Impressions of Paris (Part Two)

I started my France adventure a week and a half early by staying with a family friend in Paris. Here were some of my findings this week!

Aspire by API Talia S Blog - toute autre chose














Tout Autre Chose


Imagine a teenage girl with a few years of French trying to communicate with a 75-year-old, hard-of-hearing women over a game of Rummikub. That would be the first scene you would have seen last night if you walked into the “Tout Autre Chose” Volunteer Center on the corner of Rue Rodier.


This center started by a French American, Melissa Palmer, offers all sorts of free activities to the community. Twice a day, it offers French lessons, game nights, museum walks, and sewing classes. All for free. During the afternoon, the center acts as a restaurant and prepares a different homemade meal each day to help fund their ongoing services.

Aspire by API Talia S Blog - Tout Autre Chose2

The French Class that I attended offered itself to a gamut of people: mothers from Algeria, fathers from Bangladesh, daughters from Bolivia and sons from Tehran. And of course me, the only American, and the only one under 30. The woman who led the class, led it with enthusiasm and humor.  Her powdered face and rouged lips lit up every time we said something right.


After attending a French class, I had the experience of teaching an English class. I had about a dozen students in my class of all ages and backgrounds, and all eager to learn English! We started with the alphabet and ended with conversational questions.


Edgar QUINET Lycée


Today, I had a great time interacting with a variety of students from Edgar QUINET lycée through round table discussions and classroom lectures.  It was so interesting for me to see their reactions to some of the basic systems in America.  For example, they were shocked at the outrageous price of a college education (Many French universities cost only 300 euros per year).  They were surprised by the fact that students at my high school weren’t allowed to leave their school premise during the day to go get lunch. We even discussed food, and the fact that Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) are legal in the States.  That you can’t stop by a “boulangerie” to pick up a baguette.  We discussed politics and gun-regulation, Obamacare and immigration.  They told me about the difficulties of doing their “stage” (internship) in the US, and that just to call the American Embassy costs money.


One of the boys dreams of coming to the US, and speaks English almost fluently, but because he was born in Turkey, and is only studying in France, he is scared it will be almost impossible.  As an American student, I had never really heard about these difficulties, yet to the French as well as many other foreign students, the process is enormous, and the positive results are iffy.  It was such an eye-opening experience to find out all about French culture and school system, and I definitely hope to return to a French classroom one day, maybe even as an English Assistant!

Aspire by API Talia S Blog Lycee Quinet

This post was written by Talia S., an Aspire by API student who is currently taking part in a gap semester program in Grenoble, France.  She will be updating the blog periodically throughout her time abroad.

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