Tuesday, 11 September 2012

"Freshers' week"

By some miracle I seem to have completed my first 'week' at Stendhal! And by some other miracle I have understood everything that has gone on - success! (well I don't really get what I'm supposed to be doing for inscription pedagogique (registration part II where I have to go tell the university exactly what exams I'm supposed to be sitting..) but neither do any of the French I was sitting with, so guess we're all in the same boat) And by some other, even bigger miracle I have made some friends, French and everything!! :D

Week 1 (actually half a week as I only started on Wednesday) has actually been quite interesting! I now understand what I'm supposed to be doing and all my courses seem to be quite interesting so all is heading in the right direction. Friday was the forum des options, otherwise known as..well I don't actually know the word in English..a forum of options? Basically it's where we had lectures and stuff running throughout the day and we picked which ones we went to, then they told us more about the option then when we do inscription pedagogique next week, we should have picked one of them. Simples! At the moment it looks like the one I'm going towards more aimed at teaching students but it should help me improve my shoddy French writing. Failing that, I want to pick German back up again, but maybe 4 languages is 1 language too far?

University in France is *so far* what I have expected. Lots of paperwork, lots of students (there seems to be a good 300 who do LEA in my year), lots of pressure but for now I'm happy I chose here over going back to the UK.
As expected however, the university culture is very, very different to that in the UK.

In the UK....
- Freshers' week and an all year first year drinking fest. Freshers' week is very much a rite of passage at universities in the UK and first year seems to normally consist of partying for the majority of the week and then turning up to the odd lecture hungover and very tired.
- Associations/sport teams. As with school, there are sport teams galore and associations for everything and anything you could possibly want an association for. Socials again tend to revolve round drinking and putting poor freshers through the worst initiation the second/third years could think of.
- Accommodation. Almost everyone lives in halls in first year and then move onto houses for second year.
- Contact time. As long as you're not doing medicine, it seems to me that there isn't much contact time as far as UK university is involved which can be great!
- Getting far away from home as possible. In the UK, most people will choose a university that is as far away as possible from where they come from. Once you leave for university in September, you'll be back for Christmas and that's about it.

In France...
- Fresher's week definitely doesn't even feature on the agenda. We have semaine d'intégration with some evening events but I'm afraid 'funky-rentrée-crepes' doesn't quite compare to UK Freshers. As for an all year drinking fest? Only 1 in 3 students will go into second year out of my current year, so there's a little more pressure to work..!
- Associations/sport teams. In terms of hockey/netball etc they don't really understand them here. So in Grenoble we'll have to settle for the best (and just about only) sport association - Ecole de Glisse - SKIING! :D Socials again don't really feature on the agenda except small soirées organised amongst the students. And as for Varsity? Inter-university sport? Haha jog on!
- Accommodation. We have the equivalent of halls - which here are called 'residences' but as far as I've heard they're not really buzzing and they're pretty old and horrible. So we also have residences étudiantes which are private and quite expensive (and very impersonal!), then we have the good old appartment, where most people share ('colocation') or live by themselves.
- Contact time. It's basically like school. For my first year I have 23h of lectures/lessons etc etc not including 'personal work'. Next year I have 25h and the following year I have 21h! Gulp!
- Staying as close to home as possible. Most of my French friends go home every weekend, with the exception of people who come to Grenoble from all over France to do a licence called 'Droit-langues' i.e. Law-languages. Grenoble is more a place to live during the week, then at weekends they go back home, their mums do their washing, cook their week's food then they come back for Monday-Friday.

I have to admit, I've painted French university as a bit of a bore but it couldn't be further from the truth. There are certainly some crazy parties* and although I do feel I might have missed out big time on UK Freshers, I think France may well make up for the deficit at some point.

* In terms of crazy parties.. the trams here stop at 1am every night and restart at 5am. So if you want to go out? You head out at about midnight then catch the early morning tram back home. You then take a shower, get ready and head out to university. Sorted!

For now though, tonight I'm going out with inteGRE, the international students' association and tomorrow night there is a big student party at one of the pubs in town. Hopefully my insurance on my car will also get sorted this week too, so by the end of the week I shall have full independence! I even have a bike here, which is older than me and every time I go to unlock it, the front wheel falls off.. safe to ride? I think not, but as long as I keep the wheel on the ground it seems fine, haha. Finally, this week draws to a close all the tiring paperwork (I hope!) in France, WAHOO!!!! On Thursday I have inscription pedagogique and yesterday I applied for CAF, meaning that I should get lots of help for paying my rent.. result! Finally, my phone contract just needs to arrive and then we're sorted for the start of the semester on Monday.

It's been a long time coming (all of 2 weeks) but I definitely feel like I'm settling down in France. I now have documents coming out of my ears proving I'm resident here and with my carte étudiante I can basically do anything. En plus, it took me all of 20 minutes to fill out the application to CAF and get it sent off - imagine the look on the secretary's face as I produced a photocopy of my EHIC card, a photocopy of proof of address and the proper certificate of me being at Stendhal all in the space of a minute.. BOOM.

That's all for now, here comes the start of term...!

Bisous xxx

Not a bad view really?!

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