I have been studying abroad in France for over a month now. My French has improved a lot, but it’s still difficult to speak and understand French all the time. And against what I was told by multiple people before I left, I am not thinking in French, nor am I anywhere close to being fluent. But I’m progressing everyday, constantly learning new words and expressions. It’s difficult but I love it.
What I love even more about my high school abroad experience is the culture and everyday lifestyle here. The country and the city exist right next to each other. I love being able to take a bus after school to Nantes and visit the chateau or go shopping in the millions of stores, and then take the same bus home and walk 45 minutes past grape farms, and fields, and so much open space. You get the best of everything, which is hard to find back at home.
Life here is a lot less stressful for me than in the U.S. In France, high schoolers don’t kill themselves studying and preparing for college tests. School lasts from 8:00- 6:00 but there is a lot of free time during the day and not a lot of homework. Teachers don’t cram information into their lessons. Students seem to really enjoy what they are learning here, whereas in the U.S., students are just working for a grade, for college. They don’t worry about that as much here, they just focus on what they are trying to learn at that moment.
I love the freedom here. In the U.S, high schoolers are constantly preparing for the future, but we are treated like kids. In school, we have to always be with a class, we can’t go outside, and there are a lot of restrictions put on what we can do. In France, once you get to high school your treated like an adult. When we don’t have class we can do what we want, even leave the school. We are expected to come to class on time, with our books, but as long as we do that there isn’t somebody who has to be constantly watching us. I love having the freedom to actually be responsible for myself.
Also, everybody here is really aware of the environment and how they affect it. In grocery stores they don’t waste plastic by bagging everybody’s purchases. At school, they use real plates and silverware, not plastic or Styrofoam. At home, everybody takes very fast showers to use less water. And it’s very common to have a motorcycle here instead of a car to use less gas. Everybody just does the little that they can to help the Earth. Everything is calm and practical, and besides the fact that it’s all in French, it makes sense.