Thursday, January 13, 2011
Hi there! Still alive, just busy. The last month has been non-stop go go go, but I finally have some time to breathe and do other important things like catch up on emails, photos, reading, and sleep! I have a to-do list every day that seems to just get longer and never have anything crossed off. Post office, health care paperwork, stacks of dishes..it just keeps piling and piling, literally and figuratively.
I can safely say, my first semester gone behind me, that French school is [explicative] hard. I did not prepare for this level of hard. It's not one single thing that's difficult, but all of the little things just add up to a big pile of confusion. I would normally be able to cope with this, but the whole 3-job thing is really a bummer when you're trying to get a graduate degree in a foreign country. What comes to mind as being the hardest thing about grad school here? Well besides the different language, which I'll admit, sometimes comes into play, it's more about the way that things are taught. The professor is God and sits in front of the lecture hall whilst you furiously scribble the notes as quickly as your hands can move. And because you're so concentrated on actually getting the words that are coming out of God's mouth, the material that you're supposed to be learning is going straight over your head. Questions are not forbidden, but they're really reserved for special instances, which you will not decide. You must have a sixth sense as to when the professor will be willing to give you some of his/her insight. It is something that only the French possess.
So there's that, plus other details I've already mentioned like no syllabi, textbooks, or help of any kind for foreigners. Basically, although I enjoy the experience of studying in a European university, I sometimes wonder why they're making their lives so hard. I know Americans are spoiled, but c'mon, how hard is it to post some documents online, or to have a few advisers that help the foreign students who obviously are lost (my program is made up of 1/3 foreigners)? Papers aren't written in the same way, guidelines for assignments are super vague, scheduling is done mostly by hand, there are loads of administrative things I just am not familiar with..rant rant rant. It's not impossible, it just might take me longer to finish that I want.
I haven't gotten back the results from my exams yet, but I can guarantee that they're pretty awful. I did awesome on my English exam (ha), but for the others, not so much. I was under prepared to start out with, and I never could catch up. I'm still working on catching up. Work is really the biggest culprit, but I'll completely admit that I haven't had to really study hard for a long time. Not that I got super grades in college, but I did about average, and put forth more effort in classes I enjoyed. This semester has really been more of a re-learning of how to study than anything else. Not to mention I had the most boring classes ever. I'm hoping next semester will be more interesting in terms of the classes I have. (Schedule, of course, not up yet. I'm expecting it two days before classes commence.)
I'm on break now (again), after a week of exams, which were rude enough to be held the first week of January. Thanks, France, for adding even more stress to my Christmas break! My second semester starts on Feb. 14, and I'm hoping that my new MacBook Pro (!!!) will help me avoid the first problem I have, ie not being able to write fast enough. I am a mad fast typer and I am ready to show the French up. Thanks, Mavis Beacon software c. 1997!
I've got lots of reading to do, so although school is "over," it's really just in a lull. I've got to get ahead on my classes for next semester so I'm not (so) lost, I've got to get reading for my mémoire, friends to visit, work to be had at the café, English lessons to be planned..in short, I am never not busy.
So for the rest of my break, I did enjoy some shut-eye, I did enjoy some wine, I did enjoy some friend visits. Brittany, my American-turned-Swiss friend is a mere 4-hour trainride away, so for her trip back to the US, she flew out of Paris. Her husband came, and our friend, Greg, was home in France visiting his friends and family for the first time in 2.5 years. We have opposite lives--he's French, living in hip Cali, and seems to be doing pretty well for himself financially. I'm American, living in elegant Paris, and am hella poor. Haha. But in any case, it was really good to see them all again right before the holidays. Like a little piece of America in my tiny 9m² apartment above the city.
Brittany brought me back all kinds of goodies from the US, notably the very computer that I'm writing on. It's sleek and so fast! It's been a long time coming; I'm pretty sure I've been bitching about this for over a year now. It's good to have to go through all my files and try to be organized. I've been throwing photos in scarcely-organized folders for years now, and I'm determined to get them all organized before school starts again. We'll see..
On Christmas, I hung out alone in the morning and watched A Christmas Story, and then went on a long walk through the city to remind myself that although I was alone on Christmas, look where I was. It was a stunningly beautiful yet cold day, and I only fell once, flat on my face, next to a pile of dog poo. Nice try, universe. Can't get me mad on my favorite holiday of the year!
Later that afternoon, I went to my friend's, who also had a friend visiting, so the three of us made a delicious quiche, watched some classic Christmas movies, and then made cookies. All while drinking wine out of plastic cups, in our pajamas. Not so bad after all.
I like writing, so although I refuse to call it an actual resolution, I am really going to try to make myself update this thing a little bit more often. I often think of entries throughout the week but never get around to writing them down. No promises, though. I'm studying now to avoid being completely lost, but if next semester is anything like this last one, see you in June..