Classes, en français

This post was originally featured in the blog of API Paris student Rachel Tumin, who is participating in the spring 2011 API/UMass Université Paris Diderot program.

College Life in Paris,  by Rachel Tumin

The reason I chose to come to Paris through the UMass-API program is because it allows me to take classes at a Paris university in French and with French students. Before these classes start, we had a 10 day intensive language course, or “stage“, to help us prepare.

Our stage began on Thursday, January 6 at our school, Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7. Getting to the right classroom in Diderot, a former flour storehouse, is an adventure on its own and even with our experienced Director Anne-Marie leading the way, we took a few wrong turns. Only slightly out of breath from having run up four flight of the wrong stairs, we were deposited in a large classroom with other international students to begin our day.

We were given some breakfast snacks with general introductions and scheduling information to follow. We were then separated into two groups according to our proficiency, as had been determined by some portion of the three placement tests we took earlier. For both groups, the day would be split in two: half dedicated to language studies, the other to culture.

We scurried off to our classrooms and found seats. Our professor, Cécile, asked us to introduce ourselves and we did. Our group included a young man from Germany studying philosophy, a girl from the Netherlands also named ‘Rachel’, three young women from Italy, a Bulgarian student studying math in Germany, and variety of other European students. We–Americans from API–also made up a sizable portion of the class.

Our first task was reviewing the subjunctive.

I was in a French immersion program as a child where we learned the regular Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum, but in French. Montgomery County students do not study grammar, and so neither did I. I frequently encounter issues in that I know how a sentence ought to sound, but I am unfamiliar with the conjugation rules as to why or how it should be written. So, for me, French grammar has always been a struggle.

Our professor spoke to us and instructed us, in French. We were addressed as adults who had chosen to undertake studies in the French language and that was what was to be spoken in class. We made it though the worksheet and corrections, covering why certain conjugations work certain ways and important rules to keep in mind. And although my brain acts like Teflon when it comes to actually remembering these things, I certainly understood them at the time.

The class broke for lunch and we set off to explore the campus CROUS cafeteria. (Feeding oneself in Paris will be the topic of my next post.)

The afternoon was dedicated to learning about various neighborhoods of Paris and discussing the upcoming week. As a part of our stage, we would be touring l’Hôtel de Ville, an exhibit of French cinema, and the main building of the Sorbonne. We were also given the option of seeing a French production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for 5 Euro.

As soon as class ended for the day, it was off to the API Center for a showing of Amélie, crêpe-making, and general getting-to-know each other, which I don’t think anybody skipped because, hey, free dinner.

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