The First Day

So, I had my first day of classes today. Well. My first class I should say. In France they have their class only once a week…it’s just 3 hours long.

ANYWAY, first class: Translates best as “Sociology of the Town/City and Environment.” It’s a third year course (“license 3” basically it’s a course for what we would consider seniors in the States). I happen to be taking it with a girl from our program who is a sociology major (I’m not technically, but we’ll get into that later), so we went to class together. As expected, most of the class is French. What is a bit less expected is that there are only 19 people in the class AND another American. The professor asked us if his Italian accent bothered us, which I guess means that he either lives/lived close to Italy…or he’s actually Italian. In any case, he looks shockingly like the actor who plays Artie on Warehouse 13. It’s a little strange. Not gonna lie.

The class itself. Haha. Well, it was disturbingly similar to just any other U.S. class. We started with some general class introduction-type stuff (are you all soc. majors, are there other people here, nobody from this area? Okay.) and then started talking about the semester project that’s worth 60% of our grade (the other 40% is a final exam). Which is where I got lost. The problem is the professor and class were talking about a government project in Marseille that I am entirely unfamiliar with, nor do I know really anything about Marseille itself. So, while those two people (who always manage to get in the same class) who know (or think they know) a lot about things and have opposite viewpoints try to shout over each others opinions, I was totally lost. Haha.

However, when we had the “pause” (no, they don’t make you sit in class for three straight hours. There’s a fifteen minute break in there), my friend and I talked to the professor and he was all about making sure we followed alright. So good news! Our professor is frickin’ awesome! And after that it got a LOT better. Like different worlds worth of better. We started talking about just sociology stuff and THAT I could understand quite well. Although, definitely not perfectly. It’s going to take me the full year probably to be able to do that.

And tomorrow is another third year class that I think is best translated as something like “Sociology of Politics” but might be just “social politics” I’m really not sure. Ha.

We’ll see. I will have to drop two of my courses because I’m taking more than the University will allow. So we’ll see how it goes I guess. This is going to be just as hard as I thought though. Ha. Which is something of an unpleasant surprise.

Or perhaps pleasant. I think I need more French in my up-till-now very English existence.



Today we went esploring. That’s right. Esploring. The best kind of exploration. Basically, I decided that I didn’t know enough about this city that I live in and wanted to just, well, wander. However, I felt pretty anti-social doing all that alone, so I invited my group, got a response and off I goed! We went mostly north, taking whatever streets looked strange, new or interesting. Or some combination of the three. This is the first street we came across:

We most certainly did not see the whole city. An hour later and I have a vague idea of what the north-most side looks like. Haha which is not to say that I know the ins and outs at all. We skipped more routes than we took. But it was good to just wander. It’s really cool, this city. I think I’ve finally begun to love it. The cobblestone streets, the close buildings that are just a little less than straight, the sidewalks you can hardly use. All of it. Even the freedom to just smoke at a cafe without worrying about offending someone. It’s interesting that freedom. I don’t even smoke, but the fact that you can just sit at a cafe and enjoy it without worrying about other people – what they think, if they care – that’s really something.

We were also asked for directions twice, which I took as a major, major accomplishment. If you think I look French enough to know anything about the particulars of this city, that’s really a big ego booster for me right there. And I actually knew where the thing was too! Broom Shackalaka. Yes you did read that right. The first word is, in fact, “broom.”

Second awesome thing: first class. The class offered through our program started today. It’s a theatre class. I’M. SO. EXCITED!! I haven’t done theatre since high school and I’m just getting to the point where I miss it. So this is really perfect. Today we talked about body language, intonation and a lot of things I have seen but never noticed or had explained. Here’s one you should all know. It’s critically important.

“Le Premier Pouvoir,” the first power. It is essentially the power that takes a person leading a group (or being watched by a group) and makes them into someone who can manipulate the physical reactions of their audience. Think about it. What do you do when you watch a football game? Lean to the right, lean forward, try to react to things like you want them to or how they are. In fact, someone discovered that people watching tennis experience neural signals to the muscles in their arm despite the fact that they aren’t playing the game. A professor who struts too and fro, speaks quickly and loudly will increase the heartbeat of everyone in the class. It’s massively powerful because it’s subconscious.

In other news, we finished class with improv. And boy was that fun. Our professor just set two chairs on the stage, asked for two volunteers and said, “go.” Terrifying and awesome. All at once. I may have somewhat stolen the show. And I don’t want to sound egotistical about it, but. Well. I just happened to come up with a truly ridiculous and variable character. Who ate squirrels. And was mauled by both a bear and a cat. At different times, of course.

It was a very fun day. And I got to talk to both of my best friends. One only briefly, but hopefully we’re going to remedy that situation very soon.

I miss them. That’s the one thing. I think it’s always going to be the one thing. I can live without America (shocking, I know. But as much as I love my country, there is more to the world than just it). I can live without speaking English all the time to people I know are going to understand what I’m saying 100%. I can live without familiar foods, familiar cars, familiar buildings. But I really don’t know how long I could go without someone to share all this wonder with.

And that, I think, is really the hardest part about study abroad.

So far. 😉