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From Canaris to Monasteries, or (October Miscellany)

November 6, 2018

Hello faithful reader!  Here are some highlights from the month of October that didn’t make it in to any other blog posts.


September 29—Saint Malo & Mont St. Michel:  Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: technically speaking September is not, in fact, October; however, I couldn’t pass on sharing this experience with you!  As a cultural field trip, IES Abroad took us up to Normandy to visit the seaside town of Saint Malo and the majestic monastery that is Mont St. Michel.  Saint Malo is beautiful walled city nestled right up to the ocean—so close to the ocean that one of its forts is only accessible during low tide.  Unfortunately, it was high tide when we went and no one was feeling like swimming the couple hundred meters across the ocean!  We really only had enough time to find some lunch and briefly explore the ramparts, but I am confident in saying that if I ever became a sailor, I would retire to Saint Malo! 

Mont Saint Michel was the exact opposite of that calm, idyllic city.  As one of, if not the most, popular tourist destinations in France, Mont St. Michel was crowded, crowded, crowded.  At first, as we climbed our way up the mount towards the monastery, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate our visit due to the abundance of people.  However, once inside the building, the crowd disappeared and there was peace.  And oh what a sight!  The view of the flood plains (it was low tide) surrounding the Mont is incredible.  They seem to stretch in all directions forever, with just the slightest hint of blue on the horizon being the ocean.  You can walk around out there on the sand, but you need a trained guide, lest you be swallowed by a sinkhole!


October 20—FC Nantes Soccer Game:  For as long as I’ve been in Nantes, people have been telling me that the soccer team is no good, perhaps even the worst.  But I couldn’t pass on a real European football match, regardless of the team’s quality.  So, with green and yellow scarves wrapped around our necks, the Americans descended on Beaujoire Stadium.  I’ve never had much interested in soccer, but the vibe amongst the fans was infectious!  We chanted and applauded and sang (FC Nantes has an incredible theme song!) our way through the match and, to our greatest surprise, Nantes won!  Les Canaris beat Toulouse four to zero, which was absolutely amazing!  Word on the street is that the sudden turnaround in skill is thanks to Nantes’ new coach.  They just won another game last week (5-0), so I believe it!  Allez Nantais!


Throughout October—Internship at La Joliverie:  As an aspiring teacher, I was initially drawn to Nantes by its teaching internship program and the month of October saw the debut of my work with the La Joliverie high school.  So far it’s been a positive experience, despite being hectic and taxing at times!  In past years, La Joliverie has requested three Americans to help out in there English classrooms.  This year, however, and I don’t know why, I am the only American assistant at the school.  This hasn’t necessarily meant that I have done more work—in some ways, I think I’ve done less than I would have if there were three assistants.  The reason for this is that I have to be shared among a half dozen teachers, so, inevitably, I end up doing much of the same introduction, “let me answer your questions” style discussions.  While I might have liked to prepare (and still hope to do) more concrete and varied lesson plans, it has been an amazing peek into what learning a language looks like from the fluent speaker’s perspective.  It’s also been a good case study in different teaching styles and different levels of English classrooms.  Teachers really shouldn’t pick favorites, but I must admit, it’s a lot easier and more fun for me to work with the classes (regardless of language level) which are interested in learning and engaging!

My favorite memory from the internship so far was when I accidentally started a language trend for a class period with a group of high school Freshman.  We were doing some exercises about formulating questions and, to encourage the students, I was giving them positive feedback.  To avoid repeating “great” or “good job”, I starting mixing things up and out came the exclamation “bingo!”  Of course, the poor French students had no clue what I meant, so I tried explaining it as simply as possible.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t my best explanation!  And I accidentally made them think ‘bingo’ was synonymous with ‘yes’, (which, in my defense, it does sometimes signify).  Anyways, they started using it a bit more often than anyone really should!  I think they’ve forgotten about it by this point; however, if you’re ever in France and hear this exchange—“Can I take your order?” / “Bingo! I’d like an American cheeseburger, s’il vous plaît”—you’ll know who to thank!


Thank you for reading, stories from my midterm vacation to Vienna coming soon!

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