During this first month here, I have:
> arrived in Paris and stayed there for a few days with other AFSers
I enjoyed meeting so many new people from so many places! I wanted to practice my French with my roomates, but discovered I was the only one that had been studying it for two years. The others knew almost nothing in French. We took a tour around Paris which I really enjoyed. Although, I would've like to have taken a longer tour of the city, but with such a large group of people I know this makes it more difficult. I believe there are something like 200+ foreign exchange students from all over the world staying in France for the year.
> took the train from Paris to Metz
I was so excited to meet my family on my train ride to Metz. I loved looking out at all the new landscapes. It's very beautiful here and I love seeing the small towns scattered everywhere and nestled in valleys. Also I talked to a person on the train in French and I was very proud of myself. It was my first real French conversation in France. I met my family at the train station, they were all there waiting with a "Welcome Yvette" sign. I was so happy to finally meet them!
> have been going to school in France
Almost everything about school here is different from my school in Maine. The classes are shorter (55 minutes long), but there are more of them. This is possible because you don't see the same teachers everday, and the schedule changes, so that it repeats every two weeks. (There is a week A and a week B). I think I have about 14 different subjects that I'm taking right now. These classes will last for the whole year. I am in Première, which is the equivalent of 11th grade in high school.
Almost everyday I meet new people at school, and everyone is so nice! They are all very excited to meet a real American. I have also had a few people tell me they love my accent, which is very cool. I know sometimes there are certain accents that don't sound very good speaking some languages. Although I also realize this can be subject to personal opinion. So who knows, maybe there are French people who don't like my accent.
The grading system is from 1-20, and 15 is considered pretty good. The teachers never give out 20's, I think. Although I wasn't surprised by this, because I knew the system was different before I came over.
Everyone is a lot more concentrated and willing to do their school work, and do it well. Even when they have free periods they study. I think this is great, but sometimes I wish I could talk to other people during my free time......well, I do talk to people when I have a free period, but sometimes I feel like I'm intruding or keeping them from studying. I don't want to annoy anyone, but at the same time I want to improve my French.
The school food is more elaborate here. It looks like it takes more time to prepare. All the same it's not always amazing, but maybe that's just because I'm a bit picky sometimes. I have been making sure to try everything at least once though. I discovered that there are some things I like now that I didn't before. At school we have French fries a lot, although it's funny because they call them "americains frites" (American fries). They usually have a dessert with their lunch too. Basically, they eat a lot more than I thought they would. I always get asked why I don't eat so much. I explain that I just have a small appetite. (but that happens to me in the U.S. too)
There is a lot of PDA (personal display of affection) in the school, of course. Bisous, hugging, holding hands, etc. Although hugging is more reserved for couples, which is unfortunate, because I miss hugging people. Although, I've discovered that giving bisous is not so bad, and I enjoy greeting people. The French kids at school always acknowledge other people they know when they pass by each other. They smile, or wave, or say "salut" to each other. It's nice. Being recognized in a foreign country is comforting and makes me feel like I fit in here. I think the French people would find it strange that "PDA" is an actual term for me, and that in my school in Maine it is not allowed. If they tried to prohibit that in France I think there would be war or at least numerous riots.
> figured out the bus system...I think
It took a little while, but I believe I can figure it out now. My French is improving, so now it's easier to ask for help or what bus to take (just in case I'd need to ask, that is). I take the bus in the morning to go to school and in the afternoon I take it to go back home. It sounds simple enough, but I only figured it out fter making a few mistakes. But most of the French people are quite sympathetic to my case and try to help me out.
> learned how to set the dinner table
So maybe it's just a small thing, but it's different from what I know. The fork on one side of the plate, knife on the other, small spoon and fork above the plate, and one (or two different sized) glass(es) above that. There are two plates, one on top of the other, and a napkin on top of both of them. That's how it's set up when guests are coming over. I like it and how everything has a certain pace to go. It's all nice and orderly.
> discovered French fashion
I learned that French people don't wear as much color as people from where I live. They like sticking to blacks and grays. Their fashion is simple and very stylish. They pay a lot more attention to what they wear. They always look well-dressed.
> got a haircut....in France!
Yes, I did get my haircut in France. Yes my family did help explain what I wanted to the hair dresser. And yes, I was very thankful. So I will add another post soon with some pictures of my family, the area I live in, and my new haircut.