Monday, December 20, 2010

A Matter of Degrees

I had a minor freak-out today when I checked Angers' weather on the city's official website. The low for today said 5 degrees, and the high said 9.

Then I remembered that the temperature is measured in Celsius over there.... d'oh.

Whew. Instead of a mind-numblingly cold 5 degrees Fahrenheit, it's well over 32 F. Praise be! I guess this means I'll need to polish up on my Systeme Internationale (Metric System) pretty soon, too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ma Maison Francaise

I was afraid it’d be premature to start a blog before today, since until very, very, VERY recently I had neither a) my visa b) a place to live, or c) confirmation from CampusFrance that I could indeed go to school in France. Now I have two out of three of those wonderful things (being halfway to my visa). Hooray!

The process to this point has been a vicious educative cycle of French bureaucracy (as Dr. M puts it “the French will be very polite, but they will not help you”). Turns out, I have been spoiled by the American system of forms, deadlines, and help-numbers. ‘What?!’ you say, ‘Have YOU ever tried to file your own taxes?’ I have not, I reply. But France, and I say this with the greatest respect for France as a contributor to Western culture, specifically in the gastronomic realm, functions under the 13th Month Filing System of Planet Zoomar.
CampusFrance is a complicated (I am being generous here) application process that I somehow managed to apply for in French and not English. It’s the student portal to applying for a visa, with a good deal of questionnaires. 
So, CampusFrance requires an application fee. On my (French) application, the fee was $140. The User Application Guide (in English) listed the fee as $70. Liana’s application, in English, also said $70. I assumed that the official web page, in French no less, would have the correct amount. So I sent a money order (no paying online here, I’m afraid) to the French consulate in DC for $140 and wait with baited breath for 2 weeks.
During this time, I tried to contact CampusFrance to discern the correct fee amount. They have neither a phone number nor an e-mail help line, despite being a branch of the French consulate. They had only a fax number for ‘emergencies.’ I used their suspicious in-site message system to ask, and the wonderful C from StudyAbroad called her contact at the consulate to check on the correct fee. Neither method of questioning was returned.
When the two weeks was up, I got a cheerful message back saying that CampusFrance had received both my forms and my money, but that the correct amount (I see you surpryy!) was $70. I was then instructed that I would have to send a NEW money order for $70, and they would then return my first of $140. Thankfully, this transaction took only about a week.
I deduced, international sleuth that I am, from this experience that some European countries, even industrialized ones, have not yet developed widely-accepted systems of making change.
In other, most wondrous news, I received my family placement Wednesday! I will be residing with a Monsieur et Madame B, in the heart of Angers. I hope the walk from school won’t be too strenuous, though I could use a little more exercise. I hope to hear back from Monsieur B soon, whom I e-mailed yesterday. I hope that he and Madame will be happy to have me, and don’t mind if I have terrible pronunciation and a mild aversion to Roquefort.
All that’s left  now is to go to Atlanta and get my visa. Hooray!