I feel like my french has really come a long way just since January, and that I can really say I'm fluent. Now when I talk to people for the first time they don't ask me if its hard to follow the classes in French, but instead complement me on my French, tell me I speak very well. I understand the lyrics of French songs, which was something that totally evaded me for a long while. Plus, most importantly, I received a copy of the movie "Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis" which is a comedy about the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and the 'patois' or the local dialect spoken here, Ch'ti. I watched it my third day here, and I understood absolutely nothing. I got maybe two jokes out of the whole movie. Well, I watched it for the first time since then the other night, and I understood perfectly. I recognized scenes and buildings in Lille, and I laughed at all the jokes. I felt like I was in on the whole thing, and that I was a part of the culture, even if only a very small part. It was a very warming feeling, but more importantly the next night I talked about it with my family, and I was able to discus it with them, recall lines, ask any questions, etc. which really completed the whole thing.
I don't have any regrets from this year. I think the whole experience has been exactly what I had dreamed it would be, and I would recommend it to anyone who has been considering it. Though I will say I think it is something you have to be motivated to do; if you're having serious regrets or are doing it for someone else, I imagine it would be extremely difficult. I have been dreaming about this since I was 10 year's old but even I had about two weeks of culture shock in the beginning where it was hard for me, and another few days during christmas break where I lost my confidence, my motivation, but that is all normal, most students go through vases throughout the first six months. Overall, I think these last nine months have definitely changed my life, and way of looking at the world. I think my opinions, my tastes, my thoughts in general have been enriched after having been exposed so thoroughly to another mode of life, and another culture. Another important aspect of this experience that I think is a lot less publicized is the chance to see your own country from a seat removed from the action. It's very interesting to see how America looks from the other side of the atlantic, and through the lens of French media. The French are at once enthralled and repulsed by the US and it's priorities. I have found however that in a few cases I have felt protective, defensive even, of the US, which I never felt before this year. I feel I have learned to look at the US from a point of view much more neutral, I see the good and bad now instead of being purely critical, which is a much more comfortable and productive place to be.
I leave the morning of June 18th, so I now have exactly a month to conclude this experience, and to make as memories as possible before I leave. I'm not terribly sad yet, because June still feels very far away, but I know it will go fast, and I don't want to feel like I let it slip through my hands. At any rate I know I will bring home a lot of wonderful things, and I'm very grateful for everything I've gained in the last nine months.
A bientot, e a la France
p.s. I just sent off the package, all's well ; ).