Bonjour à tous. As my first semester in France begins to wind down, I have been spending more and more time in Dijon, appreciating the city and des gens (the people) that I have come to know in the past couple of months. After all of my crazy trips, and oftentimes misfortunate traveling scenarios, I am always relieved to come back to the one city in Europe where I know that I belong. Since my last blogpost about Dijon in September, I have met so many new people and discovered much more of what Dijon has to offer and I cant wait to share about it all with you!
For starters, I am pretty engrossed in my classes à la Fac (at the university) now. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of blunders à la Fac: sitting for 10 minutes in a German class that wasn’t mine, waiting outside of classrooms for courses that either hadn’t started yet or were canceled without notification, or simply not having an answer when asked about my opinion on America’s latest des impôts agricoles (farm taxes) in my Econ class. Yet overall, classes have been going surprisingly well, considering the fact that not a single word of English is spoken in any of them.
Since my last post about Dijon, I have also started mon boulot (my job) as an English Foreign Language Assistant at a local collège (middle school). Between Thursday and Friday, I have four conversation classes with 15 students each ranging from ten to thirteen years old. For a majority of mes élèves (my students), I am the first American that they have ever met. So, naturally I was bombarded with questions about common American stereotypes on my first day. Its funny how foreign the American way of life is to the French people. My students were repulsed by the ideas of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and taking a bright yellow bus to school every day. I am excited to keep sharing my culture with mes élèves so that when they visit America they will be able to make connections as I did when I came to France, thanks to my French FLAs at Holy Cross.
Although I have deeply enjoyed my time in Dijon so far, the most difficult part is la solitude (the loneliness) that I have encountered when faced with the fact that I am the only Holy Cross student in my city. Not having HC friends to eat lunch or explore the city with is tough, and it’s difficult to find the motivation to be social when none of the faces around you are remotely familiar, but luckily my solitude has forced me to go out and meet new people in Dijon. While there are a few other American students who are also in Dijon, its very rare to come across one, due to the fact that they all take similar classes outside of the university and don’t interact with anyone but each other. Heureusement (fortunately), I have met few British and Irish students through various ERASMUS events (ERASMUS is Europe’s version of study abroad) that I really enjoy being around. And while we all speak the same language, it is clearly evident that their cultures are similar to each others’ and quite different from my own. One minute I’ll be fully engaged in a conversation with a group of them, but as soon as slang is used like “ey-up” or “quid,” and references from shows like “Coronation Street” and “the Inbetweeners” are made, it’s like I’m listening to another foreign language. If I have learned anything while abroad, it’s that smiling and nodding with a simple “ouais” or “yeah” thrown in there can get you through most conversations in most circumstances, but not all.
Maxime du jour: c’est du chinois pour moi ” its all Chinese for me”- the French version of “it’s all Greek to me”