Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lycée vs High School

I've been in France for over two weeks now, so I think it's about time to update.
I started school two weeks ago on Tuesday, and have since then obviously noticed many differences between school here and school back in West Bend. Because I don't want to bore you to death with writing forever, I'll condense them down into four main topics:

1. Time/Schedules

Back in the US I have a pretty normal schedule of school from 7:30am-2:30pm. There are fifty minutes classes with five minute breaks in between to go to your locker/bathroom or whatever. I have a twenty minute lunch, and constantly switch classes and teachers and students. Here, it's a completely different story. The time you here starts can change, as well as the time you leave. For me, I start school everyday at eight, unless a teacher is sick (but I'll get into that later). The time I end ranges from 3 o clock to 6 o clock. The classrooms here also change, you are given the numbers for each of your classes on the first day of school orally to write down in your notebook (luckily a teacher gave them to me after class as I didn't catch them at all). Except, here, the teachers change classrooms as well. The only thing that doesn't change are the students you are with because we are seperated into L, ES, and S classes which you can read more into here ( ) I'm just going to type this here: NO LOCKERS.
For lunch, the time for break also changes. Minimally, you will always have an hour. However, there are times where I have four hours for lunch. But, I am not locked up in the building as I will get to in my next point:

2. Open Campus

The schools here are completely open campus. You can leave and go as you please, which is completely fantastic. If you have an hour break between classes you can go and grab a coffee with your friends. The first day during break I grabbed lunch with my host mom. Other days I ate at the shelf (cafeteria), but most days I wandered out and explored, eating a baguette along the way, and sometimes even shopping. The campus is also open in the fact that the gym is a few blocks away, along with the swimming pool. This means in order to make these classes you have to catch the bus or walk. They also allow the open campus because there are students who live at the school, a lot like college, because their cities are too far away, or there's no time for them to get to school in the mornings. So there is a building for dorm rooms. Also, at the school, there are no substitutes. This means if a teacher is sick or gone, there is no class and you can leave. I usually have so many breaks that the days I have class until six don't even phase me. But it's really nice because I'm already really famillar with my town from being able to wander.

3. The Shelf (cafeteria)

I want to start of by expressing my extreme disgust towards the cafeteria food back at my old school. I always brought cold lunch with me because the hot food is terrible. However, here, it's a completely different story. The whole process of actually eating is really different. If you want to eat at the cafeteria that day, you must scan your student card at a machine by the office in order to reserve a plate for lunch. When lunch rolls around, you wait in line outside of the cafeteria building. You have to show your schedule to a teacher so that person can make sure you are going to lunch at a time that is conveniant for everyone (ex: If I have lunch from 12-1 I'd go in before someone with lunch from 12-2). Once you're in, you have to re-scan your card. When you re-scan it, one of the trays will shoot out at you to grab. You also grab here SILVERWEAR (not plastic sporks) along with a small glass to drink from. Then you take your tray down a buffet line thing where you grab a salad/pasta-esque dish, then continue down to grab a dessert, then the main dish (usually delicious meat and fries or vegetables) and then a fruit, and finally a fresh roll. The chefs there cook all of these things before school, so there is no re-heating packaged lunch. After you find a place to sit. They always have pitchers to fill up with water at a fountain drink type station in the middle, so you can pour it into your glasses. When you are completely finished you place your tray onto a lever thing that pushes it into the kitchen to be washed.

4. The Students themselves

I want to express the first thought that entered my head when I walked into the school court which was," Everyone.. is.. smoking..." and It is true. About 94% of the student population here smokes. It definitely took a while to get used to, but, it is possible.
The other thing I noticed was how well dressed everyone is here. There were no sweatpants, no sweatshirts, no slippers. I couldn't believe how fashionable the students were. Most of the girls wear high heels jeans and a nice blouse with a cardigan and scarf. And my backpack instead of a tote bag definitely stood out. It will definitely be strange coming back to girls in their pajamas after this.

Well that is about it for now. I posted more pictures on my Facebook for any of my friends who want to see! I visited the Chateau d'Angers today with Erin, and had an absolute awesome time. It's so beautiful here.

I'm going to go to bed now (school tomorrow) but before then here a list of random things I am infatuated with here at the moment: macarons, the huge church in my city, the cute apartments, the vending machines here, eating french fries with a fork, coffee, the BREAD, nutella.

À bientôt!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More Pictures!

Tomorrow will be the end of my first week in France! 
I don't have the time (or motivation, really xD) to type up another long post about school and my city, so for now, I will just upload some pictures! 

Monday, September 5, 2011


Well, I am in France.
Where to start?

I left for New York City early Wednesday morning. It was really strange waking up with the thought that this was the last morning in my house for ten months, but my mind was more focused on getting my luggage packed, downstairs, and ready to go. I was way too anxious to eat, so I ended up leaving for the airport on an empty stomach. I thought the drive there would be really sad, but everything was oddly normal. My parents talked about stuff while I listened to music in the back. We got to the airport pretty early, so we chilled around the security entrance for a while. The time came to leave, and I had to say goodbye to my parents. It was awful for the first five or so minutes, but once I got through security, I was okay. I found my gate and boarded really quickly and was off to New York City. The excitement for meeting all the other AFSers kicked in about then. I landed in LGA an hour later and found the AFS volunteers after baggage claim and waited for all the other AFSers to land and find us. It ended up being a ton of kids from Wisconsin and Gabe from Texas (first person from G+ I met in person :P). We all got on the shuttle bus to the hotel and arrived around half an hour later. I saw Gello first, and then eventually met up with all the people I'd been talking to on the AFS France group and G+! We all chilled around talking for most of the night, ate dinner, and then partied in Kevin's room. Most of the orientations started the next day;

Thursday! We woke up early, and after a few of us got stuck going up and down on the elevator, we went down to eat breakfast. After breakfast we started orientations, which were a little hard to concentrate in because we were all excited to leave, but managed to complete. We had a toast (with cider!) and then had lunch, and then got ready to leave for JFK. We were split up into two groups in order to fit on the buses there, I was on the first. We got to JFK at the same time and went through security pretty quickly. We got to our gate with about two hours to spare, so we were let loose to explore and grab food before the seven hour plane ride. No one managed to get lost, although we did have a straggler getting pizza, and we boarded the plane around five pm. The chaperone told us no switching seats until everyone was situated, but we switched seats early anyways. I ended up in a row with Toni, Nathaniel, and Gello. It was a really fun plane ride. I don't think it would have been as awesome if we weren't on Swiss Air. ( I'm not sponsored, I swear ;) ) We were able to watch the plane cross the Atlantic, and beat the night time. It was the shortest night ever, I think about four hours only we were in the dark. Of course many of us didn't sleep, I got in an hour thanks to Gello letting me sleep on him. All of us were awake for when we landed in Zurich on...

Friday! And yes, a few of us did sing 'Friday' on the plane. I mean, we were overtired and SO EXCITED. Landing in Zurich was awesome. It was so awesome seeing the Swiss houses out of the plane window. We got complimentary hot towels and Swiss chocolate as we landed (I loved the hot towel--still don't know why I needed to dampen my face and hands, but hey, I felt fancy). When we got off the plane, I was pretty surprised to see all English signs. But, I was able to hear and see the German later. I was so happy though. It was my first time in a foreign country; I couldn't help but jump and down a little. We moved as a group to our next gate area for our flight to Paris. I followed Benji around after finding out he had been to the airport and Switzerland multiple times before (he has dual citizenship and even has a Swiss passport which is CLASS). We got to security, but we landed so early (FIVE hours early) and didn't even have a proper gate yet. So we were let off to explore for three hours. A bunch of us went to find a place to sit down. Benji bought some truffles while Jackson and Nathaniel got some cafes. I bought one of the truffles off Benji for 5 euros, and absolutely don't regret it because it was freaking delicious. Then we mulled around until finally we could go through security, which was so uptight there. A few people got patted down, and I had to take out my backpack because the 3 oz liquids rang up or something. We bought some food before boarding the plane, and then landed in Paris within the next hour.
PARIS. I couldn't believe I was actually there. I was exhausted at that point, my mind wasn't processing anything when we were at baggage claim. I think some German AFS kids were there, but I could just be remembering nothing. After we got our bags we were handed off to AFS France who again split us up into two buses and sent us to the hostel in the 20th arrondissement. I still have no idea what happened to going through customs... Because I'm 99.9% sure we skipped it. I barely remember the bus ride, I know I was awake, but was so tired my memory was probably on stand-by. We got to the hostel around two or so I think, and I finally woke up just because I couldn't wait to meet all of the 300+ AFSers from around the world. Check in was simple, we just grabbed a name tag and gave them our checked bag. However, I was bombarded by one of the AFSers, making it a little harder to do than it should have been. Luckily, I saw some of the NZers and Aussies, and I finally met my two Hungarian friends! The rest of the day was basically free to chill around and eat dinner, so we did just that. The Aussies, NZers, and Americans actually ended up getting pretty close <3 We all went to bed exhausted.

We woke up early on Saturday too, had breakfast, and then were split up into two groups, one to see Paris, one to have orientations, and then switch. I had orientations first. The information was pretty standard, most of which we had heard before. We did an awesome activity with the NZers though, and then headed for lunch. After lunch we all had to put on bright yellow and orange AFS t-shirts for our bus tour. The bus tour was really great, although I didn't manage to get many pictures because of the fact we were in a bus, plus I fell asleep towards the end... But, we did get out at the Tour Eiffel. I can't describe how weird it was seeing it in person. I felt like I was looking a picture. Did you know there is a huge fountain/pool thing at the base of it across the street though? There were tons of kids/adults splashing around in it, so of course we all got in it too! Then we walked further down right under the Eiffel Tower where AFS had us do a lovely "Funky Chicken" mob dance which was hilarious. Yes, everyone was staring, and yes people took videos, and once I find one I will definitely share it. After that we returned to the hostel where we had dinner and then had a small party because we wouldn't be seeing most of each other for a while. Then we went to bed early because the next day...

Sunday! We left for our host town via TGV. I left at 7h with Erin, Elizabeth, Gabe, Benji, and the other people in my region. We didn't get on the train until 10, so we waited around eating breakfast, trying vegemite, and trying to calm down our nerves. The TGV ride was really fast, our ears were popping like crazy for the first few minutes. It was nice seeing the French countryside. We got to Angers in about an hour and a half, and got off right away. We were all so nervous standing there waiting for our host families. I was shaking like mad, it was crazy. I ended up seeing my host mom first, and then saw Nathan and Sarah next. Baptiste was at home sleeping (shows teenage boys are the same everywhere). We all biz'ed and then walked into the main lobby of the gare. AFS collected telephone numbers, addresses, took pictures, and then we were able to drive off with our host families.
Angers is so beautiful. We even drove past the Chateau d'Angers which is extremely cool, and will definitely need to visit multiple more times.

( I'm far closer to Angers than I thought I would be, so we got to our house within seven minutes. Oh, my house is so cute and pretty. It's pretty big, and has tile floors, and lofts and the windows are always open with fresh air. There's a pretty garden with swings and food for Garfield the stray cat.
My family is amazing. I couldn't have imagined anything better, they are so welcoming and patient with my poor French. )

Anyway, Sunday was a nice first day, Nathan and I played some sports outside, Benedicte's friend came over for dinner, I handed out all of the presents, took a shower, and then happily went to bed after being so exhausted. Finally, that leaves us with, 

Today! :D I went around Angers with Bénédicte and Sarah while Nathan was at school, I got my phone for France, finally connected the WiFi, and Voila, c'est tout!
I am putting some pictures at the bottom. Hopefully I will update again soon! This week should be eventful after all, I start school on Tuesday....

À bientôt!