by Pauline Mothu
Everyone has a story – let me tell you mine. My name is Pauline and I am an international student from Orléans, France, studying at UALR for the third year now. Things here are surely different than in France.
Imagine you are a French student who just graduated high school and is about to go to college in Orléans.
It is July and you just finished high school, but you already have to register for college and decide on your major. Make the right choice; it will determine the department you will be in, as well as the schedule you will have for the next three years!
Earning a bachelor’s degree in France takes three years instead of four, like in the U.S., because students only take classes related to their major. They do not have required classes because, if they are in college, they were supposed to have mastered topics like composition, history and geography in high school. Depending on what you decide to study, you will have between 20 and 35 hours a week. It is different from UALR, isn’t it?
Now it is September and you have chosen your major, paid the $500 tuition fees and have your schedule for the semester. You are ready to go!
All the classes are in the same building, so you cannot get lost. It is the first day of class. You go to your first class with the other students. Unlike classes at UALR, this class is composed of 40 students. This is a small classroom here; some courses have more than a hundred students. The teacher explains how the school year will be: you will have two midterms and finals in January and May. You need a grade of 10/20 to pass (50/100 in the US). But the most important thing for students is that you will have one week of vacation in October, one in February, one in April and two weeks for Christmas!
The first day of class in France is quite similar to a first day of class at UALR. Teachers take attendance; for most classes, this will be the only time attendance is taken. Most teachers do not take attendance because they assume that students are old enough and responsible enough to decide whether or not they go to class.
After taking attendance, teachers explain how the class will be. Most classes are lectures, and there is not a lot of discussion between the teacher and the students. Be prepared to take a lot of notes – they will be helpful for the finals! Also, do not use a pencil for the finals like most students do at UALR. I had a teacher in high school who warned us he could erase what was written in pencil, and then not grade the paper. Use a pen instead or a fountain pen, like most of the French students.
Teachers in France are more severe concerning grading than instructors are at UALR. Let’s be honest; it is not too difficult to get an A at UALR, whereas it can be challenging to get 10/20 in France. Getting 13/20 (65/100 in the US) is considered to be a good grade, and it is almost impossible to get more than 16/20 (80/100). Though passing a class can be challenging, that is why there are another session of finals in June for students who did not pass some classes. That way, they do not have to take it again the following semester. Finals are taken in an amphitheater and are anonymous to prevent any kind of discrimination.
Enough talking about school. What can you do during your leisure time? Most students like to go to one of the four cafeterias (called the Bistros) to have a snack or coffee, or to simply sit down and talk. Others like to walk around the lake and watch the swans. You can also play sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis and handball as well as volleyball and judo.
When they have a longer break, many students go downtown. It is very easy to go there – you can take your car – but most of the students take public transportation because it is cheaper and more convenient. To go downtown from the university, you just need to take the tramway for 30 minutes. While there, you can go shopping, see a movie, eat, have a drink or simply hang out with friends.
You are now all set up for college!
The thing that’s missing about going to college in Orléans is the feeling of belonging to a community. There are no teams, mascots or big school events, but there is a lake with swans, and you spend all your classes with the same people, which is nice.
Whether you study in the U.S. or in France, college can be fun and you can make longtime friends!
A bientôt pour de nouvelles aventures! (See you later for other adventures!)