Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's just about summer time

Today, the weather is over thirty degrees Celsius, the flowers are blooming and trees are spanning their healthy, green leaves towards the blazing sun.  A variety of birds are singing, occasional cries of roosters echo across the large, lively garden and a gentle breeze of wind carries the thick and humid summer air.

Despite this beautiful setting, here I am, in front of my laptop, dumbfounded, not knowing what to write on this blog post.  I'm stuck trying to express my mingled feelings of half wanting to stay here in France and half wanting to go home to Canada.

It doesn't mean things are going bad here; don't get me wrong!  Actually my exchange life has been incredibly exceptional as you can probably tell from my previous posts.  My time at lycée just ended a few days ago, resulting a wonderful conclusion of my academic year.  My teachers and classmates are so proud of how my French grew.

That last day of lycée, a personal reward that I've been vigorously aiming since the first day was finally reached: to become a real French student.  I didn't want to be an ordinary exchange student who would be isolated from the regular students.  I knew that the separation would largely reduce the learning potential of an authentic French student life.  I told myself that no matter what homework are thrown at me, I would at least try to do them while spending as much time with my host families and new friends.

Basically it was me who chose my own exchange to be a difficult journey.  There are no easy exchanges that exist anyways but I raised my own difficulty bar much higher.  At least under this French mentality that states that those who work must succeed, I had no other option than just to convince people that I can do it.

To truly participate in my French classes meant taking the national BAC (baccalauréat) exams at the end of the year (so like final diplomas).  And that, my readers, takes A LOTTA might and power for any student.  Me as an exchange student, I had another disadvantage (and a big, obvious one): basic language comprehension.  Dang.  This meant that I had to do twice the effort: to learn and understand the French texts taught over the year (like the regular students) AND learn the basic grammar.  No way in 10 months I'd grasp both very well.

Oh well, I told myself so I plunged completely blind into this death sentence ultimate mission.  Let me tell you, it was not easy at all.  The two acts of convincing people in the foreign language and succeeding to learn using that language were equally, and devastatingly, challenging.

Convincing consisted of me, begging my French professeur to get me applied for the BAC exams.  Though she didn't have the right to prevent me from doing it, she seriously discouraged me.  She told me that it's too difficult for even the French students and that I should rather work on basic grammar exercises at the back of the class with the other exchange students.  Even all my classmates said it would be a better decision.

You should know me well by now:  Without a glitch of hesitation, I said no to her and asked my first host mom (the current one at that time) to sign me up anyways.  No way I was gonna spend my year isolated, working alone on French conjugations!

After it became official, however, I became worried and stressed; not as seriously like last year in Canadian grade 11 since the grades actually counted... but enough to say that my year abroad was definitely packed with things to be learnt - if not, with a lot of difficulty.  I swear I have spent all my classes till January without understanding what the teachers and classmates were saying to me.  (Even more, I didn't realize that the short paragraphs we studied in September were not just random phrases but instead poems composed by famous French writers until a few months ago.  It was just THAT bad.)

But I am nowhere near of being regretful for choosing this pathway.  Like my father taught me, the challenges we put ourselves up to will make us stronger and ready to face even more demanding situations in the future.  I can see clearly now what he meant by that.  No matter how life can chuck us into scenarios that seem too hard and worthless to solve, we must always take it as a stage of growth and be cherished to have that opportunity to do so.

Anyways, like the other students, I behaved well in class and copied everything what my professeur wrote down on the board, in spite that I understood nothing and ended up with swollen fingers.  I reasoned that I'd understand these notes (hopefully) when I read them again at the end of the year.  And indeed I was right.  Even in December, I finally comprehended them (except for some odd words and entire paragraphs that were rubbish 'cause I assume that I didn't understand the professeur's untidy calligraphy.  Most of them write messy after all.  For example, they write their letter 'p' without the circle... so like an 'l' but placed lower, if you get what I mean).

As my classmates witnessed my dedication to lycée, they began to help me in many ways - even some students assisted me from the instant I told them that I applied to the BAC.  Like I mentioned earlier in my other posts, they've given me enormous courage throughout the entire year and I thank them so much for that.  On the other hand, I rarely got any praises from my French professeur until I did my first BAC Blanc exam (practice BAC tests) in January when I scored 9.5/20 which is extraordinarily good, considering where I started from.  After that, life at lycée was a lot easier.

So the last day of lycée swung by a few days ago, and wow.  How much I've grown.  After months and months of it, I feel like I've received my long-term reward of being a true French student.  Finally.  Every comrade and professeur congratulated me and my two other exchange friends who've also improved their French.  My French professeur even gave us a good-bye bisous (French cheek kiss) which NEVER happens between a prof and a student because it's such a personal custom!

All I was able to do on that last day was to just smile.  Smile really wide.  It wasn't sad at all.  It was an extremely gratifying day when I knew that I achieved the biggest goal of my exchange.  That day was pure satisfaction and I know that I can head home to Canada feeling fulfilled.  Although my BAC exams are this week and July 1st (I know, going to school in July is a horror), it doesn't matter if I succeed them because I know that I've tried my best and I gained the respect that I am just like the others.

Weirdly, the last day of lycée was a déjà vu of my first day.  It strikes me how the first students I've met are the exact same students I spent together for the last time there.

This is SO strange but in fact, the two boys who were in my first lycée day photo wore their EXACT SAME sweater on that last day.   Even more, we took these two photos in the EXACT SAME place without on purpose.  I mean... is this POSSIBLE?!!

June 2013

September 2012
I didn't realize this until later when I glanced at some early exchange photos on my laptop, and oh my, how much I laughed.  Such gentlemen they became and how much I grew.  Of course it's visible how exchange students grow during their year abroad but in my case, every one of my friends grew up too.  They told me that it was thanks to us, the three exchange students (Canadian, Mexican and German) that they've got a look at different cultures and learned something from our stories we shared.  Exchange students are proud ambassadors after all.

Au revoir, ma vie au lycée.
Tu vas me manquer beaucoup mais je n'oublierai jamais les souvenirs que tu m'as donnée.

Good-bye, my lycée life.
I will miss you a lot but I will never forget the memories that you gave me.
By any means, I should get back to why right now, I have such mixed feelings though I'm surrounded in French summer paradise.  Again, I'm sitting in front of my laptop, more dumbfounded than ever, staring at this unpublished post.  What on earth am I doing?

It's just a weird time of exchange.  Mentioning that I'm leaving in a few weeks, I feel good to head home, but at the same time I want to keep living this accomplishment that I've earned.   However, I CAN'T wait to see my family, my friends and my country (oh the mountains)!  By all means, I don't have a choice but to put my exchange to an end so I'm sticking to being optimistic for the return home... yet I could endlessly come up with reasons why leaving my host country is going to be a sad journey.

You see, there is no right or wrong, up or down, left or right, and yes or no.  It's both.  This is what the end of exchange feels like.  Being stuck.  That's where I am, struggling between two different lives, which are both astonishing.

Nevertheless, don't grieve my dear readers.  I didn't mean to post this to make you feel worried or to scare the future exchange students!  It's just an honest post that explains a passage during a year abroad that many experience.  On the bright side, I have unbelievably accomplished my biggest goal and I have days ahead to profit the heaven of exchange life.

I'm gonna go out to enjoy the sun while it lasts (^^)/
A bientôt,



  1. You are the only other Rotary kid in France I know who is taking the bac. And for that, I admire you.
    I was the opposite ... I knew about the bac, but I didn't think I would take it. I went into school just trying my best to understand what was going on, but not expecting to be capable of doing the huge test at the end of the year. My friends, however, thought I would take it, and would reprimand me for not working enough. My French teacher/prof principal was also opposite from yours - she believed in me and encouraged me to do it. So here I am, my last two weeks in France, studying and taking tests. ^^ After today, the écrit, she as well bisous'd me. Reading this entry I think of how similar our experiences are !

    1. DUDE! That is so interesting how our situations are basically parallel except involving different reactions from people! And of course you're the only other Rotary kid in France who I know is taking the BAC so of course I admire you too ;D
      I hope your BAC écrit went well! I think mine went good ^^ I really enjoyed it actually.

  2. Salut, c'est Nicolas, SUPER LES 2 PHOTOS, je ne m'en souvenais plus que c'était à la même place FAN-TAS-TIQUE SARI !!! :D

    1. Hahaha oui, elles sont super!! Merci Nicolas. Tu es trop drôle, tu sais? :D