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O Fim duma Viagem

The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt

FRANCE | Friday, 11 September 2015 | Views [216]

On Monday, I had two things I needed to do: meet with Stephanie about the pro-seminar and go to the university to see if I could have any luck registering for Russian. I also had things I wanted to do, like get internet working again. (I had eventually gotten the SIM card inserted properly, had a few hours of internet, and then it turned off complaining I’d used up my credit and wouldn’t let me recharge.) For that, it seemed best to ask Erin for help, because if she didn’t get it working, she’d probably loan me the travel box back. So I signed up for the first slot with Stephanie, with the intention of talking to Erin about internet after the meeting was over.

A simplified version of how the pro-seminar meeting went:

Stephanie: you can have your topic be about math, but I think it would be more beneficial if you did it on your other interests. ...you do have other interests, right?

Me: Yes!

Stephanie: Great! So what were you thinking of doing?

Me: Um… I don’t know. What can I do it on?

Stephanie: Well, for example… do you like sports? You could join a sports team.

Me: (shakes head)

Stephanie: I understand. I don’t like sports either. What about art?

Me: Not really.

Stephanie: Music?

Me: Kind of…

Stephanie: You could do something with that, then. You should think about it. (And broaden your horizons…)

She didn’t say that last part, but I could tell that she was starting to think I’d exaggerated about having other interests. It’s a recurring problem with me that my hobbies tend to make me sound kind of boring. Like, take away my penchant for travel and foreign languages, and add in the ability to draw passable portraits and dance, and I would be a wonderful lady in Regency or Victorian times. This is mainly coincidental, and not the manifestation of my deep-rooted desire to live in a world where housekeeping and finding a rich husband are the most important parts of my life.

I knew that Stephanie wanted me to have a less academic topic. Probably because all of my classes were very academic, and variety is good. And, because all of my classes are academic, I wouldn’t mind a pro-seminar topic that felt more “fun.” (Though being more fun than math is a difficult goal to reach…) I just couldn’t think of anything. The discussion ended with me promising that I would, and then immediately doing my best to forget pro-seminar was a thing. (It had been a working strategy for the last five months…)

After that, I did my best to explain the problem with the internet to Erin. Together, we went to the nearest SFR store, where, after waiting a while time for someone to be available, (contrast with all the times I visited T-mobile stores in and near Chicago and had three or four people ask if I needed help) it turned out that until the card had been mailed in, I could not add money to the account. Which was definitely never mentioned to me earlier, or I would have been a lot more conservative with my internet usage.

The outcome of this was Erin loaning me a different travel box and promising that she and my landlady would sort out the details. Apparently, Erin had asked/listed as one of the conditions of her apartment being available for rent going forward was that Eunice install a working solution for students. And a box that had me listed as the user and responsible for paying was not really a working solution, nor was I supposed to have been involved in all of the set-up. So from now on, Erin said she and Eunice would work it out, and she’d keep me posted. Music to my ears. I turned over all of the parts associated with the box Eunice had purchased, and in exchange got to take home a box that would let me connect to internet. (I won that exchange.)

Next step: university. I went back to the department of languages, hoping that there would be someone there who would be able (and willing) to help me. There was someone in the office that had previously been closed, and as I started introducing myself, I could tell she was listening for me to say something particular. That passphrase turned out to be “Russian,” and she handed me a sheet of paper telling me that students wishing to register for Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese should show up at Atrium 129 on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Because of course that’s not the kind of information you’d put on a website.

As I left, clutching my piece of paper, (I quickly took a picture of it just to make sure it wasn’t snatched away by the wind or anything else like that) it occurred to me that I was on the most drawn-out scavenger hunt of my life. Either that or some kind of video game/epic fantasy quest. Think about it.

I go talk to my academic advisor with nothing but a vague goal. He gives me a post-it with a student’s name written on it. I bring this post-it to the study abroad coordinator, who is able to give me the program name and a vague warning. I go off, write a few essays, and return to the academic advisor, study abroad coordinator, and my French teacher for letters of recommendation. I receive them, give them to Brown in France, and in exchange receive my letter of acceptance. Then I go back to write another essay and fill out another form, and this time, I receive… nothing. Carthage receives more acceptance letters. I enlist a friend, and eventually I get them.

Now, I combine these forms with my own personal information, send them off, and, a few weeks later, receive confirmation from Campus France that I’m approved. I take this, the second copy of the forms, and even more information about myself and show up at the consulate. I leave with the promise of a visa. This visa gets me into France, (theoretically. In reality, all I needed was a passport and the ability to hold my tongue and not blurt out stupid things like “could you hook me up with some drug smugglers? That’s the only reason I’m here.”) and from there, I can proceed to the Brown in France office, where I get to redeem their accepting me into the program for all kinds of goods and services.

I sign bank forms. In return, they give me an Attestation of Civil Responsibility. This, along with a photo and yet another copy of my acceptance letter, gets me a lot of handouts, the promise of a student ID, and an attestation that I’m a student and course registration form.

Course registration. The relatively straightforward process that is mathy math. The sidequest that is History of Math. The even more involved sidequest that is Russian, not to mention the 3-hour placement test for the French as a Foreign language class.

Once all of that is finally dealt with, I get to actually go to classes. Four months of attending lectures and TDs and doing homework and studying, and in the end, I get a grade from this. Eventually, after a series of steps that I don’t even want to start thinking about, I’ll get them counted as classes for my Carthage transcript. So the end result of this entire quest is… a handful of courses with a grade of “TR” added to my current list of courses? I really hope this is one of the quests where the questing itself turns out to be the important part, because the end result kind of sucks.

In any case, there was another delay before I could find my next clue, so I decided to use the time and head to the Tuilleries Gardens. We’d stayed nearby the last time we were in Paris, but I hadn’t yet hung out in them. It was a nice day, so I decided to walk there. Along the Seine. And I was in no hurry, so I was able to take my time, stop to look at the books that were being sold along the quai, and just generally enjoy the feeling of being in Paris.

I know that I’m nowhere near being done with all of the forms and bureaucracy that I will need to deal with this semester. That classes are about to begin, and that I’m still adjusting to some of the finer parts of living in my own apartment. (Read: being responsible for all my meals.) That I still don’t know what my pro-seminar topic will be and that I’ve never been abroad for this long before. But I have an apartment, most of a schedule, and what seems like a good year in front of me. And when you’re surrounded by the Seine and old books, or gardens and fountains and enough crows that superstitious rhymes fail, that seems to be enough.

Tags: gardens, pro-seminar, registration, seine

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