On the third day of my internship, the organization sent me to a “colloque” (seminar) on the subject of Hepatitis B and C at the Ministère des Affaires Sociales et de la Santé. The French Republic held this seminar on the french national day dedicated to the fight against hepatitis.
I received a name tag at the door with the title “Paloma Palmer, stagiaire au Comede” and felt immediately as if I had shrunken and become lost upon entering the room full of french professionals, all of whom were speaking faster than my brain could process. This problem of keeping up in fast past and familiar conversation persisted for not only the duration of the eight-hour seminar, but for the next 8 weeks. The seminar was in honor of the country’s national day dedicated to fighting hepatitis and was spoken entirely in french.
I was still adjusting to hearing french from native french speakers, so it was difficult to keep up with every topic they discussed, let alone understanding the scientific terms- which in all disclosure would have been lost on me even if it was in english! I did learn a lot more about the different types of hepatitis, their causes, and dangers, and became more accustomed to the medical terms that were used in the hospital – all while advancing my fluency! After my first few days in Paris I realized that eight years of french studies in America isn’t necessarily going to prepare me for discussions among french professionals.