November Reflections

Hello all,

November has been a very quite month. Winter in Lille is rainy and very cold for someone like me who has lived exclusively in warm places all his life, but I am slowly adjusting.

As far as academics go, I’ve finally finished all my midterm exams and I am now preparing for my final exams. Midterm exams here are very spread out, they start early October and finish in mid-November, which can be good since you can dedicate more time to study for them individually. I am pleased with the results for all my midterms, I’ve got good grades in sociology and literature and I am yet to find out how I did in American history and political science. Since grades for most courses is determined by two exams, exams should be taken very seriously! A few classes do assign additional work, like research papers and presentations.

Speaking of presentations, I did one on the Aeneid for my beginner’s Latin class. Speaking in French in front of French students proved to be difficult (at times my professor asked me to repeat some of what I said), but I am glad I did it so I could improve my French. I like when people correct me — I came here mainly to improve my language skills. I am very excited to see when I come back my improvement, since hearing French all the time and talking with French people has allowed me to learn lots of expressions and to understand the language more easily.

This month I didn’t have a chance to travel, but I went on November 8 to the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels for a concert by French Canadian pop singer Coeur de pirate. I have been a fan of hers for a few years, and attending her show was a great experience — she sang, danced and interacted with her Belgian audience. It was a great cultural experience because all concert attendees were local and most of the songs she played were in French. I tried to sing along, but to my surprise the public wasn’t into singing or dancing. They cheered the artist and were very supportive, however.

On November 11, which is a holiday in France (the World War I Armistice commemoration, Veterans Day in the US), there is no class. My friend Eloise and I went to the movie theater and saw a James Bond film. She first invited me to have lunch at her home in a small town outside Lomme. I was glad to meet a French family and get to talk with them, they were curious about my experience in France. It was also interesting to see a small French town, and see how life is more slow paced there. There were two churches, a café, a small square, a grocery store and a train stop in the town, and lots of brick houses in proximity with each other. It reminded me of little Camden, South Carolina, the town where my parents live, except it was even smaller there. Eloise told me there are no lots of people her age living there, but at least the town is very calm. Her mom told me that some people in smaller communities speak a dialect that is hard to understand for people who speak standard French. I compare it to the difference between standard American English and Southern English — it’s interesting to notice the urban-rural divide that exists in most languages.

I can’t believe I have only three weeks left in France and one week in class left as write this. My goals for December are doing well in my final exams and assignments and finally working on validating the courses I couldn’t validate before. Also, I’d love to travel more before leaving. I want to go to London and Paris, and perhaps Spain or the Netherlands — I’ll update you of any future travels in the next blog! Meanwhile, here is some practical advice:

  1. Don’t forget about Charleston! Plan your schedule and find out the times when you can register for classes next semester! Remember that some courses, like independent studies, bachelor essays or seminars, need approval in advance!
  2. This includes housing as well! Remember that on-campus housing registration starts early November.
  3. If you ever need anything to get mailed from the US to France, know that it will take about two full weeks for your mail to arrive. This is useful to know!
This is a picture of the nearby town of Tourcoing near Lille. I went there for an errand a few days ago, it’s like a city within a city.
I took this picture of the fall on my way to school. The leaves are beautiful, even if they can obstruct the way a little.
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