The end of the semester is approaching fast, but with finals on the horizon, it is too early to focus on my return home. Instead, I’ve been spending these past few weeks appreciating one of my favorite aspects of my classes here: my fellow classmates. One of the unique aspects of studying here has been the diverse background of the students. The majority of the people in my classes are from either China or Japan. Others are from countries such as South Korea, Nigeria, Vietnam, and Sweden. I’ll spare you from an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
The first week or so, as we were adjusting to live in France, most people congregated in groups based on nationality because it was naturally easier to communicate with others who spoke your language and understood your culture. As time passed, this became less accurate. Between classes, I’d find myself sharing a few laughs with some of the girls from China as we discussed the latest pile of homework our Langue professor had assigned or explaining various traditions related to Halloween or Thanksgiving as those holidays approached.
Several presentations that we’ve had to give in various classes have been related to presenting our cultures or countries to our classmates. Many students gave presentations discussing their hometown or home region which demonstrated the differences not only among our various countries but also within them. One of the consistent threads through the majority of the presentations was the collective sigh of all the Asian students whenever someone would show pictures of their cuisine. This would be followed by murmurs of the comparative blandness of French cuisine which values a more “natural” flavor versus one with significant seasoning. On this subject, I had a lengthy discussion with a guy from Taiwan in which we both lamented the general lack of spicy food in French cuisine.
This past week, there was an event titled the ‘International Soiree’ which was a sort of talent show-esque thing with students singing songs in their native languages or performing traditional dances from their countries. My Chinese friends whom I sat with gave me some of the titles of the songs that were sung and told me of the general popularity of the songs or dances. One of the girls informed me that one of the Chinese songs was popular during her uncle’s youth and found it to be a strange song choice.
I’ve appreciated the opportunity to learn not only about French culture during my time here, but also to learn more about the cultures of my fellow classmates.