Ugh this has been a tough Saturday. I went to a toga party last night with a few of the SIT Abroad students and did not get back home until the morning. That being said, I have been out of it all day, which has not been good for my auditory comprehension. Sorry it has taken me so long to post since my last one by the way. It is so easy to get sucked into life here and neglect to stay informed and up to date with life back home, and to also inform others of what I have been doing. I am trying to soak up as much culture as possible, but at the same time, I don’t want to be completely ignorant of what is going on with family, friends, and news in the states. Skyping with my parents today made me a bit homesick, but it was great to see them and hear about life in North Carolina.
So, what all have I been up to? Well this past week we began French classes, found out our community service project, and had a couple history lessons via tours of the town. The French classes are tough, but the skill levels within each class are fairly similar so its not intimidating and everyone is challenged. So far we have just been reviewing some verb tenses, vocabulary, and basic knowledge that we should all know at this point in our studies. We are also reading articles and learning how to pick apart the details to understand little jokes or undertones the author inserted. This has been pretty challenging so far because I am in the process of switching my thinking to French, where I think in French before I speak and while I read. It’s hard to explain, but rather than trying to translate everything into English, I am trying to simply understand the French for what it is. It’s such a cool feeling when you catch yourself understanding what people are saying without thinking about it in English. I have found that my auditory skills seem much better than my verbal or writing skills. For whatever reason, I am able to understand the language very well, but my speech and writing skills are still being worked on.
As I mentioned earlier, we were also assigned our community service projects this week. A lot of the sites are really cool and any of them would have been a great experience. My site is called La D.I.R.E. This non-profit organization helps individuals, living in the projects or slums, build gardens to cultivate produce or aesthetically pleasing plants. I am pretty pumped about the opportunity because I will be working with kids and some members of the immigrant population in Toulouse. I expect that volunteering with this group will be a great way to take my classroom knowledge and apply it directly to the real world in France. Others’ projects include tutoring students in various subjects after school, working on a farm, and cooking for the homeless. Like I said, any of them would be pretty sweet.
Yesterday after our last French class of the week ended at noon, a friend and I took the metro across town to a little boulangerie(bakery) that he found on his bike. Their sandwiches were the best around and its pretty certain I’ll be returning there often. We have been trying to go eat at different places everyday after classes because we want to get to know the town better and also because everyone in the dining hall at school speaks a good bit of English. We figure that our conversations may not be all that complex and intense, but at least we’re practicing the language outside the classroom. Upon returning to the school around 1:30PM, we had a tour given by one of the history professors at L’Institut Catholique. He knows something about everything and told us the history of Toulouse in a three hour walking session of the town. Similar to our first tour with him, we learned our way around the town as well, but this tour was mostly for site seeing and taking pictures. We visited the church where the Dominican order of Catholicism was founded, L’église jacobin. We also visited St.Sernin, which is apparently one of the most holy places to pilgrimage for European catholics. Both were absolutely gorgeous, massive, and awe-inspiring. The Jacobin church had a cloister as well that we took a tour of. The history of monks and nuns and their lives was fascinating. I have uploaded some pictures of the Jacobin church.
It is hard to believe that two weeks have already gone by because it seems like I was just arriving. My hope is that the entire semester does not go by that fast because it sure has been tough to keep up with all of the excitement. More to come. Go look at some of the photos!