Le jeu commence

Hey everybody! Thanks for joining me. My name is Kyle So, and this is the end of my first week in Brest, France studying at C.I.E.L. Bretagne. How’s it going you ask? Well…

Pic 2

That dear friends, is the ocean

First things first, the weather in Brittany is absolutely gorgeous. It’s been a sunny 70 degrees since I’ve arrived, and I even wear pants instead of shorts most days (except when hiking of course). In short (*bad dum tss*), it’s a rather welcome change from the ridiculousness of 100 degrees, 100% humidity back home in Virginia. Not to mention that my school is a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean, so I’ve been experiencing a great nautical view each day.

As for my host family, I’m living in the quaint suburb of Le Relecq-Kerhuon with a family of five (the two parents, three girls), so it’s a full house if you will. And from when they first welcomed me into their home, I learned that they’re some of the nicest people. I’ll be honest, I had some fears of entering a situation where the family didn’t like me (or more importantly my humor), but that doesn’t seem to be the case as far as I can tell. Instead, they happily made sure I had everything I needed from lamps, extra pillows, etc, kept me extremely full with big meals plus snacks, and even laughed at my numerous puns/jokes; there’s not much more that I could want.

On a less excitable note, I realized from the get-go that my oral communication was not at its best. I thought I was in the clear coming home from the rail station with my host mom, as I was answering her various small-talk questions with authority.

Where you from? Boom, Washington D.C. metropolitan area in the state of Virginia.

How was your train ride? Bam, just fine thank you, a tad warm because there was no AC, keep em coming.

And so it went the car ride home. I thought, à la George Lopez, “I got this !!”

Then the reality of my situation became apparent at the dinner table. I discovered then how lucidly and more importantly, how slowly my professors at ND had spoken in class. We sat at the table, then suddenly Jesus Mary Joseph! everyone’s zooming by at a bazillion miles, excuse me kilometers, per hour in French. Meanwhile, I’m left there, mouth agape, looking like a fool, and desperately trying to follow any line of conversation. In an instant I became the uncouth American abroad, clumsily trying to express my thoughts in a foreign tongue. This wasn’t all bad by the way, as it left plenty of time to eat all their delicious food. Nonetheless, it was very humbling, as I could only really talk sporadically, or when they addressed me. It has gotten enormously better since then (to be fair I started with a low bar), but with my relatively poor hearing and the rapidity of native Frenchmen in conversation, I have to be completely focused to maintain comprehension.

The entrance to my school, C.I.E.L. Bretagne

Given my struggling debut at home, I thought that I might experience a similar stumble out of the gates at school.  Thankfully, I discovered that I was a bit more comfortable in the classroom. At C.I.E.L. Bretagne, they place students enrolled in the intensive course (20 hrs/week) based on their level, no matter how long you’re there or where your from. I for example, am in a class with six other Americans, an Englishman, one Swiss man, and a Spaniard. Thus, you learn similar things but you may not move up as much in difficulty depending on the length of your stay, as you increase after each week (with my stay being longer than most, this meant I would progress further than some of the folks I started with). Happily, I found the format of the class to be much like the one I just took at ND (props to Mme Escoda-Risto), so I was ready to learn. To summarize the week, we solidified and expanded upon my rhetorical foundation in French (almost exclusively the more difficult stuff I had just learned), but I also was learning many new things, most especially in the realm of  vocabulary and pronunciation. To conclude, its been a gradual process overall thus far, but I expected as much with the culture shock, the rust with my French (I haven’t used it much since I left ND) and heading back to school after being on break. Once I am back in the swing of things, I fully expect my difficulties to diminish, and my growth in French to thrive.

And that’s all I have to say about that. One Week down, six more to go, the time is just flying by! Tune in next week to hear about a local and culturally important holiday, oh la la.

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