Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Juste un petit mot

"Just a little word" as the French like to say..

My schedule is actually really nice this semester. I got out of taking English (yay!) and therefore have every Thursday and Friday off! Not bad. I might be getting into a Spanish or German class, which of course I'd take with open arms. I'd love to take both, but I gotta limit my crazy. Did I mention I'm applying to l'École Supérieure d'Interprètes et de traducteurs (ESIT)? 'Cos I am. It's an interpretation/translation school officially affiliated with my university, but on the campus of another Parisian university. Confusing, and I don't know why they play musical chairs with different departments but it happens a lot. Another entry sometime in the future, I will try to explain the Université de Paris system as best I know! Anyway, I'm applying to ESIT, which really just means taking an entrance exam in May. The process, as far as I can see, is less complicated than last year's for my current program, but the test is intense and requires a good amount of studying. I went to the university today to get the former tests that they sell for 15€. Guess it's good that I have a little extra time this semester, but I should most definitely be working on that 40-50 page mémoire due in May..what can I say, I'm easily distracted when it comes to practicing languages vs. communication theory!

I was in a really super mood today. Had a journalism class I enjoyed in the AM, walked home slowly in the spring-like weather, enjoyed a really delicious sandwich..it's the little things! Then I went to the uni to get the tests, and came back to the Latin Quarter, to one of my favorite places in all of Paris.

My favorite language bookstore. I told myself walking in I wouldn't buy anything..maybe next time this will work.

The lovely Seine. Taken in late afternoon so it looks a little glum, but it was a beautiful day compared to the recent rainy weather we've had.

I really do love living here. Here's to a great mid-week!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


[I wrote this on the train a few days back..sorry for the delay!]


I’ve had quite a week! Started out with going to a concert from one of my favvvvvvorite singers, William Fitzsimmons. I found out the week before last that he was playing in Paris—and a free concert at that! I’ve been a huge fan for years and have watched him tour Germany and the Netherlands, always skipping my little part of the continent. I’m so glad he stopped by this time! I highly recommend him if you like folksy/melancholic music. Not for everyone, but I love his music (and bad ass beard!). I even got a pic with him, although my friend is 5’ tall, so it’s a horrible angle..


Just returned from my trip to the Swiss Alps to visit my friend, Brittany. Pretty much the entire country is some part of the infamous mountain range, but I happened to be in the eastern part, near the Austrian border. I spent three days in a small mountain village, where her husband has a house that has been in his family for the better part of a century. Very kitschy (in a cute way) and very Swiss. Pictures lined the walls with old photos, cereal bowls were inscribed with kids’ names from past summers and breaks spent there, and everything you could ever need—from paprika to coffee percolators to fondue sets was there, in a designated place. I imagine it’s taken years to acquire all the little bits and pieces, but I could tell that it is very much a house that is lived in throughout the year, by family and friends. Especially during ski season!


There were tons of skiers, snowboarders, hang gliders, etc. of all ages walking the streets. It was nice to leave the uptight, well-dressed manner of Paris for the more comfortable polar fleece and snow boots style of the mountains.


I didn’t ski—too much money, plus the fact that I’ve never put a pair of skis on in my life—but having time to relax, outside of Paris, with no obligations, was plenty of vacation for me. I walked around the town to take pictures a few times, read a whole book in English without feeling guilty, studied a little German, enjoyed good coffee in the morning and delicious wine in the evening. Nothing super interesting, but I have to say that being in the mountains with cool, fresh air and a shining sun was great for me. I feel recharged.

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So now it’s back to work, at least mostly. My university break only shared last weekend with the Paris school’s break, so although my classes start tomorrow, I’ll be sans kids for two weeks. I of course would have preferred to have a week overlap so I could go somewhere for longer, but at least this way I can start out the semester with more time and concentration. I hope.

I’m toying with the idea of applying to a different program for next year. I like Communications, but I kind of feel indifferent about it. It’s interesting, and there are parts of it that I really enjoy, like the Cultural Studies movement in the 1950s and 60s, especially the linguistic theories applied to society like structuralism and post-structuralism. But I don’t necessarily feel passionate about a lot of the other things that I've studied. Some classes are better than others, but really, I thought it would be closer to Journalism, and in many respects, it’s closer to Sociology and Philosophy. I want a Master’s degree, I do, but studying here has always been for me more of a cultural experience and a way to stay in France. I don’t know exactly what I plan on doing in the future as far as a “real job” goes. I have some rough ideas drawn out in my head. I know I’m almost 26 and I should have this figured out by now, but I say to that : meh. An article last year in the New York Times was spot on. I’m under 30, college-educated, and not in a hurry to settle down anywhere, so I’m kind of making it up as I go along.

If you twisted my arm and told me that I had to choose a career, I could narrow my interests down to : languages and photography. Language not only in the foreign sense, but also as written word in general. I am meticulous with grammar and vocabulary, and if I'd stayed in the US after college, I probably would’ve applied to be a copywriter or a technical writer. I resisted the idea for a long time, but the more I think about it, the more I think I could be a pretty good translator.

My resistance has always been that I like going into a physical workplace. I like having co-workers and a desk that’s not at my house. I like the interaction with other people, I like the separation of home and work. But let’s face it, I’m at my computer a good portion of the day anyway, and I’d consider myself quite Internet-savvy, which is the medium for a lot of translations these days. I browse bookstore and library language sections on (at least) a weekly basis, read grammar books for fun, and already have a few translation manuals on my shelf, bought out of curiosity. My university has a program for translation and interpretation and I am going to look into it. This would mean that I'd be behind a year in studies, but I feel almost guilty saying that it's not a big deal to me. I chose to do Communications this year mostly because I thought it would be more profitable for future job opportunities, but I don’t know if I want to spend two years in a program that I don’t even enjoy. Translation, at least I think, would be more interesting for someone whose desk is littered with memo-block notes of random phrases and words I like or need to look up in French. Someone whose bookshelves are buckling with the weight of books in no less than five languages, someone who has wordreference.com is in a browser on a nearly-constant basis. I think I owe the translation thing a shot. I have a high level in French, and good levels in Spanish and German (need to brush up, though..school gets in the way, sadly). I might have found the one thing I'm actually somewhat gifted at..sorry, sports of any kind, we were never meant to be!

And as far as the photography goes, it can always be a hobby. Maybe a photojournalism gig will show up one day..it's my ultimate dream job.

So if you're saying to yourself, my oh my, Rachel has yet to get a real job, what is she going to do!, don't worry. I'm okay with that. I'm also applying to an assistantship program in Spain as a backup. I'm sorry, dear friends and family, but I just don't feel like coming back to the US just quite yet.

Not for now. Not when I'm a day's trainride away from this :

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More photos if you so desire