10 September 2007

8 September 2007

“Friday: out, Saturday: shop, Saturday night: out, Sunday: church, Sunday afternoon: shop, Sunday night: out,” she said.

And it was then that I realized that I probably have less in common with most of the other American students in the BCA group than with the French and foreign students I’ve met and befriended this week. I take back the compliments I made about this group: in fact, a majority of them are quite xenophobic and not at all gregarious about meeting people outside the group. They’re always together, and they always speak English. Here’s a good comparison:

Last night I met up with the group to go to an Irish pub they’d picked out to watch the France-Argentina rugby game (France lost, by the way). I came from an organ concert I’d attended at the Strasbourg cathedral, which was amazing. The organist, Martin Gester, played pieces by Buxtehude, Grigny, Boehm, Bach, Mozart, Rheinberger, Boely, and Haydn (I barely know any of those composers, but some of you might). In a huge 11th-15th century cathedral! I couldn’t believe I had the chance to go. It was after this concert that I met up with the other students, who had spent the afternoon online at the BCA office, and the evening dining together at a Chinese restaurant. I know, sometimes I just want to speak English and be understood and be in a familiar environment, but… When we got to the pub, the group actually ended up getting drinks and sitting outside, together, speaking English, because it was so crowded inside. I ended up watching part of the game, but mostly talking with a friendly girl I met named Adèle who’s studying English at the university. And what did we speak? French. I’m not trying to glorify my choices; I’ve just had a personal encounter with the stereotypical behavior of American students studying abroad. And I’m glad I don’t exhibit that behavior.

This week in review:

All week long, every day, from 9-5, I heard and spoke and wrote and read and practiced and studied and learn French. They call it the ‘Stage,’ and it’s a pre-semester language intensive for foreign students. In the morning, I have a grammar block, in which we’ve studied various verb tenses and modes and talked about reality TV. Our lunch ‘hour’ is actually 12:30-2:00, after which I have a literature course and then a culture workshop. In the former, we’re studying contemporary French literature, and by that I mean we read extracts and listen to lectures on Daily Life literature, Pessimist literature, and Ironic/Metaphysical literature. In the workshop, my group is studying the use of the Alsatian language (regional language of Alsace related to German), which has proved to be the most interesting subject. There is an office here in Strasbourg dedicated to the teaching and promotion of Alsatian. They have lots of leaflets about the use and utility of Alsatian in different contexts, and they send out letters to new parents encouraging them to sign their children up for Alsatian classes, and everyone in the office is fluent in Alsatian. It’s pretty amazing. I think I’ll probably take classes in Alsatian while I’m here; seems I can’t get enough of languages!

Two other girls in my group have become pretty good acquaintances. One is Hulda, from Iceland, and then Hayley, from Australia. Hulda is very friendly and outgoing, and will be here studying architecture for the next three years. Her biggest travail has been finding an apartment, which made me realize just how fortunate I am to have had most of the details taken care of by BCA before I came. I’ve still had quite a time figuring out how to live here, but nothing like not knowing where I’m going to be living for the next three years and needing to find a place using my limited French skills. But she did it! Hayley is well-traveled and confident, and she’s enrolled in Marc Bloch as a regular French student rather than a foreign student, so she’ll be here three years as well. She has dreadlocks and about three changes of clothes and crazy ideas, and she’s always ready to have a deep discussion. She seems to have pretty much everything under control, which is very comforting when you’re feeling rather disoriented. And she has a great Aussie accent!

And what did I do outside of class this past week? I rented a bike, which I’ll have for two months and use instead of the bus. I got all the documents ready to apply for my residency card, with an appointment next Friday. Then I found out I wouldn’t have all the necessary documents, because my student card (which it seems that everyone but BCA students have) will not be ready, for some reason, until the end of this month (just after classes start). I planned a trip to Angers in the Loire Valley with Leslie, another year student from Manchester, for the week of the 16th, since we have a week off before classes start and a standing invitation from Bev, an MC grad who lives on a farm just outside of Angers with her family. I finished stocking my pantry and bought a card for cheap meals at university cafeterias. I got a train card for people 12-25, which gives me about 50% off regular ticket prices (it’s paying for itself double just in my trip to Angers). I wrote a few letters and emails, looked at the Strasbourg map a lot, and missed people. I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I live here. I visited with Sabine and Célia, host mom and sister. I learned lots of new words and expressions. I was hot and cold and nervous and amazed and uncertain and amused and cozy and impressed and confident and disgusted and confused and frustrated and happy and pleased and satisfied and…human.

Are you all being human out there, too?

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