Journals from AUCP, Aix-en-Provence
2012-02-16 January 2012- The second semester
Coming back to France, I thought I had it all figured out; I knew where my school was, I knew how to get back to my apartment from pretty much anywhere in town, I was already registered for classes, I had gotten past my initial shyness about speaking French with people I didn’t know, and I wasn’t required to go through orientation week again. What could there be to surprise me this time? My slightly over-confident mind was going to be blown. Soon.
My return trip from Portland to Aix went flawlessly and when I arrived at the bus station I was ready to call my host family so they could come pick me up. Given that I have absolutely no luck at all with payphones in France (see first entry), my debit card was immediately rejected by the payphone (sound familiar?) leaving me to find another way to contact my host parents. This time, however, things went a lot more smoothly. I summoned up a little courage and asked the guy sitting next to me if I could borrow his cell phone; he wanted to know why but after a brief explanation of my situation he was more than happy to help me out and before I knew it my host dad was there to pick me up and I was back in my room at the apartment.
The next morning, I stopped by the AUCP to pick up my class schedule. Since the first week at the AUCP was orientation week, the only classes I had were at the Political Science University in Aix, SciencesPo. This situation was for the best, this way I could figure out how things worked at the new school, an actual French university, without having to worry about my courses at the AUCP just yet. Both of my classes at SciencesPo were set for Friday so I waited out the rest of the week somewhat anxiously until the day finally arrived. My first course was Cinema and Politics and I got to school about fifteen minutes early to give myself plenty of time to find the classroom in case I needed to ask for directions when I got there. When I arrived there was a huge crowd of people standing outside the building; I thought it was strange but I kept going until I opened the door and heard an alarm and realized that it was a fire alarm. After everyone was finally let back inside I was already late to my class, but so was everyone else. Schedule in hand, I started up the stairs looking for room number 206. Interestingly enough, not all of the classrooms have signs or numbers on them so I eventually gave up hope and asked a couple of girls for directions. They told me it was in the next building over so I went off in that direction eventually landing on room 206. When I open the door, I see a class but they are taking a brief break which suggested to me that the class had already been going on for some time. I asked another student who was standing close to the door which class it was and, as it turns out, I had the wrong classroom. I then crossed over the patio and went back over to the other building in search of room 206 in a labyrinth of numberless and nameless classrooms; finally, after opening a large door with no markings on it I uncovered another small door behind it marked “206”. Relieved, I step into the classroom, now forty-five minutes late, and find myself standing in front of 100 students and their professor who looked at me with a curious expression as I stuttered “is this Cinema and Politics?” with the best French I could manage in my embarrassed state. I was quickly informed by all present that, no, I was mistaken and I must be in another room. The professor looked at my schedule and told me that the room 206 I was looking for was in the other building. I said “thank you” and left as discreetly as possible. Knowing full well that my class was not in fact located in room 206 in the other building I went to the main office to ask for directions where I was told that this particular course would not start for another three weeks and that it would be in a different classroom when it did.
After my grand odyssey at SciencesPo, I went back the AUCP where I went online to see whether or not my other class at SciencesPo had changed dates, times, or classrooms, and, to my shock and horror, it had. It was now held on Wednesday nights which meant I had already missed it this week. I asked one of the AUCP secretaries if anyone had notified her about it and she said she had not heard anything so she called the school and the professor had not notified the school yet either, so even the administration was unclear on the actual class times as well but they would send me an email as soon as they sorted it all out. The next week I received a message telling me that my class had, in fact, been moved to Wednesday nights and that it had changed classrooms as well! So that week I started all of my classes at their regular times both the AUCP and SciencesPo without any further mishaps and I now have an idea of what the semester as a whole is going to be like and, I must say, things are looking pretty good.