My First Week of School!

Okay, so here is a recap of my first full week of actual classes at my new University in Paris! :)

Monday morning, it was time to wake up and realize that I wasn’t on vacation, but here for school. Jan 19th was the first day for most of the classes for international students, but many classes for regular students started a week or two ago. I woke up around 8am, which was a huge struggle, as it is every morning for me. I really don’t know why but I have been the most tired I have ever been in my life since I’ve been here! My mom and I were talking about it, and it might sound silly, but we really think it’s because I’m listening to French all day and actively having to think about understanding what people are saying to me. We take it for granted when we are speaking our native tongue that we don’t have to process and translate and focus 100% on what you’re listening to. I really think I’ve been expelling a lot of mental energy doing that, along with getting used to living thousands of miles away from everything I’ve ever known. Anyway, that’s my theory for the reason I am always so tired, and I think I have a hard time waking up because it’s always dark and depressing outside in the morning.

I showered and got ready as fast as I could, and I sat down to eat a couple croissants with raspberry jam (my favorite breakfast, and the closest I’m getting to eating raspberries since they are so expensive) and I of course left after the time that I intended to leave to get to school on time. The metro takes a solid 40-45 minutes to get from my house to my school in the 16th. (See the map I added to the side/bottom of the page to follow where all my adventures are, since I know I make a lot of references to the which arrondissement things are in and you might not know what I mean. I live in the 19th near Buttes Chaumont, and my school is in the 16th in the top left corner of the district, left of the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.)

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When I got there, as I have every day since the terrorist attack, I showed my passport and acceptance letter to the security guards, can’t wait to get my student ID so I can stop explaining why I don’t have one. I rushed up the stairs to the third floor; it’s useless to wait for the elevators because there are always 50 other people waiting as well. I walked into the wrong classroom but kept it cool, and walked out, wondering where would I go next. I ran into a girl who I recognized as an international student, and asked her if she was going to “Littérature Francophone” class and sure enough she was, and we found it together. Her name is Giselle, she is from Brazil, and we sat together in class. The teacher was yet another crazy haired lady, and her Parisian accent is really strong (i.e. she says “hein” the way French people do way too much, you know that nasally “huh” sound they make after a statement?) I usually like it, but she says it after almost every sentence, although I still enjoy listening to her talk.

 

We are going to be studying literature from many Francophone countries, so France, Africa, Quebec, etc., and it is mostly going to be modern 20th and 21st century stuff, which is way better than reading old, 18th century texts that use language even French people don’t fully understand. We will be doing a little writing as well, and mostly reading excerpts from popular French literature. I can tell that some people in the class are having trouble following what the instructor is saying, but I’m not really having any issues. I think that is another advantage I have living with Danielle who doesn’t speak English, whereas most of the other students from the U.S. are living in Dauphine residences and probably only speaking English there. Anyway, I enjoyed the first class of Francophone literature much more than I thought I would.

The class lasted 3 hours, and we were only given one 20-minute break, so that’s going to be hard to get used to, but overall, I’m not dreading this class. I’m going to get to learn about French speaking authors and books and learn to analyze texts in French, which will help my language skills, and I get to take a field trip to the theater.

That’s my only class for the day, and afterwards, I went straight to see Astrid to tell her what classes I chose from the list she gave me. She was of course eating lunch and told me to come back in a little while, so I checked to see if my student ID was ready, it of course wasn’t, and wasted some time before I went back to see her. I told her that I chose two Thursday classes from the list, and she told me that was fine. I asked if there would be a problem getting into the class since they have already met several times, and she told me to just let the teacher know the situation and they’ll be happy to have me. I made sure that she told me that my schedule choice was going to be okay with both the international office, UNM and anyone else involved, and she made it clear it was okay. For some reason, I still didn’t fully believe her, and I’m hoping I don’t run into any more problems, but for now, my course schedule is solved. The next step is to get UNM’s official approval on all of my classes.

 

Next up, let me say that Tuesday’s are gonna be pretty sucky. The good thing is that I don’t start class until 1:45, so I can wake up late, or go to school early to eat a cheap lunch, but the bad part is I have two three-hour classes back to back, and won’t get done with school until 8:30pm, followed by the 45 minute metro ride home. Not looking forward to that.

 

My first class on Tuesday is called Cinema and Society, and it’s in French, all about French movies. I don’t think it will be too hard, and I love film courses. I’m not saying that French movies typically measure up to American ones, but I am interested in learning about the history of French filmography and watch some movies. This class is much fuller than my literature class, (not surprising), and there are people at all different French levels from all over the world, so it is interesting. The thing that surprises me is that both of my French FLE courses are B1 level, which the placement test put me in, and there are some people in my classes who are so bad at French that it makes me cringe. If they are placed in the same group as me, I am going to be extremely discouraged, because I think my French, (at least comprehension-wise) is nearly advanced and some of these people seem like beginners. I’m hoping they are actually a lower level but are aiming high. Or else I just belong in a higher level! Ha!

Directly after my cinema class, I made my way with one of my Italian friends, Giuliana to our next class, which is one of the two I have in English. It’s called Cross-Cultural Barriers, and it’s all about the study of cultural differences and stereotypes and all of that. This class was overflowing and even though I’m registered for the class, I barely got a seat, in the back, which I hate! I don’t know if I will be able to accurately describe the instructor of this course. Her name is Maya Putois. Maya, like my little sister, and Putois, which means, “polecat” in French, and I think polecat is just another name for ferret!(?) Since she had a French last name, I obviously expected her to be French, but when she started talking, her accent was not French. It wasn’t quite British, but that was the closest to any accent I could recognize. I later found out she is from India, and is part of a small group called “Parsi,” who are a dying group of descendants of the ancient Persian people, who practice Zoroastrianism. (I looked it up, haha!) I believe she said there are only about 60,000 of them left, and they mostly live in Bombay. An interesting fact she shared with us was their unique cultural tradition regarding funerals. Apparently, they believe that earth, water and fire are all sacred, and they are not allowed to bury their dead in any fashion regarding these elements, so how can they dispose of their dead if not by burial, cremation or in water? What they do is they place the body on top of what they call a “tower of death” and they leave it there for the vultures to devour and when it has decomposed, the bones are put somewhere, I’m not exactly sure about the rest! Anyway, she is extremely passionate about the study of culture and a very enthusiastic person. She is all over the map, and completely scattered in her thoughts, and I can tell she is a hard-ass when it comes to the work, but I think the class will be okay. Like I said, she is hard to describe, but from what I can tell, she is cool..If she likes you. The dynamic of the class is very different for me, and even for Madame Putois, who said so herself. There are about 15 Asians in the class, mostly from Singapore and China with a few other countries scattered in. There are two guys from India, four Americans, including myself,  four Canadians, and then “the others.” Barely any western people at all compared to the amount of people from the far east, so I am curious to see how the class discussions will lean.

Like I said, I think this class will be all right, but it sucks to get out at 8:30 and get home at 9:30 pm. I’m not used to night classes. I took the metro home and had an oven pizza as soon as I got home because I hadn’t had the chance to eat anything all day!

 

Normally, I will have class on Wednesday morning, but I received an e-mail a while back saying the first two sessions of my class, Human Resource Management, are cancelled, so I didn’t have to wake up early the day after my late class, which was nice. When it does start up, it will be at noon, which is very manageable. Originally I was intending on taking an 8:30am class because the third FLE class I signed up for, (the one I had to drop because you can only take two), was at the same time as the noon HR management class, but now that I’m not taking anything else that day, there’s no way I’m waking up that early!

Wednesday ended up being kind of stressful because I was trying to sort out my cell phone situation. My mom changed our Verizon phone plan to an international plan, which gave us the impression that we had 1000 shared international minutes, and I had a certain amount of data to use each month. Well, Gabrielle, Danielle’s daughter kept telling me that it was never free to call the U.S. and it would be costing me money to send texts and make and take calls internationally, and I thought she was misunderstanding that we joined an international plan. Turns out, Verizon’s international calling plan only applies to calls that ORIGINATE in the U.S., and since I’ve been calling up a storm over here thinking it was part of our plan, I racked up $900 in phone bills!! My mom and I were furious and the people at Verizon were of course no help and tried to put the blame on us. Luckily, Gabrielle had helped me order a new French SIM card from a company called Bouygues, which offers me unlimited calls and texts to French numbers, and as far as I understand I have unlimited calls to American landlines and (I think) mobile phones. I can’t send any SMS’s abroad, but I’m still unsure about if iMessage applies as an SMS when you’re on wifi and stuff, so I haven’t been using my texting at all just in case. My plan also includes 3 gigs of data per month, which really is the best part because I can now use the Internet on my phone outside my apartment. It cost me €20/month, and I now have a French phone number. I really think that iMessage isn’t considered an SMS when on wifi though, so I should be able to text anyone with an iPhone when I’m on wifi for free, but I’m scared to rack up even more phone charges, so I have been using Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and Snapchat to communicate with people. I don’t want to go into details about the process of getting the SIM card activated and working because it’s too long, but if I had not had Danielle to help me it would have been even more stressful! It’s very hard to live in a country with a foreign language that you aren’t totally fluent in. I have no idea how some of my classmates are getting by without knowing hardly any French!

At the end of the day everything got solved though, and I’ve been able to communicate with my family, which is all that matters to me. Still trying to figure out how they classify iMessage, but there are other ways to text so it’s fine!

 

Thursday is the last day of my school week, and it’s probably going to end up being equal to Tuesday in difficulty but in a different way. Tuesday is just too long, but Thursday is tough because the two classes I have are in French, with other French students, who are in the first year of their master program.. So an upper level course in actual French with native French speakers. The classes are shorter, and the subjects aren’t that hard, but it is still going to be very tough to follow a lesson that isn’t aimed at people who are learning French.

 

The first class is called Media et Nouveax Usages (media and new usages) which is basically about the changing technology and the use of media in a professional setting. The instructor is really cool and when I asked him to join the class, he was happy to let me in. His lecture felt just like a conversation between friends. He spent the hour and a half of class talking about the history of the internet, which was cool for me since most of the conversation kept ending back to the United States and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, etc. I found that for the most part, I was following what he was saying, but I didn’t really know exactly what to take notes over, and when I did take notes, I would lose track of what he was saying, or forget the way he worded something or how to translate it. I also had trouble understanding any students who spoke up, because they speak quietly and mumble their words so it’s hard to follow. Hopefully I figure out the best way to take notes in the class.

 

Between that and my second class, I have a long break, which I will use to eat lunch at the cafeteria, and maybe work on homework or something. It’s a very long break so I even had time to go home and come back before my next class, but I won’t be doing that very often.

 

My second class of the day starts at 5:30 and ends at 7:00pm and it’s called L’initiation a l’art moderne, which is just an introduction to modern art class, and I never got there in my other art history class so I don’t know that much about modern art. The course takes place at a museum called Jeu de Paume, which is obviously a modern art museum, near the Jardin des Tuileries and the Place de la Concorde, which are two major tourist attractions in Paris. It was all the same students from my media class, as all of them are taking the exact same 13 class schedule! The class was held in a small classroom with small chairs, no desks and a large screen where the instructor projected images of the art she was talking about that day.

The teacher was a little more hesitant to let me into the class, but she said it was all right, and I listened as she showed us famous pieces by famous cubist and surrealist artists and babble on about what it all meant. I love art, but sometimes I dislike classes about it because I really feel like a lot of it is up to your own interpretation and you can’t really teach someone exactly what the artist was thinking or trying to accomplish with this piece, but whatever!

The cool part about this class is that the museum where it takes place has a great view of the Eiffel tower, so that day I got my first actual look at the Eiffel tower since I arrived on this trip, (obviously I’ve seen it before). Only took about 3 weeks!

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After the class, my friend Giselle and I went back to the metro and went our separates ways to go home and get ready for a night out with the Erasmus kids!

So that wraps up my first week of school at Université Paris Dauphine, and it wasn’t a disaster, let’s hope it stays that way! Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post, didn’t take many this week!

À bientôt,

Michelle

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