Our first regular week is coming to a close here in Saumur, and all is running fairly smoothly. The stagiaires are now accustomed to their class schedule, and are getting used to the demands of balancing their homework (which is never too lengthy (says the prof)) and their time with their friends and their host families. In any case, doing homework theoretically never really takes away time from the host family if the students do as the French and do their homework in the living room, usually at the dinner table. Many of our assignments directly involve the host families--for example one of the first assignments I gave was to have students draw a stereotypical Frenchman and a stereotypical American, and after school they were to do the same activity with their families. In the linguistics class, many assignments involve asking the host families what they think about certain expressions or uses of language. We've even begun involving the families in support groups. This week, students were asked to come up with personal goals for the program, and their families are to help them come up with strategies to attain those goals. The families really enjoy helping their students, too. One of the primary reasons families want to host students is educational--they love sharing their language and their culture with impressionable young minds!
Earlier this week we were invited to the Mairie (the city hall) for an official reception from the mayor. The mayors assistant in charge of cultural affairs greeted us, then asked the stagiaires several questions about their experience here as well as their lives back in Indiana. Two of our students then gave short speeches that they prepared beforehand, thanking their host families and the city. We presented a small gift we brought for the mayor, said a few words ourselves, and took a group picture.
They all dressed up nicely for the event--what wonderful ambassadors! This weekend we have an optional excursion to Angers, a city nearby to Saumur, but otherwise it is a free weekend. Many students have activities planned with their host families. Sundays are often reserved for family get-togethers, for example, so many will attend a large dinner. Others are planning to take advantage of the summer "soldes," one of the big shopping seasons when stores put much of their merchandise on discount. This is especially useful for clothing stores that are trying to make room for new clothing lines for the upcoming season. We still have one more class day for the week, however, so I need to sign off. More stories and photos to come!