Saturday, February 11, 2017

Study Hard Yet Enjoy the Experience

            If there is one piece of advice that I've clung on to, it's to study hard but to enjoy the experience abroad. In fact, I don't even know if anyone told me that or if I just knew that mindset would be necessary. Most people told me before I left, "Enjoy yourself. You're going to have the time of your life. I am so jealous!" Deep down, I knew that it would be an unforgettable year but a lot of work and it was a choice that came with lots of sacrifices. Sometimes I wonder if people actually realize that studying abroad does not mean going on vacation!

           The past two weeks or so I've started to more seriously think about "after high school". That's taken a lot of time and consideration in between thinking and planning, registering for the SATs, practicing for them, really buckling down on school (now that we're starting new chapters and I can understand), researching college details, etc. It's easy to get buried inside the work.

            I took a practice test today after registering for the SATs. Though I improved since the time I took the PSAT a year and a half ago, the truth is I have a long ways to go but only a little bit of time to study. I think all of my USA friends have been preparing for this the whole year, and I'm given math problems to do to practice for the SAT that I haven't seen in a year and a half. However, like my friend's dad told me a while ago before I went into Honors Algebra 2, "Math is like a language. I suggest you try to learn it." I am actually thinking of trying to do that. Hey, I conquered French, right! That would explain why I got a math problem wrong today because I forgot that 16 x 4 = 64. If you don't practice a language, you forget it. (That goes for English too!)

            Other than my SAT studies, school never fails to amazes me. I come out of one class marvelling at "Wow! I understood everything." Then I go into the next and understand nothing. I was doing fine in chemistry the other day until the teacher started writing crazy equations on the board. I think I missed the subtle, yet important part, when the teacher said, "The formula is at the bottom of your paper." It is pretty cool though how sometimes I am not even paying attention to what the teacher is saying because I am frantically copying down notes, and I understand! I am able to read as fast in French as I read in English, and yes, five or six pages per hour is progress. (I stop a lot to look up a few words, and then I get distracted by all the other pretty words around the words I am searching!)

           I've also come to enjoy something about the French school that used to bother me. In America, I went to school from 7:40am until 2:50pm, and I had class all day, save a thirty minute lunch period and four minutes into between classes to have enough time to scurry from one side of the building to the other. Here, I go to school from 8:00am until 6:00pm, but I only have class half the time usually. I used to feel like it messed up my whole schedule, especially how I would work. Once I got home at 6:00pm, I would feel like doing nothing, especially after a full day of French I could barely understand. However, I've started to learn how to use my time outside of class usefully. Yesterday, I finished my classes at 4:00, but I stayed with my friend for two hours afterwards. We went out into town, played cards and talked about, you guessed it, America. Everybody in my new region seems to just love America.

Life is beautiful with these two!

            I sometimes get asked the question  "Is America really like what we see in the movies?" My response usually is, "Well, I don't really know the movie you are talking about, but I am just going to say probably not!" Today, my host sister and I watched "American Girl" and I would remark every once in a while "Yes, that's true. No, that's not true." We also played a card game she taught me.

          One of the most important parts of my experience abroad will always be the people. My grandpa told me numerous times before I left "You never know who you will meet. Some of the people you meet here may be with you throughout your entire life." Then he'd go off into the story about how he met my grandma. If there's one thing that I love about my year abroad it's that no question is stupid. I love how I can ask the explanation of one word and we go into my life story and how I can sit on the couch with my host dad translating emojis and all those weird characters at the bottom of our phones into French and English.

          Tuesday marks exactly one year since I got the news I'd be going to France. I don't think I'll ever forget that day: that big smile spreading I could literally feel spreading across my face as I received the news by phone call, sobbing into my dad's arms real tears of joy for the first time as I mumbled "I can't believe it. I won. Dad, I can't believe it!", calling almost everybody I knew to tell them the good news. That was the moment I decided I should never underestimate myself.

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