Sep 07

One of the four walls of my studio is mostly taken up by a window that looks out onto a bunch of other apartments. The window is wonderful, and I love sitting on the windowsill with my laptop, or while eating breakfast. I can usually smell the baked goods from the bakery next door, and it’s heavenly. But, it’s giving me a bit of a Rear Window feeling. I can see straight into at least 3 of my neighbors’ apartments… they aren’t fans of curtains. I’m not bothered by it, but it makes me feel like a stalker just for looking out my window. I haven’t lived in an apartment building since I was 2, so this is all new!

That’s my view!

Moving in yesterday went well. My landlord is an elderly Italian man, and he’s a real sweetheart from what I can tell. Getting my suitcases up the 4 flights of narrow stairs on my own was a struggle (that’s putting it lightly) but I got through it! I got the grand tour, and he gave me the keys. “I have not spoken English since 5 or 6 years,” he told me. “My wife would kill me if I didn’t speak English with you.” I obliged and he seemed to really enjoy practicing his English. Same with me in French, if I’m not too  nervous!

The neighborhood is pretty much what you’d picture when you think of an old-timey Parisian neighborhood. There are no big supermarkets–the nearest one is a 15 minute walk. (So far! Hahaha.) Instead there’s a cheese shop, a bakery, a butcher, a fruit store, and a ton of cafes and ice cream shops. Did you know that this neighborhood has its own specialty ice cream? It’s called Berthillon.   The ice cream shop across the street from me (!) has people lining up on the street every day.

Anyway, there are lots of tourists milling around, but luckily it’s still really quiet in my apartment.

Here are some pictures for you!

My desk…

The view from my couch/bed on the far side… (I say far…)

My mini kitchen!

This week, we started our intensive French courses. They’re taught by MICEFA, but the courses are taught in the Sorbonne Nouvelle building– super convenient for me, because that’s where I’ll be going to university! We were put into 4 groups based on our level of French, determined by written and oral tests. I thought for sure I’d be put in the intermediate class, because I didn’t get straight A’s on the 3 written parts, and I fumbled a little during the oral part. They didn’t explicitly tell us which group was which, clever clever MICEFA! But when we were first split up, we all went around the room and told the class which university we were going to. Everyone was going to a university with no classes taught especially for international students. That’s how I first found out I was in the advanced group!

I’m really happy we’re taking this class. We spent the week learning really useful things that I couldn’t have gone without! For example, we practiced taking notes in French from sample lessons, went over different types of exams, covered writing formal letters, and of course, did lots of super fun grammar exercises (grammar… sigh). Today we started reading Tartuffe, the play by Moliere. It’s difficult reading as it’s 17th century French, but it’s going!

At the end of each class we usually spend 5 minutes going over French slang (specifically called “argot”). Sometimes the words are completely random, but sometimes it’s actually just a scrambled version of another word! (for example, “metro” is “trom”!)

During one lesson we were going over graphs, and all the terminology that goes with them, and our teacher told us that in France, classifying people by race or ethnicity is illegal. You can ask about nationality on a census or a survey, but that’s it. That was really interesting to me, because in the U.S., every form you fill out, whether at the doctor’s or registering for SATs, asks for your race. I hadn’t even questioned it until we talked about it in one of my classes last semester, and I had no idea it was illegal here.

4 comments so far

  1. John Sorrentino
    17:56 - 9-11-2012

    Gabrielle, what a joy to read this post! I went to Paris for a year with UMass Boston in *cough* 1986-87. I lived there again in 2000. Your kitchen looks better than any kitchen I ever had there!
    I’m curious what neighborhood you’re in? When I was in college, I was in the 7th (rue Duroc) and in 2000 I was in the 3rd (rue du Vertbois).
    My junior year abroad program offered courses at the Sorbonne, as well, in the Cours de civilisation française: we had a smatter ing of conferences in a smattering of topics given in a huge lecture hall that looked like a museum; intensive travaux pratiques for 2 hours a day, 5 days per week; advanced phonetics for 2 hours a day every other week; and a theater class taught by the UMass professors (that included weekly trips to the theater to everywhere from the Comédie française to tiny basement hole-in-the-wall performance spaces).

    Paris is my favorite place in the world.

    Currently, I’m finishing my PhD in French Lit at the Graduate Center, and I work as a professeur de français at John Jay in addition to my work as an ITF at Macaulay Central. Good luck to you, and I look forward to reading your posts and seeing your pictures!

    (p.s. the views from your apartment are exactly like the ones I had when I lived in a 4th floor walkup on Vertbois.)

  2. Gabrielle
    07:16 - 9-13-2012

    Hello John! Thanks so much for your response. I live in the 4th on Ile Saint Louis, I’m in walking distance of the 3rd! It’s a fantastic neighborhood, I don’t think I could be more centrally located 🙂 Sounds like you had an amazing experience during your time here, those classes sound intense! Haha. I’m glad you’ll be following my blog, thanks again!


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Gabrielle in Paris