Ah yes, the studying aspect of studying abroad. Despite all the fun I’m having, from time to time I do actually have school. In fact, amidst a sea of deadlines for projects and papers I’m choosing to spend my time reflecting on how culturally enlightening, and at times frustrating, attending a French school can be.
Part of my desire in taking business classes in France rather than in America was that I would avoid the plague of group projects. No such luck. As it is, I prefer to work alone and I find group projects hard to coordinate even in America; with the added challenge of language and cultural distinctions, group projects in France have been more frustrating in some ways. At first, I dreaded having to collaborate with people who work differently than me on something that my grades depend upon. Don’t get me wrong, I want, so badly, to interact with people from other countries, but I was envisioning doing this in a more social atmosphere, rather than bonding over how the IMF partially bailed out Greece during the financial crisis. However, like most things that I anticipate disliking, I find that something good always comes of it: for the first time in my life, I actually befriended the people I am working with in my groups (now I’ll have to stop rolling my eyes every time a professor cheerily says, “group projects are a great way to meet people!” because, I suppose, sometimes they can be.)
The friendships I’m forming with these people may not last after this semester, but at least it has given me someone to sit next to on the bus ride home and learn about her story of growing up in Monaco. It has given me people to grab drinks with after class and get the lowdown on the candidates of France’s upcoming election. It has given me someone who offered to give me a ride to another part of campus so I didn’t have to walk. One of my hopes in coming to France was to interact with people of different cultures and, as aggravating as they can be, I’m thankful that group projects have provided me with an avenue to do just that.
One difference between school in France and America is the way that students regard professors and act during class. I am shocked by the amount of chatter that goes on amongst French students during class. Sure, side conversations occur in my classes in America, but not to the extent that they do here. Furthermore, when students come to class late, they interrupt whatever is going on during class and announce to the professor their reasoning for being late. I couldn’t imagine a more opposite approach to how I respond when I’m late. Firstly, I find it incredibly rude to interrupt a professor while they’re in the middle of talking. Secondly, if I’m late, I’m trying to draw as little attention as possible to myself, so I would just quietly sneak in, sit in the back, and explain what happened to the professor after class.
In general, I find the atmosphere of classes to be more relaxed and requiring of less engagement from the student. Thus, I find myself falling into similar patterns of disrespect as the other students that I wouldn’t normally do in America, namely scroll through my Instagram feed on my phone more often.
Another difference between the French and American education system is the cost of university. When I told my French friends the tuition of TCU for one year, their jaws dropped open. They said that all four years at SKEMA (the business school in France that I’m attending) is cheaper than the cost of one year at TCU. SKEMA is one of the most expensive universities in France because it, as are all business schools in France, is a private university and apparently one of the better ones. However, my friends said that unlike in America, the notion of scholarships doesn’t really exist in France and that the government doesn’t subsidize much of university costs, at least not for private institutions.
I suppose in slight compensation for the extra thousands of dollars that I pay for school, I have access to a lot more resources. While I have been pleasantly surprised by the emails I have received advertising career fairs and resume workshops at SKEMA, nothing compares to the amount of handholding one receives for their career development in America. I realized that the French simply expect more from their students in terms of figuring out class schedules for themselves and institutions solely view their purpose as serving to educate students. For example, I have repeatedly had additional classes scheduled for different times of the week on a professor’s whim, with utter disregard to whether that conflicts with students’ pre-existing schedules. Again, I think this is reflective of the notion that professors expect students to be ready to for education at all times. Contrarily, with inclusive campuses and clubs that support every interest, from bacon appreciation to sweater knitting, American universities have a slightly different goal: to cultivate a well-rounded student.
American and French universities also differ in their method of socialization. At SKEMA, a different club hosts a party every Thursday night, in which everyone is invited but students must pay for a wristband to access, and they advertise for these parties during class breaks. I find this absolutely hilarious because this would simply never fly in America. Perhaps because drinking is already legal for most college students in France, French clubs are able to do this. In America, not only would clubs get in trouble for using university resources to publicize drinking and partying, but clubs that exist solely to organize and host parties could never be created. In America, social groups must also exist under the pretense of a more worthy cause, such as participating in community service or helping students develop their leadership potential. Regardless, I appreciate that French student organizations are open about their intentions and that they offer easily accessible avenues for international students to become acquainted with the social scene, especially when the other option for meeting French students is at school, which is very difficult to do when they all flock outside every break period to smoke (and while I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, picking up the habit of smoking just to make friends will not be one of those things.)
Understanding how intimidating it can be to make friends as an international student has motivated me to reach out to international students when I return to TCU. Coming to a new place, where I don’t speak the language, and I think that everyone is cooler than me because I don’t have the knock-off Adidas tennis shoes that literally every French person wears, can be, at times, frightening and cause me to isolate myself with fellow Americans. Now that I understand what international study is like, I want to reach out to people in this same situation at TCU who are probably experiencing similar situations.
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<p>My name is Rosemary Newsome, and I am studying abroad in Nice, France! I study finance and political science at TCU. For me, there is always something new out there to learn, make, do or play, and studying abroad in Nice offers a whole new arena in which I can do that. If you want to learn about the triumphs & trials of a bright-eyed, goofy, restless, and French cuisine-loving girl, follow me as I immerse myself in the culture of a Riviera lifestyle!</p>