It's very easy to learn here. Even if I just started classes on October 5th (last Monday) I feel as though I have been learning non-stop since my arrival. Walking down the street is a language lesson. Waking up in the morning and sitting down to breakfast with my host family is great prononciation practice. Every conversation I overhear on the Metro and every conversation I engage in with anyone is a chance to practice my French. When I buy my lunch, I try so hard to get my accent correct, so that the server will think I'm at least passably fluent. It's a great victory when someone responds to me in French. If someone responds in English, I firmly forge ahead with French until they reluctantly give in with a sigh and return my change with a "soixante centimes et bonne journee!". An even greater victory is when someone asks me for directions on the street or at the Sorbonne. That means that I look like I belong, that I'm not sticking out like a sore thumb of an American. The best is when someone asks for directions to somewhere I know and I nonchalantely respond while secretly inside I'm jumping for joy because it means I'm adjusting!
So, yes it's very easy to learn here. Even if you don't want to, (which of course I am ravenous to do so) you're going to learn. Another great thing for learning is the churches! Because there's not really a "campus" and basically I spend my days wandering around the whole city, sometimes there's nowhere to sit down or get away from the rain. So, I've taken up churches as a hobby. They're very calming and certainly fascinating! I like the Medieval ones because I can try out my new vocabulary in them. The Baroque ones are a little too "busy" (decoration wise... not people wise!) for my liking, but they're nice all the same.
And now, onto classes. I've had two of my three university classes so far. My class at Paris II Pantheon-Assas called Institions Politiques Francaises begins this week on Thursday. Mondays are my busiest day by far. I have five hours of class and then a two hour break and then two more hours. I begin my week with Art and Archeology of Egypt's New Kingdom, a 3rd year class at the Sorbonne. [There are three years of "license" or ungergraduate study at French universities. So a 3rd year class is like a senior level class.] And then in the afternoon I go to Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: 11th-16th Centuriesm, a 2nd year class also at the Sorbonne, which meets Wednesday afternoons as well.
In Art and Archeology of Egypt, there are three "classes" with in the course. There's a TD (travaux dirigees) which is like a section in the US as there are less people in each TD than there are in the bigger course. The big course is called the CM or cours magistral. And finally there is a cours optional, which in this case for me is on the Pierre de Palerme, an important document in the history of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. In that class, we're actually beginning to learn how to read hieroglyphics, something that I with my penchant for 19th century British art never really thought I would get the opportunity to learn!!! In the CM and the TD we're focusing on the tombs of the New Kingdom, more specifically the 18th-20th dynasties. In the TD we have to do an oral expose with a partner, which I am absolutely terrified to do because it will be 15 minutes of speaking French in front of native speakers!!! But, I'm also really excited about how much of a challenge it should be. My subject is the tombs of the princes in the time of Ramses I to Ramses II. A key place for research will be the Sorbonne's library of Egyptology. How cool is that that there is a whole library for Egyptology and that I get to use it?!?!
My Mediaval class was pretty scary on the first day of the TD because we walked into the classroom (more on the classroom and the building later...) and were handed a packet of papers with drawings of churches and instructed to fill in all of the terminology. How in God's name am I supposed to know the word in French for tympanum? and altar screen? and ribbed ceiling vaulting?!? Well, I didn't know them when we started. But, by the end of the class, I had learned approxamately 250 new vocab words. The best part was that I realized that I really knew the words because I learned them by looking at pictures and hearing the corresponding words, not by looking up English words in the dictionary and translating. I've always believed, and am finding even moreso now that the best way to learn is to see something and to learn the word in French, so that your brain forms the synapse that a green leafy thing is an arbre, not that tree= arbre. It really helps when trying to form sentences, both in speech and in composition.
And now more on the classroom where most of my classes meet. It's on the 4th floor and there are no windows. Sounds terrible, right? Negative. Every single wall is covered in really strange high-relief sculptures of roman soldiers! Life-size ones too! It's very bizarre, but wonderfully awesome and entertaining. I love it. The building where I have class is not the big famous Sorbonne building on Rue Saint Jacques that faces the Place de la Sorbonne, that's where the Egyptology library is, but rather it is in the Rue Michelet Centre Pour Art et Archeology. So all the classes there are art history ones. It's really neat because there's such an artistic air to things, like the reliefs on the wall of my classroom and also the egyptian sculptures in the large staircase and the paintings in the large auditoriums.
That's most of the interesting information on classes. I love going to my university classes. My language class at APA and then the French culture one are both interesting but less exciting and new and different than the university ones, for obvious reasons. But still, I learn and learn and learn without ceasing.