Again, apologies for the lack of posting the week before last due to a plethora of technical difficulties. This week, however, I’ll be writing a couple of blogs. Even in post-grad life, make-up work has its place. Lucky you.
My observation period has almost come to a close. Last week, I spent two full days at the middle school in Orchies, which is about three times the size of my second school, located in the nearby Flines-les-Roches, where I’ve been observing classes this week. With 900 students, Orchies’ Collège du Pévèle is actually larger than my high school.
The kids in both of my schools are adorable, smart, and have a high level of interest in learning English. There, of course, exist the typical middle school delinquents and rebels, but they’re well in the minority. As I’m still technically in my observation period, I haven’t really started interacting with the students yet, save a couple of beginning English classes, when the kids gave me a basic interview, pulling interrogatory phrases from their grammar books: “what’s your name”, “where are you from”, “how old are you”, etc. A few of them asked me about my musical taste, throwing names like Rihanna, Eminem, and Justin Bieber at me, all of which I recognize, but none of whom I listen to. One boy asked me if I ate hamburgers all the time, to the amusement of the entire class, which sparked a “what do Americans eat” dialogue. They were all fairly confused to hear that I don’t really know how to cook, though I am attempting to learn. Last night, I made a fairly bland spaghetti sauce from scratch.
It’s strange being the foreigner. Having studied abroad in Dijon a year and a half ago, I somehow assumed that I was more than prepared to play the part of the American in France again. This experience is already entirely different. I’m becoming much more integrated into the culture, for one. I lunch with the other teachers, drink coffee and tea with them during our many breaks, exchanging bits of information about various students (a bizarre experience, in itself: I feel as if I’m in some elite society, going through doors labeled “for school personnel only”). In Lille, I shop with the locals, live in a dormitory largely populated by young French women, and go on weekend trips to the sea with French friends, exchanging a variety of key slang words from our respective languages. I’m constantly in the culture, though I’m not entirely a part of it. In Dijon, while I was living with a French family, which dramatically improved my French comprehension and speaking skills, I largely stayed within my American study abroad group, only socializing a bit with other study abroad students. And there, we were all foreigners. Another part of it is that a large portion of my job as an English assistant, other than helping the students improve their accents and oral fluidity, is to teach the students about American culture, making me feel like some low-level representative for the USA.
However, whatever my somewhat philosophical sentiments are concerning my existence as a foreigner in France, I’m loving it here. Lovely people, beautiful countryside, excellent food. One of the French teachers at my school told me that there’s a saying about Nord-pas-de-Calais, which roughly translates to: not many people come here, but those that are here, stay.