I’ve been back at uni for two weeks now, and I’ve still got three classes that haven’t started yet. I have had an exhausting fortnight trying to sort out classes (at the appropriate time, in the appropriate office) because naturally the ones we signed up for weren’t all we thought they would be.
The classes have been a bit of a mixed bag so far. The langage et cognition class was really oversubscribed, with over fifty people in a room for thirty. The teacher asked who wasn’t registered yet (luckily I was) and then asked those people to justify why they should be there. I’ve also got an odd situation in that I have a tutorial earlier in the week than the corresponding lecture, meaning we’ve not actually learned any of the theory behind the exercises, making the tutor’s job very difficult!
I seem to have a problem this semester in terms of the credits awarded in relation to the time demands. I think I’m now taking eight or nine classes, all with multiple exams and two hour monologues. It just seems really disproportionate so I’m feeling all sorry for myself! Katherine did point out though that she’s not studying here for the uni, she’s studying here because it’s Paris, and I have to say I do agree. That’s my top study abroad tip for this week: choose your destination based on the place!
Benjamin (the five year old I teach English to) has been exceptionally stroppy since the new year. Normally he is very cooperative but at the moment he is absolutely refusing to say any English words at all. Last week he hid in his Spiderman tent, with all of his pencils, a box of tissues and a bottle of water, so that he didn’t need to play with me. I’m trying my best to keep the sessions fun and diverse, but we end up building a lot of lego and playmobil structures and using the same vocabulary. The plan for this week is to do some food vocabulary, as he used to enjoy playing restaurants. If we manage I’m going to try doing some baking or cooking with him- anything that isn’t colouring!
It’s a slight consolation to know that he is behaving exactly the same way with Lawrence (who takes him on a Thursday and Friday). I know it’s not me personally he has a problem with. I think it’s a combination of the fact that I’m there because his parents aren’t, and his disinclination to do anything overtly educational out with school. He’s there for eight hours a day, aged five, so I can’t say I blame him too much!
Benjamin isn’t the only member of the family who has been stroppy recently; poor Plumo the fat grey cat is now on a diet.
The vet told the family that he would have to lose a kilo, which is the equivalent of a couple of stone for humans! Rather than gradually reducing his food, the family have decided just to cut it down to what he should be eating. Plumo, understandably, is greatly displeased by this and has become very vocal about it. Benjamin’s dad gets home about half an hour before the end of my sessions and always starts cooking dinner immediately, while Plumo gazes up at him, trying to drum up some sympathy by meowing, and the dad’s response is usually to meow back… Benjamin and I did make an obstacle course for Plumo, which he participated in with a bit of reluctance, so he’s all ready to take on the cat version of The Biggest Loser…
Last week I went to my first Franglish session. It’s a language exchange, and the concept is basically speed dating without the looking for a potential partner bit. I paid eight euros, confirmed my Anglophone status and went to the bar to get my free drink (they say free, but really it’s just included in your entrance fee). I was then given a number, which was my starting table, and a name badge. You talk with your Francophone partner for seven minutes in French, then for seven minutes in English (or the other way round if you prefer). The event organisers told us when to switch language, and then they told all the Anglophones which table to move onto next.
I spoke with a variety of people, five in total: a law student, a chemistry student from Antibes, a man in his 40s moving from one bank job to another, a PHD pharmacy student, and a young guy who designs adverts on websites. I was the youngest person out of everyone I spoke to (as seems to often be the case in my French life) but I chatted to an English girl before we started who was on her third year abroad too, and was there with a group of students from Oxford. The first guy laughed at me when I made mistakes with my French, which wasn’t a great start, but he was the only one with that kind of attitude. Everyone else was a lot more polite!
I think it’s a really good concept, as everyone is in a similar situation so people are patient with your language skills in a way that students at uni or cashiers in Monoprix don’t have to be. I found I preferred to start in French then switch to English for the second half, as that way I could do all the introductory stuff in French, and when the conversation starts to become a bit more difficult or in depth it wasn’t so hard for me to keep it going in English. The Francophones there generally had a better level of English than I have of French, and it was interesting to hear why they were learning. For the students I spoke to, it seems that the vast majority of the texts they have to study or use are in English, so it’s necessary for them to be able to understand English. The PHD pharmacy student was also motivated by her upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand! It makes you think about how fortunate we are in the UK that the language of education is our native language, and that progression in higher education doesn’t necessarily require a second language. Even studying linguistics at an undergraduate level here, quite often there are texts on the bibliography which are in English even if English isn’t listed a prerequisite for the course.
I’d definitely go back to Franglish on a semi regular basis. It was a bit nerve wracking at first but I found it really beneficial, especially with the instant feedback from the Francophones, and it was really interesting to talk to other people (real French people!) and hear about their lives.
In amongst all this, my wonderful friend Sasha has now returned home before continuing her year abroad adventures in Spain! We’ve spent the past few weeks cramming in what’s left on her ‘Paris List’, which included…
…A visit to Angelina for cake and hot chocolate- delicious and worth every penny (just don’t go for the apple juice, it’s 7.20 and not as exciting). If you need any further motivation to visit, Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel both used to be frequent visitors.
…A trip up Notre Dame- this was amazing and one of my Paris highlights! There’s a lovely view of Paris and it’s just so cool to be in the building that inspired Victor Hugo’s novel!
…A visit to the Château de Vincennes, and its Saint Chapelle tribute (I’ve still to go inside the real thing). There was a lot more security than the last time Craig and I were there and we just wandered in!
…And of course, more pastries, this time from la pâtisserie des rêves (the patisserie of dreams!). We couldn’t decide what to have, so we had a selection to share- the chausson au pomme won!
…And to finish off Sasha’s last Friday night in Paris, one more Eiffel Tower selfie!
That’s all my updates for now, I hope 2015 is off to a good start for everyone! I’m counting down the days to this weekend when I will be reunited with my favourite Dane, Louise and my wonderful pal Hannah!