Even though classes started two or three weeks ago, we all are still adjusting to our schedules and classes. I personally don’t have to change classes this semester, but I remember I had to drop and add some during my first semester at UALR. I was confused and surprised to be able to do so, because students cannot do that in France. “How do class schedules work there?,” you may wonder.
It is quite simple. French students get their class schedule when they register during summer, and it cannot change. Let me tell you how it was for me so that you can have a better understanding of the French educational system.
After I graduated from high school, I registered as an English major in college. I knew my class schedule before I started classes: I had phonetics, linguistics, British literature, American literature, British civilization, American civilization, translation from French to English and from English to French, speech, French linguistics, and Spanish. I believe I had around 20 hours a week and around 2 hours of study at home everyday. Students are required to take these classes every semester.
With this kind of system, students have the same classmates for at least three years, which is nice. They cannot drop a class because it is too difficult or because they don’t like it. I was thus, very surprised (and happy), to see that I could drop a class and take another one instead when I first came to UALR.
Besides the schedule system, the classroom is also organized differently in France. We do not have individual tables like here in the U.S.; ours are rectangular and 2 students sit next to each other. The first time I came inside an American classroom, I was so surprised – it was exactly like in the movies – and I still wonder how students manage to have space with these small tables. You can put down your book, notebook and pen – that’s it! In a French classroom, you can spread out your school supplies (or at least put your arms on the table), especially when you have no one sitting next to you.
Moreover, most of the classrooms here have computers available, and I think this is good for both students and teachers. We do not have computers in the classrooms at my French university. Every lecture is based on the teacher’s notes.
The other major difference I noticed when I first came here is that American students behave differently in class than French students. Let me explain. For instance, many students drink or eat in class; some even go out to take a phone call during the lecture! They also talk without raising their hands. It is my third year at UALR, and I’m still not used to this kind of behavior in class. I had the same surprise when it came time to take an in-class test. Let me tell you a story so that you can understand what I mean by this last sentence.
During a test last semester – I can’t remember which class it was, though – the teacher left the classroom for several minutes, and no one moved in the class! All the students kept writing as if the teacher was there. It surprised me because in my French university, students would try to get answers if the teacher wasn’t in the room – but this would never happen! When it first happened, I thought it was because the students in the classroom were all serious, but this happened several times and resulted in the same behavior.
Studying at UALR allows me and other international students to discover another educational system.
A bientôt pour de nouvelles aventures! (See you later for other adventures!)