Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Archive for the tag “learning”

It’s The End of the World as We Know It

Exams are done and I don’t have to deal with the French education system anymore! Woohoo! However, as good as it feels to be finally done with school for the year, it also means I’m done here.

So many goodbyes to be said. So many said already.

But in the meantime I’m running like a crazed chicken trying to do EVERYTHING before it’s all over. Including shutting down my bank account, which will be interesting. Oh the glories of French bureaucracy. You might be the one thing in this country I most definitely will NOT miss.

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So…

I’m back to the horror that is the French education system. And before I go any farther, I will say that it probably isn’t a horror for the french. But for me, an English-speaker and an American, oh boy.

The problem is that the philosophies about education are almost fundamentally different. And while I thought “oh, learning is just learning, how could I ever have a problem?” I have quickly come to realize that learning is not just learning. At least as far as grades go. Because if you don’t know what answer is being asked of you, how in the world are you going to answer the question?

It goes like this. The French are ridiculously specific. For example, in a final on Modern History, I received a question somewhere along the lines of “the relation between the king and war in the modern era.” So I dutifully explained everything I could possibly think of about that. I gave several examples for specificity and clarity and in the end my teacher said, “stop giving me examples and be more specific.” I just looked at her and was like, what? She was like, “what do land and power give you?” Still confused, I responded “security…” and she was like “Yes! That’s what I’m looking for!” And then I became really confused.

It’s just a completely different way of going about things. And while it probably works great for the French, I don’t imagine I’m going to figure out this magic code fast enough to actually do well on any of these finals. But I also think that’s okay. Because I’, learning a hell of a lot more than I would be back in America. Where I will never complain about school again.

Today

I am boring. Haha Not much to update you all on, although I could talk about any one of my numerous experiences here. Even the small everyday stuff is new. It’s so strange. The way you change in another culture to adopt it. I haven’t really, French culture is very similar to the US in many ways, so it hasn’t been as obvious or profound. But I know it’s still there. Even just the realities of living in a French city. It changes how you act in subtle ways.

But for now I’m going to leave all that. I will say that I have begun to make some French friends, so that’s good. I’m hoping that that continues, because I like having friends and I feel like there’s a lot I could learn from them too.

Praying for my friend in Cairo tonight. The school there has been shut down for a week because of student protests and if they can’t get the university restarted asap, boom. Semester void. So praying she’ll be able to stay there and learn.

Class: Take 2

Some of you may be wondering what 7 hours of class in a foreign language sounds like. Well. It looks a lot like this:

I’m just kidding. Haha, no offense intended. I just couldn’t find a better way to describe it. Maybe looking out at the ocean when you’re just hanging in the middle of it. That might do it.

I had a headache. Granted, sleep and dehydration probably contributed, BUT I also have a feeling it was from all the learning I was doing. I mean, I was learning on two levels: what was actually being taught in the class and, well, French. haha Having to concentrate 100% of the time to understand anything at all is getting really difficult.

HOWEVER, my psych professor is frickin’ crazy. Several times in class he just started acting out scenes to illustrate concepts to the class and he’s all about jokes and having fun. And learning. He’s got to be one of the coolest professor’s I’ve ever had (in a lecture class haha).

1:35 of this video (and also make sure you watch the whole thing)

That’s all I’m good for today. Other than class, I jammed with some friends (so much fun), eaten half a baguette and consumed almost a liter of Mango juice.

I regret nothing.

A Few Reflections

I have a question. For myself. Perhaps some of you have asked in your minds, but that is probably not the case because you are not me. Haha. In any case, here is the question:

What am I learning here?

Well, certainly school stuff. But even I see that as secondary (despite the fact that I’ll be learning things conducive to my major and understanding of the world). School isn’t why I’m here. Honestly, if I could I would probably just ditch school second semester and just go exploring. Find a job doing something and just go do it.

Culture. But what does that mean? Haha. I mean, I’m learning more than I consciously know about norms, forms of engagement and French culture just by living here. And I’m sure I’ll only continue learning more as things continue.

But what I’ve really started learning, and what I’ve heard from a lot of other people is what you learn, is myself. I am learning myself. I am learning what my fears are, what my assumptions are, and for the second time in my life, I have begun the process of re-evaluating. You see, after hiking that mountain with the girl who really, really had to push herself to do it, it made me think. If she is willing to push her comfort zone that far, what right do I have to stay in mine? I asked myself, what can I do? Who can I be? I’ve carried so many fears with me. Perhaps it is a curse stemming from just knowing so many things. I sometimes wonder how doctors aren’t all hypochondriacs. But that hike/climb made me think. I LOVED it. It was physically challenging, beautiful, new, wild – everything I love about being outside. And I looked at myself and this girl. And the sheer will and courage she had against the surety in myself. What can I do? I’ve always said “no” to skydiving. When my friends asked I always said, “no I could never do it.” But why not? That’s the thing isn’t it. That’s the question I’ve been missing. Why not?

Why not push your comfort zone? Why not see what you’re capable of? I mean, looking up at Mt. Sainte Victoire I was just like “how are we ever going to get up there?” And then we were. And then looking how far we had to go to get to the lake, “how are we ever going to walk over there” and then we were suddenly there. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but I think people forget too that the WHOLE journey is just a single step. A single step followed by another single step.

What do you have to lose?

Why not try it?

Why not discover who you really are? When you place all the assumptions about yourself aside, what can you truly become?

That’s my reflection for the day.

And I intend to find out.

Newness

My apologies for getting behind on the whole posting thing. Not having internet on top of class from either 4-6 hours every day has kindof dampered the ability. SO, here we go.
I’m getting a little tripped out by the dating stuff here. Hasn’t affected me yet persay, but like second-hand. I mean, to be honest, I’m talking about the women. And I’m going to preface this with two things: 1) I’m a man. 2) I understand that my various opinions on this subject are terribly uninformed and I am remarking on this as primarily an expression of legitimate curiosity.

There are women/girls/thisisanawkwardageandidontknowwhattocallthem who have “boyfriends” already. French. I mean, there’s like an obsession almost with French men. Which, don’t get me wrong, I can understand. I’m not at all attracted to french men, but there’s quite a lot of draw to foreign men. Of almost any kind really. Anyway.

We’ve only been here like, two weeks. It just brings up all these questions. Like, the time it takes to get a French boyfriend seems almost to suggest that love at first sight does in fact exist. Right here! But I don’t think that’s it and I don’t get it. Eh. This isn’t going anywhere.

In more interesting news, we’re watching “The First Day of the Rest of You Life” (Le premier jour du reste de ta vie) in class. It’s weird, French and very good. Well, of what I’ve understood. It’s incredible how little I understand of the movie after seven years of french. Really, truly incredible. But that’s what it is.

Also, I got to talk to my friend in Cairo. That was nice. I have to say I’m jealous on some level, but I also know that the time to go there will come. There is so much to learn about this world I never thought, never began to understand. Here’s a suggestion: click on each of these links and read something about a different country (at least one) in each of them. That’s what I’ve started trying to do every day. And I say trying because I don’t always vary my news, but I always read it.

http://www.nytimes.com/

http://english.ahram.org.eg/Index.aspx

http://www.aljazeera.com/

http://www.lemonde.fr/ (yes, i know. this one’s in French. not much I can do about it)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/

The Simple Cool Stuff

I’m going to start off this post by explaining that my nalgene bottle strap broke yesterday. SO, today when we went hiking, I looked for a dead yellow poplar tree branch. I found one, stripped the bark and made a rope. I then attached the two ends of the nalgene cap together with it and put a caribeener on it to strap it to myself. It looks like this:

Really simple thing. Everyone LOVED it. Like, they were really impressed. I mean, I was pretty happy too, but it’s such a simple thing. All I did was twist some fiber together really.

I also learned another thing today. I’ve been trying to understand myself, like who I am and not who I think I am…if that makes any sense. But I got a good start on that today. We did a behavior test. It’s basically a personality test that focuses on your behavior and how you react and act around other people. Anyway, I learned a lot. Which is good, because I’ve begun to get lost in a tangle of selfness.

ANYHOW, it goes along with one of the passages we’re studying for this year’s bible curriculum. “Seek and you shall find.” In my Bible, my favorite line is “everyone who seeks, finds.” In my experience this has been true. Okay, maybe not finding your car keys or getting an “A” on an exam, but bigger general things. If you want a wife/husband, you’ll end up there. If you want to travel, you will. If you want to make a change, it’ll happen. They key is to keep knocking and keep trying. I’ll leave you all with this picture for today. Just a calm one.

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