(Title – John Fogerty)
I am trying really hard not to hold a grudge against the pilot that flew us away from Dublin, Ireland. But it’s hard. The past week had been one of my best vacations ever and I was not exactly looking forward to going back to France and starting class. Writing that makes me feel so much more guilty than I already do. I should be ecstatic to go back to the country I chose to study abroad in and should be excited to get back to studying the language. I suppose to clarify; exactly what I was not looking forward to was sitting in class instead of hiking or exploring and feeling timid when needing to talk to the less friendly French people in my second language instead of the overly helpful Irish people in English. I did, however, miss speaking French and enjoying French meals with my host family.
Getting back was really weird. It was an interesting adjustment. When we first got to Ireland it was hard to remember we could speak English, yet it wasn’t home. Returning to France was interesting as well because we were going back to something familiar, yet still not home. Ireland is more similar to the States so that was a quick adjustment. And actually, since we are comfortable with Angers, that shift was fairly quick as well. What was particularly strange to come home to was everything being the same except having a different roommate. Here we have our own room and we know our host parents, etc. but there was a new face and a missing face. Real classes started the very next day and that was going to be yet another change to swallow. It’s amazing how starting over so many times so close together wears you out. It is comforting to know that when I get officially home, people already know me and I know them.
On day 1, we got up, got dressed and ate breakfast as usual. Then the three of us, now Maddy instead of Brittany, walked to the tram and caught it with perfect timing.
The rest of the day was mostly orientation that got me excited to be back and got my French brain working again and allowed some time to exchange travel stories with friends. A hurtle that I hadn’t anticipated was mixing new friends with old. I had been really excited to meet the new AHA students and feel as though I had a “group” or at least some more fellow Oregonians because many of the other Americans during September came with groups from their schools. However, these students have been in Angers since the beginning of October, and while I was gallivanting around in Ireland on vacation, they all had orientation and bonding time. Now I, as well as the other September program students, have returned and there is a divide that I felt stuck in the middle of. I’m eager for classes to get sorted out and for the new AHA arrivals to meet and click with the other students I met in September.
Here’s to having a great semester, getting the correct credits, seeing some cool places, meeting more cool people and learning a cool language!
Day two was better. I’m getting closer to a conclusion on which classes to take with the appropriate balance of desire to learn the subject and credit need. I also was able to meet more of the new AHA students! On an entirely unrelated note, I desperately need some water proof shoes. And just a highlight from the day, attempting to explain Sour Cream in French to our host parents.
It is now the end of week two since returning to Angers. The first week of classes was just a trial run of testing out which classes we thought we might want to take. It was nice that it wasn’t quite official school yet so I didn’t have too much homework, thus time to get to know the others. Lunch is no longer provided, so now I just buy groceries to store in the AHA office and get to eat in the lounge with the others. It’s really nice to have a place to go during breaks and a fridge because I save time and money. Another thing that we came to find is that having white skin is a minority in our classes of international students. The Chinese students outnumber the rest of us combined.
Week two was our first sample of the now routine life. Finally! A schedule that will stay the same! I’m not taking too many hours because I want to have time to explore the city and do other things while I’m here and not spend all of my time in class or doing homework. It was really hard to decide on which electives I wanted.
Here is what I ended up with:
-I have the regular “Langue” class which is just appropriate level, general learning like 301 or 202 or something like those.
– Comprehension Orale – basically listening and understanding practice. For some reason, that is one of my biggest struggles here so I hope that class will help. The teacher is fantastic!
-Expression Theatrale – Acting! This is like acting class in French! So much fun. I am the only Caucasian person in this entire class which I’ve never experienced before either. I’m really enjoying not only practicing acting techniques, but learning French and practicing pronunciation at the same time!
-Grammar – Because mine is horrible.
-Finally, my culture class. This was a difficult decision. History of France, Art History and France au Quotidian (general daily life) are the classes offered by the school, all of which sounded interesting! Also, my study abroad program, offers two courses with a visiting professor just for AHA students. I settled on Regional Cultures and Languages with the visiting professor. This class is unfortunately taught in English and at lunch time but there is an additional discussion hour in a café for speaking French. I’ve already learned a ton about the local divisions and sections within France.
A couple high lights from the first two weeks of October:
Listen to this. One Friday evening (the 12th of Oct.), I went to see a movie. IN Angers! So that means the movie was in French. Plus, it was a sequel to a movie I hadn’t seen. Sounds like I’m doomed right? Well, guess what? I understood! It happened to be an action movie which helped….a lot (Taken 2). I’m just so excited that I went to a movie in French and left without permanently damaged self-esteem! It was super strange and kind of distracting however since it was an American movie and US places and the lips were saying English words. I was willing the voice to be speaking English. But once I got past that. It was great. It was pretty much exactly like going to a theater in America except everything was in French, people were quieter and the seats were way comfier.
The following Sunday, Carina and I went ice-skating in the Angers rink!
Let me tell you, French boys know how to make the best out of a few hours of free skate time. So entertaining! Hockey and jumps and races AND break dancing! Seriously, tiny french boys break dancing in hockey skates on ice. Then miss Carina Wade became a celebrity by doing fancy figure skating turns and such! All of that entertainment for 6 euros. So much for there being nothing but Church and McDonald’s open on Sundays in Europe!
Luckily the weekend had been pretty restful because class from 9-2:30 with no lunch break on a Monday is a long haul. But having the whole afternoon off is wonderful! Monday the 15th I managed to make a hair cut appointment for the next day! I am pretty sure we were on the same page about what I was asking for but I guess I’ll find out after it’s trimmed.
Lost in Translation:
Sometimes I want to complain that the extremes of having good French speaking/understanding days and bad French days are hard on my self-esteem, but then I decide not to curse it and just appreciate that the good days exist!
Example of the week, I tried to explain (in French) to two Chinese boys, in from of the whole class of other Asian students that my eyes change colors. They were not satisfied with my response to their inquiries of “how?!” and “why?!”. I was at a loss.
Later however, I had an experience that was not lost. I got to compare the American capital cursive letters to the French capital cursive letters while talking to a French man on the tram whose father lived, worked and died in Eugene!
So, after a bit of déjà vu starting over again in the same place doing the same things, and going through orientation with the new students and meeting new people in a familiar place, I’ve settled in and gotten comfortable with the changes and even felt like the expert once or twice!