Luke, Outbound to France

I’m absolutely stuck on what to write my blog on. I have too many things to write about; from changing host families to experiencing a new level of winter. However, I feel that if I list every single interesting “touristic” thing that I have done in the past three months, I feel like this will be utterly boring. So, instead, I have decided to take you guys through a typical day in the life of Luke.

6:10 The dreading alarm rings. I unconsciously know it’s going to happen, I know it is my enemy, and sometimes I have to resist throwing my phone across the room. The “Happy days” are over. In other words, I am not, absolutely not happy to hear my alarm go off. I was still in the “Happy days” when I wrote my first blog post, but now, I am in the “Not Happy days.” As I rest in my bed for about another five minutes, it’s always a battle between me and sleep. If I accidentally sleep, my host mom will come to wake me up again, and to avoid that happening, normally I win the battle, go Luke! After waking up, the first thing I do is go to eat. It gets my day started, and I am still half-asleep while I eat. My host family learned that it’s never a good idea to talk something important in the morning, because I will 99.99% forget it. Future exchange students, I assure you, we aren’t like Superman. We’re still human beings, and we are prone to everyday hardships like any other of you guys. Breakfast usually consists of cereal, loafs of bread, or grillettes. If I’m lucky, there’s a cake or crêpe resting from the day before that I would definitely take. I eat with my host mother and host sister, while my lucky host brother gets to sleep a little while longer, as he goes to middle school. After brushing my teeth and washing my face, it’s game on. The second that cold water hits my face, I am forced to wake myself up, and this officially starts my day. I usually (*correction 50% of the time) pack my backpack the day before, which make things easier. All that rests is putting on clothes for the day, and we are off into the car to go to my bus stop. Notice that I am extremely proud of myself that I haven’t missed a single bus (Although I have been dangerously close) to get to school. I will most definitely celebrate if I can make it through the school year without missing a bus. After my host mother drops me at the bus station at 7:00, the bus arrives about two minutes later, and I am greeted by the bus driver. To anyone reading this, whether it be future exchange students, or their parents, or anyone, it is always important to be polite, especially in France, where people will not be friendly if you don’t start a conversation with a simple ‘Bonjour.’ And the boring wait begins...

For about an hour...

Just to get a school...

Yup, that’s right. A full hour to study French, socialize with bus buddies, listen to French music, an hour with endless possibilities, two hours everyday including the return trip! Instead, I use this time to sleep, or in most cases, to try to sleep because I have trouble sleeping in buses. What a great use of time, Luke. As I enter a time warp of an hour, I am then beaten awake for the third time of the day, this time, by my best friend (Soon to be my host brother in April) who usually sits next to me on the bus, Damien. Once at school, we don’t really stop to talk to anyone, but instead we go directly inside the school building, due to the cold temperatures. Winter is at its finest, and you can tell when every breath you take releases a white vapor. In the morning, the temperatures are in between 0 to 5 degrees Celsius, and the highest temperatures that the day can reach is around 10 degrees. Once inside the building, most of our classmates are in front of the classroom, in which we have about 5 minutes to socialize before courses start. Guys greet other guys with a firm handshake or a handshake that you make up, whereas girls greet other girls with a cheek kiss known as la bise. Guys greet other girls by doing a “chèque” (Two taps on the hand) or by doing the bise if they feel comfortable with the other girl. By the time we greet our classmates, the professor arrives, opens the door, and he/she commences class. School is definitely not the best part of being an exchange student. It is exhausting to try to understand a class in a language that is not native. Classes differ each day, but each subject determines my participation level. For example, I fully participate in math and science classes, however, in French class, I struggle to listen (As we study difficult literature equivalent for reading Shakespeare in America). It really depends on the exchange student and his or her teachers if they have to participate in class or not. Like school in the United States, I prefer certain courses over others. One of the interesting things is that as much as I don’t fully understand French class, the teacher is very funny and makes the class interesting. In France, school starts at 8 and ends at 5, except for Wednesday’s where they end at noon. We usually have 10 minute breaks after every two courses, and an hour break for lunch. Other than the hour break for lunch, we usually have one or two hours a day for free time. During the free time, I usually do one of three things; go out into the city with my friends, go to the library with my friends, or roam around the school and halls with my friends. I can’t stress out the importance of having friends. I don’t think it matters what country you are going to, but friends are necessity in order for you to progress in the language. Not only that, they are a mean of support, they are trustworthy, and can help you overcome your struggles. I was extremely fortunate when I found out that my best friend is going to become my host brother! Anyways, going back to school, I probably talk more than I should, especially in classes I don’t understand, but at least I talk in French, so I don’t see it as a problem. Talking is very important as well for learning the language, and I always strive to find conversations to join on. A great place to talk and socialize in is the cafeteria. First and foremost, I have to admit, that the United States school food is lacking a lot compared to the French school food. I believe this is due to the fact that the importance of food is ingrained in the French culture. They have embraced this culture and have passed it down through generations, which we can all observe through the quality food. As I get back into the bus at 5:00 after parting with my friends, I once again start to sleep (But instead, for the past few days, I have been writing this blog on the bus). Getting off the bus at 6:00 I either go directly home, or I go to tennis (every Tuesday and Wednesday). Also, some Mondays, I go to orchestra from 7:30 to 9:30, and every Thursday, I go back to my first host family’s house because they take me running with my first two host brothers. On the days I do go home at 6:00, I usually stay on the couch in the living room, with my host brother, or simply in my room until around 7 to 7:30, when we eat dinner. My host father cooks amazing traditional French dishes, which is a great combination with delicious French bread. However, I have to admit, sometimes I do miss American and Japanese food, but that can wait because I can always have that when I get back. Normally after eating, brushing my teeth, taking a shower, it is already 8:30 to 9:00, at which time I go into my room to either study or watch some television series (Always in French or at least with French subtitles), and then... I sleep to wake up again to the alarm.

This is an average day of an exchange student. It’s not really similar to what an average exchange student posts on their social media, like Instagram. Obviously there are fun moments, but life is not constantly made up of fun moments. I just came back from a Paris/Barcelona bus trip, which was probably the best week I have had so far on my exchange, as I got to meet up with Miles, a fellow exchange student from Florida in Spain. We were forty exchange students in France discovering more of our country and our fellow neighbor, Spain. When I came back from that Bus Trip, I ended up staying up the whole night not being able to sleep because I felt like the best times were over, and that I was going to return to a normal day. Mind you, in my opinion, the normal day of an exchange student is already unique and better than an average, repetitive day in the United States. I have 6 weeks until the next vacation, and I hope I will have experiences as amazing of those I had on the bus trip. I have four months left of exchange, and I am starting to have the notion that one day, I am going to have to return to life in the United States. But as of now, I will try to forget about that fact and live fun times with my new friends and families.

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