What will stay (bis) …

Here are the most important persons I’ve met on my American road. The ones I have the best memories with, the ones that support me no matter what and the ones that have contributed to make me grow up.  I’ve realized that although my blog is about my experience here as a French student athlete, I didn’t even talk about them. Closing my blog without alluding to them would have been … impossible.

evaEva or Chiquita (Eva castiglioni): She’s my little half Frenchie half Spanish. She’s sort of my little sister here and as every big sister, I always want to make sure that she is doing good and that everything is ok for her. I know her for only one year but one year is enough to figure out how amazing this girl is in terms of personality.

Her particularity: Great singer

brockIsla or Brock (Isla Brock): The kindest girl you can find on campus. She is German and she is my teammate. I am lucky to have that girl around me to … make me laugh, or give me occasions to laugh at her. But more important, she’s the one that, no matter what, will always be there for you. She helps me dealing with everything here.

Her particularity: she can’t say “NO”

cathCath (Catherine Gauthier): Catherine is the most important person for me here. We’ve started our American experience together and we’ll close it together. That’s the person I have the most memories with … We both have been through hard times here but we both have always been there to help and support each other. I definitely don’t want to lose track of her after my graduation. The only “problem” … she lives in Canada.

Her particularity: two cute dimples on each one of her cheeks

Coach

Coach: My coach is definitely the person here who I learnt the most from. I sort of learnt the hard way with him but with hindsight, this is the best that could have happened to me. Through him, I learnt a lot about tennis but I learnt even more about life. Being a better player is great, but being a better person is priceless. I think I am growing up a lot here and I am definitely stronger than I was two years before. He is one of the reasons why.

What will stay …

Since this is my last post, I want to take stock of my experience here. You probably want to know the result of two years and a half spent as a Frenchie in the US. Well, the answer stands in one word … memories. Although not all of them are good, they all definitely contributed to make me grow up. I still have more than a year to spend here and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Yet, I already know what I will miss the most when I’ll go back to France.

black-blackandwhite-fun-grey-memories-favim-coIt won’t be the country itself, it won’t be its food, it won’t be this university … It will be the people. My classmates, my teachers, my coaches, my teammates of course but also each and everyone of the people working on and around campus. You don’t forget that easy people you get to see everyday for four years.

Plus, although they are very different from me, I have to confess that I will miss the Americans in general … Their kindness, their extrovert dimension, their craziness sometimes. You don’t see people going to class with sport pants on back home. You don’t see students coming to the cafeteria with their sleepers on either. And you don’t see students coming to class completely relax 15 minutes after the class had begun. I will miss those Louisiana students too, stuck at their phone walking around campus with a fish on the back of their shirt,  sunglasses hanging around their neck, and flashy Nike shoes covering their feet. I will miss all of them. I may have a smile when I think about them but this smile is already a nostalgic one. Yes, we are different, Americans students act differently than French students in and outside of class but this difference is not a sick but a gift. A cultural gift.

Language barrier

Concerning the language, I have to confess that my first two years in the US were about dealing with disillusions. Indeed, having to spend everyday talking a language that is different from yours is not easy. My first days in the US as well as the rest of my experience here contributed to break the illusions that I had about learning another language. I think I sort of underestimated the “language barrier.”

language-barriers

1. First, I thought (before I even came to the US) that I could speak English thanks to my few years of English studies back home. Huge mistake! The English that you learn at school (or at least in France) is definitely not the English used by Americans. What I mean is that Americans talk in a more casual way. They don’t use the same formal expressions that French students learn at school. Plus, unfortunately, in France, you learn English through reading and writing to the detriment of talking and listening. That’s why when I first came here, I could easily write in English but couldn’t understand a word when people were talking to me. That’s why during my first semester, taking notes was very tough for me.

2. My second main disillusion related to the language concerns the length I thought I would need, to be as we like to say “bilingual.” Indeed, I first thought I will be able to fully understand English after one semester which means four months. Well … I was not. Then, I though after one year I will for sure be able to. I was still not. I finally realized, with hindsight and after two years here that no matter how long I will stay here I will never be bale to understand everybody and everything. I am fortunately and obviously getting better every day though. I think the most important is that no matter what I want to say or which word I am lacking of, I always find a way to express my ideas. Being able to understand people and make them understand you is all what matters.

So for now, I can say that I understand almost everybody and can make people understand me almost every time. How will it be after two more years here? Let’s talk about it after my graduation.

My routine …

You want to know how does the life of a French college student athlete look like? Well, here’s my every day’s routine. Have a look !

Morning

  • 5.40 a.m. Wake up
  • 6.00 a.m. till 7.00 a.m. First practice: running
  • 7 a.m. Breakfast
  • About 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. Classes
  • 1 p.m. Lunch

Afternoon

  • 2.30 p.m. till 4.30 p.m. Second practice: tennis
  • 4.30 p.m till 5.30 p.m. Gym practice (weight lift)
  • 5.30 p.m. Dinner

Evening

  • 7 p.m till 9.30 p.m. Homeworks
  • 10 p.m. Time to go to bed

 

By reading over it, I just realized how unattractive this schedule looks like. But to tell the truth, I am enjoying every day here. Yes, getting up every day at 5.40 a.m. to do conditioning is not the best way to start a day but you just need to get used to it. I have the chance to spend each day playing the sport that I love the most with the people that I love the most here (my teammates). I am also enjoying most of my classes as well as my teachers.

It is definitely tough to catch up with classes when you are practicing a lot and travelling for competition. The “language barrier” is also hard to handle and there is everyday something that reminds me that I am different, I’m French. Being French and more generally being foreign requires a bit of extra work, extra efforts to adapt yourself and deal with everything.

But let’s be honest ! It is nothing compared to the chance that I have to be here. I am meeting different people, discovering another culture, learning another language … living an experience that I’ll probably never forget. For all that,  I can say that my week schedule is definitely worth it.

Last but not least, although my week is pretty busy, I make sure I relax and take the most of my week ends with my teammates and friends. Working hard during the week and enjoying every free week end. This is the key for me.

First day in the US (last episode)

Here’s the end of my story:

Following both Sid and the residence official, I arrived at the middle of a big dirty courtyard full of workers. I could hear nothing except the sounds of all those working machines. As we walked on a little pathway impregnated with both water and dust, I realized that the dorms were located just next to me. I was passing next to different doors, which were in fact the residence’s dorms. Those rooms were opening directly onto this terrible courtyard full of workers. “Don’t tell me I will live in one of those?,” I wonder. While walking in this environment, I could feel Sid’s embarrassment through his face expression. The woman eventually stopped in front of one of the door. It was mine …

Hayward Guenard gives a tour of the renovations of Calecas Hall on the Nicholls campus.

Calecas during its renovations last year

What follows may seem unreal but is definitely what happened.  As the woman opened the door,  the first thing we all saw was a worker full of sweat, wearing dirty clothes and sleeping in what was supposed to be my bed. I will never forget the image of this man laying on my bed with his bottle of water on the floor. As soon as he saw us, he obviously became very ill-at-ease. The man stood up quickly and said something like, “sorry I didn’t know you were coming today.” Then he left and went to sleep in the room next to mine. Both the resident official and Sid gave me a look full of embarrassment, with I think a bit of pity as we were discovering my room. The entire place was very dark, the floor was full of dust and you could see on the mattress of my bed a big yellow dirty mark. The woman left and I stayed with Sid unable to talk or move. He told me he was sorry and that he hoped our coach will make me leave this place soon. Then he left and said he will come pick me up later to eat.

larme_bebeAt that moment, completely alone in my room, I could have just cried like this little girl. But I didn’t. I think I didn’t really realize and was too exhausted to start crying. I just sat down on the chair next to my desk and start thinking about the absurdity of the whole situation. I was in the middle of a nightmare. I eventually plugged my computer and sent a mail to my parents saying that I arrived in the US and that I was safe. They figured out the entire story a bit later.

So yes my travelling experience as well as my first days in the US were pretty tough. Yet, I finally changed of room few weeks later and got used to this whole new environment. The people here helped me a lot in this adapting process. My coach, my teammates, my teachers and American people in general all definitely contribute to make me eventually take the most of this experience. And to tell the truth, this first moments taught me a lot. They definitely made me stronger.

First days in the US (episode 2)

If you saw my last post, you may think that after my travelling experience, things could not get any worse. Well, actually … It got worst.

NichollsAs I said, I finally ended up at Nicholls. However, as I arrived at about 1 a.m. nobody was there to greet me. Where to sleep? I had no clue. Eventually, my assistant coach called one of the tennis player (Palash) who was already on campus and asked him if I could sleep in his apartment for one night. Luckily, Palash accepted.

I took a quick shower and slept at his place.The apartment was actually pretty nice and I could finally have a little rest. But to be honest, with all that stress, I didn’t sleep well, not to say I didn’t sleep at all. The following day contributes to increase my stress even more … Let me explain.

It was about 10 a.m. when someone knocked at my door and woke me up. “Hey I am Sid, one of your teammate. You have to come with me to find out where your official room is and move in,” he said. “Well ok,” I must have said completely lost. I followed him without really understanding what was happening. We eventually arrived at the front desk of the housing building. After giving some basic information about myself, one of the residence official told me I will be living in “Calecas Hall.” At that moment I had no clue what was Calecas Hall but with hindsight, walking next to that building or even hearing its name makes me feel nauseous. “Ghetto Hall” or “Shit Hall,” that’s how Nicholls student are referring to this building. I understood few minutes later why. How was my dorm looking? That’s what you’ll figure out in my next post (first days in the US episode 3.)

First days in the US

As my blog is slowly growing up. I’ve realized that I didn’t even talk about one essential thing … My arrival in the US. Considering my blog theme, I can’t avoid dealing with those first few days which were, I have to confess, pretty tough for me. Yet, this period is very important in that it represents the start of my adventure in America. How did a 20 years old French girl cope in the very first moments with a completely new environment? That’s what you’ll learn through this post.

avion-decollage08/10/2011, Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris.

Here I am, taking the plane for the second time of my life, heading to a country that I don’t know, in which I have never been before, and where people are talking a language that I don’t master. Alone in the back of the plane, I am wondering, ” In which adventure did I get involved in? I left my whole family and my friends to take a leap into the unknown.” The only persons that I knew from the university and who I talked a bit with through e- mails were my future coach, Meenakshi Sundaram and Mrs. Marylin, the woman in charge of the international people. Otherwise, I was going to the unknown … And to tell the truth, at first things didn’t go very well as I was plagued by bad luck.

Here are the misfortunes I had to cope with during and after my flights:

10310346-sad-face

  • My first plane from Paris to Atlanta took off 45 minutes late.
  • I landed one hour late in Atlanta after a horrible fly (no sleep at all)
  • I struggled explaining my situation in English at the customer boarder and they had to keep me to make sure my situation was “valid.”
  • Finally the customs officer gave me my I-94 paper and I run to get my luggage
  • While “running” I dropped my I-94 (I didn’t realize on the moment but it causes me lots of troubles later on)
  • It took me forever to find my two big suitcases and check them for the second time
  • Completely lost in the Atlanta’s airport, I couldn’t find my gate
  • I finally got to my second plane sweating from everywhere
  • As I landed in New Orleans’ airport, I realized that nobody was there to pick me up (Mrs. Marilyn had messed up the dates)
  • Alone at about 11 p.m. I had no clue what to do
  • I called my coach and Mrs. Marilyn but they both didn’t pick up
  • I found a small paper in my wallet with the name and number of my assistant coach
  • Luckily he answered the phone and went to pick me up …

So yes I finally got to the Nicholls State campus, exhausted … Yet, my first days on campus were not better than this travelling adventure but you’ll figure it out by yourself in my next post.