Entering my second week abroad, I can hardly believe it has only been one week since my arrival here in Metz! I have seen and done so much already it seems like I have been here for a month. Last weekend, my fellow students and I got to experience our first weekend travels and face the trials of Eurail (the European train system). While the Eurail app could probably use some updating, the experience is something that we certainly do not commonly get in America. In fact, in class, we recently did an exercise in which my classmates would propose a theoretical policy that would help us move towards a more sustainable way of life, and we would “vote” if we would be in favor of the policy. One of my classmates proposed that all forms of transportation that produce greenhouse gas emissions be banned/limited. Pretty hard to imagine! However, if that ever were to be implemented, some of the only forms of motorized transportation left would be trains and electric cars. In Europe, trains are the most environmentally friendly form of motorized transportation*! So even after taking different routes because of track flooding and temporarily being stuck in a train station, it was nice to know we could travel in a less negatively impactful way!
This week in the SLS program, we got to visit the L’institut Européen de l’Écologie (The European Institute of Ecology). The organization is in the heart of downtown Metz inside the former Récollets convent. We got to walk around the beautiful property smelling all the herbs and flowers that they grow in their gardens. We even walked through the “toxic garden” where the abbey grew plants that they used for medicines, many of which are poisonous to humans in their raw form. At the end of the tour, we were given a presentation about all the exciting events that the Institute has planned for the upcoming months. The one that I am most excited to be a part of is their film festival in November now called “CINÉMAPLANÈTE.”
One of the most fun aspects of learning a new language in its origin country for me has been getting to experience everyday things in a new way. This week, some of the SLS students and I decided to go to the theater to see the newly released Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Watching movies and television shows in French has become a common form of study for me over the past few months, but I had never experienced a blockbuster film in a French theater. The whole experience was very intriguing, from how the concessions are sold to the audience’s reactions. Although no matter how different the experience, the overpriced popcorn remains the same.
We had a free weekend this week, which some of us took advantage of by traveling down to the south of France and visiting the city of Nice in the French Rivera. In my opinion, being near the ocean is always the best way to relieve the stresses of increasing schoolwork. What better way to appreciate and be grateful for the planet’s beauty than walking along the coast? Nice is famous for its crystal clear, bright turquoise water and its pebble beaches. The sound of the waves rolling the stones into the ocean was so peaceful and far less messy than sand, but it definitely lacked comfort. Tanner Crew, a fellow SLS student, braved the rocky beach to jump in the ocean and retrieve a bottle he noticed floating a little way offshore. He successfully recycled the bottle and was glad he could do his part while enjoying a refreshing swim!
As we strolled through old Nice, we happened upon an EcoJardin (Eco-Garden). The label of EcoJardin is awarded to a park when it has an astonishing variety of plants, utilizes only natural bacteria and products to fight against pests, and takes several other precautions to preserve biodiversity and promote public awareness. This beautiful park was full of people lounging in the lush grass, striking assortments of trees, and children playing on sustainably made wooden playgrounds. It was a beautiful example of people enjoying and living in unison with the environment in innovative yet simple ways.
That is all for this fun-filled week in France! We have lots of exciting things planned for next week! A bientôt!
*This statement is true based on France’s current use of nuclear energy powered trains. Some European countries still use coal powered engines which would not be a solution to reducing greenhouse gasses.