To begin this post, I would like to clarify my blogging "system" for all the English-speakers following my blog. Starting next week, I plan to write two posts at the end of each week, one in English and one in French. I am certainly not trying to leave anyone out of my posts by posting in French, but I thought it would be good practice for me and more convenient for the French-speakers following my blog. Thank you for your patience and understanding!
Now, for the real news for the week. This week was my first week of real classes. Because we only had large lecture classes this week, I only had to go to two classes. The first class, Espace Mondial, seems like it will be a fascinating course, as it is (more or less) a multidisciplinary approach to globalization. The professor is very dynamic and interesting, and I think I am really going to enjoy this course. My brain felt like it was about to explode after two hours of lecturing and furious note-taking (en français), but I think I will survive! My second class was a course about political systems and political life in the EU. Although I was particularly looking forward to this course, the professor seemed to be rather unorganized and, quite frankly, a little boring. I realize this was the very first class, so it is likely that the course will improve over the course of the semester. This week I will take the same classes along with the smaller, 15- or 20-person classes.
I have been quite amused by some of the different warning labels I have seen in France that do not exist in the United States. For example, I have noticed that there is usually an advisory of sorts on all junk food in France that reminds people of the need to exercise and to follow a balanced diet. While I think this is an excellent idea, I could not help but smile when I passed a Häagen-Dazs store and noticed a warning on their sign (formatted very much like the Surgeon General's warnings on cigarettes in the U.S.) that encouraged patrons to make sure they eat well and exercise! I appreciate the warning, but personally I am willing to take a chance every now and then for a scoop of Häagen-Dazs ice-cream. : )
Another aspect of my life in France that I have found to be quite interesting has been church in France. Although most of France is "Catholic," my French family goes to a protestant/evangelical church that is very similar to my church back home. Although the church is small, I have been quite touched by the faith of the members there. The high school and college students have welcomed me very warming, and I was excited to find out that there is a strong youth ministry there that I can get involved in. The atmosphere in France seems to be so different than in the U.S.; here, I feel like there is a much stronger feeling of being set apart because of one's faith, which I think will be a good challenge spiritually. I can't wait to see what God has planned for this year!
As a final note, I will mention a few details from the Sciences Po Welcome Program. Before the beginning of each semester, Sciences Po organizes a small program for new/exchange students to familiarize themselves with the university and with the teaching methods at Sciences Po. Although I learned a lot of useful things at during the week-long program, including how to write dissertations, give presentations, and complete other Sciences Po specific assignments in French, I must admit that I was exhausted by the end of the week! We had about 8 hours of classes each day, in addition to other activities, a couple tours, a pique-nique next to the Seine, a trip to see a play by Ionesco, and a ride on the Bateaux-Mouches. I really enjoyed the boat ride, which took us down a large portion of the Seine River through Paris, and I have posted a couple photos I took during the boat ride.
Overall, my first two weeks in France have been very busy. Classes have begun, I have almost finished the infinite number of administrative tasks I have had to complete (what fun!), and I have finally put away all my things in my room. Now is when the real work begins with classes in full swing!