Today I had my very first real French class, and my first taste of the inner workings of a French university. And oh what workings they are...
The day was nerve-wracking, I was scared I wouldn't be able to keep up, that I wouldn't be able to talk to anyone in class, and that I would get lost on the way or something like that. I also had Dickinson class in the morning, which is now routine and passe, at least when put up next to class at IEP (Institut des Etudes Politiques) the political science university where I am taking some of my classes. So I couldn't obsess all morning about what I was going to wear, and in fact had to grab a very quick lunch (eaten while I walked, which very few French people do so it's really not a good idea) to get from the Center to my university in an hour. Ok, no, I didn't actually have to, which I realized when I reached IEP with half an hour to spare, but bear with me, I am early when I get nervous.
So, the first thing I did was find the office of the woman who is supposed to be in charge of the international students at IEP because I had the form to give her, which would get me my student card (the last of many cards that will make me a fully functional French person) While I waited for her, I looked at the schedule (which I had studied many times of multiple days). Imagine my surprise when I saw that my Tuesday class had been moved to Monday morning at 8 am (aka: I had missed it four hours earlier). The correction was written in pen and its up in the air when they made that change, but not soon enough for me to hear about it. But when the woman arrived she assured me everything would be fine and to just go to the next class, next week. Ok, fine, change things like that on me France. Then I go to my classroom, ten minutes early like a good student, and there is a sign on the door that says we are only going to have class from 2pm to 4pm today, instead of 1 to 4, as I was prepared for. I open the door and there are kids sitting there. After dithering for awhile, I could have made it home but there was nothing to do there, I walked in and sat down. French kids sat down around me, but it took me a good thirty minutes to screw up my courage and introduce myself to the girl sitting next to me. She was pleasant, asked enough questions about me but didn't introduce me to her friends. Oh well, one at a time I suppose. The girl who was sitting in front of me, tape recorder beside her and writing in English (I looked over her shoulder, I'm a snoop) turned and told me she was American too. We had a much longer conversation. She's awkward and American, which is two strikes against her, but I'm sure we will be friends :)
Class was not that bad, once it finally started at 2:15. The professor blew in saying something about an acronym that I did recognize, and it was either the public transport union or the train line...so some part of public transport was not running today in Toulouse. I never noticed. So then he starts lecturing, and the classroom is filled with the sound of furious rain (or fingers on keyboards). Almost EVERYONE has their computer in class, and you can tell when there is something important because the rate of rain will pick up until it sounds like a monsoon. Seriously, it made me think of the fall rains in Guadalajara. Anyway, I understood everything that the teacher said, but it was very hard to keep up while writing, I'm taking my computer next time. The French girl next to me was kind enough to show me her notes every now and then if I fell behind or didn't know what the professor was saying. We were warned that proper nouns would be especially difficult to understand if professors did not write them down, and that was proved true three-fold today.
It was entertaining when the professor assigned reading for the first week, because there was an almost audible groan. There were very audible sounds of distress when one of the titles was completely in English. I must admit, it made me feel better after having to try to figure out how one would spell a French authors name in the 5 seconds the professor gave. The other audible sounds of distress were when the professor did not give us a "pause". Yup that's right, French university students get recess. Ok not really, but professors do take a break during three hour long classes. But not today, because it wasn't three hours. This professor was good actually, he stopped frequently after he said something important, to give us a chance to write it all down. And he would spell out names of authors that we needed to read. I wanted to talk to him after class, but the French don't call them "turbo-profs" for nothing, he jetted out as soon as class was over. After class I went back to the woman in charge of international students and found a long line and a distinctly unhelpful woman. Still, I came home, and a run on a beautiful day through a park cures a lot of frustration. All and all, not as terrifying as I thought!