Saturday, October 30, 2010

Le Commencement

       I arrived in Aix-en-Provence, France on the 4th of January at 7 o'clock in the evening after having spent nearly twenty-four hours traveling. This was the realization of a many month process which began earlier that year, when, in the fall, I found out that I was accepted by the exchange organization ISEP to study abroad in France during the coming spring semester. As it happened, I was directly enrolled into a political science college in Aix-en-Provence called the Université de Paul Cézanne.  My classes, which focused specifically upon political science, began a couple of weeks into January and lasted until the end of June. 
        When I stepped off the bus in Aix, there were a couple of French political science students waiting for me who showed me to my new residence, the university dormitories. Having two days between when I arrived and when classes began, I spent time trying to get myself out of my jet-lagged mind frame and planning my walking route to school, which was about a mile from my dorm. It was a bit bizarre for the first couple of days because I literally knew no one in the city, and since Hamline doesn't have an affiliation or an exchange program with the Université de Paul Cézanne there were no other Hamline students or familiar faculty present with whom I could collectively share my isolation. So, you can imagine, I was grateful when classes began at my university because it offered an opportunity to meet kids in a similar position as me, and begin using my French. 
        All of my courses were taught in French and taken mainly by international students. Most exchange students were qualified as second year university students, and we were plentiful, thus many of my classes had only a small population of actual French students. One of my courses, however, a fourth year class about science and society, was filled primarily with French students, save for myself and two other Americans. 
       Courses in France are noticeably different than courses in the United States. French students are diligent note takers, always typing hurriedly. They are like this because the professors do not assign texts to read for out-of-class work as they often do here, so if you did not pick it up in class you most likely won't come across it outside of the classroom. I never made the leap to computer note-taking because I wasn't able to comprehend French quick enough, so many of my notebooks are filled with half English, half French notations that, in same way, were actually useful when it came time to take my final exams! 

In the next posts, I hope to write about my interactions with the community I lived in and how it has shaped my world view in different ways. Also, I would like to touch on the trips I took while living in France. 

Below are some pictures from my first weeks in Aix-en-Provence.

Thanks for reading!
The Université de Paul Cézanne, where I studied political science.

Home sweet home. Small but charming, no?

Fairly representative of the streets in Aix-en-Provence.