrier :)
Meeting all the different dogs has easily become one of my favorite parts!
Meeting all the different dogs has easily become one of my favorite parts!
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” -Henry David Thoreau
Doing work!
Doing work!
Vines on vines on vines
Vines on vines on vines
Which way do you want to go now?...
Which way do you want to go now?…
Our car. It is a Citroën
Our car. It is a Citroën

Let’s Tell the World!

 

Our three day weekend was filled with many laughs and memories we will never, ever forget. We drove the country side of France with country music and windows down, visited a couple of random towns, sat by the Garrone and chilled, Viri lost her sandal in the water (got it back), we visited Leah in her internship and finished our weekend with fireworks for Bastille Day. There really isn’t words that could describe just how much fun we had so I made a video really quick to show everyone through pictures and videos our great weekend!

Letters from Home

“My dearest son, it’s almost June

I hope this letter catches up with you and finds you well

It’s been dry but they’re callin’ for rain

And everything’s the same ol’ same in Johnsonville

Your stubborn ol’ daddy ain’t said too much

But I’m sure you know he sends his love

And she goes on, in a letter from home”

Obviously, modern technology makes communication with home pretty simple. I can Facebook message, IMessage, Skype, and email! However nothing says, “I am thinking about you” quite like an encouraging letter or card from America. I am definitely no soldier like in John Michael Montgomery’s ‘Letters From Home’, but I have always appreciated receiving mail and this was the only song I could think of that represented how I feel accurately.

My mom snuck this in my suitcase and I found it while in Paris. You'll see that necklace featured in almost every photo I'm in :)
My mom snuck this in my suitcase and I found it while in Paris. You’ll see that necklace featured in almost every photo I’m in :)
I could spot her handwriting from a continent away. Her letters are always a good read!
I could spot her handwriting from a continent away. Her letters are always a good read!
And happy days I have had! Thanks Grandma & Grandpa Sparks!
And happy days I have had! Thanks Grandma & Grandpa Sparks!
Two cards from my parents, my rocks, and my best friends
Two cards from my parents, my rocks, and my best friends
Maybe my family isn't the only one sending some postal love... stay tuned!
Maybe my family isn’t the only one sending some postal love across the world… !
Preach it!
Preach it! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Clearly I have the best support system in the entire world!

I will catch up my readers about my activities as soon as possible. There is a lot to do this week because time is running out quickly! Stay tuned!

Traveling Toulouse

Toulouse is a pretty big place! It is the 4th largest city in France. Even though it is large, I can find my way around pretty well. That is coming from someone who is AWFUL with directions. Coming from a rural background, I never dealt with public transportation much. Also I can probably count the number of times I have hopped on a bus at Purdue with one hand so it is still weird to rely on public transportation as my main means of moving around. The number of miles I have walked this summer is definitely higher than average. However, thankfully we don’t have to walk a ton to get where we need and want to go.

Upon our arrival we were given a card that allows us to use the tram, bus, and trains systems as many times as we need. It’s really convenient and saves us a lot of time and money. We go into the city sometimes for class and it seems we find something to do around downtown almost every evening. Many people have asked me about how we get around so I decided it might be easiest to blog about it! There is a tram and bus stop near Purpan and our residence so once you make it to one of those places you can easily make your way into the city. For example to make to Capitole you walk to the tram station closest to Pupan and hop on, get off at Arenes, get on a train, and from the train you will get off at Capitole. Simple enough!

My card
My card
Arenes bus stop
Arenes bus stop
The tram!
The tram!
I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more
“I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more!” No seriously… I think I’ve walked over 500 miles in the last 2 months!!
When we go on field trips with the school we take a charter bus. Conveniently this was the only bus picture I came across so I had to take the opportunity to embarrass Nick and Nicole
When we go on field trips with the school we take a charter bus. Conveniently this was the only bus picture I came across so I had to take the opportunity to embarrass Nick and Nicole. Love you guys :)

Celebrate good times, come on!

It was a weekend for celebrating! First of all, Nicole was able to come back to Toulouse for the weekend since she had the weekend off on her horse farm. We decided to have a combined late celebration for my birthday and the 4th of July which we declared a 5th of July party! We relaxed and had some fun in the sun all day and went to Saint-Pierre that night.

On Sunday Nicole, Viri, and I made a large adventure out of just one meal. haha A girl that Nicole works with had told her about a restaurant that sells American style food called Tommy’s Diner. It was SO cool and the food was amazing. I would go more often if it hadn’t taken us over an hour to get there. We had a great time relaxing and stuffing our faces with hot dogs and milkshakes.

Just when I thought the weekend couldn’t get any better, I got yet ANOTHER reason to celebrate!! After a few technical difficulties (my iMessage has stopped working and I had no clue I wasn’t receiving texts sent to me) I received THE best snapchat of my life. My sister and partner-in-crime got engaged to Mr. Evan Divine. I am sending a big virtual hug their way and I’m so excited to celebrate in person when I get home. There are so many happy things happening in my life right now and I am super excited to add calling Evan my brother in the near future to the list of awesome things! Everyone around the world come on, let’s celebrate!

So glad this girl got to come back and celebrate with me. Happy 5th of July to us!
So glad this girl got to come back and celebrate with me. Happy 5th of July to us!
A 21st celebration
A 21st celebration
We had to show our new friends how to Boiler Up and Hammer Down
We had to show our new friends how to Boiler Up and Hammer Down. You try explaining what a Boilermaker is in broken French/English.. haha!
A celebration wouldn't be complete without a Nutella crepe
A celebration wouldn’t be complete without a Nutella crepe
milkshake heaven!
milkshake heaven!
we decided to take a selfie at this cute restaurant. The waiter decided that he needed in on it too! haha
We decided to take a selfie at this cute restaurant. The waiter decided that he needed in on it too! haha
Such an adorable place!
Such an adorable place!
YAY!
YAY! (And the nails just happened to be painted PERFECTLY!)
My family keeps me up to date on the growing Indiana corn to make me feel more at home. This was my most recent update that read "Yup... It was knee high by the 4th of July!" haha I have the best family ever!
My family keeps me up to date on the growing Indiana corn to make me feel more at home. This was my most recent update that read “Yup… It was knee high by the 4th of July!” I had to laugh out loud at this one. I have the best family ever!

Born in the U.S.A.

The second portion of my adventure has begun! My friends have left to be with their host families and I have moved to a new house. It is right on campus and has earned the name “the pink shack”. It’s nice and I really enjoy the 3 minute commute to work!

It doesn't look like much but... home is where the wifi to talk to mom is! hahaha
It doesn’t look like much but… home is where the wifi to talk to mom is! hahaha

Tuesday I got to drive (yes, I drove!) to the city of Viazac to visit one of the students on  her internship. She is on a donkey farm and I learned about the production of soaps and lotions from this milk. Pretty unique farm! Seeing the dogs of the farms has become one of my favorite things. ESPECIALLY on this farm because it looked like my beloved Co-op. The picture  I got doesn’t exactly do the similarity justice but it made me stop in awe for a minute.

My new donkey friend
My new donkey friend
Tell me this does this not look like Co-op I dare you...
Tell me this does this not look like Co-op I dare you…

Wednesday I got to drop Hannah off at her new home. The farmer she is staying with had been in the United States so she had to wait longer than most to leave Purpan. She is staying in the city of Castelnau-d’Estrétefonds. Next we headed to the nearby town of Haute-Garonne to visit Michelle on her vineyard. Her host family was fantastic and their home was beautiful! I found yet another adorable dog at this place. I could get used to this traveling thing!

We finally got Hannah off to her live with her host family!
We finally got Hannah off to her live with her host family!
wine for days
wine for days
He was SO precious
He was SO precious

Thursday was spent in the office working on pictures and the footage I have gotten so far. It was also a pretty special day to me! This is definitely never how I imagined spending my 21st birthday. However, I am VERY thankful for the people I have met in France that were excited to celebrate with me and made my day special. They will never understand just how much I appreciate their compassion, excitement, and support to make it though this day without my family or friends. Djamel and Marianne took me to V&B (a local bar) for a drink before the day was over. I received many encouraging texts, emails, and messages from people all over the world. There are many people who are ready to celebrate with me when I get home and I’m pretty excited to do so! Viri (my roommate for the month), Elise (one of the program assistants), and Maria (a Purpan friend) and I went out for a little bit that evening to celebrate. To end my day, I got to Skype with some pretty special people. I think I would call that “Wenning”!

Snapchats keep me sane
Snapchats keep me sane
Not a better way to end my birthday than talking to these crazies!
Not a better way to end my birthday than talking to these crazy Wennings! (Well… two Wennings and a VERY soon to be Mrs. Wenning)

My first Independence Day away from home was spent traveling to Mayran and Albi France. Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and Tom Petty’s American Girl have been on repeat in my head all day… However that actually isn’t unusual! We visited a veal and honey bee farm and then made a pitstop to Albi to see this amazing cathedral. The churches here are incredible! The groundbreaking for this cathedral was in 1282. YES, you read that correctly…… 1282! It is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world. I ended this special day Skyping again. I was worried for a long time how I would handle being away from home during the 3rd and 4th of July but thanks to my amazing support system, I made it through!

Albi Cathedral
Albi Cathedral
since the church. The shade of blue is called "king blue". It think it might be a new favorite of mine!
Inside the church. The shade of blue is called “king blue”. It think it might be a new favorite of mine!
Another new friend, they're everywhere!
Another new friend at the veal farm, they’re everywhere!
21 years and I haven't missed a 4th of July with these people (minus the one the day after I was born).
21 years and I haven’t missed a 4th of July with these people (minus the one the day after I was born. Actually I probably saw some of you but sorry, I don’t remember). Love you guys!

 

The adventures of studying and working abroad

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