Première Semaine

My first week as an official student side-by-side with real true blood French people!

I went to 6 different classes (err actually 5) this week from two different branches of University of Paris:  Paris 7-Diderot and Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne.

On Tuesday I went to two different Linguistics courses at Paris 7.  Why Linguistics? Well I know absolutely nothing about the subject, it fulfilled one of the distribution requirements to graduate (KCM = Knowledge, Cognition,and Moral reasoning)  as well as worked as an elective course for my French major.  Cool. So the first class was a sociolinguistics class.  While waiting as the time passed, I chatted with some of the other students outside the classroom.  Quickly, I come to find out that this class has more international students than parisiens signed up.  I was not happy.  I also leaned that the male and female stick figures outside the bathrooms are “just suggestions” that no one follows them and you can use whatever restroom is closest, or in many cases they aren’t marked and they’re for the whole world.  Well 3pm come and goes, no sign of professor and there’s another class in our classroom that didn’t leave.  Ten more minutes, nothing changed; but strangely, none of the french students are phased by this.  Personally I’m bothered, I came to learn and there’s no professor and no empty room.  Another ten minutes, then the professor shows up, sees there’s a class in our classroom, and runs off.  Another ten minutes, professor comes back and leads us to another classroom. Another ten minutes we’re finally settled.  Another ten minutes he took role.  Another ten minutes, he questions each of the students who weren’t on the role sheet (and that is ALL of the international students, talk about stressful!).  Now this class is only 2 hours long.  Halfway done and I’ve learned nothing about linguistics. The professor then spends the next hour explaining the difference between “Langue” and “Language.”  Unfortunately these two don’t translate perfectly back to English, but the first one means tongue/language  and the second means language.  Within linguistics the second one is more of an aptitude in which humans can express themselves with others and the first is a sufficient one way to give information that can be enriched with time.  It was tolerable, but I wasn’t in love with the class.  The professor was an older man who spoke very very slowly without much excitement.  I was happy when that mess of a class was over.

The next class was also a linguistics course, in the same building, and it started the same time the first one ended.  I ran across the building and got to the next room and the teacher wasn’t even there.  I also noticed that many of the students from the first class came to the second class as well.  Now the name of the second class was Langues et language and I was worried it would be the same definitions all over again.  Well about ten minutes late strolls in the same professor as the first lecture.  I had a slight desire to leave, but it would be incredibly impolite by french standards, so I suffered through the two hour lecture… Unfortunately he did not define Langue  and  Language  again, I actually would have preferred that to the 2 hour history lecture on Platon and Aristote… It was miserable, and drew on forever.  By the end, almost every student was drawing pictures in their notebooks.

On Wednesday I went to a philosophy class at Paris 1.  Now Paris 1 is a more run-down schools.  I don’t think the walls have been cleaned in about 20 years, and they sure haven’t been painted in at least 40.  There are 3 different types of elevators, and each type of elevator only goes to a certain few floors.  I got to the room early with plenty of time to spare.  Now the class I picked is in Licence 2 ; it is the only course I’m attempting that is at level two, whereas all the other classes are at level one.  In France, undergrad is called Licence  and there are three years of it.  This class specifically is called epistémologie .  I took an epistemology course entitled Theory of Knowledge in high school so I was looking forward to taking it here.  This course also would fulfill the KCM requirement and since I sure wasn’t taking linguistics I thought it’d be a great alternative.  Also, my advisor approved this class for the French major.  So I go in the class and I see it’s huge, in fact there were 70 students in it. The teacher walks in and I think she’s a student! She’s in her late 20s, wearing an adorable dress with tights and cute little ankle booties with blonde hair.  She tells us that this class is going to specialize in the field of science so it will be a philosophy of science course.  I really enjoyed the lecture.  I am worried that this class will be difficult, it has in class presentations, lots of papers to write, and in class essays (that means no spell check / dictionary for me which is very difficult in a foreign language).  I found the information incredibly interesting and pertained to my interests; however, I’m worried it may be too difficult.  The reading list includes Kant , an author that I struggled to understand in English in 12th grade because his material was so dense and theoretical.  Plus it includes about 100 pages of reading a week, which is a lot for a foreign language.  Although, if there was a subject I’d be willing to put the extra time into, it may well be this class because a heavy emphasis is on the philosophy of medicine.  Also, this lecture is 3 hours straight.  My attention span is not that long!  Luckily there is a 10 minute pause.  98% of the students left the room during the pause and went outside to smoke, when they came back I choked up it was so smelly.  The other 2% went to get coffee from the espresso machine (yes instead of soda machines they vend espresso). Oh, and I was the only international student in this class. And, while Paris 1 was kinda worn down on the inside, the skyline views of Paris from the 13th floor were amazing!

That night I tried a new food!  My host family didn’t know the name in English or French and I couldn’t understand the name in Chinese.  It was similar to lychee, but different. I actually found an article on it, and the fruit is called Longan. At first bite it tasted like sweet and fruity white wine, and as I ate more it became more addicting!  You have to stick your nail in the shell and then pick away little pieces of the shell, so you have to work to get your food!  I also tried the south-east asian style of eggplant, it was a little more spicy than american style eggplant.

Today is Thursday and I went to three different classes today (although two of them actually are part of the same course, I just had to go to it twice). So my first class was at Paris 7 and it was called Psychanalyse 1: Naissance de la psychanalyse  Now I imagine even the non-French speakers can understand this one.  Think of Renaissance… rebirth…. so the birth of psychoanalysis.  This class was in a big amphithéâtre and much like the other Paris 7 classes, the prof was 20 minutes late.  No apology or anything, they show up when they want.  This professor was a man who mumbled into a microphone on a not-so-good speaker system.  One of the first things the professor mentioned was the important years of Freud.  Now if you’re not familiar with numbers in French let me explain:  when he said a number like 1899 the literal translation would be  ten-eight hundred four-twenties ten-nine.  If someone started shouting dates like that in English to me I would get confused quickly, so in French, I had no hope.  Then he was spelling the names of some of the authors of the books we need to read and well… let’s just say my alphabet is pretty bad too.  I must have been absent when we learned the French alphabet in French 1.  Some of the letters are exactly like English, no problem there, but the others, they are such minuscule sounds that I can’t really tell apart and sort of all sound the same.  I always die inside when someone asks me to spell my name (or for my phone number) in French.  So I didn’t get those down either.  I found the material very interesting in this class.  He claimed that psychoanalysis was not born, discovered, or invented, but rather it was created. This class was only a 1.5 hour class and it started 20 minutes late and ended 20 minutes late, so not much happened.

This class has both a lecture and a discussion section.  I schedule the lecture and discussion section on the same day thinking it would be convenient.  You know, go to lecture, take an hour lunch break, go to discussion.  Sounds like a nice, easy, relaxing day right…. Until I find out the discussion is in an annex of Paris 7 all the way on the other side of Paris and I have to do multiple métro changes to get there.  Well there went my lovely lunch plans.  I ran to the métro, hopped on and ate a granola bar.  I made it to the arrondissement  with 20 minutes to spare, now all I had to do was find the building.  As soon as I get above ground I realize that this might not be the best neighborhood.  Nonetheless I’m in a hurry and gotta get where I’m going.  I ended up walking through a park full of homeless people sleeping, and on the sidewalk next to (what I think was) a Libian restaurant.   Eventually, I got to the Psychology Masters Building.  I get in my class safely and it’s a lovely discussion section.  The texts are very interesting and super comprehensible.  I even had wifi and could use my phone to translate the two words I didn’t understand in the article. I really enjoyed this part of the psychology class, I could understand a lot more than I could in the lecture.   Again, I was the only international student in this class.

But wait, my day is not over, I had an evening class at Paris 1 at 5pm.  I get back on the métro and head back to the arrondissement I started in this morning at Paris 7.  This last class is entitled: Introduction to History of Subsaharan Africa in the 19th century.  Pretty specific … but not really.  Africa is a HUGE continent, so this is actually just an introductory course.  The professor was a very kind woman.  She was super organized, the first professor to give us a syllabus, organized  reading list, etc.  I also have one American friend in this class.  It’s also the smallest class with about 20 students.  Without a doubt this is my favorite class!!  There are some African words that I don’t have in my French vocabulary, but to be honest I don’t have them in my English vocabulary either.  Anyway, I loved this class, and the homework is super minimal compared to all the others.  I am so excited for this class, I came home and started doing homework instantly and I already have time on Monday blocked off so I can go visit the African History Library and get ahead! Oh, and I’d like to mention that this class fulfills not one, not two, but THREE graduation requirements:  historical analysis distribution requirement, geographical breadth requirement, and francophone studies (major requirement).  This is the one class I am 100% set on taking.

I am also going to test out 2 EDUCO courses which start next week.  They are Paris-Cinéma and  Historical Sociology of France.  Then, I’ll have to decide 4 classes out of these 5 (I’ve already eliminated the two linguistics as well as the biochemistry course which was too physical chemistry oriented to fulfill my needs).

I also have 2 french facts to share

1. Cobblestones and high heels don’t mix

2. There isn’t a direct translation for the word awkward in French.  I guess the French are never awkward.

My schedule for next week; choose 4 of 5 classes to keep

Here’s my schedule for next week. I will have to choose my 4 favorite classes after next week and then those will be my classes for the semester!

Megan and I on our First Day of class!

Megan and I on our first day of Class!


The elevator at my apartment only has floor options of 0,2, or 3.  The ground floor here is 0. This really stinks, when you go to the 6th floor on a building, that means you climb 6 flights of stairs!! No one lives on the first floor so you can’t even stop there.  I live on the 3rd floor.

I got a Smoothie today and I found it funny that on the bottom of the label it has a pronunciation guide and tells French people to pronunce it “Smoussi”


One thought on “Première Semaine

  1. What a day! I love your posts. Thank you so much for all the fascinating details.
    Enjoy your “smoussi” and all the new experiences you are handling beautifully! You are really doing well to even find those classrooms. I think I would have gotten lost many times over.

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