I have arrived back in the magical land of AC without quite understanding how (though not quite so magical now, I’m wearing a hoodie and leggings inside and am still cold. I feel so betrayed). Two months have already passed and I’ve left Avignon, the walled city where I studied, avoided actors handing out flyers to the theater festival, and melted in the hottest heat wave on record in Europe that broke me and made me use English for the first time during the program. When they said the program was intensive, oh boy, they were not kidding. 12 hours of class a week, 5 class periods a week, 4 days a week? The good news is that a semester will be a breeze after this six-week summer school. I’ll have so much time to do homework, though I’ll suffer through final papers all the same. I‘m so grateful for the opportunity to have taken a Francophone literature class, as I learned so much and hope I’ll be able to apply that knowledge to my research and eventual thesis (fingers crossed).
My experience in Avignon ended on a positive note: after reluctantly saying goodbye to most of my newfound friends, I finally bought a watercolor from the stall I’d been eyeing for weeks, and the artist got so excited when I told her I study French. The resulting conversation was among the treasured ones that make up for all the racist incidents I’ve suffered through in France. Although there were obnoxious people who switched to English as son as they saw me (I’m going to need to have a talk with all white people who don’t believe that POC can speak the country’s language), my French certainly improved and lost its rustiness during two months. Let’s hope I don’t lose it all before I return to Ithaca and start teaching in about a month.
After I had to sit on top of my suitcase in order to zip it up, I said a bittersweet farewell to Avignon. (Too many books? What? No, I don’t have a problem, even though I saw a free copy of Lëila Slimani’s Chanson Douce and then promptly slipped it into my purse as I was leaving the university residence.) Several hours later, I said an excited hello to Saint-Denis, Paris, where I got to witness my friend L remodeling her flat—which, by the way, has an amazing view; I could (and did) spend hours gazing out the window. I needed that brief séjour in Paris to see a beloved friend and to not stress out over final papers. Saint-Denis has also ruined Paris for me, it’s so peaceful and beautiful and not teeming with too many people for my introvert self to tolerate. I also got to tag along with L on an adventure to Castorama, the French version of IKEA, because the bookstore betrayed me and was closed. (Did I need more books? No. Did I want more books? Always.) I was a little worried we would get lost in the labyrinthian Le Casto, but fear not, we made it out in one piece and I got to carry a Swiffer-style mop that would have served well as a weapon against creepy men.
Back to L’Institut d’Avignon. Would I do an intensive literature program again? Depends. What classes will I get to take, will I get to discuss feminism, how many pages of final papers will I have to write, and will I be forever sweaty? All joking aside, I’m grateful that I got to study in Avignon. Grad-level Francophone courses taught exclusively in French are like warm winter days at Cornell. You’ll almost never find one.