Vie d'E en Toulouse travel blog

Since I mentioned it in my last entry and since, you know, it is what I'm supposed to be doing here in France, I thought I would take a minute to outline the whole "school" thing here in France.

The French school system can be baffling, frustrating and sometimes work against all of its students. At my political science university, the grading system was some how wrong and first semester grades were completely incorrect for most students. This meant that some students that thought they had past all of their classes found out, in March, that in fact they hadn't. The fifth year (seniors/master's a little confusing to know what they are) don't even have their grades back from first semester yet.

It's easy to complain about the French school system, but I don't want to do that. There are some good things about it. Those of us that don't like to have meaningless assignments to turn in everyday might approve of the French method. At my political science university my entire grade is based on my final. Given, this is because I don't take subsections of courses, but that doesn't mean much extra work either. Out at Mirail, I had one big project in my two history classes, which makes up half of my grade, and then the other half is the final. The project is taking whatever theme we are working on that day, doing research on it and then presenting it to the class. Then afterwards the teacher stands up and presents it better :) Still, it makes you go more in depth in one theme and that is always interesting.

Class for me is lectures. At IEP (political science) that's either two and a half hours or three hours of listening to the teacher talk. Luckily we get recess...I mean a pause. This ranges between five minutes and (in my three hour class) a half hour where the teacher dissepears and the students do whatever they want. It's a smoke break for most people, or a chance to get food, water or coffee. Or go to the bathroom. You are not really supposed to leave class to go to the bathroom in France, so potty breaks have to wait for the pause. That's fun on Monday mornings when I down a liter of water to keep myself awake. Out at Mirail, my classes are four hours long. With one pause that lasts maybe ten minutes. Yeah, that has been kind of rough. I'm really lucky in that the day I have a four hour class, I only have one of them. So all Monday morning or all Thursday afternoon I'm in class, but at least around that I'm done. I have friends that have two Mirail classes in one day. I don't know how they do it.

French students work habits are still something of a mystery, even after three months here in France. They seem to be working all the time, although half the time I don't know what on. We don't have reading that we need to do for class, like strictly need to, but they seem to have a lot of phantom classes that I don't know about. Between subsections and the fact that they simply take more classes than me. They all dream of going to school in America, and I wonder how they would manage. I have a friend who I met at Wash U who is French and did two years in our system...I've never asked him what the differences were.

Well, that's about as much on school as I can make even passably interesting, so I will stop there. For those of you who are worried the most recent date you can see is March 16th, rest assured, that is the most recent entry. I like dating things when they actually happened, which means right now my journal is a time warp :) I'll work on that. Take care everyone! I miss you all!

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