The Not-So-Easy Freshman Class...

Headshot of Sophia Barton.
Sophia Barton
March 4, 2023

Adapting to American University life was already an adjustment, so switching to university life abroad felt like a whole new world. Once classes at the IES Abroad center began, we had a two-week shopping period. During these two weeks, we could attend any classes we want to and were able to drop and add classes as we see fit. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. Before I left for Nantes, I was able to secure a list of classes that would work for both my majors with my academic advisor so I thought that I had a pretty concrete idea of what I was taking. I realized pretty quickly that I was wrong. Many of the classes that I had chosen were taught at the same time, not to mention that I was unaware of the absolute world of possibilities I had for classes to choose from. I was planning on just taking classes with IES Abroad, not quite understanding that I was just as easily able to take classes at Nantes University.

Upon learning all this new information, I decided that I wanted to challenge myself and take 18 credit hours. I usually take 18 hours every semester, so I figured there was no hurt in taking the same load that I had before. I signed up for 4 classes at the IES Abroad center, and two at the U.N (Université de Nantes). I had first chosen translation, a class taught half in English and half in French that would teach us to translate between the two. I also chose a Poli-Sci lecture that was in License 1, (freshman year) so I figured it would be doable.

I have never been so wrong. From my first day in class, I knew it would be uncharted territory. I found myself in a giant lecture hall fit for 400 people, nothing I was used to from my 4,000-person school. The class was a 3-hour lecture, with no syllabus, unless I was looking in the wrong place. While I tried my hardest to stay in the class and push through, at the end of the day I really had no idea what the class was about, despite my attempts to ask the professor questions after class about the syllabus and other expectations. I found that French students like to talk a lot during lectures, so to be honest I’m not sure what I would’ve understood even if it was in English.

Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to try the other class I was considering, Spanish, as I was too afraid to miss a Poli-Sci lecture on the chance I wanted to stay in the class. I decided that the safest option was to drop it and not risk failing it or wasting 3 hours a week on a subject matter I could not understand.

That being said, I really have no regrets about any part of the experience. I got to see what a huge lecture is like, and truly immerse myself in a French classroom, even if I had no idea what was going on. While I love pushing myself, I’m also really glad that I decided to stick with 15 credit hours. I’m already pushing myself and learning every single day through the immersion process, so it’s okay to give myself a break.

Besides my poli-sci class hiccup, I would say my classes are going well this semester. I’ve been working really hard to stay engaged and hold myself accountable despite the lack of homework given throughout the semester. It’s kind of up to you to take notes and stay engaged here because the midterm and final makeup the most of your grade! That can be scary, but it’s also helped me with my comprehension and interpretation of the subject matter, as every day I try to end the classes with a (somewhat) concrete idea of what’s going on.

I’ve gotten (almost) all my midterm grades back, and I’m feeling okay about this semester, despite not actually knowing any of my grades. I’ve taken some super interesting classes this semester, and I’ll have to dive into those in another post!

À bientôt!

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Headshot of Sophia Barton.

Sophia Barton

Hello! My name is Sophia Barton, and I'm a sophomore at the University of Portland, though I'm originally from Indiana. (Shout Midwest folks!) I'm currently majoring in Political Science and Global Affairs and French, with a Spanish minor. Can you tell that I love languages? I could not be more excited for the opportunity to immerse myself in the Nantes culture, and I'm so excited to take you all along with me. Rendez-vous à Nantes!! :)

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Portland
French Language
Political Science
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