I am happy to report that Switzerland has turned me into a total French beast. Last week, I gave a presentation in a Contemporary History class that was 75 minutes total (with a partner, I’ll admit). I was so incredibly nervous for this presentation, I was literally shaking before I began. As I told the other students about the absolutely thrilling topic of Swiss books in the United States, I felt more and more at ease, even answering a few questions from other students. After I finally said my last sentence of the presentation, I glanced over at the teacher with that “I’m sorry that I don’t speak French and ruined this presentation” look. I was absolutely shocked when she congratulated us for our great performance and me especially for my French! She said that I was clear, understandable, and that my French was actually very good!
Studying abroad with the intention of learning a new language is very weird. I can tell that overall, my level of language is getting so much better. At the same time, there are moments where I get so discouraged in talking to people who speak perfectly that I have the impression that I will never speak French with complete comfort and fluency. I have some amazing hall mates who have been speaking to me in French and teaching me how to use new words and phrases, which has actually helped me more than any of my other classes.
The problem is that speaking in another language is so uncomfortable that if people are willing to speak to me in English, it is really hard to force myself to change to French. Almost everyone here knows English very well, and they want to learn it and so they would rather speak in English. I have found a few amazing friends who make me feel totally comfortable in speaking (and making really stupid mistakes in) French. Still, this has been the hardest part of study abroad for me; feeling like I should be mastering French but at the same time being hesitant to force myself to converse with French and Swiss people. I am just starting to find this balance and looking back at the beginning of the semester, I am still blown away by how much better I have gotten.
I still cannot believe that I am almost done with this semester, I really think it has gone faster than any other 4 month period of my life. I will be done with classes on May 29th, and I will be leaving the same day. I feel like at the beginning of the semester, I really didn’t appreciate the fact that I was halfway across the world in a really cool city with really cool people. Now, I have been hanging around Lausanne a lot more and have been getting to know my hall mates. That being said, I will be travelling to Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland for a weekend trip with the student exchange association of UNIL. I am so excited to see this new part of Switzerland, and I will be sure to post lots of pictures of the delicious Italian food I will be eating!