When you’re studying abroad, it’s impossible for you to keep any secrets. In Grenoble, I was put with a host family, which was more of just a host mother named “Madame Siron.” She was the strongest and wisest woman I’d ever met. A survivor of World War 1 and 2, Madame Siron was clearly a woman to be respected and who understood what the important things in life were. What made her so lovable was that she had maintained her kindness or positivity. She was a happy woman with her routine and her own life; despite the many obstacles life has thrown at her. I could not have asked for a better host mother. But she was tough and worried about me like every mother does.
In the very beginning of my enchanting semester abroad, I was lucky enough to make several French friends who took me under their wing and introduced me firsthand to French culture. One girl named “Sabine” invited me to her birthday party at her home. I had met Sabine and her group of friends at a bar and had only hung out with them once before she extended the invitation, so I was extremely flattered. Sabine and her friends were exceptionally kind, welcoming and patient with my level of French. They were all so accommodating that when they hung out with me, everyone in the group would speak entirely in English so that I could understand and contribute. I seriously have no idea why people think the French are so rude or pretentious, because to me they were the kindest people I’d ever met.
Anyway, Sabine’s home was outside the downtown area of Grenoble where I lived so a friend gave me a ride to the party. Upon arrival, I realized how intimate the party actually was. The guests included Sabine’s two sisters, two cousins, her boyfriend, her two best friends and me. I’m still bewildered by the fact that I was invited, but I was touched by the gesture. Sabine said to me, “You know when I studied abroad in Australia, a group of people really took care of me and made me feel welcome, and I’d like to do that for you. That’s why I invited you.” It was one of the kindest things anyone had ever done for me, and the party was so much fun! It was very French in the sense that there were like 10 bottles of wine for eight people with a variety of cheeses, breads and prosciutto offered as snacks. It was the classiest and most low-key party I’d ever been to.
It was 2 a.m. when I realized that everyone had planned to spend the night at Sabine’s house since we’d all been drinking. One of the rules of the program is that I had to inform my host mother if I was going to spend the night somewhere else. Unfortunately, I only had the house phone of my host mother so when I realized I was spending the night at Sabine’s I didn’t dare call my host mother and wake her up in the middle of the night just to inform her I was staying out. So I went to sleep and figured I’d just explain to her what happened in the morning when I returned.
I wake up the next morning with three missed calls from the Main Program Director, two texts messages from her daughter who is the other Program Director and two missed calls from one of my friends who was in my study abroad program. I opt to call my friend Brendon first to find out what was happening, but I already knew. He immediately asks me where I am and if I’m alive. Obviously, I was since I was talking to him so I start firing with questions to figure out what’s the emergency. He explained that my host mom noticed that I didn’t return home the night before so she called the police and the Program Director this morning extremely worried. Also, because Brendon is such a good friend, when asked by the Program Directors if he knew about my whereabouts, his reply was, “I don’t know the last time I saw Ariana, she was getting a ride with a random French dude.” Despite the fact that he didn’t know I was going to a birthday party of a French girl, he decides to insinuate something much more scandalous. While I spoke to Brendon, he mentions that he’s at the Study Abroad office at that moment, and then I hear him scream out, “I’m talking to Ariana now, she’s fine.” He returns his attention to me by notifying me that the Program Directors want me to come into the office immediately.
I asked a friend at the party for a ride back to the downtown area of Grenoble since the house was outside in a more suburban area and out of reach of the public transportation. On my way, I start to panic. They can’t actually kick me out of the program for staying out overnight, right? I’m 21 years old; I’m an adult! (At least I like to think so.) I enter the Study Abroad office shaking. It’s the beginning of the semester so I didn’t really know the Program Directors that well and they didn’t know me. (Although, as a side note, they’re both two of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.) Getting in trouble so early on was not the greatest first impression. “Margot” the Head Program Director who has run the study abroad program in Grenoble for the past like 20 years was angry and ready to show it. However, her daughter “Colette,” who seemed more like the protective, but approachable older sister, balanced her out. Margot immediately started lecturing me on how disrespectful it was to stay out overnight without telling my host mother in advance. I agreed, but then explained the situation on how I didn’t know until very late in the evening that I was staying out, and due to my host mother’s age she only has a landline phone, which I didn’t want to call due to the time. Apparently, I was wrong. My host mother had a cell phone. I wasn’t sure she even knew what a cell phone was! I just assumed she didn’t have one, because when she gave me her contact information, a cell phone number was not included, and I’d only ever seen her speak on a landline phone! I was blown away.
I quickly apologized, because from the beginning I knew I was in the wrong. However, Colette seemed to find the whole situation amusing. She sat there smiling the whole time Margot was lecturing me, before she quipped, “You know Ariana if you were trying to be discreet with your affairs, this was the worse possible way to do it.” I died from laughter. She was completely right! I didn’t even bother trying to correct what I knew they were assuming with “my affairs.” I accepted the warning with gratitude and humor, and then went on my way, happy that I was able to stay in France and continue with my scandalous ways.