First Day Jitters and the Placement Test

Today started out hard. And not because I had to be at the university at 8:30AM. Or because we had to take the placement test this morning. The walk to the university actually wasn’t bad. I kind of liked it. It was a bit cool outside so that felt good and I had my music in. The university is about a 10 minute walk or so from where I’m staying. When I got there this morning, it looked like almost everyone was already there. And talking in big groups for the most part. There was so much English being spoken.

The month of September is technically not the same as October-December. September is a one month long language immersion and is not considered to be part of the semester because school here doesn’t start until October 8th. I’d assume that most of the students in the CIDEF program will stay for the actual semester but I don’t know. There’s another girl who at Madame Blondeau-Haidara’s with me and she’s leaving at the end of September. But she’s also been here for two months already. I just met her this afternoon because she was traveling in London and Dublin over the little break between months and was late getting back. She’s from California but goes to school in Oregeon so she’s American as well. But I digress. Participating in the September program are about 125 students I believe. I’m trying to avoid using the word “kids” because there are a few adults. But of those 125 or so, I swear the majority are from the states or another English-speaking country. That, or they’re from an Asian country. One of the men who spoke to us this morning before the placement test, read us a list of the countries that are being represented. There’s USA, Canada, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, China, Sudan, Italy, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and a few others. The Kazakhstan one surprised me.

The test itself was long. There were 120 questions. The first twenty were oral so we listened to a tape and then the questions were in a booklet we were given and we had to choose the best answer. After that, there was an article we had to read and then answer questions, pictures of different signs, structure questions, and fill in the blank. The good thing was it was all multiple-choice. The grading scale for the test is a correct answer is worth 3 points, a wrong answer is minus 1 point, and if you leave a question blank it doesn’t count. I have no idea what scale they use to place you into your level but this month there are 7 levels. Sarah (the other girl in the house with me) said that this should be better, that either last month or her first month there were only 5 levels and it was a bit more difficult. Each level has its own professor and I think the 1st level (novice) may have an oral professor in addition to the regular professor. Now, I realize it’s a different program, but according to the blog of the two girls from Saint Mary’s who were in Dijion last spring, most SMC girls usually score a 3 or 4. That’s kind of where I’m hoping I’ll end up but I guess we’ll just have to see.
By some stroke of luck, at lunch I ended up sitting at a table with half the girls from Notre Dame. They were surprised that SMC had a program. One even asked why I hadn’t just gone with them (as in gone through their program). I was surprised that they were such a big group. There has to be around 20 of them. Most of them are girls but there’s at least 2 boys. They’re big enough that a professor (at least I think she’s a professor) came with them from Notre Dame. They have their own program. Instead of going on the tour of Angers after lunch with some of the rest of us (it was optional so not everyone went), they were scheduled to go tour the chateau in town as they had taken a tour of town a day or two ago. The guy from Vietnam and a monotrice also sat at the table with us. The monotrices are students I’m pretty sure that just help out with CIDEF. There’s about seven or eight of them. I think each level might get its own monotrice too. The guy from Vietnam is nice. He’s a little older than the rest of us. Most of us are college kids but there are a few adults and one who may be a monk or brother? He was dressed in a brown habit but I don’t think it’s one I’ve seen before.

I can’t decide if most people being English-speakers is going to be a good thing or not. On the tour, a number of people were speaking French but a lot were speaking English too. They would speak French with the people they didn’t know but then speak English with their friends. Most of them came with a group, even if it’s a small group. I did talk a little with a girl from Japan towards the end of the tour. She’s here with two others. She was really nice. It was interesting communicating with each other because both of our French is limited and though she spoke a little English, we only resorted to that when we were trying to ask the other a question and they couldn’t understand it so we would try to explain what we meant. That didn’t always work though. But it was okay. I think she was going to try to get tickets for all the excursions too so that could be fun.

Accompanying the month-long language immersion is the opportunity to go on little half-day or full day trips to nearby areas. These little trips are the excursions. Mostly on Fridays or Sundays, there’s five total. The first one is this Friday night. We’re going to Le Puy Du Fou. It looks cool. Some sort of spectacle thing with lights and water. I went ahead and paid for all 5 trips. They talked a bit about them this morning before the test and showed us some pictures of what the different places look like. I’ve never been to this part of France before so I’ve never been to any of these places. Mom’s been saying for a while now how she really wanted me to go on them and how it would be such a good experience for me. It’s possible to just go on one or two trips or not at all if you don’t want to since they’re optional but I figure, why not? They’re cool-looking places and it’s not like you’d go there on your own. The second trip is this Sunday. We go into Bretagne (for those not familiar with France, Bretagne [also called Brittany] is a region of France in the northwest) and go to Mont Saint Michel and Saint Malo. Ironically, Mont Saint Michel is near where Dad will be next month for a meeting. The meeting’s in a neighboring town I believe but it sounded like some people from the meeting might try to get out there to see Saint Michel while they’re there.

I think that’s about all I got for now. A moth just flew into my room. At least, I think it’s a moth. I hope. It’s still weird to me that there’s a six hour time difference between here and back home. Fyi, I’m six hours AHEAD of ya’ll. It’s quarter to 10PM here so it’s like 5PM at home. I feel like I’m somewhere inbetween though. It’s almost 10 here which means that I should go to bed soon to make sure that I can get up when I need to tomorrow but it doesn’t feel that late. Weird, huh?

❤ Rachel



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