I have discovered that time works differently in France. What I mean to say is that over a week has gone by and it feels like it was just yesterday that I arrived in Tours, yet it also feels as though I’ve lived in France for months. I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time and have met so many different people, not to mention the different types of cheese I’ve tried!
My class is outrageously more advanced than I expected. As I fumble with words and continuously fret over correctly conjugating irregular verbs, my peers engage in insightful discussions about current events. Before this experience I had never even met a Swiss man or a Norwegian woman, but now I am (fiercely attempting) to discuss the independence of Catalonia with a Spanish diplomat and Brexit with a British philosophy professor. Debating with individuals who are experiencing these events first hand offers incredible insight. Not to mention that these discussions are all in French. IN FRENCH!! Although I find myself rather frustrated many times, seeing as I fervently want to participate, yet I am not always able to fully articulate my complex thoughts.
My participation this week has mainly consisted of eager head nodding and one on one discussions (which offers a much more relaxed setting than an entire class of incredible people hearing me fumble). Whenever I do raise my hand in class (which is still quite frequent despite the occasional embarrassing not-being-able-to-express-myself), I’ll start off with one or two beautifully phrased sentences which I had spent the past 5 minutes preparing and then end up blabbering off into an abyss of too many ideas and not enough time to figure out what verb in French I need to use to express them clearly.
Despite the sometimes-maddening language limitations, I have learned so much from the discussions, both linguistically and academically. Not only that, but I am amazed at how wide the world is. I have met so many interesting people with different ambitions and worldviews. I met a Japanese art teacher who was going to study law at the Sorbonne this fall, I met a Russian housewife with a brilliant French accent, I met a Taiwanese lawyer passionate about environmental issues and so many more. I would never think I had anything in common with a Taiwanese chef, yet I have been able to bond and learn we all share some passions; the one thing all my classmates and I have in common is our love of the French language.
Whenever I feel a bit overwhelmed by the incredible (and fast-paced) classes, my host mom offers me great encouragement. This Thursday she had a guest over and kept telling him how proud she was of my progress so far. Over a piece of bread and some goat cheese, I humbly thanked her and tried to follow the conversation she was having with her guest. I am proud to announce that understand nearly all of it!
Me and my host mom enjoying some Brie, Emmental, Goat Cheese and Mozzarella (yes, I am very happy here)