Friday, June 22, 2012

Week One of Classes + A Really Cool Castle

To start off classes, we had a large orientation at the school where they explained the program to us and we took a placement exam to determine classes. I placed into a relatively low level class, but somewhere more advanced than the beginning level. This was to be expected, as I haven't done much work with my French since high school. There are two separate classes that make up the work for the courses. A morning class is basically a grammar and vocabulary class, and a shorter afternoon workshop that is an oral conversation class. The other students in my classes are all very nice, from all different parts of the world, we have people from Colombia, Mexico, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, and the Americans. It's so interesting to have such a diverse group of people all here together learning French. I've realized most of the other students can also speak impressive English in addition to their native language, but we only speak in French in the classroom and during breaks. It's interesting to realize that most of the world learns at three languages, with English being taught at almost the same age as maternal languages.
The work in our classes isn't too strenuous, thankfully, but we do generally have some homework. Also, we had a test on Friday over all of the work for the week, so that was nice and fun. I'm still not sure how grading really works here, because most of the work we do isn't collected and graded. Also, the students in each class change every week, with new students coming to Vichy and some students leaving. All of the students are here for varying lengths of time, anywhere from a year to one or two weeks, so the general make-up of the class changes pretty constantly.
For our first week, we had class every day until 3:30 except for Wednesday, which is finished at noon. On Wednesday, some of the other OU students and myself decided to take advantage of one of the many cultural learning opportunities CAVILAM offers to go visit a Château in the nearby village of Billy. The town of Billy is an adorable little village with red-roofed houses and the château right in the middle. One of the first things I noticed abou the château was that it was absolutely nothing like the castles I'd visited in Northern France last time I was here. The chateaus (like the Château de Chenonceau) I had visited last time were much newer and more elaborate. The Château de Billy was built as a fortress, and its design is nothing like my mental images of castles with rooms and grand staircases.

The Château was one big grassy area with a large wall surrounding it. There were rooms in and on top of the wall, but it wasn't built to be used as a habitation. Our group had a tour guide who showed us the rooms and the top of the wall and explained the use of the fort in its time. Of course, the tour was in French, so I didn't understand 100% of it. Thankfully, my own obsession with TV shows like Merlin, history in Arthurian literature classes, and friendship with Madeline has given me a pretty good working knowledge of castles. In addition to being able to understand most of the descriptions, I also was able to immediately recognized the slits in the walls for their use by archers in the defense of the castle, and knew the use of an area they had used to store grain. Over all, it was a really cool experience.

And now for some pictures:
The front of the Château de Billy

Looking down from the top of the back wall towards the middle and front wall of the château. You can also see the fallen part of the wall and the stones that remain as remnants from when the fort was overtaken.

Tiffany, Ashley, and me.

Model of the design of the fort in its hey-day.

Look at me...I'm in a castle!

Of course, I wouldn't be a proper Anthropology major if I hadn't done some major geeking out when I discovered they had some remnants of archaeological finds in the gift shop.
Stay tuned for the next addition of my awesome I'm-in-France-doing-super-cool-stuff-and-it's-so-crazy blog, in which I shall *spoiler alert* talk about the time I went to Paris and did a lot of stuff and saw a lot of things. Until then!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you were able to understand the castle pretty well :P these older ones are my favorite, much better than the newer palace-type castles. In German there's 2 different terms to distinguish between the two - Burg for a legitimate medieval castle and Schloss for a palace-y one.