While I have undoubtedly noticed some cultural differences among the people I have met during the past few weeks, it has struck me how inherently similar people are across the world. We all face similar problems, share the same daily stresses, feel love and loss, and seek the comfort of friendship and laughter to get us through the day. More than once I have heard “you remind me of “s0-and-s0″ back home,” or “___ is just like ___ at home”. It’s nice to know that no matter where I go, I will likely find someone to temporarily fill the void of the people that I have left behind. While I could never replace my friends and family, it is comforting having a solid group of friends who provide stability and sometimes make me forget that I’m not merely socializing with some friends in the comfort of my own town.
Yesterday in French class my Mme. Meunier split us into groups and asked us to discuss “clichés” and preconceptions of other nationalities before discussing them out loud in class. We listed off stereotypes of: Canadians, Americans, English, Japanese, Spanish and Germans. It was an interesting experience because none of us really wanted to insult each other, and many stereotypes could either be said about most nationalities or were no longer very applicable. But it showed me that despite the small differences among us, we are all similar enough to have had the ability and desire to travel to a new country, learn a new language, and immerse ourselves into a new culture in hopes of learning and growing from it. So we really are inherently the same – just young students embarking on a new adventure together.
Unfortunately, as always, the good comes with the bad – and while I have met some amazing people who summon memories of loved ones back home, there are also a few I have met who bring back traumatic memories of people I would rather have forgotten. My French teacher, for example, Mme. Meunier reminds me all too much of my least favourite high-school teacher, Mme. Major. After taking a placement test last Thursday, the few hundred of us in the SELF program were divided into french levels, which we will remain in for the rest of the semester. I was placed in the highest level (without being placed in the DEUF program, for entirely french students), which I am already dreading. She is piling on the homework, her teaching methods are skewed to say the least, and classes seem to lack any sort of organization/order. I know I have to become accustomed to a new learning environment, and that I should stay positive because everything here is a new experience and I will take lots away from the class, but it has been an overwhelming week of grammar and pronouns. I am very happy that today is the last day of our week of “Intensive French Class.”
On Tuesday the regular SELF schedule begins, and we will all start taking our other courses which will be taught in English. I am looking forward meeting the other professors and students in the classes. I don’t really know what to expect, so it will be yet a new experience for me here in France. I am going to Geneva for the day tomorrow, which I am pretty excited about! It will my first time in Switzerland, and my first trip outside of France since I arrived.
Ian arrives in a week from tomorrow, which I am beyond excited for! It seems like just yesterday we were saying our “see-you-soons,” and now here I am a week away from having him in my life again (for a short two-weeks). My parents and sister are also coming to visit for Canadian Thanksgiving which I am also obviously excited about. Michelle has never been to Europe, so I am so excited for her to experience it. My semester in France is going to fly by with everything I have planned so far, so I have to keep reminding myself to enjoy every minute while I can!
Ta-ta for now,