Study Abroad: Cultures clash in class

After we students entered the classroom doors on the fifth floor of Le Centre International d”Eacute;tudes FranÁaises, we entered a new world. Our teachers spoke only French, so we abandoned speaking English and adapted to thinking completely in French. Of course, when we didn’t understand the professor’s question, we would ask each other about it in English.

Three daily classes: Expression Orale (Oral Expression), Comprehension Orale (Oral Comprehension) and Langue (Language), were the equivalent of French 2301 and 2302. Comprehension Orale was especially unforgettable. Our professor was entertaining and made witty comments to us in French that could tell were supposed to be funny: he looked as if he expected us to laugh, but he only received confused stares, because we didn’t understand him. Eventually our grasp of French improved, as did our response.

He also showed video clips of French news, then asked questions about them. He usually repeated the clips several times until everyone understood.

The Expression Orale class truly allowed cultural understanding. Students learned about France through lectures on French culture, and, in turn, our professor learned about America.

In one class, students made presentations about their favorite songs, solely in French. We brought our iPods to class and played songs on the speakers, then spoke about them. Aaron D’Souza, a fellow student, gave a presentation of Cash Money’s "Bling-Bling" which was hilarious because the professor had no idea what the idiomatic term meant. D’Souza showed her an Absolut ad with diamonds, and she understood. It was cultural exchange at its finest.

In Langue, we took language quizzes and tests, and our professor tackled topics such as discrimination.

For lunch, we went to a cafeteria, quite an experience: the French entrees, such as stewed turkey, were new to us. Even the dessert line was an adventure. Everyone was given a token, which was used for a dessert or drink. We often saved our tokens, which ended up paying off.

Classes ended at 4:30, except on days before excursions. Program Director Claudine Giacchetti held a "debriefing," enlightening us on the towns we’d tour. But even her detailed debriefing wouldn’t prepare us for what would happen on our excursion to Mont Saint Michel and Saint- Malo.

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