Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hark! A [Temporary] Life Plan!

I think it's way past time for a new post.

I actually meant to make one while I was "home" in January, but it turned out I wasn't actually home that much in January after all, and once I got back to Oberlin in early February and started classes again, free time became a fond memory at best. (Honestly, I don't really have time to be writing now...) I started writing a post at one point but never finished it, and now it's pretty outdated. So I'm starting over.

Readjusting to life in America took longer than I expected in some surprising ways. I did not realize how acclimated I had become to traveling on the other side of the road. Fortunately I never got confused while I was the one driving; however, returning to driving after four months of walking and buses was something of a rude awakening. It turns out having a car is a lot of expense and hassle, for all its convenience. The other major readjustment was my American schedule. My workload at Oberlin is several times what I experienced at UCC (and, to be fair, what's experienced by many of my friends and acquaintances at other U.S. institutions as well), my classes always meet at the same times of day and in the same places, so my days are fairly uniform, and instead of the vast pockets of free time during the day that I had on some weekdays in Ireland, I'm usually solidly booked from morning to late afternoon (or evening, in some cases). That means I no longer have the luxury of saying "Oh, it's 9 p.m., I'm done working for the day." Nope. More often than not that's about when I get started. Which is normal in the context of my last few semesters at Oberlin, but was hard to get used to again after both a rather leisurely semester abroad and a break of more than six weeks.

Also, I drink about a zillion times more coffee and tea than I used to, which I attribute entirely to a cold wet semester in a country that relishes both of those to an even greater degree than the U.S.. (And also to the fact that I spent a lot of that semester in my apartment, which had an electric kettle, which is a luxury I had never owned before that. I do now.)

Anyway, I am nearing the end (much to my astonishment) of what has probably been my busiest/craziest semester yet, but, perhaps paradoxically, not the most stressful. In fact, I've been incredibly happy the last couple of months, despite the unrelenting workload and the increasing awareness that I have not the slightest clue what I'm doing when I'm officially released into the adult world on May 31. I think the semester away has really made me appreciate my friends and my awesome job*, but also, almost everything I'm doing on the academic front this semester is something I truly enjoy and want to be doing, and a lot of it is with my advisor, whom I absolutely adore, as a professor and as a person.

I've also been dancing a lot, which is incidental but has definitely contributed to my sanity, especially since the one truly shitty thing that happened when I got back to campus was that the new choir director decided I wasn't good enough for him, which effectively took away the one artistic thing I'd previously kept doing in college.

Anyway, the real purpose of this post is an update on Expat Erica: One of the things my abortive January update would have mentioned is that I had applied for this program: In a nutshell, the French Ministry of Education recruits native English speakers from North America on one-year contracts to work as language assistants in the French public school system. (Because, you know, in France they actually value multilingualism enough to A, see the importance of hearing native speakers, and B, start teaching second or third languages during the window where kids are still young enough to legitimately become fluent if they have enough exposure.**)

So that happened.

And a couple of weeks ago, it also happened that I received an acceptance letter from said program offering me a position.

So... in about five months I'm going to be moving to France.

My assignment is somewhere in Brittany (that peninsula in the northwest corner of the country, south of Britain), which was my first choice of placement when I filled out the application (although that was admittedly a tough choice to make), but I don't yet know a more specific location or what age group I'll be teaching or, well, anything other than that there's going to be a lot of paperwork in my future and that as of October I'll be an employee of the French government.

But that's pretty cool, I think.

It's especially cool because one of my best friends, who spent last summer in Paris learning French from scratch by immersion, was also offered an assistantship and is going to be just outside Paris, which is only a few hours east of where I'll be. Another of my best friends has an internship at the school in Copenhagen where she studied abroad two years ago.

So let Euroadventure Round 2 begin—and this time, I won't be so alone, because when I travel I can travel to places where there are people I know.

Also, yet another of my best friends is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Senegal, and I miss her terribly, and a trip to visit her would be substantially shorter and less expensive from Europe than from here. So on one of my three or four vacations (French schools take shorter summers but get more time off during the school year), I'm totally going to Africa.

Looks like this blog isn't dead yet.

EDIT: I didn't realize until after I'd clicked "Publish" that my account was still set to Ireland time. Fixing it was sad.

* I'm the student assistant for the Anthropology Department. On paper, my job is to make copies and hang fliers and run errands. On the ground, I do those things, but I also do a lot of substantially more awesome things, ranging from equally menial to things that give me a surprising amount of responsibility. The department head tends to give me projects in the form of half-formed ideas and thereby give me a lot of free rein in figuring out how to proceed, which makes me feel important. My advisor, meanwhile, is awesome at (in addition to never running out of things for me to do) finding things for me to do that are mutually beneficial--work gets done for her, and I have to learn about things that already interest me in order to do it.
** I started learning French in middle school, which is on the young side for the U.S., but already starting to verge on being older than the ideal language-learning window. And indeed, I'm proficient in terms of grammar, but my accent and my grasp of nuance remain lamentable.

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