Chez Soi

Adventures of a Year Abroad

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Strasbourg Day 1

Hey! We went to Strasbourg!

When we first got off of the train, there was like two minutes before we entered the taxi. In those two minutes, we learned one big thing about Strasbourg during the winter; It. Is. Cold.

After the taxi drive (in which the driver changed the taxi rate to the highest possible [I guess he thought we couldn’t read that sticker that says “Tarif D: tarif de la nuit, quand pas à coté de la gare.”]) we stepped out on the street of our hotel! Or so we thought… we learned later that Dad had accidentally booked an apartment. Unfortunately for mom, the fashion shop was closed. But anyways, standing outside the gate, we waited until someone came up and let us in. After slipping through the gate, we saw three doors. All of us hauled our bags to our door, 24b, and stayed in front of it for a while after realizing that there was no lobby, resulting in a longer wait for one of the owners to get the door open.

About an hour later, we went on a boat ride, which was pretty cool. You could listen to the tour guide with provided headphones too! They had ten languages, and six children counterparts. I listened to the normal English one for about twenty seconds but it was really boring, so I switched to the child’s version.  It was meant for little kids though, so it was a little weird to listen to a pirate for an hour.

Then we went to dinner with some friends. Strangely, we got there one hour early. Oops. When they came we gave some presents and ate too much. Yep. And I accidentally got paté instead of pâtes. So, I made some little mistakes. Not bad though. I’ve done worse in linguistics.

Me and my sister, Sara, both shared one apartment floor, while my parents shared another. Me and Sara found a game-show on TF2, called “Que le meilleur gagne” (That the best wins) and used it to “study French”. Well, we did learn that “zlataner” means to dominate. So, not at all time wasted.


That’s all for Day 1. Join me later when I recount the rest!


The path to school

As of Thursday, we’ve chosen a school that “gets” kiddo and we all like.

The path to this was long in coming. We had asked many friends of friends that had been to Paris for extended stays what school they chose, and why. The EABJM Jeannine Manuel kept showing up. We learned it was an elite private school, known for it’s academically strong bilingual program. Back in June, 2013, we had done a 2nd school tour (where we ran into a lovely friend, Katie Stanton, and her family — a delightful surprise for everyone!), and kiddo really liked it as compared to the small friendly school we compared it to in the 9th (the WI program) The science program was rich, with independent lab areas, and the art program made me want to register. It was clear it would be demanding, but seemed worth it.

We applied.

Aaaaaaand got rejected. Hence, this Post over on FB on a Friday afternoon…

A great friend, Susan McPherson, reached out after seeing the ambiguous news, and asked if she (or her partner Fabien) could help. Nothing like having friends from across the country help you get back up off the ground.

This gave us an idea to get an appt with EABJM; one part was to plead our case, the second was to learn why. Only after that appt with the director of admissions, Madame Bosc, did we share the (bad) news with kiddo. EABJM expects kids — even boys at kiddo’s age — to be “self-managing” and thought he had a “bad attitude”. Hubster and both I felt our chin tremble a little. His 5th grade teacher, however, said to shake it off, saying that kiddo has yet to develop the study habits he needs and is still learning.  She felt very strongly that kiddo LOVES school and loves to learn, but he gets bored easily by the public school curriculum (and hasn’t yet figured out how to manage that boredom, and direct it in positive ways).

In the end, getting rejected turns out to be a near-miss that helped us find the better path for us.

Madame Bosc directed us to another school that would “get” him better, Hattemer. And other friends and extended network who live or have lived in Paris all helped identify other schools. Gotta love the network. And the help. Although many people pointed us to Marymount and the ISP, those were programs that would keep him in an American-bubble. If we wanted that, we should probably stay home. Which would be both cheaper and easier. Eurocole was identified as a great French program with a strong bilingual program, along with Victor Hugo.

We scheduled the three visits. By the time we got to Hattemer, we knew we had found a winner.

Kiddo chose Hattemer even though it meant a tougher academic program and a haaaaaaaard path ahead — it requires learning French intensely this summer so he can have a running chance at the program. So, so proud of him and his courage.

Probably the tipping point for us parents was learning Hattemer’s philosophy at the school is to address the kids in the formal and more respectful vous vs the more informal (and slightly condescending) tu. It is a small sign of a big choice — they want to regard the kids for who they are, and what each distinctly has to bring. That’s quite (!) a novel approach for French schools.


We still have some paperwork to do, but we’re settled. Phew. Our new path to school is in the picture — crossing the Soferino footbridge, as we head towards the Tuileries, with the Louvre in the background.