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Journals from France, Angers

2011-02-23 Beginning the Adventure

            When I arrived at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, I went through a breezy customs line and then began my quest to find the train station. Unfortunately, the train station was on the other side of the airport from the customs station, so I had to lug my 90lbs of baggage and all my carry-ons across the airport. Thankfully, there were moving sidewalks which helped me move along a lot better.

            When I finally arrived at the train station, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Did I check my bags? Did I have to check in with a person like you do at the airport? Where was the platform that I had to go to? Because of my great confusion, I went to the only place that I could find that I thought someone could maybe tell me what I was supposed to do: the ticket purchasing counter. When I finally was able to talk to a person, he evidently saw that I was flustered and confused so, even though I spoke in French to him, he still answered me in English. He answered all of my questions and was very friendly to me. Since my train didn't depart for another three hours, he told me to wait in the lobby and check the reader board 15 minutes before my train was to depart to see what platform it was coming to.

            Upon arriving at the train station in Angers, I began searching for my host family, hoping that since I had sent them a picture of myself they would be able to find me. My host mother was waiting at the top of the ramp at the exit of the train station. I was so relieved when she pulled me out of the crowd and warmly introduced herself. She then introduced me to her friend, who had kindly offered to drive us from the station to my host family's apartment, and my host-dad.

            When we arrived at the apartment, my host mom showed me my room and then made us all tea. We sat there and talked for a little while, getting to know each other. Here, I was introduced to le chat (my host family's cat) who seemed to be thinking: "who is this person and why is she not petting me more??"

            After tea, we walked to the school where I had my placement test the next morning.

            On my second day here in Angers, I had to go take a placement test, at the Université in order to find out what language level I would be placed in. Since my test was at 9:30, I figured that I had to be up at 7:45 in order to allow myself plenty of time to get ready and get over to the school. While I thought 7:45 was early enough, apparently my jet-lagged body thought differently. I was wide-awake at 4am! It was like my body was saying, "Why are you asleep? It's 7pm! You should be awake right now!" I managed to force myself to go back to sleep until about 5:30 when my body finally said, "Wake up. NOW." So, I lay in bed reading until my actual intended wake up time at 7:45. I got up, got dressed, and went in the kitchen to have a delicious breakfast that my host-mom had made for me.

            After breakfast, my host-dad kindly walked with me to the Université to make sure that I found where my test was and that I didn't get lost. Along the way, he described to me all the different shops that we saw. When I got to the auditorium where I was to take my test, I felt like I always do when walking into a room full of people that I don't know: scared out of my mind. Fortunately, I was able to find a row without a giant group of people in it, which calmed my nerves a lot.

            The test itself was three parts: oral comprehension, common usage, and written comprehension. The oral comprehension was first, but the person giving the test had accidentally grabbed the wrong CD and didn't realize it until after we had already begun the test! As you can imagine, the first part of the test was quite confusing. The other two parts of the test were fine, which will, hopefully, make up for the parts that I didn't understand in the oral comprehension.

            After the test, the entire CIDEF group was standing in the hallway outside the auditorium. It was extremely intimidating to try and meet anyone because there were so many large groups. I was standing by myself, gathering up my courage to talk to someone, when this girl, who was also by herself, walked up to me and introduced herself. I was so relieved to have met someone who was in a similar situation. She and I ended up spending the rest of the day together. After standing around in the hallway for a while, our group suddenly started to move toward the restaurant universitaire (what they call the cafeteria). Of course, since none of us knew where we were going, we managed to get lost. So, my new friend, being a brave soul, went up to people and asked them where the restaurant was. It turns out that we were standing right in front of it and didn't even know it! We walked in, bought our meal tickets for 3 euros and had a pretty good meal.

            After lunch, we made our way back to the building we had taken our test in where we were going to have a tour of the city! We were led around by two of the school's assistants, who showed us all the stores and sights that we could possibly want to see in the city. However, because we were moving so quickly, I didn't think I would be able to find them all on my own without a map.

            The next day, after we had an orientation and a tour of campus at UCO, my new friend and I decided that since we were hungry it would be a good idea to go and get lunch. Since we had already been to the Restaurant Universitaire, we decided it would be fun to go someplace else for lunch. So we wandered along the main road until we found a bakery which had sandwiches that looked appetizing. I kid you not these sandwiches were HUGE! I got an entire baguette, with the fixings on the inside for about 3.25 euros.

            On the following Monday, February 7th, we started classes! That morning, I showed up to the université really early to find out what language (or langue) level that I had been placed into. Unfortunately, they only had one station with the list on it so all 400+ new CIDEF students were crowded around the same bulletin board, trying to find out what they were supposed to do next. Eventually, we all headed into the auditorium for the opening remarks given by the director of our program. From there, we then went to our respective classrooms for our first hour of language. Overall, the first day of classes was rather stressful and long.

             For the entire first week of classes we were allowed to attend all the different option classes, which are all the classes that we could possibly take besides language. I had decided at the beginning of the week that I was just going to pick the classes that I thought sounded interesting and stick with them so that I could avoid confusion later. However, since the rest of the students in my level did not decide to do this, my class sizes fluctuated a lot the first week of class. Overall, I am really enjoying my classes and I feel like I'm learning a lot.  

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