Thursday, 6 October 2011

The first week

It’s now been a week since I first set foot in Le Mans and it’s certainly been a busy one. The most important aspect of the week was simply trying to settle in, make some friends and find out exactly I would be doing over the next 7 months.

As it is said, we are the ‘Facebook generation’; everything at university is now primarily organised through Facebook - similarly, many English language assistants have a Facebook group to stay in touch and also organised soirĂ©es and get-togethers. While learning French is the main reason for the year abroad, I quickly learnt that being on your own in France can be lonely, depressing and extremely stressful.

With everyone around you speaking French at an extremely quick speed, your confidence lowers and it’s comforting to know that there are others who are in a similar position, looking to improve their language whilst also wanting to enjoy their year abroad.

So while I am able to spend time with fellow Anglophones, I try and take every other possible opportunity to speak – and understand French being spoken. After all, even simply speaking the language and being forced to recall the language, I find, helps to boost your confidence, especially when you manage to have a serious conversation with someone.

Who have I spoken to and whose conversations have I eavesdropped into? The random people on the tram coming back after passing their exams, the receptionist at my foyer, the assistants who teach other languages (German and Chinese for example) and even the girl who gives out the 20 minutes in the morning near the station.

Today, we had our orientation in a city called Nantes. While most of it consisted of giving us administrative information, it was a chance to see the city (realising in the process that I will need to return to see it in more detail!) and it also gave us ideas for how we could teach the students.

Our first class, for example, could consist of the assistants talking about their hometown in a little bit of detail and then allowing questions, in the language they were learning of course, about the city. I think that I may do the initial introduction but will then move onto roleplays with students pairing us to participate in conversations that would normally exist in London. I found that in my own lessons with the assistant, students (myself included) would start having other discussions if we were left alone to have such conversations and so I will give the students time to prepare and then will call them to the front to perform in front of the class.

For those of you still wondering what I’m exactly doing, I’m going to acting as an English language assistant to students between the ages of 15 and 18. For the oldest students, I will often be with them on a 1-to-1 basis, helping them to practice for an upcoming exam (the baccalaureate) and with the other students, I will take about 12 students and teach them myself (with guidance from the English teachers).

My final, and ongoing, task is to find my own apartment to live in. While I do have the option of staying in a foyer (essentially, a youth hostel), I would much rather prefer to stay in my own apartment. Somewhere that I can cook my own food, somewhere that I can call ‘home’, at least for the year, and somewhere that I don’t have cigarette smoke wafting into my room when I’m lying in bed! I have a few places that I hope to see so the next time I write my blog, I may be writing from my new apartment. Wish me luck!