Dylan’s First French Blog

I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Of course, I am talking about this blog. I know that every thought, every word I type, shall enter the minds of the 6 people who actually take the time to read it. So I salute those 6 people and know, above everything else, I must not disappoint. That is why it is here and now, that I shall reminisce, in a nostalgic and slightly obnoxious way, about my time in France. Let’s dive in.

I have now spent 4 weeks in France. As I live amongst the bread enthusiasts and indulgent wine drinkers I have learned many lessons. A primary one being that French is hard. Like really hard. Couple that with the enormous complexities and gracious nuances I wish to express on a day-by-day basis, I find myself often enraged. I now see why the culture has breed such indulgent wine drinkers. It just makes sense. So lesson number one, french is hard. Another lesson I have learned is the value of a family dinner, lunch, breakfast, subtle snack, quick bite, or any other form of food intake. It must be with the family. More over, the table must be completely set and a certain substance, typically red or white and liquidy must be served. Alas, lesson number two, when you eat, it shall be with the family. The third and final lesson I have learned is that school must be a pleasant and caring learning environment. School here starts at casual 8 o’clock and finishes at the easy and pleasant hour of 5:30. You have 80 minutes for lunch however, the cafeteria only seats about 100-150 people and the school has roughly about 800. This means that unless your class gets out early, you must sprint as if there were a tiger behind you to the line that is already way to long. But fear not, because the line is full of lovely french school students ranging in age from 14-18 and as we know, nothing is nicer before a meal then hearing 14 to 18 year olds yell at each other in a language you don’t understand. As for the classes, they are 55 minutes long with 5 minutes to get your next class. Almost all of my classes are lecture style classes which means they are a mix between hearing someone talk, doodling on your paper, and sleeping. After school I walk up the main roads of Chateau-Gontier to my house where I learned my other two valuable lessons.

It is here that I conclude my first blog post and to the 5 people who actually made it to the end, I thank you.

Week 5 – A Crossover of Culture

One of the aspects of French culture that I keep going back to as I think about similarities and differences between here and the USA is my fascination with French people’s apparent love of English music. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited France one time before this ten-week stay, and one of the things I remember clearly is my confused happiness upon hearing songs that I knew (or at least knew what they lyrics meant) while on a long car ride to visit the local castle.

One thing that I’ve noticed here that is different from my experiences at Bush is that a lot of students will listen to music on portable speakers or just out of phones while hanging out during lunch or free-periods. I’m sure some students at Bush do this too, but it seems more common here. Maybe it’s because there’s more free places away from classrooms where people are working, or maybe it’s just a variation in the culture surrounding music here. Whatever the reason, it means I’ve gotten lots of chances to listen to what types of music people my age like to listen to.

While the music I’ve heard ranges from rock to 2010s pop music to folk songs it’s clear to me that a good deal of the music people here listen to has English lyrics. Of course I’ve still heard them listen to plenty of French songs (Stromae is a popular choice, along with other songs they all seem to know the lyrics to while I’m left trying to make out the words), but there’s no denying they listen to a ton of English songs.

When thinking about how I’m adjusting to life here in France and how all this English music is affecting me, I find it difficult to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives. On the one hand, it’s comforting to find a little piece of home here across the sea. When an English song comes on the radio there’s an immediate relief of knowing what the people are saying without a struggle. At the same time, it can lead to a little stab of homesickness when a certain song reminds me of people who I’m missing while over here.

I also find it intriguing how much French people actually understand what they’re singing along to. Usually when a song they like comes on, they will sing along to the chorus, or maybe the whole song if it’s slower/ they know it well enough/ they look up the lyrics on their phone. Still, even if they do a good job mimicking accents and pronouncing words, it doesn’t always mean they understand what they’re singing. I want to be clear this is not a criticism- I’m sure the same goes for me when I sing along to the few French songs I’m familiar with, I just find it interesting.

There have been times when I’ve asked someone if they understood the lyrics and they said yes, but other times they admitted to having no clue. I’ve tried my best to explain the meaning of the chorus in “Can’t Hold Us” to both some friends at school and to my host family and it was surprising when I realized they didn’t really understand the feeling behind the song. Though maybe I’m not giving them enough credit by saying that. One thing I’ve certainly learned while over here is that you don’t always have to understand exactly what someone’s words mean to understand what they’re trying to say.

First two weeks of French immersion!

WOOO two weeks in!! France has been quite French so far. I’m really digging all of the scarfs (I’m the only girl in town without one) and the cheese. The first couple days here were pretty mellow. After I walked around town I mostly hung around the house reading and petting the family cat. Starting school was a huge change of pace, the sheer size would have been shock enough but the Lycée Victor Hugo is in almost every way different than Bush. All of the habits took a while to get used to: asking the teacher to use the bathroom, knocking before you enter a classroom, finding the right times to enter the chaos that is their lunch line, etc. Overall the school has been great, there are a lot of friendly people who are eager to make me feel comfortable there. I am in terminal, the final year of lycée, and I am in the socio-economic track. I’m finding my classes to be interesting and it is becoming easier to follow along. My family here has also been very kind and helpful which I really appreciate. They have planned an excursion next weekend in cerebration of my birthday. We will be visiting some old chateaus and doing an escape game and I am really looking forward to it. The hardest part of this trip so far is being in such a small town but I think I am already beginning to get used to it. À bientôt!

– Emma Smith


p.s: Sorry this is so late! I had no idea how to post on this blog. More posts coming soon!