To write this blog, I have to do a little explaining. When a person studies abroad, he or she somewhat expects that there will be culture shock. It is almost impossible to not know it exists because almost everyone explains the great amounts of culture shock one will experience for the entire year leading up to his or her departure. So, that being said, I was fully prepared to be dumped into a land-of-unknowing and life-changing experience. When I arrived, however, I was a little surprised by the program because all of the students here are American, the director of the program is American, and most of the teachers speak a little English (if they aren’t fluent). But, we are required to speak French nonstop, even with the other Americans in our program, and we have French language partners who have taken us out and showed us how to live life in Aix the “French way.” The AUCP is almost like a halfway point between America and France. It provides a small buffer to protect against the giant slamming of culture shock one receives. However, all of our teachers are French, and even though there has been a small barrier between the students at the AUCP and the French world, we have still been fully immersed into French culture. The grading systems are different, the class times and expectations are different, the mannerisms are different, and the way we live life is different. Not to mention we all have host families, so French is the only language that is ever really spoken. It has been kind of nice. I’m not sure how I would feel if I had been dumped into a dorm full of French students and expected to find my way to class. I am also thankful for the camaraderie between the other Americans and myself. We have all had a relatively similar experience, so we can all relate to the crazy amount of feelings and emotions that flow through our brains.
The classes here are very difficult, too. One has to expect that they might not receive the grades they are accustomed to getting in the United States. The grading system here is harder, and the classes are only taught in French. So, for me (with only two years of college level French), there has been the language barrier, dropped sentences, and misunderstandings every day. Most of my classes have been going well; I take a “Cultural Patterns” class which explains the French culture and how we have felt integrating into it, an intense grammar course, a linguistic strategies course, a Provencal literature class, and art. But there is one class I have definitely had a hard time with. So, I’m not going to lie and say it has been easy. It hasn’t been easy at all, but it has been worth it. I still love it here. Part of me is beginning to wonder how I will ever be able to return to the life back home in the U.S.… But I suppose I will overcome that obstacle when it gets here!
Until next time,