Studying Abroad in France: Semaine 3

Studying Abroad in France: Semaine 3

I’ve concluded that being an exchange student is kind of like being a baby or small child. Your vocabulary is very limited, which doesn’t mean you don’t have thoughts, it just means you can’t share them and that’s frustrating. You cry for unknown reasons at random times. Everyone speaks to you slowly and with basic sentence structure so you can partially understand what is going on. Now don’t get me wrong, it is refreshing to return to that stage of life having already experienced it, but now getting to experience it in an entirely new way. I really don’t think we give babies enough credit for keeping themselves together most of the time. I totally understand why tantrums ensue when you clearly are hungry but no one is providing you with food. Like I said: frustrating.

On another note, I feel like my comprehension of the French language is getting stronger everyday. Now I can understand at strong 58% of what is going on. (I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s a significant step-up from where I was 3 weeks ago.) For all of you out there trying to learn another language, I have some advice to give you. Don’t ever discount anything you learn in class or whatever because you think it’s stupid or you’ll never use it. I can tell you right now, if you are in a culture that speaks that language long enough, an opprotunnity to use that word will present itself. For example, when my French class was in a unit about food we learned the names of various foods, including haricots verts (green beans). At the time of learning it, I thought to myself “Okay this is probably one of the least useful terms I could have in my vocabulary, but whatever.” Lo and behold, the first week I arrived here, these haricots verts were mentioned approximately 5 times. I don’t know if that’s an excessive number of times for for green beans to be mentioned in a week but I feel like that story really proves a point. Everything you learn is important. In languages or otherwise, knowledge truly is power. The more you know, the better the world becomes for you and everyone else. Stay informed, don’t do drugs, remember everything, and ask lots of questions.

As of late, I have gotten a few questions about what foods I eat here. Contrary to popular belief, macarons and croissants aren’t consumed every day. In all honesty, I have eaten a disgusting amount of bread since I arrived here but that won’t stop me because fresh French baguette is just so goshdarn good. At school, the lunch meal is far more gourmet than anything the US public school system has ever provided for students. Truly, even on the day of a strike (an occurrence that France is notoriously known for) when the cafeteria staff was on strike and the meal was of lesser quality, it was still better than what you usually get at American schools. Everyday there is always a hot meal of some kind (usually including meat and some kind of vegetable), a few options of salads, traditional salad, soup, dessert (often yogurt), cheese, fruit, and bread. You can pick and choose what you want to take that day but the meals are meant to be filling and they definitely are. At home, there is fresh baguette everyday (hallelujah) and a panoply of other little biscuits, crunchy toasted breads, and little cakes. I’m going to be so fat when I return. But we usually eat vegetables with every meal, excluding le petit dejeuner (breakfast), and fruit either for dessert or for a snack.

One thing that has really meant a lot to me over these first few weeks is when people speak some English with me. I understand that I am here to learn French and I expect people to speak solely French with me but it can be extremely hard to understand what is going on. Sometimes all it takes is one word or phrase for me to gather context. So to everyone who has spoken any English with me since I arrived (my classmates, friends, teachers, and of course my family here), MERCI, MERCI, MERCI! And to everyone else who kinda speaks another language, if you are ever in a situation where someone who speaks more of that language than the current cultural language and you just happen to know a word that would provide this crucial context for them, be a doll and say the word. That little word is a random act of kindness in it of itself.

There have been lots of ups and downs so far, but an experience like this is meant to be a roller coaster and I’m just along for the ride. If you’re someone who has been or is afraid to enter another culture, even if just temporarily, it is perfectly fine to be scared. But you can’t let that stop you from going. You have to embrace the fear and the joy and the wonder all at the same time because that is what travel is all about. Living something that is different from your normal. You can’t live in the same box your entire life, you’ve got to try some new things out.

P.S. French pastries are all the hype.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *