I have found Nirvana in France. After trying (and failing) to visit the Sciences Po language department, playing email tag with various administration officials, taking a written language test, and patiently awiting the results of said test, I managed to get myself registered for a French language class, level moyen/fort. After just one two-hour session of French grammar, pronunciation, and the finer points of accent placement, I am utterly convinced that Tuesday afternoons will become one of my favorite times of the week.
The first thing you should know is that the class is incredibly diverse. We're a regular United Nations, actually: Americans, Italians, Chinese, Germans, Brazilians, Swedish, all here for the simple reason of not wanting to sound like complete idiots next to our French colleagues. In fact, the professor alluded to that desire by casually mentioning that her goal is to help us avoid the wrath of critical teachers and impatient French students. I wasn't sure if I should have been scared or relieved by this classroom objective, but I'm going to take it as a positive step in the right direction towards language fluency.
French class is quite possibly the only place in France where I don't feel like an outsider. We all have accents and willingly make fools of ourselves on a regular basis. We are all away from home and trying everyday to fit into a society that is known for its exclusiveness. We all wish we could speak better French. We all make mistakes. Knowing that no one can judge our language abilites lest theirs be judged in return makes us more eager to participiate in the discussions. Besides, it's so much easier to speak up in class when the topic is "what I did last weekend," and not "what I think about the legacy of the Maastricht Treaty."