As I’d mentioned before, I am not abroad to simply spoil myself with beautiful architecture and incomparable cuisine.. although, I do wish that were the case. I enrolled in the AHA International program through the University of Oregon, which is ultimately its own entity within a much larger program known as CIDEF. CIDEF is the French intensive program located at l’Université Catholique de l’Ouest (UCO) in Angers, France. The advantage of enrolling through AHA and not directly through CIDEF was that our group of 19 Americans has our own personal director who has been with us throughout the entire process of applying, traveling, and studying. It also introduced me to a wonderful collection of students without the awkward “say hello to whoever sits next to you” mess..
I was prepared to work hard on my schooling while in France, but I didn’t realize that the time spent in the classroom and with my studies would be so demanding. I have three separate classes throughout the day/week: Langue, Expression Orale, and Laboratoire. Langue is every day and the others are nearly as frequent, taking a day off once or twice a week depending on your level. There are seven levels for the July session: cour 1 for beginners and cour 7 for those who are nearly fluent in French. After studying for two years at the U of O, I tested into cour 3, which will transfer over as 300-level language. Cour 3 is a mixed of ability though, and I often feel more advanced than the rest of my classmates. I debated moving up to Cour 4, but decided against it as to not overwhelm myself while I’m here.
My class schedule changes daily, which is, as you would imagine, difficult to keep up with. Not only does the class order change, but so do the classrooms. Whoever decided that throwing a couple of hundred foreigners into an intensive language program and then giving them a schedule useless to rely on must have had some sick and twisted sense of humor…
Langue is just that: “language”. It’s a full two-hour lecture in French about French for those who are trying to learn French. So far (two weeks in), it has mostly been a review on the basics of a 200-level French language course. There are assignments from the book and workbook that we’re expected to complete during class and for homework each night. Françoise, my professor, is stern, yet has a quirky and dry sense of humor that I find incredibly refreshing since most French people I’ve interacted with seem to be very serious..
When I am not in Langue, I’m in either Expression Orale or Laboratoire. For these classes, the students in each level are split into two groups and assigned a monitrice (monitor) who conducts the hour-long classes. Expression Orale allows French speaking only while we create scenarios or play familiar games like “charades” or Simon Says, known to the French as “Dans ma planete”. In Laboratoire, we use a computer program to practice listening comprehension and speaking. The few times we’ve had access to working computers, it’s been the most difficult class of the week. Definitely an area I’m determined to work on while I’m here.
Most days of the week I have class from 9am until 5pm, with an hour and a half lunch around noon. It’s a terribly long day that I am not used to at all. It’s mentally and emotionally strenuous and I don’t imagine it getting much easier from this point on. But speaking French 8 hours a day for 5 days of the week and then coming back to a French-speaking home has certainly boosted my knowledge of the language and I find myself thinking in French even when I’m speaking English. It’s very strange, but very cool all the same. I definitely don’t wish I’d grown up with a French education though..