Pour Quoi? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      “I don't have time to spend with just one student. There are others here who have questions.” Vue de dessus, whatever that meant. Why was I the only student to hear this over and over when I asked the teacher a simple question?

It was only my second week as an exchange student at Lycée Descartes in Tours, France, and I still had no idea what was going on in my arts plastiques class. It was an unusual environment, with unidentifiable forms of Styrofoam and mesh wiring surrounding me, and the distinct odor of paint and plastic. The room was filled with conversation in a language I thought I knew after three years of it in high school, but I didn't understand much of anything. One student seemed to realize my difficulty and tried to make me feel welcome. She greeted me each morning and sat next to me, but other than that, I was alone and overwhelmed.

As if things weren't stressful enough, the tall, black-haired professeur, who always wore bright, oddly patterned shirts and capris, glanced in my direction. Her floor-length jacket billowed behind her like a witch's cape as she turned grudgingly to come answer my question. I had tried to explain I was having trouble and wanted to be sure I understood the assignment. I was crushed by her response and felt as though she were trying to make a spectacle of me.

“Rachel doesn't understand, so she's going to come around and observe each of your projects to find ideas.” Rachel doesn't understand ... Rachel doesn't understand ... Rachel doesn't understand. Silence filled the room. I tried to hold back the tears as all eyes focused on me and the teacher, her outstretched arm and long, skinny finger pointing at me.

To my surprise, the other students did not laugh. There was, in fact, an air of disgust at the teacher's remarks. Before I knew it, there were five or six girls huddled around me, speaking softly in French. I could understand enough to realize these were words of comfort and support.

I had an important decision to make: did I stay in this challenging environment, or get on a plane and go home? The condescending behavior of this one teacher was enough to make me wonder if I had made a mistake. Was this personal or anti-American? What were the rest of the classes and teachers going to be like? I mustered up my courage and decided not to let her run me out of the country. The support of these classmates made me realize that it was just a matter of time to learn the language better and get used to the culture.

The next thing I knew, the school year was over. On the last day, all my friends in my arts plastiques class gathered to say good-bye. This time I wasn't alone in my tears. I was surrounded by friends, more tearful than I, whom I now understood completely. What impressed me most was that although I'd nearly forgotten the horror of that early experience in art class, some of my friends still remembered. Now the words I heard in French were, “At the beginning of the year you were crying because you were sad. Now you're crying because you're happy!”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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