This week Erasmus students were shocked and horrified to discover that we’re actually expected to do some work whilst we are here. Apparently it’s not an extended holiday funded by the EU. Madness.
For some ungodly reason, the French start class at 8am! This isn’t just in Strasbourg, from what I can gather from other Erasmus students, this is fairly normal. It is also normal to have classes which last two or three hours. Plus the French professors insist on teaching in French; I personally blame the Acadamie Française for this. Obviously all of the above makes learning slightly more challenging than in Edinburgh. It is interesting to experience another style of teaching though and I enjoy telling French students about how in Scotland my lectures were fifty minutes long, sometimes with a break in the middle. The look of jealous horror is brilliant (then tell them about the fees and the jealousy disappears for some reason).
I’m taking a mix of courses; studying a bit of French literature, a bit of history and some sociology. I think this makes life a bit more interesting and means you experience a bit more of French university life. Erasmus is a really good opportunity to study something you might not get to at home, because you have the magic phrase, ‘je suis une étudiante Erasmus’, which gets you into most courses. Some professors like to have different nationalities on their courses. Today my sociology professor seemed very excited about me being English. This isn’t always a good thing, I enjoyed feeling clever when I could correct his pronunciation, but I did not enjoy the fact it marked me out as ‘different’ in a fairly small class. Another lovely professor welcomed us in English and asked if he was speaking to quickly after correctly guessing I was English after me attempting one sentence of French.
This weekend I had the wonderfully bizarre experience of a ladies’ night at a French club. I learnt how to say ‘sex toy’ in French (it’s ‘le sex toy’, in case you ever need to know) and watched some strip tease. There’s nothing more odd than catching yourself watching strippers in Strasbourg and wondering what series of events brought you there. Doing something like this has taught me how little of a language you need to know to convey shock and horror; my wide eyes said it all really.
This week I’ve really started to feel at home here. Whilst marching to sort out my phone (French phone contracts are bizarre and annoying) I thought, ‘bloody tourists’, a sure sign that I’m becoming a local. I think when you’re organising things you don’t really feel settled as everything is up in the air. It’s also hard not to feel like a tourist as you wonder lost through the streets bumping into everyone and everything. Taking classes has really helped me settle in. I have a structure to my days again and I can now more easily see the point of my being here. I can only hope the novelty of being in France remains for long enough so I continue to enjoy my classes!