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:
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 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_education_in_France ) 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.
IT. IS. AWESOME.
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.