In the End There’s Only Love

Well my time in France is done for now and I am back home. As we all know, I will never forget my time there and it is so bitter-sweet to be home. I made some pretty fantastic friends. Friends from different countries, different states and all with the most wonderful views and experiences. I think that might be the hardest part about leaving. Leaving all those wonderful, fantastic people.

What isn’t hard is leaving French University. And that’s the last time I complain about it here! Because I will also miss just how jank the Fac des Lettres was. I doubt I’ll go into a building like it again!

I’m also going to miss this. My home street. The place I walked up everyday for a year. Cobblestones, a sketchy shisha place and the strangest lingerie shop I’ve ever come across.

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France, I’ll miss you. My friends, I will miss you more.

p.s. culture shock is really gonna suck.

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A Quiver of the Ending

Two weeks of classes left before two weeks of break and then two weeks of finals. And then home.

But it’s interesting. “Home,” evasive as it has been for me the past four years of my life, seems never to stop shifting for me.

When my parents came to visit, I noticed that this place has become my home. I’m not a tourist here. I do touristy things sometimes, but even then I return home to Aix. And that’s the thing about study abroad I most definitely didn’t think about or anticipate.

I’m not just a student. Or a bystander. Or “an American.”

I am a resident.

Update?

Not really. However, I won’t leave you all behind either.

Today I had 7 hours of class in French starting at 8am with a 1 hour break at noon. During which I did not eat because I had no money on me. Awkward.

Yesterday I ran around between 5 hours of class and my dinner family which while busy, was wonderful.

COMING SOON…

…A series on “The Fac” and the French education system. Pictures of a most interesting sort to be included.

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.

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.