Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while, but I’m back to blogging, and I’m really going to try to keep up with it this time. It’s been a crazy couple of months, and I know I’ve got a lot of updating to do. This is going to be a long one, so maybe grab a drink or a snack to have while you read 🙂
I’m back in France and have been here for just about 4 months, I’m living in a town called Blois. It’s still in the Loire valley like I was last year. This town is much smaller than Orléans, however. I have been loving living here so far. The town is quaint and beautiful and has a grand old château in the middle (photo above). There are also a bunch of other assistants who live here, and they’re fantastic. Blois has been a fun town to explore, but has also been ideal because of its proximity to other places: It’s about halfway between Orléans and Tours (the two largest towns in my region) and just a short bus or train ride to many of the other chateaus in the region.
Another new thing about this year is that I’m working in two schools instead of one and that I’m working in collèges (middle schools) instead of a lycée (high school). At first I was worried about working with younger students, especially because I got on so well with my high-schoolers last year, but it’s been going really well. I’m still getting the hang of planning lessons for them as their levels of English are less than the older students I’m used to being with, but it’s getting easier as time goes on. I was also worried about how it would be to have my time split between two schools, but it’s been working out well. I obviously don’t spend as much time there as I did last year because I’m only in each school for 6 hours each week, but the teachers have been really welcoming and helpful.
The two schools that I’m in are very different from each other. Collège Begon is much smaller and is classified as a ZEP school (zone d’education prioritaire) which from what I’ve understood is the French way of classifying a school as inner city. Many of the students at this school are immigrants, or have parents that immigrated to France before they were born. My students at Begon are always very excited to learn and participate in class, which makes my job a lot more fun. Collège Augustin Thierry, in contrast to Begon, is a very big school and not in the ZEP. Augustin-Thierry is actually a cité scolaire and has a collège, a lycée, and classes for adults. The school has about 10 buildings and a large park in the center of it all. There are many other language assistants who work at Augustin Thierry (mostly in the lycée), while at Begon, there are only two of us.
Another difference this year, is that I have my own apartment, instead of living with a host family. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve lived alone without roommates. It was a bit weird at first, but after I got used to it, I’ve found that I kind of enjoy having my own space. It also helps that most of the other assistants live less than a 10 minute’s walk away, so we see each other really often.
While I’ve been here, I’ve managed to see several more chateaus, take a few weekend trips, and meet up with old friends (I’ll attach links to pictures at the end of the post). Within the first month of being in France, we had a school break. During this break, I stayed in France and did some day trips within the region. I got to rediscover Tours and spend some time back in Orléans. I also visited the Chateau de Cheverny, one that I didn’t have the chance to see last year. This château is famous for housing many hunting dogs, which sets it apart from the other chateaus in the region. Seeing this chateau in late October was perfect, as we also got to walk the grounds and see the fall colors.
I was also lucky enough to be able to take a weekend trip to London in November to see two of my friends from when I studied abroad, Nunzia and Silvia. We got to wander the city and see all of the beautiful Christmas decorations, something I’d never been able to experience in a big European city besides Paris. I must say that London’s Christmas spirit might have been even greater that Paris’. It was great for us to all be together again, especially because we hadn’t all gotten to meet up for three years. If you’re interested in seeing some photos of London all decorated for Christmas, here is a link to the photos from my trip: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1536717346343375.1073741849.100000153723798&type=1&l=bac4c51c3f
Later in November, I got to have a proper American Thanksgiving celebration with the other assistants. We had all of the traditional Thanksgiving food covered, even pumpkin pie and stuffing! It was really cool to get to share this holiday with others who hadn’t celebrated it before, and it made it easier to be away from home for this holiday. I was actually very lucky to get to go to two Thanksgivings this year, as my reference teacher, Natasha, invited me to another Thanksgiving celebration as well.
In the beginning of December, I got to fulfill a dream of mine, seeing the Christmas markets in Strasbourg, France. Ever since I’d heard about these markets, I had hoped that someday I would get to see them. They’ve been voted the best and France several times. Visiting the markets was lovely. They were much more traditional and less commercial/touristy feeling than the markets in Paris. Several other nice things about this trip were getting to visit a region of France that I hadn’t seen yet and getting to see my friend Liz, who is a teaching assistant in city not too far from Strasbourg (Shout out to Liz and her blog alotofworldtosee!), and helping celebrate her birthday. Strasbourg is a lovely city that I’d like to revisit in different weather and when I have more time. I think there’s a lot more exploring to be done there! Here’s a link to my photos from Strasbourg: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1546113468737096.1073741850.100000153723798&type=1&l=b4bcb48f98
For Christmas, I went to Italy to spend the holidays with my friend Cassie, who I went to college with and who is now studying in Florence. It was nice to be able to spend Christmas with someone from home, since we were both staying in Europe for the holidays. We took a short trip to Venice to explore the city and see an exhibit on illuminated manuscripts, which Cassie is planning to make for her post-grad project. Exploring Venice and Florence with Cassie was a joy. It was also fun that for New Years two of our other friends from college, Lindsay and Kaitlin, came to visit. I was glad that our trips overlapped so that I could see them. Italy has been one of my favorite places to visit, so getting to go back again was lovely. Florence and Venice are both such beautiful and atmospheric cities, full of amazing food, great art, and wonderful surroundings. Here are some photos from Venice and a link to my album from Florence: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1581125898569186.1073741853.100000153723798&type=1&l=bdc13efa83
That pretty much brings me up to now. I’ve been back at school for a few weeks and have been enjoying being back in Blois. It’s been pretty cold, but we haven’t really had any snow. There have been galettes des rois (king cakes, but not like the ones that you can sometimes find for Mardi Gras in the states), a delicious French tradition for the Epiphany (or the day the three kings would have made it to Jesus) in every shop, which is certainly a January highlight for me. I’ve even found the charm in the cake and been a “king” for the day.
We have another break starting the second week of February, during which I will be traveling to Budapest, Hungary, Vienna, Austria, and Prague, Czech Republic with my friend Heather, another American assistant in Blois. I’m really excited for this trip, as I have never been to any central European countries. I’ve been doing trip research and all of the pictures of these cities are just gorgeous. I’m hoping it won’t be too bitter cold during our trip, but if there was a bit of snow, I wouldn’t mind too much.
That’s all for now! I will be trying to update this blog more frequently in the coming months, as it’s easier for me and more interesting for you. I will close with a link to my album of photos of daily life here in France: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1472358106112633.1073741848.100000153723798&type=1&l=139a78016f