October 19, 2012
The World is my Oyster
Hey all you out there in the world!!
The past 2 months have been hectic. I have... Started school, been doing French workbooks in my spare time, catching a train to Lille, visiting castles, going to the beach, and tons of other interesting, French-like things. It has been an amazing 2 months here in France.
I will start with school, since it occupies the majority of my time. For me, school is waaayyy different. School in the US is what I am comfortable with. I have 7 classes that last about an hour and is everyday from Monday to Friday. School in France is what I was100% not comfortable with. School in France is not normal from the typical American perspective. School in France has a weird, mixed up schedule that changes without notice and an added day to the school week (Saturdays) so needless to say, my first full week was a week of extreme confusion and a very different Aly. Between this and the amount of energy it takes for someone's brain to take in a language and try to make sense out of it, it makes a very tired exchange student. I literally fall asleep everyday coming home, weather it be in the 20 min car ride, or the 1 hour bus ride.
In France, there are two tracks of learning that you can take, L (which is language), S (which is scientifique), and my track ES (which is socio-économique). In my track I focus on Economics, so I have a lot of economic classes. Then I have the classes that everyone has to take to prepare for the BAC (a big test at the end of French high school that determines if they go to university or not). I have 5 hours of French, 2 hours of English, 4 hours of Spanish (if you think that Spanish class is hard, try Spanish class where you can not tell if the professor is speaking French or Spanish), 3 hours of science, and 2 hours of math. Its a lot of school. I leave my house at 7:15 and get to school an hour later. Then I go to school until 5:40, wait for my 6:25 bus, and ride the bus home for another hour. Then I usually miss my stop on account of my sleeping on the bus, and have to walk for 15 mins to get home. It has become a little routine of mine now, because the walk is ri ght next to a pretty river that runs through the town. Now that I have a schedule that doesn't change as much as it used to, I am starting to enjoy school. I have some classes that I look forward to, but as all teenagers, I have classes that I can not stand.
My worst class by far is Economics, because it is in a three hour block, and for those three hours i sit there confused. When the teacher does write on the board, I take out my handy French-English dictionary, and search for the word. Much to my dismay, though, the word is not usually in there. I guess the pocket dictionary company decided that obscure French economic terms are not essential for their target audience of American students backpacking through Europe. The teacher is not bad though, I think she is nice and she does try to help me by translating some words to English. The only problem with this is that she will translate one word every 30 mins or so, and that word will be something obscure. On Tuesday, she said Water, Elephant, and skipping, so in the 3 hour block, the only thing I got from the lesson is that Elephants drink water when they are skipping.
History and English are my favorites. In History, my teacher is really nice. He doesn't speak much English, but it is the only class (aside from English) that has my full attention. In the class i understand 5% of whats happening, but I am paying attention. He moves around the classroom and is always talking loud and grabbing my attention. Also, at random points in the lesson, he will point at me and exclaim, "The Mademoiselle from America!!". I have no clue why, but I smile and laugh and then he and the class will laugh too. Its a good class.
English is also amazing. The Professor is really good, and the class is not all boring like foreign languages in the US. They stuff they are working on is hard. It turns out that I actually learned an English word too. When we start a new lesson, the teach has me say a word, and then my class will repeat me, trying to copy my pronunciation. This worked well until I came across the word, Tertiary. I saw it, burst into laughter and told my teacher that I had never seen the word in my life, and he had to explain to me what it meant a few times before I picked up on it and understood. It was crazy. Its such a weird word to learn. Who would use it in normal conversation? Then, we started a new lesson, called the World is your Oyster (thus the name for my post today) and he wanted to me to explain what it means. Now, I know it sounds easy, because I have heard this saying for many, many years, but I blanked. I went on some tangent about pearls, and I doubt anyone understood me. Eve ntually, The professor cut me off, and my moment of confusion ended.
I have other classes, like Spanish too. Spanish is really really hard. When I went into it I was excited. I had taken a few years of Spanish before, so I was confident in my abilities. That was until the teacher and students started talking. The kids in my class are quite a bit better than me on the language, and that added to me not being able to decipher when the teacher is speaking Spanish, and when he is speaking French makes it a class that is perfect for my nap time. I just close my eyes, tune out the languages that are both foreign to me and get an hour nap before Math class. Math class is also a class I was excited for. Every exchange student I spoke to said that Math was good, because it was the same in all languages. That is correct, except in my position, where the teacher starts of every lesson with word problems. Math is just as bad as French class now.
Outside of school, I do have a life even if it doesn't feel like it. I have been touring Castles, going into Lille, and going to the beach. Its been a good few weeks. First off, I went to Château d'Olhain that is about 20 mins from my house. Its one of the most famous castles in Northern France, because it was built in the 1200's and it survived almost untouched during both WW1 and WW2. It was amazing and beautiful.
After the castle we stopped to see a megalith that is common in Northern France/ Europe. A Megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones that utilizes an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement. No one knows exactly why they were formed, but they are very cool.
The other amazing thing I did was went to the beach. I went to the beach in La Touquet for the Rotary weekend with the almost 50 other exchange students in my district (1520 represent!!! ). I had an amazing time going in the freezing cold water and doing an mock Olympic games as well as riding 4-6 person bikes through the city on a scavenger hunt. It was amazing-ly amazing, especially after dinner, when everyone in the district got to put a pin on the town they were from on this massive map and then sing their national anthem with the other from their country.
Alyssa (as my classmates call me)
Ps. Check out my blog for more frequent updates and pictures. It's alytheexplorer.blogspot.com.
December 29, 2012
Never in my life have I been so sure of what I want, yet so confused on how to get it. After spending 4 amazing months in France, my mind is jumbled.
So far this year has helped me understand about what I want to spend my life doing, it has helped me understand truly who I am. Two weeks ago I would have told you that I was a American who loves all things French. One month ago I would have told you that I am a girl who just happens to be spending a year in France and learning French. Today, I can officially say that I am just a normal teenager who is confused (and slightly frightened) with the future.
When I first signed up for this program I wanted to become a cultured woman who traveled the world and experienced life. I wanted to get out of my small town where I have known everyone in my class since preschool and become a new me. Now that I am out, I have come to realize how amazing my little town really is and how much I want it back.
Being 5,000 miles away from my home is making me realize how special it is. I miss walking into a grocery store and having to wait 5 minutes when my dad blabbers on with his old buddies that we seem to always run in to. I miss the little pizza place that had a waitress who knew what I wanted to eat before I even said anything. I miss my mom waking me up on Saturday mornings, trying to drag me to her workout class with her (which I almost always turned down). I miss a having a friend who I was known practically since birth and who calls me out whenever I am exaggerating or lying (and I miss returning the favor). I miss eating cookie dough from the bowl while watching mindless television (sometimes substituted with ice cream if we are feeling daring). I miss driving in my brothers car, listening to whatever rap song he is loving this week with all the windows down on a hot summer day. Most of all, I miss how easy life was.
Though I miss much from my old home, I am becoming attached to new people and places along with new routines. I love how I now have a new pizza place that the waiter knows I am American, so he gets out the special international card swipe when I walk in. I love how I can sit in Grand Place and I am guaranteed to see at least one familiar face if I wait long enough (whether it be from a school friend or Rotary friend). I love how my first host family was so organized. Dinner was always at 8pm and lunch was always at 1pm. It gave me such a sense of security. I love that I meet up with my two best friends almost every Wednesday to bake cookies, pies, and brownies to remind us of home. Most of all, I love how interesting and new life is.
With everything I have known my whole life being changed, it’s nice to have consistent things. I have realized how much people crave consistency and how important it is to our well being. But when nothing changes, you don’t appreciate how good life is. If I never left Vero Beach, I would never had realized how much I loved small town living and how lucky I am to have warm winters. I also would never have experienced a life that is filled with so many emotions, whether they be joy of future or longing for the past.