Friday, January 31, 2014

Update: January

January 31, 2014.

Hey folks! Have you missed me? I hope you're in for a long post, because I've got quite a bit to tell you about the last month of my life. ("But Elisabeth, this is a study abroad blog ... and you're not abroad anymore!" I know. I know. Just keep reading.) They say that time flies ... and it's true. I cannot believe that just over a month ago, I was walking through the streets of Montpellier on my last day in France, carrying cheese and pastries in the pockets of my raincoat (everything becomes a shopping bag if you're desperate enough). Although my last days and weeks in Montpellier feel as vivid as ever, Winter Break is nothing a happy blur spent catching up with family, friends, and fast food. I talked about France and even began my study abroad scrapbook, but it hasn't been until coming back to college that the change has felt permanent.

Now that I'm back at school, it sort of feels like my semester abroad never even happened -- as if it were all some particularly long and complicated dream. (Imagine, a dream that requires a visa! Only in France...)

Lest you get the wrong idea, I'm very happily settling back into life at the College. The first two weeks were tough: moving back into a dorm room, figuring out my final class schedule, and -- like any student freshly-returned from time abroad -- finding a quick response to "HEY! HOW WAS FRANCE?" ("Great" feels like such a cop-out and anything more enthusiastic -- "it was life-changing" -- is too obnoxious.) But the "newness" of my return is starting to wear off. Now, most people ask me about my classes or my weekend, not my four months abroad. Stories of my experiences -- about the friends I met, the places I visited, the hilarious cultural differences I noticed -- slip into conversation, but they're not the main focus of discussion. That's okay, of course, but it only underlines the feeling that my semester abroad never even happened. I've found that I'm most comfortable talking to others who've been through the same thing, who have undergone the same "reverse culture shock" that inevitably sets in upon return to Williamsburg. But don't get me wrong; I'm glad to be back. I'm actually very excited for this semester! It's going to be busy, but that's okay. "Busy" is usually where I am the happiest.

First ... some logistics. I'm living in Landrum Hall this semester with Hillary, one of my KD sisters. It's nothing special, but I really like my room! I've put up lots of little decorations and now it feels just like home.

I'm taking five classes and although they couldn't be more different from the schedule I originally had planned, I'm actually really excited about them! As if to prove the interdisciplinary nature of my major, my courses are very diverse: I'm taking classes in the French, German, History, and even English departments! Hilariously, my final class of the semester is one of my last requirements for the European Studies major. And, actually, it's the very first requirement on the listEURS 201: Introduction to European Studies. That's right. Introduction to European Studies. My professor actually began the semester by telling us that the course didn't require "any background knowledge of Europe or European history." But although I spent the first week kicking myself for not taking this class sooner, it really isn't that bad. And, besides, it makes for a funny story! Here's what the rest of my schedule looks like:

You might notice that it's a little ... unbalanced ... and you'd be correct: I have four classes on Tuesday/Thursday and just one on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. It's definitely not a typical college schedule and like nothing I've ever done at William & Mary. On the first day, I was a little nervous about making it through three classes in a row, but I'm actually pretty happy with the way it turned out. Having most of my classes in one day is forcing me to stay ahead of my schoolwork -- there's no time for last-minute studying or reading! I also love the feeling of relaxation every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon: after I finish my classes, I always allow myself a nice break before tackling any homework.

ENGL 422: Shakespearean Tragedies is my first class on Tuesday/Thursdays. Why I decided that my first-ever college-level English class should be a 400-level seminar on Shakespeare, I'll never know. But I'm pretty happy with the decision! The professor is great and because of the class's unfortunately early start time, we have a very tiny group of students. But to find out how I really feel about it, you'll have to ask me again in a few weeks, after we get our first papers back! My second Tuesday/Thursday class is HIST 387: Tudor England. I got into this class on a whim: a space opened up on Banner and I seized it. It's the highest level history class I've taken at the College and my fellow students know an intimidating amount about the subject material. (Our professor joked that every year, he gets dozens of emails from students, begging to be in his class because they've been reading historical fiction novels about the Tudors since middle school!) My sole MWF class is GERM 202: Intermediate German. I was particularly nervous going into this class; because of my semester abroad, I missed taking German 201 (the first "intermediate" level class) and skipped right ahead into 202. The class IS difficult and is already challenging me more than any German class I've taken before, but I'm working hard to catch up with the rest of the class. (PS. Isn't it kind of hilarious to think that in the first three weeks of the semester, I've already been to twice as many German classes as I went to during my entire four months in Montpellier?!)

I'm only taking one French class this semester -- FREN 332: le Roi-Soleil a Versailles -- and after a full day of notes and classroom discussion in English, it definitely feels comfortable to settle into a French class. The class, which focuses on the reign of Louis XIV (the "Sun King") and the literature of the period, is extremely interesting. But it also makes me a feel a little homesick ... after we spent part of last class exploring the official Versailles website as a group, I spent about half an hour looking through my own personal photos of our trip to Versailles! The flashback turned into a sentimental Instagram post (Happy #ThrowbackThursday, everybody) and a series of not-so-apologetic tweets.

All in all, I'm taking fifteen credits this semester, all of which count towards either my French or European Studies major. In fact, with the classes I'm taking this semester, I'll be done with the European Studies major by May! Then I need a couple more French classes (including my senior seminar), and I'll be ready to go! It's exciting, but the whole thing has me feeling pretty conflicted. On one hand, I'm excited to be making progress and am glad that I'll be finishing my degree with plenty of time to spare. But on the other hand, the fact that I'm practically done is making me think more and more seriously about graduating early or pursuing an another alternative.

The question of finishing up school a semester or year in advance is something that I've been grappling with since freshman year, when I first realized how far ahead my AP credits put me. Had I studied abroad during the summer instead of last fall, I could be finishing up my double major as part of the Class of 2014 ... and even with a semester abroad, I could easily finish my degree by next December. Of course, I don't know if it's worth it to graduate early, or if it's even something that I want to do. But I've met a lot of people in the last year who are pursuing different roads to get to their degrees: working jobs for college credit, studying abroad in multiple countries, even taking semesters off to work high-powered internships. I've always envisioned myself taking the traditional four-year route, but have suddenly found myself weighing other options.

For the moment, however, I'm happy to be at William & Mary. Despite the initial awkwardness as we caught up on the last eight months of each other's lives, I've truly loved reuniting with my friends and sorority sisters -- and FINALLY meeting my "little" in person! (She's wonderful. Of course.)

Less exciting? The realities of the W&M workload -- where a couple hundred pages of reading per day is par for the course -- and of dining hall food. BUT it's all turning out okay: the workload is manageable AND I've switched to a smaller meal plan. (Having friends with cars makes grocery shopping all the easier! And there's no better study break than a trip to Trader Joe's.) And as if things weren't going well enough, we've even had a few snow days thrown into the mix!

Because spending a semester away made me realize how much W&M means to me, I've taken on a lot more responsibilities this semester that will hopefully allow me to give back. In December, I applied for and was accepted to an internship at the Undergraduate Admissions Office, as a spring programming intern in charge of the Day for Admitted Students Activities Fair. (I'll tell you more about it as it comes along ... for now, I'm mostly just brainstorming and blogging!) I was also just elected to the Undergraduate Honor Council, which, despite being a relatively last-minute decision on my part, is a pretty huge deal. William & Mary is home to the country's oldest honor code and it's something that truly permeates life on campus. Being a member of the Honor Council is time-consuming and can be difficult, but it's a serious and important responsibility and I'm really excited for what the opportunity holds. In addition to being a member of Council, I'm also serving as the co-chair of the Faculty Liaison Committee -- should be fun!

But if it is possible, there are even more exciting things ahead of me: namely, my return to France. After dreaming about this scholarship since Day 1 (literally ... I've been talking about it since freshman year), I was recently named the 2013 Recipient of the McCormack-Reboussin Scholarship. Combined with my Upperclassman Monroe Project grant, this scholarship, which provides $12,000 for research and tuition, will allow me to return to France this summer and conduct research for what will hopefully become my senior year Honors Thesis. My project will study the aftermath of World War II in France, focusing on the Resistance Myth perpetuated by the French government, through the lens of national monumental architecture. Chances are you skipped over that sentence (and I don't blame you), but just leave a comment if you'd like to know more about the project. The next few months will require a lot of work and planning, but I'm insanely excited for the opportunity I have ahead of me. (And knowing that I'm heading back before too long made leaving France a lot less difficult!)

I won't be blogging too frequently this semester: honestly, I don't think I'll have the time. But I will try to update this blog on a monthly basis ... until the summer, when "Montpellier et Moi" will return in full force to document my French adventures! When I get a chance, I will try to write more about my experiences abroad: what I realized about France, what I learned about myself. I don't want to forget a single detail! But in the meantime, it's time to focus on the present, on the semester at hand. Vive la rentrée!


  1. Quel plaisir de te retrouver. Tu es une jeune fille tres speciale ma petite fille et comme je suis fiere d'etre ta grand'mere.

  2. So happy to hear all the latest! Enjoy the journey!
    Love, Mommy

  3. We so enjoyed your blog. Best of luck to you princess. Work, study, dream and travel knowing you are admired and love. Preshy and Boompa

  4. Bien sur j'ai lu ton Blog...Lu et relu...Je suis si fiere d'etre la grand'mere de cette jeune fille accomplie. J'ai 2 fois de suite essaye de laisser un commentaire qui n'apparait jamais. Un autre essai aujourd'hui. :-)