While every day in Nantes brings about new experiences and teaches me something new about studying abroad and life in France, I have by this point in the program settled into a fairly regular routine. My weekly schedule consists of an ideal balance between academics, exercise, and free time during which I can uncover another previously hidden nook in Nantes. To give readers a better idea of what my life here is like, I will describe my day on Wednesday, March 8th in detail. Ready or not, here we go!
The alarm clock on my phone wakes me up at 7:00AM. I get up, make my bed, and then listen to the podcast This American Life while I do my physical therapy exercises for my right hamstring. Ira Glass’ soothing voice and moving stories trigger random memories of my childhood to come to the front of my mind. Listening to such podcast abroad, I am naturally reminded of what I like most about the U.S. After I have gotten ready for the day, I descend two flights of creaky stairs covered in red carpet and greet my host family in the kitchen. No time for breakfast this morning, I am running a bit late and need to print a few documents before heading to my teaching internship. Instead, I grab a banana to save for lunch before dashing out the door. I take out a bike from the Bicloo stand next to the bus stop and head to IES Abroad. It’s warm this morning, but cloudy and likely to rain so I have donned a rain coat.
Seven minutes later, I am at IES Abroad printing pictures and information about my life in the U.S. that I will later distribute to my students. From IES Abroad, it’s a short walk to the Commerce tram stop. It’s rush hour and I need to get my crowd-walk on in order to board line number two. While standing in the crammed car, I look at the passing streets, at people’s shoes, at nothing. Every time I ride the tramway, I intuitively look for similarities between it and the times I rode the L, the T, the MTA, or BART. The tram stops at St.-Felix and I nudge my way through a pack of passengers to get off. A few minutes later I am in a classroom face to face with eight high schoolers. As they are new students of mine, introductions are in order. I use the projector to show them pictures of the international balloon fiesta, which takes place every October in Albuquerque. During our lesson, we discuss similarities and differences between school systems in France and the U.S. While trying to explain to them what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is, which is what I normally brought for lunch at school, I switch over to French for half a sentence in order to describe it. Sometimes it becomes necessary to converse briefly in French if a student is completely lost. Towards the end of the lesson, one of the students tells me that I have a very strong accent when I speak English. I cannot help myself from laughing since it’s the first time somebody has told me my voice sounds anything but normal, but I understand what the student means.
During the next hour, I work in a classroom with about fifteen middle schoolers. I haven’t met these students before, either, so we spend most of our time getting to know each other. After realizing that the students are having a hard time pronouncing the states where I live, the teacher has them practice the names in unison. Hearing French students chant “New Mexico” and “Iowa” is as amusing as it is bizarre. At some point during the class, a boy named Thomas comes up to me and whispers in my ear if I hate Trump. Later, when the class is over and I am on my way out, Thomas runs over to me again and hands me a drawing of a pirate ship (see photo). I smile and thank him, then leave. Normally I assist one more class and then eat lunch with two professors, but today the class is cancelled and the professors have a conference, so I head back toward IES Abroad to eat lunch before my afternoon classes.
In my French class, we discuss political issues facing the U.S. and France. Since I am planning on devoting half of if not an entire post to politics, I will save the content of the discussion for later. Once French is over, I go to my class on the European Union. Today groups of students are presenting on various institutions within the EU. While the structure of the EU is intricate and difficult to explain in French let alone English, the groups manage to effectively present their institutions without getting lost in the messy details. As soon as class is over, I bike home, throw on my Nike air zoom odyssey twos, and head out for a run. Thanks to a lot of physical therapy exercises, I can now run again pain-free. The new problem is that I am terribly out of shape. During my run, however, I don’t think about that, or much of anything for that matter. Instead, I run along the banks of the Loire while watching how the water plays with the light as the sun sets. As I go through town and make my way back home, I look around and try to take in the vibe of the city. Before going to bed I prepare for my Thursday courses: gastronomy and history. As I’m falling asleep, I have one of those “mon dieu I’m actually in France” moments, for which I am utterly grateful.