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:

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  • 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.

First practice in the US

As my previous post suggests, all my “first” experiences here as a French student were sort of funny. First class, first meal at the cafeteria, first contact with American students, teachers, coaches etc. My first tennis practice definitely belongs to those funny and unexpected moments that make you realize how long the way is before getting used to a new country and its language.

First practice:

Indeed, before I came to the US, I knew I will struggle with the language although I studied English back home, but I didn’t think it would be that bad.

untitledI notably remembered my first tennis practice. Before I even start playing with my teammates, Coach came to us and said a few words to each of us about our game. When it came to me, he said something like, “I love your strokes on your video (recruiting video).” I had no clue what “strokes” meant. So I just timidly smiled as I always did and still do when I don’t understand and don’t dare to ask the person to repeat. Then coach asked us to warm up and play in the little court squares. After about 5 minutes playing, he looked at me and said, “ok, let’s go and play from the baseline now.” Here again I had no clue what the “baseline” was.

I also had to cope with a completely new vocabulary that I didn’t study before (although I should have):

  • forehand
  • backhand
  • drop shot
  • overhead
  • cross court
  • top spin
  • flat serve …

Coach and meNow with hindsight I feel so ashamed when I think about this but this first practice and my first semester tennis practices in general were about guessing. Coach was explaining one exercise and the only way for me to understand it was to look quickly what the other girls were doing and try to guess what the exercise consisted of. It was both challenging and stressful.

After 2 years, I can fortunately understand him as well as most Americans and trust me, it makes my whole experience here way easier.

Last but not least, I think that no matter for how long you study English in France, it won’t make you understand an American because French schools focus way too much on writing and reading to the detriment of listening and talking. Plus, the English you learn in French schools has nothing to do with the English Americans use. Ask a French person to talk with you … It may hurt your ears. In a more general way, I believe the only way to learn another language is to travel and talk with real native speakers. This is both more efficient and more rewarding.

First class in the US

My first day as a “French American” student was a pretty interesting one. “Interesting” is the least that can be said about my first class here. Let me explain to you.

The classroom:

american classroom As I entered in the class, the first thing I saw was those rows of supertiny chairs. Am I gonna fit in those? That’s what I first wondered. Indeed back home we don’t have individual tables like these but big ones for two students. The chairs are bigger too. Anyway, I finally chose one at the back. I sat down and it was actually not too bad. But let’s move on to the most interesting part … the actual class.

Start of the class:

The class was a Mass Communication one, which means one related to my major here. As any first class, I expected the teacher to introduce herself, talk about the material, the grades scale, the class requirements, her expectations etc. Yet, it was completely different to what I thought it would be. Indeed, the teacher started putting pictures of her and her family on the computer screen. She introduced us to her husband as well as her children saying a few words about each of them. She mentionned her religion as well. I couldn’t believe it. In France, none of the professors talk about their family the first day of class. They introduce themselves quickly and then deal with the class material. Mentionning your religion is something you don’t do either back home. In fact, you don’t talk about religion at all in French public schools. Nobody is supposed to know if you are Catholic, muslim, Jewish …That’s why I was quite surprise. However, what came next was the icing on the cake for me in terms of surprise …

One right answer, one candy:

chocolateAfter this unexpected introduction, the teacher talked a bit about the class material etc. She read over the syllabus and explained the basics requirements of the class. This part was actually what I had expected. But then, she decided to start the material by a “little game” as she said. She was putting music video clips on the screen and the game consisted in guessing from which year the video clip was. The purpose of the whole exercise was to study the evolution of video clips. It was quite funny but it got even funnier when the teacher opened her bag and took out a big pack of candies: mars, twix, kitkat and any kinds of chocolate bars. Every time someone got a right answer, she was throwing a candy as a reward. I remembered catching a pack of m&m’s after I got one right. The whole situation was so unreal for me. When I think about it now, I am sure I looked like an alien that day among the other american students. Yet, with hindsight, this experience was definitely one of the funniest I had in the US, or at least in the US classrooms.