Adventures in Yonderland

A log of my adventures, both real and imagined.

Archive for the tag “Social Sciences”

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.

The Results Are In

Yep. About a month later I’ve got my grades back. Somehow I managed to pull a 14/20 in History and, rather magically, pulled a 12.5/20 in my sociology class. You know. The one where I went to Marseille and did interviews with residents, then typed up the transcripts for said interviews, then sorted and analyzed them. And then complied it all into a document that was 51 pages long. Did we do well? Well considering the fact that the two Americans in that class got in the top three grades for that “dossier,” I’d say we did pretty well!

I also got a 6/20 in cognitive psychology. That is not good. However, this is going to give me a perfect opportunity to explain what the French grading system is like.

14=A at my home university. Granted I think they give us a bit of lee-way with the fact that we’re, you know, learning in French. BUT, you should also realize that the French grade more or less on an actual bell-curve.

12.5 shifts up to 13, A- and finally. The 6. 6/20 is a 30%. And it’s also a C. Yep. Welcome to my academic life.

In other news, the rest of trip planning begins. Calander to come soon. I will show you the insanity. haha

Five Lessons

So I’ve only been in France four months. These are five things I’ve learned:

1) Just because I live on a mountain doesn’t mean your beach isn’t awesome. Meaning that just because I’ve taken the “high ground” (let’s just say that according to Wikipedia, “Due to a law dating from 1872, the French Republic prohibits performing census by making distinction between its citizens regarding their race or their beliefs.” Which sounds great, but kind of, you know, hides any possible racism you could cite with statistics) doesn’t make me necessarily better than you. We’re just different. That said, New Orleans floods.

2) Whatever intelligence is, I guarentee you can’t define it. In Cognitive psych we talked about how memory is exponentially cumulative (thank you schemas), so me and my intelligent self won’t get as much as someone who’s studied the subject more for no other reason than they have more experience in the area. Plus, take a test in a different language and you tell me about intelligence.

3) Food is magic. I can’t express to you the power of daily, fresh baguettes and soup. If God gave man soul Nyquil, food would be it. And the best part is, everyone has their own. And we all get to share it.

4) Music is magic. I would go crazy without music here. It’s a home. Like books, but even those are like a cramped little hut when you have to read them in French.

5) If you’re constipated you either: have not consumed enough water, have not been eating enough fruit/vegetables/whole grains, are stressed out and need to chill, or some combination of the three.

So basically, sit back and relax. Accept difference and embrace both it and your own quirks without considering one better than another. Eat good, whole food. And take time to listen, hydrate, eat and relax. ‘Cause too many people die on the toilet.

Yep

First French exam AND paper due tomorrow. It’s in Clinical Psychology (of all things. God help me). Am I ready?

HA. No. Not at all. However, I’m going to do my best, give it my all, and hope to goodness that the credit either doesn’t transfer back, or that I manage to pull a B.

AND I’m going to listen to this:

Booyah.

Tonight…

I saw the moon for the first time since coming to France.

Yeah. It’s strange, but I think that’s just one of the things that can happen in the city. But I suppose before I go off on a long tangent about how awesome nature is, I should probably explain how I came to see the moon tonight. Because normal people are probably more interested in that adventure.

SO, the program I’m here with runs this dinner exchange thing that we can sign up to do. Basically, I go to a family’s house, teach their kid(s) English for like an hour/hour and a half and then they feed me and correct my French. Because I live in an apartment with other Americans, I decided this would be a good idea so that I don’t totally lose my ability to speak French while in France because to be perfectly honest, that would be very embarrassing.

ANYWAY, the family was freaking awesome. I can’t even describe. They were SO NICE. I’m super, super excited to be hanging out with them. And they fed me a full meal AND wine. Which I dunno, is just really cool. And I feel like that’s also the first time that I’ve had like an in-depth conversation with a French person about things that aren’t like “what’s your major?” “where do you live?” (Both questions, by the way, I REALLY don’t like. Because A) no one knows where Indiana is haha and B) not only is the major system different in France, I INVENTED MY OWN. How am I supposed to explain that concisely and in a way that everyone is going to understand? I can’t even figure out how to do that in English haha). But it was great.

And best of all: they live in the country. Well. As country as it gets near Aix.

But it’s beautiful. I mean, I’ve gotten really used to living in the city, but stepping outside like that…just makes my heart pine for green things. For trees and plants and the friends of the forest I’ve had to leave behind living in the middle of a city.

On the way home, through the branches of trees, above small swatches of farmland. That’s when I saw the moon.

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.

Apologies

My apologies to the people who read this blog to know about France and my experiences there. Ha. I’ve been a bit…distracted. There will be plenty of updates soon on many things French. Well. As long as I can remember what “French” is versus “US” cause I think I’m starting to lose my conception of the two.

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/

Philo Post

I was at some of my program friends’ house and the subject of religion briefly came up somehow. It’s interesting for us Americans because unlike the French, I think we just sort of slip into discussions of politics and religion as opposed to just going for it. Anyway, one of my friends cited a study wherein people prayed and their brains were scanned for activity. In those people, the areas related to two-person communication were activated, so it was as if the brain was having a conversation with another being. However, when the study asked atheists to pray to a deity, the brain was found to have none of the two-way activation that was found in the religious fellows.

Now obviously, I have no specifics on the study. I doubt it has been repeated and I don’t know what level of deviation or criteria were used. However, I am going to assume that the study is correct.

My friend interpreted that information to mean that people who believe in a diety create the being by the simple fact of believing in it. This is a theory I’ve come across in literature (if anyone ever read the Everworld series). My immediate reaction was to recount another experiment called “Spooky Action at a Distance” which I can post about at request.

But now I’m thinking. Does it really mean that we “create” God? I mean, on a really basic level I think all it really can be said is that the person believes themselves to be having a conversation…but we already knew that by the very parameters of the study. So what does it mean, if anything?

Here’s another sidenote. There has been discussion about “uploading” oneself into a computer. Some people even claim to be able to perform the feat within the next few decades. But here’s the thing: no one knows how to program emotion. Or, get this, a conception of the self. Here’s an article about that: click here.

Chew on it. Think about it.

Really, stop right now and take thirty full seconds to let that sink in.

I don’t believe anyone really understand how that works in the brain either. It just happens. But stop there for a minute. We don’t know where our conception of self comes from or why we have one exactly. We don’t know why we feel certain emotions (yes, I understand that there are a lot of identified mechanisms, but why). How do we know that we’ve been programmed “correctly” in regards to ourselves? How do we know that maybe there’s not another way to conceive of “self” that is “higher” than what we do now.

I know that’s all fairly disconnected. And I don’t have a conclusion yet, but think about those two things in relation with one another. And maybe take a minute to wonder about it.

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