Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bring on December

Glad November is over. Long-hated month of mine; I especially feel the effects of short days here in Paris, which is roughly at the same latitude as Montreal. Daylight is fading by 4:30 and by around 5, any traces of the sun are nonexistent. Of course, December is worse in this respect, but you at least have the upcoming holidays to distract you. November seems to drag on forever here. No Turkey Day festivities to break up the month! There are two bank holidays, but it's not the same. (It is, however, lovely when they fall on a Thursday, Friday or Monday. Long weekend! Especially on a Thursday--everyone "makes the bridge" and takes Friday off, too.)

My weeks pass faster than I think they will. Mostly because of my two set schedules that pack everything together in a few days—work and school. I work Saturday-Tuesday at the café, around 25 hours. I get very little schoolwork done on the weekend, but I do have Monday and Tuesday during the day off. I theoretically consecrate these days to catching up on schoolwork. However, real life often gets in the way. Laundry, bank, supermarket, tidying up, catching up on sleep, remnants of a social life, etc. I know I said it last year, but the biggest thing I’ve had to learn from working and going to grad school is time management—something I admittedly struggle with. Growing up kind of sucks sometimes…

After my four days of work, I have the following three days for school and studying. My classes are all day Wednesdays and Fridays, so those days are effectively blocked out of my schedule. I leave for school just after sunrise and get back long after sunset. I come home so tired that I practically fall into bed! Classes are three hours long and I have trouble concentrating for that long in a row, even if I enjoy the material. It’s just tough to keep my brain active for so long in a row. I can’t space off too much because the classes are so small and I can't really get away with it. Of course, it wouldn’t be France without a coffee break halfway through the class, but by the end of the day, my brain is fried. My eyes hurt from looking at a computer and being under bright florescent lights, in the same room, all day long.

On the metro ride home, I should, but don't always read a book. My eyes kill me. (Note to self : Go to the eye doctor!) I just listen to music and close my eyes, peeking them open every now and then to make sure I don’t miss my transfer. I like my uni, and I like living in Paris, but I have to say, it’s pretty disheartening to walk off campus after 9+ hours straight in a classroom and know that your bed is a multi-transfer metro ride, walk home, and seven flights of stairs away.

But it’s worth it. I like my program and it’s small enough (on a good day, 6 or 7 people) that I get direct contact with my professors, something I missed last year in my giant Communications program. Two of my classes are in English, and although I would prefer that they all be in French, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a little bit of familiar. I prefer the way Americans teach but I also prefer that cost of education in France. One of these classes is with an Australian guy, maybe mid-30s and pretty cool. Asks if we understood, jokes around, allows discussions off topic, uses an online website to submit homework, etc. All the things that I miss about traditional French education. 

The other class is with a French professor who spent a fair amount of time in Boston. He teaches a lot like in the States, but maybe not as much as the Australian. Still, I appreciate that he posts assignments for us online and writes key terms on the whiteboard. His English is impeccable, so much so that I have taken to noting his vocabulary :

Exhibit A (wherein I doubt any language ability I may have thought I had) :
striking feature
strike of a key
…and many others that make you question your education

I know all these words in English, thank god. At least he has yet to use vocabulary that I don’t know in my native language! But do I know these in French? Umm…no. Granted, English has many more words and the word ‘akin’ probably just translates as comme,the usual translation of ‘like.’ But still, for a non-native English speaker--and French at that--I am certainly impressed. (Not that America is any better..) Now if only I would get my ass in gear and look up his words in French so I could match his vocabulary...

Anyway, bref, classes are good. I thoroughly enjoy the challenges that translation brings. I finally am enrolled as a real student at my university, which brought forth my favorite benefit as a student : access to the university library. I checked out a bunch of translation studies books and am hoping to read them a bit in my spare time. My program is a decent translation program, but I still feel like there’s some essential material missing, or at least it’s not been introduced yet. Vocabulary for what we’re actually doing, explanations of theories, etc. So I’m supplementing it with my own readings. I have very grandiose ideas concerning my academic plan that rarely come to fruition, but in my dream world, I think things like :
“If you’re going to do a Master’s, you should do it right. You should be reading extra material all the time!"
“If you start early, you'll avoid staying up until 4am the day before it's due!” 
"Stop getting on Facebook. Seriously, Rachel, no one is doing anything of interest. Really."
“You must study for three hours a day.”  HAR HAR. At least the intention is there, right? Right?!

**I promise pictures soon. Going to let my camera out of his closet dungeon this weekend!