A French Nightmare

My first day of school in France was ridiculous.

This semester the kids in my program are split between two main French universities in Aix; a handful of the kids will attend the political science university, Sciences Po, while most of us will be going to Aix-Marseille Université, which, as of very recently, consists of three universities meshed together. The student population at AMU, better known as the FAC, is 72,000. In other words, it was an intimidating first day.

My first class at the FAC was a literature class, which was my first mistake. I’m not saying you should never take a literature class abroad, but for me it wasn’t the best way to ease into having my classes taught in French. The professor spoke so quickly and I was lacking context that was essential to the course- I was way in over my head.

Unfortunately the French school system runs on a block schedule, where all the courses are anywhere between 2 and 4 hours so I had no choice but to sit there and try to scribble every 5th word I could make out. It was exhausting. I was also the only American in the class, making one international friend from the Netherlands; we held on to each other like Rose and Jack in the titanic.

Don’t let my title mislead you; my second and third days at school have improved dramatically. I find it comforting to have class with at least one other student in my program, this way we are able to reference the other’s notes and between the two of us, get a firm grasp of what’s going on.

All of the teachers have been super sympathetic towards us and I am hoping to finish the semester with strong French comprehension skills.

A handful of the kids in my program and I chose to take a French improv/theater class, which was challenging at first but we all warmed up to. I am looking forward to being forced out of my comfort zone in that class- keeping the promise to myself to try new things.

As time goes on I am really enjoying the relationship I am making with my host “grandma”.  Josette is an amazingly hospitable French woman who is exposing me to so many new French words and so many new French tastes (she’s an amazing cook).

Sometimes on my walk to or from school I look up from the cobblestone and am hit with the reality that this is my home for the next 5 months. I’m torn between being constantly exhausted and not wanting to blink for even a second.