A whirlwind of days

16 – 18 JAN 2017

The cool breeze that flows through the golden tallgrass greets me at the open kitchen window. It is not so cold as it has been for the past three days. With a hot drink in hand, I take it all in, the small prairie that conceals an old pond, the trail just on the other side of the field that travels into and out of the woods, the couple walking their dog by the old water tower. It is calm and quiet. Seeing the colors of the Robertsau in winter when not covered by snow certainly makes this whole place seem new once more. I can hardly wait for the colors of spring.

This quiet moment allows me to reflect on the past three days.

Monday, I took the FLE test, which is a French language equivalency placement exam. The ranks for French comprehension are A1, A2, B1, B2, and C1 so far as I know. I do not yet know my rank, but my confidence certainly took a hit from the difficulty of the exam. I am not very good with tests as it is, but this one was more than I had anticipated. Prior to taking the FLE, I had fully intended on taking a history course taught in French. After, however, I have switched all of my courses at Sciences Po to ones taught in English. I see now that I must continue to practice and study the French language much more before delving into fluency.

In Europe, English is widespread. I attempt to speak French everywhere I go and with all of the people I meet, but my limitations often force the conversation into an English one. I am thankful for this for the sake of clear communication, but it does make it more difficult to rely solely on the French language. I am not be too discouraged, though. I am still practicing my French everyday.

Tuesday morning, our group had our first class at the château. Madame Wassenberg will be teaching us about Europe in general and about European identity. During this first class, we each introduced ourselves, then discussed what we already knew about Europe. Charles de Gaulle spoke of a Europe that stretched “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” but now it would seem that Europe quite possibly stretches from Iceland to the Caucasus. And since the 1950s, a number of intergovernmental organizations have banded together, grown, and shrunk over the years in the ideal of unifying Europe. The European Union probably being the most prominent as it is quite unique. However, there is also the Council of Europe which touts a 48-state membership.

After class, I registered for classes at IEP (a.k.a. Sciences Po). I will be taking four classes there: The African-American struggle for civil rights in the U.S., which will be very interesting to learn about from an outside perspective; Understanding contemporary Africa, which will be interesting for the same reasons, but possibly more so because of France’s long history and extensive relationship with many nations of Africa; The politics of culture in divided societies, I am hoping this class can teach me a thing or two about diplomacy; and European policies toward old and new minorities, I am hoping this class can teach me a thing or two about democracy amid the changing times. So there it is. Four classes at Sciences Po and two at the château.

With the weight of six classes hovering over me, I get a bit hungry and find a nice Greek restaurant. There, I order döner, which is a pita bread taco of sorts filled with slow cooked, sliced chicken, lettuce, cabbage, onion, and carrots. It was incredible, especially for only 3€50. I added tzatziki sauce, and then I was complete. A quick trip to the Swiss herbalist for some turmeric and hibiscus, then it was back to the château.

The turmeric is good for soreness when stirred in some hot hibiscus tea, which is good for circulation. The taste is not too bad at all. Just the thing I need to drink while staring out of this large window. Moments ago, our second château class ended. This one is taught by Dr. Vahlas. Here, we will learn more of the specific (and confusing) details of the the E.U.’s inner workings. I am looking forward to the class presentations that each of us has to prepare. Indeed, I am looking forward to all of my classes.

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