“Are you single?”: French boys are too bold.

Truthfully, my emotions are quite a roller coaster, which was to be expected of course, but yes, they are indeed. I’ve been feeling lonely and out of sorts the past couple of days, but to focus on the positive, let’s talk about this past week.

This past week, from Tuesday evening to Thursday morning I was able to return to my French home, Nantes. I had a required orientation that I had to attend as English assistant in the Académie de Nantes on Wednesday. It was an 8 hour long session regarding information necessary for an immigrant in France to know, such as opening a bank account, immigration paperwork, enrolling in social security, etc etc and some tips regarding being an assistant in a French classroom. Though all of that information was quite useful and at some points, interesting, it was a bit of a drag. Most of it I already knew, so it was mostly just a refresher.

However, because of this required orientation, I was able to return to Nantes. As soon as I stepped off the train, I immediately felt it in my heart: I was truly in my second home. Of course, in typical Nantes fashion, it was chilly and raining. However, I welcomed the rain with open arms because this was France for me. Better yet even, I was able to stay with my host family from when I studied abroad and have dinner with them both Tuesday night and Wednesday night. I feel so incredibly blessed to have been able to see them again. It was almost as if I had never left. I love them all so very dearly, and I hope to see them multiple times while I’m in France for these next 7 months. I was also surprised at how well my French was coming out of my mouth, because let’s be real here, sometimes, the struggle is all too real. ( For example, my French failed me at the grocery store yesterday while I was checking out. The cashier had to speak English for me. It was kind of embarrassing.)

Unfortunately, I was not able to spend a lot of time walking around Nantes to all of my favorite places from when I studied abroad, but I did get some snapshots. I also met up with a former IES Abroad friend who is also a secondary English assistant in the Académie de Nantes, also in Nantes for the same orientation. Lexi and I walked around for a bit, and we decided to hit up an old favorite: le Nid. Le Nid means ”the nest,” and it’s a bar on the very top floor of the tallest building in Nantes, la Tour de Bretagne. Eggs with cut outs form the seats, and there is a long bird that encircles the entire bar, its back end being the part where you order your drinks. Le Nid has a balcony and overlooks the entire city of Nantes. It’s absolutely breathtaking, and I can say that it is definitely one of my favorite places in the city.

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Me overlooking the Cathédrale in Nantes from the balcony. What a beauty!

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Lexi and Me at Le Nid!

Unfortunately, I was not able to spend a whole lot of time with my host family because of how long my orientation was and because I had to head back to Laval on Thursday morning in order to get back to work on time. I was able to meet the student that they are currently hosting though, and it definitely brought back some memories talking to her about her classes at IES and the different activities she does. It’s hard for me to believe that 2 and half years have passed since that time. How different of a person I am and how many different experiences I’ve had since then!

Though my time in Nantes was short lived, it was definitely lovely, and I’m definitely going to go back multiple times before I head back home to the states in the Spring.

Onward to my classes at the high school. I started my classes at the high school on Thursday afternoon. I mostly just answered questions that the students had, introducing myself, telling them about myself, and telling them about my country. It really was an amazing experience to see what sort of questions they had for me and what sort of things they were interested in learning about me and my country. I really felt like they were engaged and actually curious, for the most part. There were, of course, a few who couldn’t care less, but I expected that. I absolutely loved it, being able to tell them about the differences in the United States and the American culture. I loved being able to shock them with different facts that either confirmed or broke the different stereotypes they had about my home culture. Most of them were also quite bold and confident in their English speaking skills, which I marveled at. However, of course I couldn’t scrape by without some awkwardness. In every single class, at least one 15 to 16 year French male decided that he was going to put all of his energy in pronouncing in the best English he possibly could “are you single?” *facepalm* Well, then. At least we got that out of the way. Good to know that high school boys are high school boys everywhere in the world. At least I know a little bit better now what to expect.

So, all 8 (yes, 8!) classes that I had at the high school were very fulfilling. I’m already starting to come up with lesson plan ideas and to write the actual lessons. Even though it’s been nice basically being on vacation, I’m ready to get back to work. I’m very excited to actually start giving lessons, teaching the students at both the middle school and the high school. I also found that I didn’t feel scared at all. I felt really confident about all of it, just being there and answering their questions. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and the experience that it will bring me.

As to other things going on, having my own apartment is both glorious and a curse. I love being able to manage my home and do whatever I’d like, whenever I’d like. However, it does get very lonely at times. However, this is where the growth comes in. I’ve set aside goals for myself during my time here in France, and one of them is to grow in independence. I think living alone will definitely push me towards that, and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I just wish that the loneliness monster wasn’t knocking at my door every so often.

Also, I finally built up the courage to try to go to a church today that I found online. However, when I went on their website to double check the address and the time of service, I discovered that the church has moved to a place that is a 45 minute drive north of Laval. I was extremely disappointed. I then tried to find another Protestant church online, and I discovered that most of them are at least an hour’s walk from my apartment or there is no information on them whatsoever online. There are also so few. I have kind of picked up on the fact that Laval is very heavily Catholic and that there are few churches in general, let alone Protestant churches. This I have known about France, being an extremely secular country where religion is heavily a private matter, however, I couldn’t help feeling frustrated yet again with the culture. That culture shock just keeps swinging. So, I went back to sleep feeling defeated and rather sad. My bought of courage was for naught, and I’ll be gone on vacation the next few weeks. So, I won’t be able to try to find another church for next week or the couple of weeks to follow.

I do hang out with my friends that I’ve made here at the foyer, but sure, go on ahead and come in and stay for awhile loneliness monster. I suppose that part of personal growth is suffering through at least a little bit of discomfort.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to focus on doing my lesson plans for school (I’m working on Halloween bingo for my middle school kiddos, and I’m quite excited about it.). Hopefully my next post will be a little more uplifting.

Until then….à plus mes amis!

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