In France, school lunch is not just a meal, it’s an event. Every day, we are served an appetizer, bread, the main meal, more bread and dessert. Yesterday, for instance, my lunch was chicken, ratatouille, couscous and yogurt. The most interesting thing I’ve eaten was pâté and “concombre a la creme,” (a little like pudding made with cucumbers). We do not go through a cafeteria line, but kitchen staff serves lunch at our tables on china plates with stainless steel platters and forks, knives and spoons. In the cafeteria, there are long tables with chairs and benches. Water pitchers and glasses are at each place. There are so many students that every table fills up, so we have to reserve a place with friends each day before school. This took a while to get used to.
On my first day at school, I noticed that the students dressed differently than my Juneau-Douglas High School friends. Leather jackets and jeans replaced Patagonia and sweatpants. Everyone seemed to be wearing the latest Nike shoes. There weren’t a pair of Xtratufs in sight.
My class is 32 students, who have been welcoming and helpful since the beginning. I stay with the same group of kids throughout the day. Classes, taught in French, are really difficult for me, but I’m understanding more every day. Subjects like Biology and Physical Science are familiar because we are learning some of the same things I learned in Juneau. In class, we use iPads instead of textbooks. I was really impressed by that. The French kids didn’t understand why I was impressed.
My classes are all really interesting, even if I don’t understand them completely. A few times a week, I have English class — my favorite! I am the star student, and can help the teacher with certain pronunciations, or explain things like a “GPA.” In History/Geography, the professor asked me to use Google Maps to show the class where I live. They were curious to see that Juneau is surrounded by water, mountains and glaciers. My classmates want to visit me in Alaska some day, but think it will be too cold. They don’t believe me when I say it’s not cold all year. I showed them a picture of JDHS, and they said it’s a beautiful, modern school, and were fascinated by the bear in the glass case.
Well, I must get back to studying. Studying the menu for tomorrow’s lunch, that is. Shall I have the “poisson” or the “saucisse”?
• Bridget McTague is a Juneau-Douglas High School student who is spending her junior year abroad in Cholet, France, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange. Follow along with her travel adventures by reading her bimonthly column “Bridget Abroad” in the Juneau Empire.