Who’s excited to talk about school?….. Or maybe curious to know it?…
Well, I am! Hahaha, no kidding, not that excited but still, am gonna still make a blog post about it anyway… ‘Cause for me, this French school life is completely a new experience, and yes, it is interesting and nerve-wrecking at the same time.
Before arriving here in France, honestly i do not know many information regarding the French school system, all i know is that it consists of 3 year of high school and i was going to be placed in première (equivalent to 11th grade) L class at Lycée Leonardo de Vinci in Amboise. I have done my research on the school, and yet i was not really sure about how L (literature) class works.
After arriving and finally discussing about the school with my host parents, i found out that L class has almost all literature classes and very little portion of Science or Math class (1 class every week, if i’m not mistaken). Knowing about this, i was pretty much sure that i do not want L class since i really love Math and i cannot imagine myself sitting in class, learning French literature for 10 months, a language that i just learned 6 months before arriving. Thus, i asked my parents if there any other option, and it turns out that there’s this other high school (lycée in French), that would offer S (scientific) class for me. It is located 30-45 minutes from home, yes quite far, but still i prefer Jean Monnet because the school in Amboise only offered me L class. Long story short, i was finally enrolled as a première S student in Lycée Jean Monnet, Joué-lès-Tours. I was really glad, and i cannot thank enough my host parents for their help, because as we know, it is not often, and nearly impossible, for exchange students to change their school in last minute, just 5 days to be exact, before school starts.
It was Wednesday morning, my very first day of high school in France. My host dad drop me off, and i was welcomed by the principal just in front of the school (coincidentally he was there, i think), and he escorted me to my class, and presented me in front of my classmates. The person who explained me a bit about the school was my principal class teacher, who is also my biology teacher, and she showed me the office. On that first day i even barely understand what the people and the teachers were talking about; i was practically a bit lost. To me, my first day was quite hard. I expect that the people would be more inviting or maybe willing to start a conversation with me, but it turned out it wasn’t like that at all.
School system here:
- Every student has their own schedule and their own main class, so it means that you stay with the same class and classmates for certain subjects (like Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History-Geography, French and English), but just in different rooms. For language, i choose English and German, so i will not meet all my classmates when i had those 2 as they choose different language subjects. I find very interesting because at my school they have many choices for language subjects, which are German, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. I have all the classes i have mentioned above, plus History-Geo Euro (mix in English), English Euro (higher level), and Sport.
- You have two kinds of schedule, which are Week 1 and Week 2, hence after Week 2 schedule finishes, you go back to Week 1 schedule for the next week. This is indeed a bit confusing at first, because for example, in certain cases like me, for Monday in Week 1 i have Biology first, and next week on Monday i have Physics-Chemistry first. This changes only apply on some subjects.
- School lasts from 8am until 6pm. Sometimes it varies, because like me on most days i start at 9 and finish at 5.
- Every day you have lunch at different time, depends on your schedule. I sometimes have 2 hours, and on some days i only have 1 hour at 11 or at 12.
- Punctuation is everything. If you arrive late or enter the class late, make sure you have gone to La Vie Scolaire (the school office) first and report yourself.
- The tests, or in here we call it les contrôles, can be held in any day, and i must say, it is difficult, even for the French students. Almost all the questions are essay, and sometimes you only got 1 hour to finish it. It really depends on your teacher (professeur), because every teacher gives different tests.
- The grading system is from the range of 1 to 20.
- Teachers expect you to write/take notes. Everything that is written on the whiteboard or is said by the teachers, you better write all of them because the french students do take every single notes (and even neatly too!)
- Bring your agenda with you all the time, to make sure you have written every single reminders of tests, events, etc
To be honest, for a foreign student like me, it is HARD to keep up the school rhythm. I tend to get very tired when i got home, since i have almost 10 hours at school. Moreover, it is even 5 times harder because everything that i learn is in French, hence my energy is used solely for comprehending explanations or even some conversations with my friends. It is quite difficult on my first days, but i can say, after almost 2 months like now, everything is getting better each day. Still, i cannot finish every tasks and tests properly, but at least my comprehension skill is much better.
Going back to the socializing in school, yes for foreign students who is going to French schools, you do really have to make many efforts. Maybe not if you have an exceptional level of French, but for those who are like me, it all really does take time. From my observation (this could be different for every one), in a school that has 1000 students like mine, people will not just approach and talk to you, even your classmates in class. Me, i started by asking many questions to many people, until finally i met some people who are really nice and would explain things to me. After that, things would get easier because they will present you to their other friends, allowing you to make friends even with those who are a younger older and are in different class. I think the key is just to practice your French, join many classes or clubs as much as possible and smile all the time, because at the end of the day, to make friends you have to start conversing and to start talking you need to speak the language. Language is very important, and plus, not many students here have a big curiosity to know different cultures and people from different background. So yeah, i must say that the students are not that easily welcoming to new people at first, but if you get to know them better, they are actually super nice and are happy to be your friend.
La Journée Internationale
Lucky me, my school is very open and very, very interested in discovering foreign cultures. So it all started when my English teacher, Madame Barat, told me about this International Day at school. Since she knew that i am an exchange student, she was really excited to include me in, and of course, i said yes.
On that day, i did the Chat Dating activity where students from all levels will chat with me for 10-15 minutes and ask me questions about my country and my experience so far of living abroad. Thanks to this activity, i got to know many students and it was really fun sharing stories about my country and to listen to their opinion about their own country and the foreign students. Personally, it was a bit surprise to me, that not so many people even know where Indonesia is. I find this very funny and tiring too actually, since i had to explain over and over again about the exact same thing to different people. Yes, it is a duty for me as an Indonesian to represent my country, and i just hope that i have been doing a great job in being one.
Lastly, on that day, i also got to meet other exchange students from different programs, such as AFS, and some Malaysian university students. They were all really great, and i finally got to speak and conversing in English! Hahaha, yes it’s been a long time people… I love hanging out with exchange students, as i think, they are really the one who gets me and they always have a very outgoing and open personality. So you can guess, that on that day, i talked like A LOT 🙂
For now i think that’s all i can share about the school life. There’s still more activities to come, and i hope i can share all of them on this blog until the end of school year. There’s no such thing as ‘easy as a piece of cake’ for us high school students around the world, so… Bon courage à tous! Et bon corage pour moi! 🙂 (5 times more courage for me to be exact)