Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The exodus and ensuing thoughts

It is mid-December and here in France, the exodus of students has officially begun. In fact, one might argue that we're on the tail end of the migration. I have said goodbye to four of my American friends. Two of them have already left and the other two are leaving this weekend. On top of that, I received my last Coug Blog Squad prompt several days ago and it was entitled "Preparing for Re-entry". This is ironic since I still have a month here in France and, in fact, have many experiences ahead until my own re-entry happens. But all these events boiled around in my head until a nice little thought emerged that I believe is a good thing to write about on the blog. The topic is this: What would I have changed if I was to come back here a second time and do it all over again? Now, I realize I still have a month left and a lot can change, but I plan on writing on this again after my "re-entry" to the US and assimilation back to my own world. Geez I sound like I am an alien with the word choices I have made. Whatever, on y va!

At this point in time, there are two things that I would contemplate changing. These items are the school I go to and the amount of French friends I have. These two items are heavily connected. And I realize that you might look at this and say to yourself "Wow Connor, you do realize that these things are completely in your own power?" Yes I do realize that, but that does not change the fact that I may not have done all I wanted to or imagined I would. I will tackle the subjects separately.

The school is the main thing I question, mostly because I should have been able to see this coming, yet never did. Before leaving for this great adventure across the ocean, I tooted the horn of my school, L'Institute des Etudes Fran├žaises pour les Etudiantes Etrangeres (IEFEE), heavily. Citing the diversity and international flavor of the students, I spouted off about how I would meet all sorts of students from across the world with cool lives and languages and stories. Never did it cross my mind that the adverse of that situation equates to "Connor not meeting any French people where it would be amazingly easy to meet French people. School." The more I think about it, the more I wish I had gone to a French university directly enrolled. Granted, the courses, language, students and general life would have been overwhelming at first, but when thrown into a situation like that, you learn fast. Between having French friends with whom I could talk, sitting through hours of class each day and my own explorations of the language, I am sure I would have been just fine after a month or so. On the other hand though, going to IEFEE was a choice made exclusively for learning French. It is a school created for foreign students wanting to learn French, as the name implies. Obviously I have learned more French now that in the last 3 years combined, but I still can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had gone into the French school system directly.

The other thing I would change, the number of French friends I have, should be a problem easily solved. Had I made the choice to seek out French people my age and hang out with them and develop friendships, this blog post would not be happening. I would be in the perfect situation. Learning French in a school designed for learning French, then learning French with real French, where they speak the fastest and with all the current language and slang after class. Nothing better than that dreamy life for four months. Win win for Connor. But alas, I have not made many French friends, mostly due to my own lax attitude about going out of my way to meet them. Being here is enough out of my comfort zone that I prefer to stay in my own language and speak English because it takes so much less effort. Also hurting me is the widespread knowledge of English by the French. 7 times out of 10 the French person I am talking to speaks English just as well as I can speak French, if not better. It's a blessing and a curse.

In the end this all comes down to my lack of effort of making French friends. I have a month left here, but of that month I am traveling for nine days, my brother is here for 15 days, and I am getting ready to leave for the last five days or so. Do I regret not making the effort? Sort of, but I absolutely cannot complain about the progress I have made and the progress I will leave here having made. All I can do is now try to make the best of my last 30 days here. May not seem like a long time, but a lot can happen in a month. Wish me luck.

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