Mastering French and Study at EPF

Greetings Everybody,

Whew, these past two weeks have been a complete whirlwind. Between taking a final exit exam for the language program, getting everything organized for the start of the school year, and moving into a new residence (from which I did not have internet access for about a week), I have barely had the time to stop moving to find consistent internet. I apologize that this entry is almost a week late.

Looking back, over the course of two and a half months, I have learned quite a bit of French. During my first language assessment, I tried to recall my French classes that I took in high school over three years ago. I remember that I wrote that I went to the supermarket and ordered food a lot. In some cases, I simply made stuff up. As a result of my creativity and repetition, I was placed in the class for French language level A1. (The levels start at A and continue on to C and each letter has two sublevels of 1 and 2.) Now, I believe my class is beginning B1 and I have learned ten verb tenses, such as the présent, présent continue, passé composé, imparfait, conditionnel, futur proche, futur simple, passé récent, impératif, and plus que parfait. Just think, each verb tense has exceptions that do not follow the set of rules and even the verb tenses have slight nuances that even I don’t know. In addition, even though I have learned a ton of new words, I still have to search in the dictionary multiple times a day and I still have difficulty with any conversation concerning specific vocabulary. This was evident during my final test.

My final language skill assessment had three parts: oral comprehension, reading comprehension, and grammar. For me, probably the most difficult portion of the exam was the oral comprehension. We were only allowed to listen to the audio clips once and sometimes the voices spoke very quickly. For me, I think that as a native English speaker, the rhythm of French is different than the pattern of words in English. This means that I have difficulty parsing out words; I don’t know where one word ends and where another one starts. My thought is that distinguishing words is easier for people who speak Spanish and Italian. That being said, I actually didn’t do half bad on my test and my professor gave me some really nice feedback. I am actually starting to feel a little bit prepared for the upcoming year (knock on wood).

Last week, I went to EPF’s main campus site located in Sceaux for an introductory meeting and lunch. I think it went fairly well. I was able to get a lot of questions answered and I received the basic class schedule for all third years.

This is the class schedule for third year students, taken in August of 2013.

Even though it looks extremely complicated, there is method to the madness. This page shows my classes for roughly eight weeks. At EPF, classes are more in a block presentation. This means that the duration of my classes is longer, but I also take fewer of them. As a result, my schedule can change from time to time as I finish classes and add others. In addition, each different color signifies a different class and some classes are subdivided into labs, exercise groups, and project groups. Additionally, since I am a Dual Degree student, I have to take classes that are not in a normal third year’s timetable, which means that this schedule is going to become even more complicated. Each day of the week receives its own row, so the weeks run vertically. The two columns to the far left of the chart provide information such as the name, location, and time of each class. Each day, I start around 8:15 AM, have an hour and a half for lunch, and finish at the latest at 6PM. Right now, I miss my schedule from last spring at ERAU.

This was my class schedule for spring 2013, created in January of 2013

Each week, I had the same classes in the same order. Each color stood for a different class and I had time to do errands while most campus offices were open during the day. The earliest I started was 10:30 AM and I finished at the latest by 4:30 PM with a Resident Adviser staff meeting once a week and duty one night a week for two weeks on and then a week off at night. Even though at the time this schedule felt full, when comparing it to my new schedule, it is like comparing a knitted sweater to a hand embroidered fine silk ball gown.

I spent last weekend moving from the student residence on ESTP campus to a new building located in Antony. Both of these lodgings are located off of the same train line, RER B, which is also the same train that I need to take to EPF. I definitely like my new setup more than the old one. This new residence is pretty awesome and feels more like a small apartment.

This is a picture of my desk, taken in August of 2013

First off, I love the color scheme of the building. I know that it may be a bit too bright for some people’s tastes, but I have always loved vibrant colors. The hall leading to my door has a magenta wall and the largest wall in my apartment is chartreuse green with three blue square-shaped cupboards.

This is my kitchen, taken in August of 2013

I also have my very own, small kitchen. I am stoked to be preparing my own food in something other than a microwave as I have for the past two years. I plan to make all sorts of dishes. The kitchen has two hotplates a large sink, and a small refrigerator. I also finally have my own closet, small table, heater, and bathroom.

That’s all for this week, not super interesting. However the next entry, I’ll have some more interesting material that has been pending because I have not yet had the pictures ready. In addition, I should be able to provide some more information on the schooling system, my classes, and interaction with French students my age. My not so secret RA social examining tendencies are practically jumping with excitement.
As always, thank you for reading.