Today was my first day of school in France, and I’m still in shock at how different everything is. I woke up at 6 :00 a.m., and got dressed just like I would at home. I had cereal for breakfast (apparently here it is common to drink hot milk, and hot cocoa from a bowl) and then I walked to the bus stop with my host sister, Julie. It was still SO dark, the school requires students to wear bright yellow traffic vests-very stylish.
Instead of the yellow school bus I was expecting, a public bus took us to school where we were met by groups of students smoking outside the building- something I never would have seen at home. We then went to the office where I was given my schedule. In the United States, you can choose electives and different level classes, but in France, everybody has one of the same four schedules. I was placed in the 1°L which specializes in language. However, when I told them I had not studied German or Spanish before, they crossed the two classes off my schedule saying I was not required to attend them .
My first class of the day was French ; which is easily the most difficult. Other exchange students in the class who don’t understand bring books more their level, and the teacher asked me to do the same. After that I had English, which of course was very easy, and then a free period. In the U.S if you have a free period you are assigned a classroom and required to stay there, but at the lyceè in France you can go absolutely anywhere you want.
I was very surprised at how basic the material the students are learning is. For example, in my math class the teacher had just taught them how to use ven diagrams ! However, the students all seem very fluent in multiple languages. They all know a fare amount of English and most also study either German or Spanish ; which is very different from the U.S where everybody just learns English and possibly one other language.
Just the way everybody acts is very different. You meet somebody for the first time and they give you bisous on the cheeks, everybody is very patient and helpful with my language barriers ; I have no idea where the *french snob* stereotype came from. Another major difference that everybody talks about : THE FOOD ! The cantine (cafeteria) is set up like a restaurant buffet with already-prepared dishes ready for you to choose. And unlike most American high schools, French lycèe food is very good ! On top of that, students have a two hour lunch break, while in the U.S we are only given 30 minutes. Although there school day is much longer, there is so much spare time in between classes, it goes by very fast. Absolutely everything is different, and it’s very interesting. I’m having so much fun !