The Indian summer temperatures have gradually started to drop in Paris this week and with various university meetings and having to think about what modules to take, the reality that I am actually here to study has finally began to sink in! After the first meeting we were all left none the wiser and pretty baffled by the French university system (I don’t think I will ever call Warwick disorganized and lacking information ever again!) The fact that the lecturers were speaking to us like we were natives also did not help!
On Tuesday afternoon I visited Chateau Vincennes (built in the 14th century by Charles V) with a French student at the Sorbonne. It’s on the outskirts of Eastern Paris and is well worth a visit! I was gutted to have forgotten my camera, so I will be planning on returning some time! On Friday I met a fellow Erasmus student for a stroll around the Jardin des Tuileries, which starts at Place de la Concorde and leads up rather grandly to the Louvre. I got a bit carried away chatting in French and with my touristy sightseeing and missed a Sorbonne meeting about taking Spanish (oops…) Luckily I had Nikki and Rose on hand to fill me in on what I’d missed!
I’ve been getting into the routine of picking up the two French boys I look after 3 days a week in the evenings, which is giving me an insight into French schooling and Parisian family life. The children are actually bilingual in English and French, so the idea is to speak with them in English as much as possible. That being said, they both cottoned on instantly that I speak French and the older boy has even started correcting some of my pronunciation! I’ve also started tutoring two 7 year old French twins (who are complete beginners in English), which is amazing for my French. They are the cutest children ever, and I can’t help but melt a bit when they attempt to repeat English after me. The parents (a typical young and attractive Parisian couple) also seem lovely, who I had a nice chat with on my way out.
I was then back on the metro again to make my way to a welcome to Paris meal at Pizza Vesuvio with the Warwick gang along the Champs-Élysées. Definitely starting to see the relevance in the expression « métro, boulot, dodo » for summing up the Parisian way of life! It was great to catch with everyone and share our experiences so far. The food was great (I had a delicious risotto) and reasonably priced, especially considering the prime location. The restaurant was also vegetarian friendly, which is not always a given in France! After the meal a few of us went on to join the Warwick Sciences Po gang for drinks in the 11th. The area was buzzing and had several quaint small- sized bars which seem to be the preferred night scene in Paris rather than massive clubs. There were lots of cool fashionable young Parisians spilling out onto the street, as well as a pair of girls dressed completely in white casually parading around the area on stilts…(Only in Paris!) Seeing as I don’t begin classes until October, I was interested to hear how the others who have already started were getting on. They warned me that it’s a lot more work than English uni, where most humanities students barely have over 10 hours of contact time a week. On the plus side, there isn’t so much work to do outside classes and they all said they felt like they were getting a lot out of it. Ironic how we’ll all be getting more contact time and teaching in a year of study none of us have had to pay for, compared to back home where students are paying ridiculous sums to study…
Friday night was by far the most English I have spoken in one go since arriving here, and I’ve already started to notice subtle changes. For instance, when I was on the phone to my mum the other day, I was moaning about my dodgy ‘electric plaque’ which gives me a power cut every time I dare to use it. What I meant to say was my hob, but I actually could not think of the word at the time and continued to insist that my plaque was a safety hazard. My mum probably had no idea what I was going on about! It’s encouraging to notice little changes already within such a short space of time, which is already making my goal of becoming fluent in French by the end of the year even more tangible.