Monday, February 20, 2017

New Opportunities

              Mountains, Switzerland, school vacation, more progress in French and wonderful people around me are what continues to tell me life is beautiful.

             Last Sunday I met all the exchange students who are a part of AFS in this region, and we went to the mountains and had a little hike in the snow and ate yummy French food (tartiflettes). It still wasn't the Alps, but I could see the them. I know that doesn't mean a thing to everyone back home though because as far as you all are concerned, my house is situated at the very peak of the Alps and I take the ski path to school every day. It's ok. Everybody here thinks I am from Manhattan!


  happened again. I brought home an A+ and a C+ from French class, and I asked what all those red marks on the side of my paper were. The next thing I knew, I was with my host dad on the couch paging through a dictionary and looking up at him as he pronounced weird sounding words and asking "What do you do in your mouth to make that sound? I can't do it!" The next day I texted him letting him know I was in the middle of studying my history when I ran into a word I had learned with him the night before.

           Tuesday it was almost the same thing, except that it was me that got to teach him. I was in the middle of connecting with friends back in the US when he showed me something on Facebook (through, though, tough, etc.) and asked me to explain. Good times! These are the moments I will miss when I am back in the US.

            I can now pronounce the difference between "pull" (sweatshirt/sweater) and "poule" (hen). My host parents have worked hard with me to get that difference down pat, and I've repeated many times "A hen with a sweatshirt, a sweatshirt with a hen!" to perfect my prononciation.  Now only for the hundreds of other words and sounds that I have trouble pronouncing daily!

            This week, I accomplished something I never thought I'd accomplish. I started a French literature book that my French teacher gave me. I read it, I understood it, and I finished it in less than a week. What a good feeling! I also picked up 150 new words, but part of having a high level in French is being able to understand even when you don't understand every word. That's my everyday life. More than that, this book is the same assignment that the other students have!

           Thursday I started studying for my French fluency test. My host mom printed out an example test for me, and I am now really motivated to practice! Reading a newspaper article in French and speaking French at home are two different things, but I know I will get there. A good part of the test focuses on what is happening in France, and there are video extracts from French TV in it, so I will be staying up to date with French news in my studies.

            Another dream came true as I took the train through the mountains and into Geneva, Switzerland Saturday with my other exchange student acquaintances, whom I now consider as my friends. I found my new AFS family that day, though I still miss my other one. We got by just fine, just the five of us. We went to the United Stations spot, found our way around town, and just had a good time. My favorite spot was the Jet d'Eau, the big lake in Geneva. I looked to my one side and I could see snow covered mountain peaks in the distance, and on my other side was a big lake with bridges and a big fountain. The day when we went was beautiful as well.

            Everybody speaks English in Switzerland. We would start talking in French and the Swiss would reply in English! It was no surprise, but things are really expensive in Switzerland. You even have to pay to use the restroom! I thought I brought a reasonable amount of money with me but found myself in a Swiss bookstore face to face with a biography on Roger Federer, my favorite tennis player, who also happens to be Swiss. The book was in French, so I told myself it would be a wonderful way to continue learning French! I finally decided it was too expensive to buy, so I took the 15-20 minutes I had paging through looking at pictures and copying down all the words I could that I didn't know.

 The Jet d'Eau

My exchange students friends and me in front of the Jet d'Eau

              This school vacation, I am also getting the chance to kind of host someone. I've always wanted to do that since I decided I wanted to go abroad myself, or even before that. I know I've barely unpacked here myself, but we have a girl from Argentina staying with us while her host family is on vacation. Saturday night the adults said their goodnights, went to bed and told us not to stay up too late. Then, Ayelen and I started to talk. She is here for a semester and arrived about three or four weeks ago. Oh, I remember those times too! She asked why I changed host families, how I think I've changed these past few months, etc. I remember all those times listening to people give AFS advice: fellow American returnees who spent their year in France, Clément, even my host parents. Now it was my turn. As I was talking, I realized what I was saying was a mixture of advice from my own experience and all those other people I just mentioned.

             Sunday we had people over, and of course their questions for me and Ayelen were "Do you like France?", "What's it like where you are from?"and "Where are the mountains where you live?" It's always fun talking about your country. In the evening, Ayelen and I watched a movie, and I showed my host parents the Ricky and Lucy clip where Ricky has to read an English children's book. My host mom was following along, even telling my host dad "That's you". My host dad was following along enough to be laughing hysterically with me.

            These next  two weeks I don't have school, which is really really nice. It gives me time to focus on my studies other than just school in France. I can't believe it's already my third school vacation out of four. At the end of this school vacation, I will be able to see  Clément and his mom, which I am looking forward to. I don't take time with special ones for granted, especially now that I am studying abroad.

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