As a foreign exchange student, I am required to take some sort of cultural/humanities class while I am at Polytechnique.  I was originally going to do Art and Politics, but that conflicted with climbing practice, so I switched to Francophonie only to find that it conflicts with salsa.  My last two options were an 8am history of the French language class (no thank you) and a theater class, which is how I found myself as the only girl in a classroom full of guys screaming “AHHHH” at the top of my lungs.

I’m not even kidding. Last week on day 1, out first voice exercise was to yell vowel sounds at the top of our lungs while projecting our voices to a specific spot on the ceiling. Even more, everyone had to take turns doing it by themselves, awkwardly looking around at the rest of the group before staring at the ceiling and hoping the teacher was satisfied with the first attempt so as to avoid having to do it twice. I was not so lucky; apparently my voice doesn’t travel in a straight line very well so I was put on the spot multiple times. The teacher’s two favorite words are “PLUS FORT!” which means “LOUDER!”

Keep in mind that we are in a regular classroom in a hallway of other classes, including a very disgruntled math professor next door. I think we have to move rooms next week because the english teacher and spanish teacher complained.

Anyways, I am required by Caltech to take a “French as a Foreign Language” course, but most of the other people in the class are Polytechniciens (meaning French students) who are just doing it for fun. So it’s just another class in French. Definitely cultural though.

I am pretty happy that I don’t have to do grammar exercises, but I’m learning a lot about pronunciation instead. For day 2, our voice warm-up involved reading an entire paragraph of French without any of the consonants. We basically sounded like monkeys: “oo ah oh ee eh oo eu oo eu.” With the ever-recurring melody of “PLUS FORT!” Also my cheeks were a bit sore the next morning. I guess I need to work out my face more?

Every class also involves an improvisation exercise, and this week we partnered up and pretended to be in an elevator. One partner had a character to act out, and the other partner had to guess what that character was and react accordingly. My partner was a dog, leaving me to do all the talking. Thanks. In one of the other groups, one guy pretended to be a girl while his partner (also a guy) flirted with him. So there’s some advantage to being the only girl in a theater class: often the guys have to act female parts. It’s quite entertaining, especially when their character is a little girl playing with her doll or an old lady yelling at the kids who trampled her plants during a game of Frisbee.

The last intriguing exercise we had to do during class this week involved falling. We stood in a circle and everyone chose two numbers between 1 and 15. The teacher called out numbers relatively quickly, and whenever your number was called you had to start falling slowly and theatrically towards one of your neighbors, who was supposed to react and catch you. The teacher encouraged us to really fall and trust our neighbors, which seemed like a terrible idea but I decided to try it anyways. My neighbor to one side was the biggest guy in the class and to the other side was the prof, so I fell towards the guy every time, but he had some sort of running joke going on with his friend across the circle and was quite distracted by the whole situation so the first time my number was called I actually fell flat on my face. So much for the whole trust thing.

More theater adventures to come next week!