The best way I’ve found to describe the actual work side of things so far, is probably that it’s not so much ‘UNAAAAY’ as ‘university.’ – emphasis on the full stop. Hopefully this gives a sufficiently clear impression to most people.
The timetable was initially hard to navigate because there is SO MUCH TO DO (and I genuinely didn’t believe there were that many hours in a day). However, it also isn’t helped by the French system which sees libraries close at evenings and weekends, i.e. my prime time working hours in Durham. I am sure that there is some kind of logic to this other than not wanting to pay for the staff to keep the libraries open, but I’m still searching for it.
It’s a bit of a dreary topic to be honest, but I’m hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel will be the fact that I have the work ethic like nobody has ever witnessed before when it comes to writing my dissertation (not too much to ask for?). I also didn’t realise how difficult it was to listen before I started my lectures in France and by that I mean really listen. I’m hearing things in French, translating them in my head and then re-writing them in French again for up to eight hours a day and if you lose your concentration it isn’t a case of just tuning back in and picking up where you left off… It’s more like a panicked re-wiring or your brain and about ten minutes of wondering whaaaaaat is going on in front of you.
The French grading system is also very mysterious. It is out of twenty with ten being a pass, but the emphasis seems to be all on structure with a brief nod to content. I’ve never seen a method of writing an essay that’s so rigid in all my life, and I think with law it’s especially technical. The French are all about the balance. Two parts, each with two subparts, all of which is equal in length to the other. No exceptions, svp et merci. The U.K. and Ireland approach is mocked by other Europeans almost as much as the U.K.’s claim that it has a constitution. Good old law banter.
Another positive (because we’ve always got to look for those) is that I’m getting a lot of contact hours in French. Probably considerably more than if I was doing some kind of placement! Downside – still lacking all those amis français. It’s starting to become laughable when my friends from home ask me about my French friends and I’m like ‘ehhhhh they don’t exist, but I can offer you German or Hungarian or Slovakian?!’. Basically it’s a cycle of ups and downs. But even when I am STRESSED beyond the point of stressed because I’m giving a twenty minute presentation on the competencies of the EU in French (true story), I can never quite bring myself to dislike the place. The lifestyle is too good, seasons actually exist and it’s so easy to appreciate the small things. I just wish I had more time to do it… Although this week I’m cruising along with a sweet 16 hour timetable, rather than the usual 27.
On that note though, I went to the funfair last weekend. The Foire St Romain is a massive deal in Rouen and it’s essentially a funfair that stretches right along one of the banks of the Seine right in the middle of the city. It looks amazing at night and the food. Please. The food. Everything smelt incredible. Rides cost between 3 and 5 euros and it was just a general step up from dodgy British attempts to do the same thing. The Vacances de Toussaint is also rapidly approaching so I’m looking forward to my first trip outside France in over two months. It’s a bizarre thought because half the time I don’t actually feel like I’m in a foreign country, but I’m sure the year abroad factor will only sink in more when I leave.
Important cultural observations that I missed out last time but are vital for everyone;
- My Fac don’t have loo seats. Like, none. And it’s on purpose. Never getting used to that one.
- Remember when skateboards were a thing? I don’t have to because they are 100% still a thing here
- I HATE COMMUNAL LIVING. My charming neighbour woke me up at 5am this week as he blasted rock metal through our verrrrry thin walls at 5am. I also nearly combusted when I waited an hour for someone to collect their clothes from the washing machine so that I could use it. Many breathing exercises were necessary.
- Fashion is hard. No matter where you go you find yourself adapting bit by bit to your surroundings – just ask my brother about his opinion on my post durham accent -, but there are still moments where I look down and realise that I actually look like my 15 year old self when I played John Proctor in The Crucible.
- I can’t wait for a decent cuppa because French milk is making a little bit of my soul die…
- Lastly, but maybe most importantly, my university accommodation provider has really ramped up its attempt to engage with the kids of today. Rather than just connect me to WiFi like I want, they have devised a kind of fake social networking site that allows other people to send you messages and invite you to the ‘chatroom’. I did not request this.