Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One year over, an experience that will never end

One final post from sunny Bonneville France.

My year abroad is coming to an end, I am flying to the United States Sunday morning.  This has been an amazing year, as I think you have all seen from the rest of my posts.  I have passed a really amazing year here in France, I have made the friends of a lifetime, experienced another lifestyle and culture, and have relationships that will last forever.

This year I have also changed a lot.  I am much more independant than I was before and I have a whole new style that makes me feel really good about myself and gives me confidence.  This year has been both very long and extremely short, but between September 1st of last year and now, I have really changed.  I am not at all the same little Vicki sophomore in high school that I was before and I know that it is really weird to think about.  It is weird for me thinking about seeing everyone who has not been able to see my evolution and be shocked with the changes I have made.  The change is not even in appearance (ok, I took a kg of muscle from climbing the 1,5km every night) but other than that, the change is inside. It's how I see myself, how I see the world and how I make my decisions.

It is hard enough to explain all of that, but also there are things that I have the habit of doing here, and I don't even realize that I do it anymore.  To give an example, in France it is very impolite to have your hands in your lap while you eat, so now I have the habit of keeping my hands on the table at dinner.  There are a lot of other little things like that, that I don't realize I do here, but when I get home it will be weird doing that same thing.

I don't want to scare anyone but saying all of this, but it is true that I have really changed and that I really like the change.  I have really enjoyed spending a year in France, that is still a long time, one year.  I can't wait to come back and relive some of the amazing moments that I have passed here.

I also wanted to thank everyone who made this possible, helped me through the hard times, and made the good times great.  First to my parents, Mom and Dad I am very thankful that you have helped me make this possible and helped me throughout the whole year, I am really excited to see you guys in one week, love you!  Next come the teachers, French and American alike who helped me through and made this experience possible.  My host family here in France who were really great, more than I could ever have asked for, don't worry je reviendrais (I will be back).  And of course all of the amazing people who I have met and who have been really nice with me this year, the amazing friendships and relationships that will last a very very very long time <3

I can't wait to come back and visit everyone in France!

I will keep in touch with everyone this upcoming year, I promise!!

See you soon again France and see you very soon America :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Le Baccalauréat

French exams are really hard!!!

The front of the high school, looking up, this was on my right.
This morning, at 8:00am, I arrived at school like any other normal school day. 
Looking down from the entrance to the high school, this was on my left.
Normally I get to school at a quarter to eight, to be there on time and to have a little time to chat with my friends before the bell rings.  Then when the bell rings, I complain a little about having to climb the 3 story hill to get into the high school and then the huge staircase that leads to the main hall, and then, depending where I have first class, I have to climb even more stairs!!

The staircase!
Also, just to let you know, the French school system is nothing like the American system, I did a whole school project ( a six month thing for the BAC ) on this exact subject.
I can go into more detail on that later if you want.  If you ever want any more information on France, what life is like, the food, the people, the government, the weather I don't know, just anything you want, feel free to comment on my blog posts and ask any questions that you want, if there is anything you guys don't understand, tell me!!  I am here to share my experience with you and I LOVE talking, so ask away ;)

In France, at the end of Junior and Senior year there are exams that are all part of the Baccalauréat, or BAC.  So, everything that we learn in class is to pass the BAC, I mean everything, the methods and how to write an essay, how to analyze certain documents.  We learn it all so that we can pass the BAC at the end of the year.  The BAC is to get into college, if you don't have your BAC or if you bomb it, you have to stay back a year, and retake it.  There is not too much you can do after high school if you are French and don't have the BAC.  I mean there are many different kinds of BACs, but it is not the same exam for everyone. For the different tracks in general high schools it is S (scientific), ES (economics and social) and L (litterary), and they all have different exams for the BAC.

Some of the exams are the same, for example today I took the BAC de Français (French written language) and it was the same for the S and ES tracks everywhere in France.

To pass the BAC at the end of the year, the students get out about a week before their exams to study on their own.  That means that my last day of school was June 14th, and my exam was today, on the 22nd and on July 4th.  So I stopped going to school a week ago but I still had to work and study hard during the week that followed.

My friend and I in the entrance
In this case, I think that I am allowed to say that I prefer the American system over the French system, because for the last ten years of my life, when school lets out, well, school lets out, that means that it is summer, I can relax, no more school for three months!! But here it was more like, last day of school that means that I have to study like crazy for the next two weeks until my exams are done! I geuss it's kind of like college, but I liked it in my American high school, because we had our final exams the two days before the last day of school, so it was two days of exams, and then school was out!!

I had to come back to the high school today to take the exam.  Plus, it was a four hour exam! I barely finished on time!  I was like, of course I'll have more than enough time to read carefully the texts and answer the short question ( a good paragraph or two) and then the essay (six pages!!).

Two friends and I outside
The other students started finishing around 10:45-11:00 and I was like, oh my gosh!! I am still not done with my draft! When I was half way done with my final copy, I looked around me and there were 5 people left. I was the last person to finish, by a good five minutes, but the teachers who were supervising us were really nice and talked to me after about the exam and the fact that I am American.  I had to finish writing so fast that I had a really bad hand cramp after, it even hurts to be typing this fast!!

I am just glad that it is over and now I have to get to studying for the next exam, it is science this time on Wednesday, at least it is only an hour and a half :) we have the same signs in the USA?
Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about the great adventures that I have had in the French school system this year.  I could put up a whole blog post just on the French system.  It is really interesting, and very different from the American system, that is without a doubt ;)
Well, until next time, and I cannot believe that I will be home in three weeks!!

Friday, June 3, 2011


Yesterday was a no-school day in France and all over Europe, so Adélie, Benoit and I decided to go to Geneva.  At first we wanted to go kayaking on the lake, but it was cold and gray out so instead we took a self guided tour of the city.  Benoit and Adélie took me around and showed me a "reform" museum, the UN and plenty of watch stores.

A watch store, English translation: Pretigious watches
They also took me to see the theatre, which was very pretty and we walked a lot around the city, and we crossed the bridge at least four times, on different bridges too!  It was a very nice outing, and I am glad that I was able to finally see Geneva.  A couple of weeks ago we went to visit a medieval town in France called Yvoire, which is on lake Geneva, so we got to see the city from a distance, but it was great to really visit it.

The UN building
A church
What was funny was that we weren't stopped at the border, I was so confused.  I didn't even realize that we were not in France anymore, there must have been a sign or something, but I was just looking out the window and Benoit starts talking about Geneva.  I was like, "Wow, that was quick I can't believe that we are already in Geneva!"  I seriously had no idea. 

The leaning tree in Geneva
Why does time go by so fast?
English: I do not make the sidewalks dirty

I have been in France for nine months and two days!!  And I am leaving on July 9th from Bonneville and taking the plane to JFK NY on July 10th.  I would have never thought that these kinds of thoughts would come so fast, time is not supposed to go this fast, come on!!

It is not fair that time has passed so quickly because it is now that I realize that, of course, I should have really looked around me and seen how beautiful this experience really is.  I know, I know, I still have a month left to take advantage of all of the opportunities given to me, and I have already taken some time to sit back and soak in every second of this very different life.  I am so happy to be here and I cannot even imagine my life now without the relationships that I have built over this past year.

Get ready for a new Frenchified (I don't think that that is even a word!!) Vicki!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Nice Weekend

This weekend we went to Sothonod again with the family and some family friends.

We spent nearly the whole day there, very relaxing, we ate a nice lunch, you know the classic French lunch.  The apéro, with two different kinds of wine, and juice for the young ones, then the appetizer consisting of a green salad (enormous leaves that you have to cut, even though it is normally impolite to cut your salad) and a potato salad (with a mustard sauce, very good).  Then came the real deal, the roasted pork and mashed pumpkin (yes, mashed pumpkin, if you remember correctly this is the same HUGE pumpkin that we ate in November). Next came the cheese, a couple different variteies, but we didn't go crazy (when the French have invitees, don't eat too much of the main course because there is always a large selection of cheese 20 minutes later).  Then came the dessert (a simple but very good chocolate cake made by the family friends, but there were also fresh cherries which were AMAZING!).

After lunch we relaxed for a while and then Adélie, Joelle and I (and one of Joelle's friends) went to a really pretty waterfall.  We had to walk a little bit in the water around big rocks and everything before getting to the real thing, but it was amazing and I didn't get too wet :)

I think that French cherries are the some of the best cherries that I have ever tasted, today Adélie and I had to pick fresh raspberries from the garden and cherries from the tree a little ways down in the yard.  I can tell you that all of the ripe cherries were all the way at the top of the tree, but the few that were low enough to pick were absolutely amazing.  I couldn't help myself, I just had to taste a couple of them before coming back into the house.  The rest weren't quite ripe yet, so we are going to have to wait about a week or so I think.

That was this afternoon, but at noon, my host mom made a dish with shark in it!

My delicious asparagus
I have never tasted shark before, and it wasn't half bad.  The texture was special, somewhere in between salmon and swordfish, it was thicker than a fish, but softer than a steak (like swordfish).  She made it in a lime sauce that I liked, and on the side I had made some asparagus à l'Américaine, the way that my parents do it at home.  It was delicious, but I think that I put a little too much olive oil on it, oops. I'll have to remember to measure it the next time.

Another food that I have been introduced to in France is the artichoke, the whole thing, not just the heart.  Infact we eat the "meat" on the leaves and then throw them out.  We work our way around the artichoke to the heart, which is the best part.  They normally put a little bit of lemon mayo on the leaves to soften the taste, I tasted it two times and I really like it :)

The other night Adélie and I watched Beauty and the Beast in French, it was amazing!

Until next time!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A very musical vacation

My last week in France was the most musical and relaxing of all.

The first week was spent at a music "camp" at Sallanches, a town 45 minutes from Bonneville.  It was one week of pure music, at least five hours of music each day.  Students from all over the Faucigny province were invited to the "camp".  There were 87 students this year, ranging from 12 years old to 18 years old.

Even in one week, I have made a whole group of amazing friends that I will be able to see again at the Music Festival at the end of June.  When I arrived, I knew only the kids from my Harmonie, but that first day I made new friends who I shared the dorm room with.  There were other activities, like a karaoke night during the week, but most of the time we were either singing or playing music.

The group of girls in my dorm room and I
We had only one week to put together a concert with songs that we weren't familiar with and that were not easy.  There were six songs and one week to master them, this experience will stay with me for the rest of my life and it has improved my saxophone skills.  I will never be able to forget the friendships that I have made and the amazing experiences that I have had so far this year.

The group of people from the music "camp"
The week after my musical "camp", Adélie and I spent a week in Montpellier with her grandmother.  We spent the week relaxing, shopping and walking the three dogs that were staying with her grandmother.  Her other grandmother lives at Montpellier also, and she gave us a long historic tour on the old Montpellier.

Sadly, the end of the school year is near, it is hard to believe that I have been in France for eight months and that in two months I will be back in the United States.

Me in front of the Aqueduc des Arceaux at Montpellier
Today I received my dates and my numbers for the Bac.  I am going to be passing the written portion of the French bac on June 20th and the oral portion on July 4th.  I am going to pass the science bac on June 22nd.  I am nervous about the exams, but I know that it will go well.

It has been such a long time since I have spoken English, and I feel like I am sort of forgetting it.  It'll come back to me after a day or so in the US, but for the moment I much prefer speaking French and there are some expressions that I want to put in my posts, but they don't exist in English!

I'll update again soon, maybe next time I will write more in French :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Nice Escalade For A Sunday Afternoon

Today I went rock climbing/hiking with Benoît and Adélie at Sixt Fer a Cheval, a small town about an hour away from Bonneville, it is not very far from Mt. Blanc.  It took us about two hours to get to the top of the climbing site, but only forty five minutes to come down.

The beginning of the climb was nice, tranquille, but then the vertical climbing started and I went very slowly and tried not to look down. We were all attatched, the ropes and everything was secure and the station had wires that we could attatch to.  Everything was going alright, until we got to a bridge, a hanging bridge.  Adélie was half-way across the bridge when I came on and we started laughing about how it reminded us of the scene in Shrek where Donkey and Shrek are on the bridge going to the castle, and Shrek shakes the bridge while Donkey is scared to death.  We reproduced the scene in French on the bridge except that none of us were scared.

I looked down only to see the beatiful view that we had of the mountains and the small town, but other than that I did not look down at the large rock that I was in the middle of climbing.  There were some scary moments but I came out of it just fine.

It was a really nice experience that I have never had before and don't know when I will have the chance to do it again.  This was the first time that I have done rock climbing outside of the high school gym's rock wall, and the rock walls at REI.

After the climb we went to see the Cascade de Rouget,the largest waterfall in all of Europe, it was a short ten minutes away from where we climbed.  It was very beautiful and it cooled us off very nicely, after three hours in the sun, it was 28C (83F) again today!  It was a really beautiful day and Anne said one of the last nice weekends to go climbing, because we have concerts almost every weekend with the Harmonie and after May, it is going to get really hot.

I had a really nice time and this will be added to my collection of amazing experiences in France!

I have a long day ahead of me at school tomorrow, I am going to head off!

Bonne Journée tout le monde!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Another Day Brings Another Friend

I have been happily surprised by everything that happens to me here in France.

What I mean by the title is that there are always new people that you meet, that you talk to and that you connect with.

Even if it is a simple smile from someone, it means a lot to me.
Since the beginning of my experience I have made new friends practically every day, sure there are days where I don't stop to say hi to every single person that I have ever seen.  There are some particular days like today where I want to dance around the school and say hi to everyone, even if I don't really know them, just to introduce myself so that the next time our paths cross I will have an excuse to go say hi!

Everyone is so nice, so I have no problem saying hi to almost everyone :)

Today was skirt day and a day of respect (Journée de la jupe et du respect).

Almost all of the girls came in skirts or dresses and even some of the guys, I admit it was kind of weird.

One of my new friends is Valentin, he is in my Phys Ed class and he is very nice.  I promised him that I would add him into one of my posts :)

Life is still extremely normal, I feel like I should be giving you guys more details, but seriously, it is all routine now.
6:45am First alarm, hit snooze
6:55am Second alarm, hit snooze
7:05am Third and Final alarm, contemplate getting up and decide that turning on the light will do.
7:12am I sit up and decide to climb down the ladder.
7:20am get dressed and go downstairs.
7:25am eat a bowl of Special K dark chocolat cereal
7:45am leave for school
7:55am bell rings for first period
(I am not going to go through my school day, it is pretty boring, except for all of the people that I see)
5:50pm last period bell rings
5:55pm start walking kind of slowly to the house after saying goodbye to my friends
6:17pm arrive at the house and put my back pack down and say hi to everyone
7:45pm eat dinner (it depends what day and what time Anne comes home for dinner, ex Mondays I eat at 9pm when I get home from karate or 7:30pm on Fridays because we have to leave at 8pm for band practice)
8:00pm sit down in front of the TV to watch the nightly news and sometimes watch a film
10:00pm go upstaris to brush my teeth and go to sleep (and write in my daily journal that I will make into a book when I get home all about my experience!!)

The process repeats the next morning and the next, I think that you understand.
I have been accepted to a one week music "stage" (I am not quite sure how to say it in English, it is essentially one week of doing nothing but playing music, seriously it is at least 6 hours of music playing every day.)
It will be the first week of April vacation, which starts the 23rd and I am so excited, I am going with Adélie but I am going to make the friends of a lifetime!! A week full of music with band geek buddies! I have missed my band geek buddies since there is no band at high school in France.

The second week of April vacation will be spent in Montpellier with the grandparents (Adélie's not mine) but I am excited to return down there, I am afraid that it will be very hot though.

It hit near 27 C today, which was nice in a dress but not so much in jeans.
This spring is very nice and the warm weather came very quickly!

Adélie told me that the summers in Bonneville can be very hot and sticky, not exactly the perfect kind of summer weather, but we'll see if this summer will be as record hot as last year in New England, 100F in NY wow!

I hope that the snow has started to melt and that the spring flowers are starting to come, or maybe the rain has come.  They always say "April showers bring May flowers"!
Let's hope so!

Have a happy spring everyone and I will post again after April vacation!

A Bientôt!