Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Paris 8

Now, I know I'm not supposed to compare, but I can't help it. Being at Paris 8 - St. Denis for twelve hours today was practically unbearable. Starting with the atmosphere - the three big, modern buildings feel like a community college. At least they're outside of Paris, though, because they would really look ugly in the city. The bathrooms are horrible too. Half of the toilets don't have toilet seats! There are signs everywhere reminding students to do their homework, and even though it's a non-smoking place, guess what - everyone smokes! It's also really far away from everything, so kind of inconvenient. The funniest part is, I wouldn't have been there for 12 hours (really 13 since I got there early to find out where all the classes were going to be) if CUPA hadn't have told me to pick so many backup courses.

At 9:00 this morning, I went to a backup history course, but it was cancelled. The only problem was, apparently no one knew. Everyone came to the class, but left after half and hour when the professor still wasn't there. Apparently, he was in Provence. So, I had time to read. Then, the French literature class on how Paris has inspired literature was mostly what I expected. That's why it was one of my priorities - I knew I would want to take it. The only problem was that, despite the 20 student registration limit, 40 showed up. It's nice to know that people at Paris 8 don't follow the rules. The four of us CUPA kids who wanted to take it were really nervous that we wouldn't get into it, but the registrar said we were welcome. Why did no one else talk to the registrar? So, after those first two courses, I decided that Parisian schools need to embrace the computer age and use the internet for practical matters such as informing students when classes are cancelled and enforcing registration restrictions. I skipped my third course for the day - it was a backup French literature course, but I had no real interest in it. Since I already liked the other one, I just didn't feel like going. So, instead, I took the subway to St. Lazare and went to MacDonald's for some free wi-fi. Then, I came back for my Paris 8 philosophy and literature class, which the more I think about, the more I think the cons outweigh the pros. Cons: the professor is Brazilian, so I can't understand her French accent very well; the course is from 6:00 - 9:00 on Tuesday nights; I think the philosophy level is too hard, though it doesn't seem like we'll be focusing on the philosophy; I think the literature/workload level is too easy (we'll be reading some things in English, which I definitely don't want to do); and it's a full 3 hours after the class before it, so I'd be stuck there unless I wanted to go to MacDonald's again, since it's not worth the hour-long trek home and back to spend an hour in front of the computer.

And, that was pretty much it. So, now that I've had classes at two different French schools, I can start comparing the two, and both of those to Hopkins. Basically, I'm very happy to be at Hopkins. Now, I realize I've been spoiled for a long time, and I'd like to remain spoiled. It's nice to have a real campus and nice bathrooms, and it's really convenient to have everything in one place. The library at St. Denis looks horrible too. I'm not sure about the one at l'ENS, but I have a feeling that one's incredible since I can't get in (I don't have an ENS card - I can't eat at their dining hall either...). The class sizes are much better at Hopkins than at Paris 8, and the students are much more active and just seem more interested, I suppose. Then again, I don't really know anything about the students who were in my classes today, since they didn't say a word. Of the five people who answered the literature professor's questions today, three of them (including me!) were American. Now, the students at l'ENS seemed very serious and intelligent, and the few who spoke in class were very impressive. I also liked looking at their notes - they were perfect! I suppose that's what happens when your teachers have the right to take your notebook at any moment and give you a grade based on how nice they are. I can't imagine a teacher doing that in the United States - I remember, especially in middle school, I would doodle in the classes that bored me, but I always got good grades.

What else? Well, I've been doing a horrible job making French friends. At l'ENS yesterday, I didn't talk to any of the other students because I figured I was going to have lunch with Justine afterward. That might not have been the best idea. I should really try to meet some French students I don't know already. I met one of Justine's friends, but I forgot her name and barely talked to her at all before they realized that I didn't have the right kind of card to eat at the cafeteria. Then, this morning, a girl asked me if she was in the right room for the history class, and I said yes and started talking to her. The problem was - she's American! She's a student at Brown named Leslie. In fact, there are tons of Brown students at Paris 8! In the literature class, I talked to a girl named Lina for a while, but she's not French either - she's Algerian. So, my goal for the rest of the week - make sure that when I'm speaking French to someone, that the person is actually French! And, hopefully next week will be better once I drop all the stupid backup courses (as long as my history course tomorrow and the Sorbonne philosophy class is manageable). Then, I will never have to spend 13 straight hours in those ugly buildings ever again.

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