Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shannon - April

Hello to everyone at EC! My name is Shannon and I’m studying abroad in France this semester. I happened to look at the blog site and I saw most of the others who are studying abroad are exactly like me and haven’t written anything, so I thought I’d take up my responsibilities, even if a little late, and give a some input.

I’ve been taking classes since January at the University here, more specifically and the Fac de Lettres, a specific department in the school. And actually, I’m almost done with my classes, only one more week, except for one exam the first part of May. That means it’s a bit stressful as I have quite a few projects and essays to finish up. Figuring out my classes and dealing with the French university system has definitely been the most difficult part of the experience. I think in the first weeks I spent more time looking at the schedules and trying to go to classes than I actually spent in class. There was a hallway full of bulletin boards of classes and times, and it took me two weeks to realize that certain classes had to be paired together. The French university system in general is more unorganized, or at least from my perspective. It could be because I’m not in a degree program where I would have no choice of what classes I take. But, I went to several classes where the professor didn’t show up or there was no one in the room where the class was supposed to be, or one time there were about 4 times as many students as seats. In spite of all that I enjoy most of my classes. At first it was a challenge speaking and thinking in French all the time, but that got better with time.

One of the coolest parts of living here is all the people I’ve met from all over the world. There are so many international students, I love the mix of cultures and different experiences. In Besançon there’s a special language center for foreign students to learn French, which attracts mostly non-European students, from Asia, Africa and America. Then there are ERASMUS students who study at the university, and other Americans on the ISEP program.

In recent news, round one of the French presidential elections is coming up at the end of April, with the second round to follow in early May. France might see its first woman president, Ségolène Royal is in the top two in the polls. Three of the candidates (the 3 major ones) will have been to Besançon at the end of this week. Nicolas Sarkozy was here about a month ago and Royal and François Bayrou are speaking this week, I might be going to see one of them. It’s cool that I get to be here at a time like this, but it also leads to questions or comments about American politics, more specifically about how much the French detest our president. I admit that I don’t really follow politics so it’s rather embarrassing when a French person corrects you about your own country’s government.

There’s so much to tell about classes, traveling in Europe, living in France and doing everyday things like going to the grocery store, the post office, setting up a bank account, buying a cell phone, etc. that I’m going to let you ask the questions and then I’ll be more thorough in my replies. So, shoot and I’ll try my best to give helpful answers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Je suis si heureuse de trouver une etudiante qui suive ses etudes en France! J'y vais dans la semestre prochaine, et j'ai BEAUCOUP des questions.

My first is this: What city are you in? J'habiterai a Nantes.

Secondly, as commanded by my CPP class, I must ask you this: what two (or more) tips could you give me about selecting classes in another country?

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon. My name is Laura Brown and I found your post to be really interesting. Especially the part about government. I will be sure to get my self up to speed before I leave. I will be going to Australia for the fall. I have actually set up my classes already but apparently I am still inquisitive about the topic. So are there any classes that you are taking that you wish you hadn't or any that you wish you had. Do you think it would be interesting to study U.S. history in a different country? Thanks for taking your time to post for us ;)

1:08 AM  
Anonymous Carissa Cheney said...

Hi Shannon. Thanks for sharing so much about your experience! It makes me excited as I get closer to the time of my trip abroad. I can't believe the trouble you had to go through at the beginning with your classes. It shows just how different I can expect it to be. I was wondering what advice you would have to avoid problems like you had? And what was the hardest thing to adjust to once you were in the classroom culture?

2:56 PM  
Anonymous ashley grice said...

Hi Shannon, Thanks for sharing this awesome experience with us. Well, first let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Ashley Grice, and I am currently investing quite a bit of my time preparing for my study abroad trip to Australia. Your entry has left me with many exciting questions, but for now I must ask you how you decided on what classes to pick. I have already though out a list of classes to take in the fall, but did you include any classes in which the main focus was that of the culture and history of the the country you're visiting?? Thanks for the input!! Enjoy the rest of your trip!! ;)

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

Salut aja, j’étudie à Besançon en Franche-Comté à l’est de la France. Et maintenant je vais écrire en anglais pour que les autres puissent comprendre. D’abord, as far as picking classes in France go, there’s no way to prepare ahead of time, you just have to get here, see what it’s like and then decide. Like I said, this was the most difficult thing when I first got here. My suggestion is go to as many classes as possible even if you’re not going to end up with all of them in the end. That way, if some don’t work out, you have options. One heads up is that there are different types of classes: a CM is cours magistraux, which means it’s a big lecture class. Each CM is usually paired with a TD (travaux dirigé), which is a smaller group. There are also TP, travaux pratique, but I don’t really know what that is. You normally have to take both CM and TD, even if they’re on different days and have different professors. Sometimes though, because you’re international, this doesn’t apply. For example, I took a couple translation classes, English to French and visa versa, and they’re usually paired with English grammar and oral practice since it’s the English department. As you can see, in my case that would have been a waste of time. I’m not going to try to explain the entire system, but I think you should be able to find some resources online. One more thing is be prepared to take more classes than you would at EC, it seems like a lot at first but usually there’s not as much homework. Si tu as d’autres questions à propos de la vie en France, n’hésite pas.

To answer Carissa, depending on where you’re going, you may not find your coordinator as helpful as I think the people at EC are with international students. Just don’t be afraid to ask questions. The hardest thing once I got into the classroom was the teaching style, which is much more formal in France. I knew this going in, but it’s different once you’re in class trying to understand and write down everything. It’s not usual to ask the teacher to repeat or slow down like in the U.S. so you learn to ask your peers or get up the courage to as the professor after class to clarify.

Laura Brown, well, I actually like most of my classes, but there is one that I quite detest only because of the professor. Yes, I think it would be interesting to study U.S. history in another country, but I think that a lot of Australians are going to ask you why in the world you would want to study your own country’s history while you’re abroad. That being said, I took a history class on Europe and the world which had a bit about the American Revolution. Ashley, no I did not take any culture or history classes on France, being in the country was enough. Although, I did take a globalization course, which was kind of interesting from a French point of view.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Denis Maher said...

Shannon, it sounds like you enjoyed your experience in France. I was wondering what part of the French culture did you enjoy most and if you have any suggestions about transitioning to a different school system through your own experiences?

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


While in France was it a big adjustment from being in the States. You said that the school system was the hardest to deal with but what about culture shock and how people interact, was it a quick adjustment for you?


2:30 PM  
Anonymous Carissa Cheney said...

Hi! I appreciate learning of your experience in the classroom. It makes it all clearer that you can not possibly know what you are getting into until you are there. How and to what extent did you experience culture shock?

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello again Shannon, this is Laura Brown, I am REALLY anxious about the culture shock I might experience while in Australia next semester. Could you tell me how you are able to cope with being in a different culture for so long.

1:09 AM  

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