The Best Way to Get To Know a Foreign Country: Be Homeless

Greetings from Lyon, France, where I have been homeless for the last month. Well, kind of.

The EAP Full Immersion Program in Lyon, France warned participants of two things: classes are taught in French and housing is not provided. Yours truly interpreted this as, “Elysabeth, you’re going to become fluent in French and you’re going to have a lovely flat in Lyon, France for four beautiful months.”

My ridiculously inaccurate interpretation of the program prompted me to begin my housing search early. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look hard or long before I found the one.  This one-bedroom apartment was situated in Vieux Lyon, the most charming part of Lyon with its Renaissance buildings, cobblestone streets and breathtaking views of old cathedrals.

I immediately fell in love and found myself daydreaming of days and nights in this delightful flat. I aggressively contacted the landlady and before I knew it, I was knocking on her door. She agreed and everything was almost set until she dropped the bomb (in French, making it all the more dramatic): “You cannot move in until September 24th.”

Here I was on August 25th, facing a very tough decision. As I weighed my options carefully, I finally decided to stick it out for a month. This place was worth it. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about the first two weeks because everyone in the program was staying in a temporary residence. It was just the last two weeks that I needed to worry about.

Although my new place excited me, it left me with the huge burden of finding places to stay in a completely unfamiliar country. For about a week, life seemed drab, depressing and stress-filled until one day, one of the directors of the program asked me how I was doing. I told him about potentially joining the ranks of numerous homeless beggars in Lyon. Seeing my dilemma, he generously offered his apartment while he and his wife traveled out of town for a week!

A week later, I was in his apartment, cooking myself a delicious meal and overlooking Place Bellecour, the third largest plaza in Europe.

Four days into my stay at this apartment, a friend I met in the program offered to share her room with me for the remaining week I had left. Just as I thought things couldn’t get better, she told me that she lived in the same building as the director, just four floors down. Hallelujah!

I was lucky enough to experience genuine generosity firsthand, I lived in two beautiful homes and made my own unique experience in Lyon.

Today, I am sitting here in my much-anticipated apartment and I couldn’t be happier. After four very long weeks, I have a place to finally call my own. Now, I can gaze out of my French windows and daydream just like I had anticipated.

With lease-signing, negotiating for an earlier date and couch-surfing all in French, I can honestly say that the first month of “full immersion” was most definitely an eventful one, to say the least.

C’est la vie.