Today is September 28. That means that exactly one month ago, I landed in France to start my ten-month exchange. I've learned a lot about France, humanity, and myself. Before I go on to ramble about my philosophical musings, I will talk about the people I've met here that have made this past month fantastic. Without them, I honestly don't know where I would be.
The first amazing group of people I got to be acquainted with right upon arrival are the other exchange students in my district. We are a group of about 40 which, sure, allows for a ton of drama, but it also means that the support system is massive. All of us are going through similar yet vastly different experiences, and the best thing about Rotary exchange students is that they are always there for you, no matter what. We never run out of things to talk about, and our conversations often center on topics like traveling, other cultures, the delights and challenges of exchange, and hot boys (the latter applicable when I'm with other girls). Being an exchange student is a feat very few young people can accomplish, but having other exchange students as friends makes it a lot easier. I can't wait to see them in two weeks in Mont St. Michel!
Here are the exchange students of District 1510 France, a group I am very proud and happy to be a part of.
Next are the girls I hang out with at school. Their names are Noémie, Cléophée, Cassandre, Kelly, Btissam, and Tanya (who isn't in the picture). The really interesting thing is, Btissam was originally from Morocco, and Tanya was originally from England. Cassandre's older brother did a 6-month long exchange with Rotary to England. I'm glad I ended up with them for the time being, since they probably understand my situation more than anyone else in the school!
Most importantly, I have my host family, the Edwiges. If you think their last name doesn't sound very French, you are right; my host dad was originally from Martinique. I am really thankful for my host family's continual support, and I greatly enjoy living with them. From the dinner conversations about languages to my little brother dancing like Cartman from South Park, my host family has helped to truly make this experience the best it can be!
If you want to stop reading here, that's fine. I have a lot of thoughts that constantly run through my head (some, like, "$^&% I'm hungry," are beginning to be in French), and some are recurring enough to be taken seriously. Thus, this next part will probably be not as well-written as the rest of my blog, but really the only person I have to apologize to is myself because I hold myself up to high standards okay.
So, things I have pondered and learned about France, humanity, and myself.
One of the remarks I have to make is that there isn't a garage in my house where the family can park the car. Instead, there are marks on the sidewalk one can occupy, and once, all of the spots near our house were taken by other cars, so we had to park our car further down the street.
They really value thoroughness in school here. I was handed a worksheet for math homework, and I just wrote down my answer next to each question like I normally would. Apparently, I was supposed to do all my work on a separate piece of paper, show the ENTIRE process of how I arrived at each answer for each question, and then write a statement summarizing my findings. Yeah. The tests are like that, too- we are handed a sheet with all the questions, and we have to write down our answers on a separate sheet of paper, all neat. It's quite meticulous. If I weren't so in-adept at expressing my complex thoughts in French, I might enjoy it instead of frantically flipping through my palm-sized dictionary to find words I need.
Did I mention French cheese is the best in the world?
The wi-fi here has punished me. I spent last weekend Skyping my friends in English, and my gut feeling told me I had done it too much, spending time holed up in my room not speaking French. So little by little, the wi-fi would die suddenly, and I'd have to reconnect again. It became more frequent which irked me slightly, but what really pissed me off is that whenever I tried to connect to my house's network, an error message would pop up saying it was impossible. IMPOSSIBLE? BUT I HAD DONE IT SO MANY TIMES BEFORE! So this week I've had to resort to using my iPad downstairs. I haven't Skyped anyone since. French wi-fi, I can conclude, is somehow conscious of my inner thoughts and knows how to act appropriately upon them. I hope I get reprieve from this dastardly form of discipline and that wi-fi will revive itself in my room again.
(Why I just wrote that in regards to what I learned about France I'm not sure; just let me assure you that I am not drunk.)
Going to high school here is starting to feel normal. As I go about my daily routines at Lycée Ernest Pérochon, I can't help but notice things that are the same as in Tualatin High School, and probably every other high school in the world. For one thing, I've begun to think that archetypes don't just exist in fiction. Archetypes of people, like the smart kid who always raises their hand in class, the girls who wear too much make-up, the popular, good-looking boys loved by everyone (better-looking in France than in anywhere else may I add!), the teacher who seems mean but just wants everyone to learn as much as they can from class, and the funny middle-aged man (cough my counselor cough), exist no matter where on the map you place a pin. Yes, everyone has their own unique personality shaped by the society they live in and the culture they were born into, but there are aspects to these personalities that exist universally and have existed for as long as human beings have roamed this planet. In this way, French individuals are not that different from Americans or Filipinos, at the core of it. While their cultures may vary in many different fascinating ways, an individual is an individual who shares common traits with random other people in other places in the world, no matter what country they originate from.
I keep wondering what the world would be like if more of today's world leaders had been exchange students. I hate it when people view other countries as outlines on a map, territories to conquer, economies to take advantage of, or inferior to one's home country. They don't see other countries for their unique cultures and traditions, as different yet similar manifestations of the human race, diversity that we should celebrate. I especially hate war. Other countries must never be viewed as evil, soulless adversaries in trying conflicts, which unfortunately is the viewpoint shared by many. Every war comes at a devastating cost of human lives, and you never really think about the people behind the statistics. Every one of those individuals had loved ones who cared for them, their own dreams and aspirations, regardless of what country they came from. So what would it be like if the people responsible for declaring war had been exchange students once? They would have friends from all over the world and therefore be more conscious of other nations' concerns. They would have a higher sense of empathy towards the people of other countries. They would be more reluctant to declare war because they not only care for their nation's welfare, they care for the welfare of other nations as well. They would not possess an ounce of xenophobia, and they would appreciate the many differences that the human race accommodates throughout the planet's population instead of being wary of what they cannot understand. I hope when my generation grows up, it will have leaders like this.
Since I've rambled enough I'm going to keep what I've learned about myself short.
I somehow always have the need for someone to praise me for me to really feel accomplished. I feel like I need to learn how to decide I can feel accomplished on my own without anyone telling me that I should be proud. Oh just so you know, today I recited the conjugations of is, ea, and id in Latin class, all 30, in order, memorized. Please tell me I did a good job.
Yeah, I need to work on my autonomy and stop worrying about what others think of me so much.
Well that's all, folks! I still can't believe it's already been a month...
Rest of exchange? Bring it on.