Over the past week, my preparations for going to Saint Laurent Du Var, France with Abbey Road Programs have greatly shifted. On Thursday I left for Vienna, Austria because prior to arriving in France to begin my stay there I am doing nearly three weeks of unrelated travel. Being in Austria staying with family friends for a week by myself has, I believe, proven to be more difficult in terms of being able to keep up with my French studying than I would have initially expected. Being out every day from 7 AM to nearly 11 PM or later, and having any relaxed time to be on my phone or laptop practicing are next to none.
With that being said, I am glad that my friend I am staying with speaks significantly more French than I do because I have been able to practice with her on multiple occasions. Often throughout the day, I have found us saying small anecdotes in French to one another, like “Bon chance” or “d’accord,” which I think is practical and helpful. Though it is not any type of intensive studying or reviewing of grammar, which I quite definitely am in need of as well, this is keeping the French language present in my mind. Additionally, I have been attending school each weekday with my friend, and she takes French as one of her main subjects. Their school year is winding down here, so the classes are not in full teaching mode, but being in that environment with her and looking through all of her worksheets and notes from her French class binder throughout the year was both interesting and beneficial for me.
Tomorrow morning I am scheduled to Skype with Fabien and am looking forward to this tremendously. I know that, more than anything else, this will help me refresh what I already know, increase that knowledge and repertoire, and help me to become more and more confident in my actual speaking skills, not to mention basic comprehension. These will all be very important for my time in Saint Laurent Du Var with my host family, my roommate, out and about in town, and in class. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to Skype Fabien, even from Vienna, Austria, weeks before the program itself even begins. This should, I hope, hugely affect what I am able to get out of my time in France. The greater my knowledge is of the language going into the program, the greater I expect my gain to be.
With that, I am trying my best to do everything I can to prepare and add to that initial knowledge so that ultimately I can be satisfied with my results and assured of my own investment of time, energy, and effort, as well as everything those around me are putting in as well. Tomorrow, my mother flies in from the states just as I did, and once she is here I will spend at least a portion of each day with her, which I know will be very good for my French because her French is superb, she is an excellent teacher, and while we are out exploring Vienna or at meals I can make sure to dedicate chunks of time to speaking in French. On Sunday we depart from Vienna and stop in Brussels, Belgium, just for one night and two days. There we will stay with very old family friends, which will be an even better opportunity for me to practice.
My whole life, every time we have seen these dear friends, they always have to speak in English to accommodate and communicate with me and my younger sister, and this will be the first time that I can partake in pieces of the conversation in French, and I am very eagerly awaiting their surprise and excitement at this, particularly since they were a big part of the reason I have become so motivated to master French. After our brief stay in beautiful Brussels, my mother and I will fly into Aix en Provence, which I am beyond thrilled for. Upon learning we were doing this, I did some looking into the city, and it truly appears to hold up to its title of one of the most stunning locations, though I guess I can decide that in person once and for all.
There, we will stay together in an Airbnb. I am enrolled at the local Alliance Francaise here in Aix en Provence for the week we will be living there together and go for a handful of hours in the mornings to a class where I can completely focus on developing more of my grammatical and conversational French. As a supplement to this, I have the option to meet with a French “tutor” one on one as many days of that week as I desire. While I am there and as the week goes on I will be paying close attention to how I think I am doing, where I am at, and what I think I am lacking / still need to work on and then judge whether or not, and if so how often, I shall meet with a one on one coach, but I am very glad to have this as another option set up for me.
Throughout these next two weeks, I know the amount of time I am able to spend on French will increase, all the way up to the point where I am in France with my mom and solely setting aside a portion of all of those days to learning the language as much as possible. Even with all of this, on top of it, I still have Fabien at my disposal, who is another fabulous resource. If for whatever reason I decide against the one on one coach in Aix en Provence, or simply want, even more, Fabien has been absolutely incredible at communicating with me and working with me to set up Skype call times. Every time I pause to think about what is upcoming with Abbey Road, I get to remember how thrilled I am.