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Monday, 23 September 2013

First week of courses

So this is what I am really here for when it gets down to it. I have noticed that the system here is very different to the British one. A passport photo, way too many documents and confirmation emails seem to be required for EVERY course. This is a little bit excessive, time wise and money wise.

In terms of the actual courses, my initial freak-out moment was when I realised that each class lasts 2 hours here. Some people have it even worse though, with 3 hour classes. Fortunately I do not have it that bad, but still, 2 hours is way too long to sit in a classroom. Especially in French. I concentrate for the first hour, with great effort, then slowly find my mind dissolving and take refuge in my interior world of thought and imagination, or else the distracting campus wifi network on my android... Aside from Phonétique et Phonologie, which was very well organised and actually had a power point presentation, most courses here just consist of some lecturer rambling on about something in parrot-fashion, something which they so clearly rehearsed a hundred times before. I just get the feeling that there is little spontaneity in some of these classes. In particular, my first course caused me a sleepless night. Cinèma was a very long repetitive ramble about disconnected moments in the history of cinema, with a 20 minute "interval" in which we watched one of the most pretentious art house movies I have ever seen, "l'amour existe". After this 2 hour lecture on a Monday afternoon, I was seriously reconsidering my decision to do Erasmus in France, I am not going to lie.

Fortunately my experiences were better later in the week. Tuesday morning Grammaire Française also came with a long ramble, but at least it was a nice friendly ramble and I got the sense that the teacher did want to help us. Tuesday afternoon I had the already mentioned Phonétique et Phonologie. It would seem that linguistics courses are just universally well-organized. The lecturer also asked us to fill in a little piece of paper with the languages we speak and a few questions we would like answered. That was quite a nice personal touch. Wednesday morning I didn't have a class, but from this week onwards I will be doing Italien thème, a translation course from French-Italian which seems like quite a challenge. On Wednesday afternoon I had littérature d'idées. I was quite intimidated by the French at first, and the class interaction, but all in all the course seems very interesting, and the teacher is very enthusiastic about what he is teaching. There are three main works that we will be looking at this semester, though we were told we could choose to just read two and base our coursework on one. I am going to be looking at André Gide's Corydon (1920) and Christine de Pisan's Le Chemin de longe estude (1403). I am not sure which one I will be concentrating on yet. Each week we also have to read short extracts of literature which may or may not be considered littérature d'idées. This week I read a page from Descartes' Discours de Méthode (1637) and a Science fiction work, Second Foundation (1953) by Isaac Asimov. The lecturer is pretty cool with us reading translations or the Modern French alternatives to Medieval texts. I sent him a nerve-filled email after the lecture after seeing the fast-paced class participation, and he sent me an essay-like response within minutes which cleared away all my anxiety.

Thursday Morning I had pratique de la langue française. It seems like a good course for picking up vocabulary and I had the same teacher who I had had for Grammaire française. I signed up with a group to do the first oral presentation, which will take place on the 3rd October. We chose to talk about the role of women in society, and have to come up with a structured and interesting talk and a powerpoint presentation this week. At least it will be out of the way! In the afternoon I sat for 30 minutes outside what was supposedly littératures francophones, before finally realising that the lecturer was not coming. Of course when I went to the international office the secretary already knew this information. Why couldn't she send us an email or put a notice on the door? I guess I will find out what that course is like this week.

Friday I had a very good translation course, but found out I have to change to that Wednesday class I already mentioned as the Friday course was a general traduction course, whereas I am supposedly going to do thème which is translation from French-Italian. This course should be quite hardcore, but it seems interesting. The prof already sent me the work that needs doing for Wednesday morning-a translation of a text by Camus. On Friday afternoon I attended a meeting about les randonnées, the sport qualificant course which I will be doing every Friday in October. We will be walking in some amazing looking places, mainly in Belledonne and Chartreuse. Most of the walks will mean I will be busy between 13h-18.30h every Friday, though the last and longest walk will take up a full day, from 9h-18h!

From this week I will also have pretty intense Wednesdays, as I will also have Chinese every Wednesday evening. At least I will have a four-day weekend. That will provide time for some sight seeing, keeping up with homework and the voluntary work which will I be committing to from November 1st onwards at Phares.

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