Classes, Internship and Excursions

In my previous two blog articles, I’ve talked a lot about Paris and how it has totally swept me off the feet. Yes, I have enjoyed the inspirational moments that urge me to write; I have experienced the joyful times when conversations in French flow effortlessly; always a hyper-energetic tourist, I have explored the city when I should probably also be studying or sleeping. The first Sunday of October, resting on the steps near the bank of the Seine River after a decadent tour of the Musée D’Orsay and staring into the Eiffel Tower nearby with my tired eyes, I realized reality was coming to give me a wake-up call: You need to work hard to play hard!

Without a doubt, the first month in Paris has been nothing but intense excitement. Meeting new people, speaking French, visiting new places and participating in all kinds of soirees… even though each activity only takes a small chunk of time, days seem to have never passed by faster. Before you know it, we’ve been here for more than a month and a half and the days we have left in Paris are already countable.

Amidst all these mixed emotions and feelings of excitement, exhaustion, adventurousness and small fears, it is easy to forget that we actually have classes that we need to study hard for and an internship (if you choose the readily-available API internship program) that we need to prepare for. Voila! Here comes the stressful side of Paris that, if handled sedulously, will reap far more rewards than being an expatriated tourist for months.

I thought I should start by saying how difficult some of my classes are, yet I love each and every single one of them so much that three hours of lecturing doesn’t even seem like enough. Personally, my favorite class at Paris Diderot is this class called Textes français sur l’Asie: mostly we learn about the political relations among China, Japan and Korea and the role of the United States in Asia through close readings and analysis of news articles from well-known French newspapers such as Le Monde or other journalistic websites. As a Chinese student who has studied in the U.S. for two years, this class brings me so much more than just an increase in French vocabulary. Above all, it has offered me a refreshingly different perspective to think about the ever increasingly entangled globe today while helping me to figure out my own identity in as diverse a city as Paris.

Another one of my favorites is an API-offered French cuisine class. Having been an enthusiastic cook for two years and a food lover ever since the day I was born, this class gives me everything I could have expected. I mean, what more can you ask for when you can literally taste fresh products from exterior Parisian markets, go on a scavenger hunt for the best pâtisserie and participate in food salons as part of your homework? All this eating is done while we read, write and research about French cuisine and the art of cooking, and all in the food capital of le Monde!

Taking these two very different classes at the same time, I think it is obvious to see why I lament about not spending enough time in class.

I finally started my much anticipated teaching internship in a very well-situated and elegant-looking middle school. Even though I have every confidence that my English is good enough for a teaching job, I was worried that not being a native English speaker would pose some problems for me. However, the heartwarming smiles and the friendly words from both the teacher and the students assured me that everything will be okay. Looking back, I’m so glad that I chose to do this teaching internship with API. It not only gives me the opportunity to see a whole new aspect of French society but also makes me realize that being brave and willing to take risks will plant sweet fruits I can harvest. Besides, isn’t this what study abroad is all about – to make sure that we would do things we are afraid of at least once in our life? My biggest fear used to be talking in front of a group of people, yet right now I am teaching kids English in France. I guess this is what they mean when they say life works in mysterious ways.

I am still dreaming about the API excursion I was just on in the south of France as I write this article. It is just so hard to believe that I was in the sunny and cozy southern France less than a day ago. That warm breeze, soft sand and refreshing Mediterranean Sea water officially marked our first long API excursion as the best weekend getaway ever. First time taking the TGV (France’s high-speed rail service), first time trying calamars (they are these fried squids that look like onion rings but taste like paradise), first time touching the Mediterranean Sea water, first time going to Spain… There are so many “firsts” for me in this excursion that I am most certainly sure that I would never fail to remember every single detail of this trip with the utmost fondness.

Returning to autumnal Paris seems unreal after three days of basking in the sun. Homework is piling up, exams are coming, real life trivialities are right in front of me…but Paris is still the same – always moving and running with grace.

Vicky Huang is a student at Colby-Sawyer College and an official API Student Blogger. Vicky is studying abroad with API in Paris, France.

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