I have officially been in Paris for 20 days at this point, and I have actually been in school for like 10 of them (I think?).
My tourist days have passed in a whirl of museums, monuments (WHICH ARE ALL FREE TO EU CITIZENS BETWEEN 18 AND 26, AND I COUNT WITH A LONG STAY VISA GOOD JOB FRANCE YOU ROCK), and long walks to cafes, coffeshops, or nowhere in particular.
Don’t get me wrong, the touristic things were about 87% of the appeal of studying abroad for me. And they have definitely lived up to their hype more often than not.
But I have actually loved school almost as much. Classes are hard because the only language is French- spoken quite rapidly- which can be extremely intimidating. But it’s a safe environment where we mess up and laugh at ourselves/each other. I am learning SO MUCH French. I have 2 hours of grammar classes every day for the entire semester and an hour of phonetics every day every other week. We shall see how long it takes me to mix up the weeks and get here 2 hours early (or more likely late…). This week I also start additional culture courses called conferences. These are once a week for 2 hours. So that’s about as simple as it gets right?
It’s also roughly 21 hours of literal sitting in class per week, so I may be dropping things. On one hand there isn’t too much homework so the rest of my time is free. On the other, I just have issues sitting still for very long at all. So… We shall see.
I spend a lot of time at school, but I absolutely love the environment around our one building campus. This morning, as I was attempting to write this post, I was interrupted by no less than 4 friendly Europeans who just wanted to chat before classes started. It’s like freshman year all over again! Everyone is so excited to be here and also so out of their familiar environments that we all just naturally start chatting whenever we get the chance.
We are all international students, so there are a crazy number of languages spoken in the halls and library. My grammar class is a good example of the diversity at the school. There are 20ish students in my class and we are American (of course), Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian, Mexican, Bulgarian, and Turkish. French is the only language some of us have in common, and an interest in French culture virtually the only thing that we have in common. But it’s enough. I’ve already made some great friends in my class. Strangely, I became friends with the South American students before I really got to know the other North American ones. From the very first day, we started bonding by commiserating France’s lack of sun, open spaces, and (ironically enough) casual conversations with friendly strangers. All the other US kids are from New York, so they couldn’t really join in on any of those…
I’m learning so much French, but I’m also learning about the international community in general, and that is even more valuable. Yesterday we spent a huge chunk of class discussing issues in our home countries in French. I learned about the packs of feral dogs ravaging Bulgaria, political unrest in Turkey, the dangerous levels of pollution in China, crippling social pressure in Korea, urban sprawl in Mexico, corruption in Brazil, all from people who have experienced these things and are invested in the issues.
What did I talk about you may ask? Cost of education and a lack of value for the Liberal Arts EXCEPT OH WAIT THEY DON’T HAVE THAT PROBLEM HERE. One of my new British friends and I spent the morning discussing the way the French appreciate things. They may not make enough money to enjoy all the things they want to do… but boy do they enjoy what they can.
So class is great. People are great. And I love studying here. And I will just finish this distraction from everyone’s studies by repeating the most French piece of advice I’ve ever gotten (from my new French restaurant owner friend Sophie): “School is important, but don’t worry about it too much. You don’t need a lot of money. You only need good people… And good wine.”