Thursday, July 28, 2011

Random Update!

My Visa came in the mail today!!! YAY I love it!

  Among the many things requested by the embassy was an itty-bitty picture of myself to put on my visa. Well that seems to have been worthless because the embassy took their own picture of me and it was that one that they used for my visa…maybe they thought I didn’t look good in the one I brought? Who knows, but I’m happy with how it turned out and love having my visa to hold in my hands, it just makes this that much more real.

  Now my new project is getting my drivers permit! The original plan was to just put off all the driving shenanigans until after I get back but one my friends actually suggested that I get my permit before I leave and that way the mandatory nine months required before you can get a license will be up and I will be eligible for a license as soon as I am ready for one! A permit is good for two years so when I get home I will have up to a year to take a driving class and well, learn to drive!

  La petite fille on my countdown seems to be running quicker and quicker every day closer to the end…which is actually the beginning! I have a very limited amount of time here before I leave, 1 month and 3 days to be exact. I have everything that I need; all I’ve got to do is pack it all in a suitcase that will never, for the life of it, fit everything! I am however looking forward to tackling the challenge! I love packing!!! And for an entire year? Bring it on!

  I stopped in Staples today to get some school supplies since the first day of school is the first day after I get to Tournon! My host family wrote me that they have extra notebooks and binders and all those things but if there was anything I wanted in particular I should bring it. So I got my favorite kind of lead pencils, colored pens and black pens. It was hard not picking up any of the cute notebooks (especially the ones with the cute puppy dog faces!) but I honestly just do not have any extra weight to spare with notebooks! So anyway, before you get too excited about my school supplies I am going to have to tell you to sit tight because I am going to do a whole blog post about packing! Hurray!

  The beginning of my application to France talked about how I have lived in the same house with the same six people in the same town with the same group of friends for my entire 15 years of being alive (yeah I know, that’s a lot of stability!) but how now I am so eager to mix it up and experience new things (of course in prettier words!) Yet now that departure is so close I am starting to really savor my last days here in this house with those six people in this town with those friends!!! And no matter how many times I tell my self, “I’m not leaving forever! I’ll be back here in ten months!” it is to very little comfort. I just keep imagining saying good-bye to my parents at the airport…even thinking about it puts me on to the verge of tears. And I know, I really do, that I will be thinking this exact same thing next year about my host family but boy do I hate good-byes.

  Luckily I’ll be flying to New York with a good friend I met at one of the AFS orientations and have had the pleasure of seeing several times since! I am hoping being in Mindie's company will distract me and I will be able to compose myself for her presence!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Please let me into France, I have a visa!!!

  Although I am not quite sure what the purpose of a student visa is or what it’s good for even, I sure do feel official now that I have one!

  The whole visa application process started awhile ago but it's nearing to an end now as I wait for my passport to be returned in the mail within the next few weeks; complete with a visa for minor students for me to obsessively stare at, and show off to any somewhat-official-looking-person in a airport...that is what they’re meant for right?

  I owe my mom a big thank you as she took care of most; okay all, of the paperwork…not that she would have been able to hand it all over to me even if I had insisted on filling out the hundreds of forms! My role in the ordeal was pretty limited to just getting all dolled up to get my picture taken (which turned out dreadful anyway, in case you were wondering) and of course for the personal appearance at the embassy! I would like to think my lack of responsibility in the paper work has nothing to do with my parents doubting my ability of doing it but oh you know, just because it looked so tempting and fun for them to do themselves!
But mom, (since I know you’ll be the first to read this) merci beaucoup!

  After school a few days ago I went over to my dads office with my mom to get the necessary documents notarized from a lady with an important looking stamp and the next day I got all the papers needed from my host family in the mail, making me ready for an appointment at the embassy!
As AFS suggested, my appointment had been scheduled for the first week of August but with the earlier than anticipated arrival of the papers from France my appointment was moved up to Monday, July 18th.

  The Washington D.C France embassy is about 40 minutes from my house; but out of nerves and the recommendation to be there early, my mom and I left a full hour and a half early. After several attempts at finding a working parking meter and coming dangerously close to hitting a car, we made it there alive with 40 minutes to spare!

  My eyes were wide open as I walked through the gates and when the security guard was speaking French I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. 
  Something about being surrounded with French is enchanting to me so I didn’t much mind waiting for two hours. I sat in the waiting room listening to the interactions in French and I felt like I was already in France. I loved hearing all the different stories of people applying for a visa; they were all different, and since they will all take place in France, I was fascinated with each one.

  After two hours, which is rather short compared to a lady who had been there for twice that time, but pretty long compared to a lady who had gotten there and apparently forgotten to bring any kind of paper work, my mom and I enjoyed the day in Georgetown with its beautiful shopping streets, old ivy-covered houses, Potomac river, and of course satisfying assortment of yummy pastry and ice cream shops.

  And as if to celebrate the occasion even more, today I received a package - literally covered in stamps - from my host family. A cute postcard signed by both girls and host mom conveyed excitement for my approaching arrival and to my lovely surprise (especially considering I was half expecting a stack of grammar books, which would have been generous, but still… not much fun!) there was a cute shirt and a novel, which I will definitely start reading pronto! 
  I googled the label on the shirt and discovered the cute French boutique “Little Marcel” It fits perfectly and I am excited to start my collection of clothes from France!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer School: 50% complete!

  Take one look at the rules of summer school and you’d think they were made for a school of convicts.

  The first thing I heard when I walked through the doors of summer school three weeks ago was “there will be…”
• No eating in class
• No drinking in class
• No electronic devices.
• No bathroom breaks 
(which I later found out is not necessarily true if you have a nice teacher and a girl in your class is pregnant. lucky her.)

  I probably should have mentioned that this goes on for five hours, with one 15-minute break, in which you barely have time to make it down the five flights of stairs and back up to class, and if you are so lucky, it is surely not without getting yelled at, harassed, or witnessing a fight.

  Okay, maybe I’m being too general, of course there are other kids there accumulating credits to graduate early and taking classes for original credit…but I guess they’re just a tad bit harder to notice, you know, without the gaged ear lobes and pierced noses and stomachs revealing tattoos….

  Well if summer school isn’t testing my skills to fit in to an utterly-out-of-my-comfort-zone-situation before I go abroad, I don’t know what will.
  But after three weeks of group essays and watching the movie version of the curriculums books, I believe I passed said test.

  Yes, I, Laura Garvie, made friends in summer school, I probably even got about 15 new facebook friends out of the experience!
And if that doesn’t make it all worth my while I don’t know what could’ve!

  Oh, maybe stopping for donuts and iced coffee in the morning before class…yeah, that definitely makes the cut.

  Well between being bribed with maple donuts and making new friends, I suppose I did learn something from the first semester of English 11…yes, come to think of it, my knowledge about facial piercings and ways to make yourself pass out in class (a weird and surely unhealthy trick called a "brain orgasm" google it if you dare) has improved drastically.

I wonder if this will come in handy at Lycée...

Incase you were seeking any kind of actual informative information from this post: I'm taking English 11 in summer school this summer because English is one of the courses that colleges require four years of and I obviously won't be here for one year! If I were to be here I would take AP language & composition to fulfill the requirement, but unfortunately, on grade level english (basically ESOL) is the only english course offered during the summer. Luckily, a whole semester credit of english can be earned in just three weeks so I'm making the best of these six weeks! I pass the time making friendship bracelets. I should start a little business since I'll surely have a surplus after another three weeks!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Skipping Ahead to go BAC

  If the news I’m about to share with you doesn’t call for a blog post, I’m not sure what does!!

  Obviously, a big part of studying abroad with AFS is school and up until now I didn't know much about what I was in for. I knew my family and my town but the details on my academic life hadn't yet been touched, so I was excited to find out that my other mother (that’s my cute nick-name for my host mom) met with the director of my future high school to enroll me and figure out what classes I will take next year! French high schools run a little differently A LOT differently than American high school so this whole process is totally new for me and will probably make for a very confusing blog post.
  I actually have the benefit of my other mother volunteering with AFS Vivre Sans Frontière (that’s just the cute name of AFS France) and she is responsible for registering all the AFS kids coming to Tournon. She must have put in a good word for me because I am SO beyond pleased with the schedule she’s suggested for me.

To start at the beginning, Lycee consists of three years:
1. La Seconde (Sophomore year)
2. La Premiere (Junior Year)
3. Terminale (Senior year)

  Prior to her meeting with the principal I anticipated being in either Seconde or Premiere. Even though I would be a junior in MCPS next year, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was held back a year in France given my age (I’ll be 16 a few weeks into September) and the fact that my French is far from flawless. I’ve read blogs where this has happened and it wouldn’t bother me. The only difference between that and being in junior year is that starting junior year kids choose a subject (kind of like a major in college, but in high school) and your schedule consists of classes relating to that subject. 
I told you it’s confusing!
  But any who, throw all that I just told you away because I’m not going to be in la seconde OR la premiere! The director actually suggested that I be a senior!! I can’t imagine where he got that idea! Maybe it was my background in French or my AP courses…but still, skipping a grade, and in a foreign country?! 
My first reaction was kind of like what you would imagine a heart attack feeling like.
  They suggested that I be in economique et sociale (also called ES) which consists of a schedule with a focus on economics, math, and social sciences.
  My other mother was very supportive of this and reassured me a lot after explaining their discussion. She assured me that I'll still have time to enjoy France and travel around, not to mention SHOP, so after a few minutes I was able to think logically again. She explained that if I am in Terminale, I could take the Baccalaureate at the end of the year and possibly get a high school diploma, from France!

  Don’t get me wrong, I have always thought that taking part in AFS is an opportunity that is giving me so much: life lessons, a foreign language, a second family, new friends… but never did I once consider that it could get me a high school diploma!
  Of course, there’s no guarantee, I still have to PASS the Bac, but there’s no doubt about it, I am going to work my butt off starting with this French Verb Tenses workbook on my lap right now.