Leaving Paris soon

Just some weeks left until our adventure in Paris ends! How time flies! My last weeks here in Paris were good, there were a lot of exams, and I hope that everything went fine. On Monday we are going to Marrakesh which is going to be super exciting. I have never been to Morocco before, so I’m really curious about the country and its culture.

A lot has happened since my last entry. Austria, luckily, did not vote for a far-right candidate in the presidential elections. The former green spokesperson Alexander van der Bellen won the second round, and I’m relieved and happy. I met him the first time in 2009 at a Green Congress and talked to him for a while. I always had a lot of respect for him, and I’m sure that he is going to do a good job.

Paris has been quite rainy the last weeks, I hope that it will be better soon. I still don’t know the results of my studies, it takes quite a long time here. If everything goes right I will start with a Master in Language and Intercultural Communication in Gothenburg this year. I really look forward to it, especially because I finally decided to let go of my fear of not getting a job in the future and just do what I really love. In the beginning, I wanted to do a Master in Human Rights in Gothenburg, but after some reflection I think it’s better to focus on my real interests, sociolinguistics, language policy and so on. Maybe I could do some research one time or another?

I’m excited to come back to Sweden again. Paris has been nice, but after those months here I learned to appreciate a lot of things in Sweden I didn’t think of in the beginning. The people, the university system, the welcoming culture, nature (!)… Paris is rough. There is a tough climate at uni and some elitism in the French society I learned to dislike. I appreciate more and more living in a country where people go less after your last name or your contacts, but more after your background and skills. Maybe I am naive, but I think Sweden doesn’t have the same situation here.

Parisians have told me that it is impossible to compare countries. France and Sweden, or Germany and Austria, cannot be compared, their societies are in their eyes too different. This might well be true, but I think one might strive towards better goals, and comparison with other countries can contribute to the discussion. I don’t say that everything is better in other countries, Sweden and Austria have their problems as well. I might as well miss a few things here in Paris, for example the relaxed coffee and bar culture, going out, just having a glass of wine and so on..

Keep updated on my blog, I will try to write about a few things soon again. Stay tuned!

Studying in Paris – ups and downs

I live in Paris since January this year. When applying for an Erasmus semester last spring, I actually didn’t think so much about how it’s going to be, about the fac (faculty) as they say here,  what I am going to study and so on. I just wanted to go away, improve my French, and do something else. Nevertheless, I learned to  appreciate my home university much much more first when coming to Paris. I will explain you why.

Paris is great when it comes to the city itself. Architecture, culture, activities, music, metro, cafés, there is everything you want. Studying here is somewhat different. When applying for my Erasmus, I immediately knew that the prestigious Université Paris-Sorbonne (IV) was something I wanna see, I wanted to know how different it is from my university in Sweden. I heard quite a lot from other students, I read some stuff on the internet, saw international rankings and the Sorbonne is placed high in humanities, which is my field of studies. So why not?

Upon my arrival, the most difficult part was to choose all the courses. In France, you have to choose all the courses independently every semester, and Erasmus students benefit from all courses in the university program, which is awesome. I could more or less study what I want, as there were no limitations from my home university. Here comes the harder part: Mix and match your courses from different institutions so that they don’t overlap, this was clearly the most difficult task in the beginning. Before going to Paris, I studied one semester of International Relations, so beside some courses in french linguistics I decided to take courses in that field, too.

Studying at three different faculties spread over the city (north, west, central) is quite tiring sometimes, being capable to manage your time is really important. When my courses started, I was really surprised and a little disappointed about the atmosphere there. Students are a bit shy and didn’t talk much, the professors quite authoritarian, and there was little room for questions or discussion. Although this was intimidating in the first place, I could see a difference between my teachers in history and linguistics. Those teaching in languages where remarkably more respectful, being less hierarchic, listening to students questions and saw us more as colleagues than something else.

Beside the hierarchic and somewhat tough atmosphere in class, breaks or pauses are nothing the French consider important. In nearly all of my classes we have 2-3 hours of lectures without having a break, not even five minutes. This is something I get really annoyed of. As a matter of fact, the importance and positive effects of regular breaks during lectures and class are scientifically proven. That one of the major universities in France not consider that being important is not only incomprehensible but ignorant.

You wanna make friends during your stay in Paris? Make sure to visit some Erasmus activities organized by Parismus or other associations then. French students are not really into talking with strangers, as far as I can say. Most of them are hanging with other students or they spend their time alone, making it difficult to catch up with international students. But don’t give up, there are always someone you can talk to!

Compared to Sweden, the university system in France is very different. Have in mind that there is no actual selection at Bachelors-level, universities are obligated to enroll all students applying. There are few places (except libraries which are unfortunately overcrowded including long queues) to sit and study, and the infrastructure is often old or doesn’t work (for example, I could not show a powerpoint presentation because there is no HDMI port for their screens, in 2016?!). It seems that the French university system definitely needs a budget-boost, which many students also demand loudly in their demonstrations.

Also, I had teachers checking Facebook/Emails during student presentations and speeches or angry outbreaks of a teacher saying “being late for class is not an acceptable attitude towards international and distinguished researchers”. One of my exams was written without having a teacher present, we got the topic of the essay to write via text message to one of the students, resulting in massive cheating and Wikipedia-lookups, nobody seems to care.

So prepare yourself for quite some funny/annoying experiences when coming from a Scandinavian university. On the other hand keep in mind that there are some excellent courses and professors out there, and even though it’s tough sometimes, I can say that I learned a lot in my courses! I guess everybody needs to make his/her own experience, so just try it out 🙂

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#1 My new blog – Green Paris?

So I’ve started a blog. In the beginning, I didn’t really know what to focus on here, but I’ll try to do my best writing about topics I really care about. As the title of my blog says, I’m into politics and language, and I thought – why not combine those vast themes in a blog? I always liked writing, so let’s start with something completely new.

Since January this year, I am in Paris for my exchange studies and I have quite some mixed feelings about it. I really like the city, Paris is a metropole with everything you can dream of when it comes to culture, but there are still some things I’m really missing. Me and my boyfriend were in Lyon and Montpellier lately, two beautiful and charming cities with plenty of trees, parks and so on. In Paris, at least in my arrondissement (18th, Montmartre), there are nearly no trees or parks. Walking from Place de Clichy up to the apartment has the not so positive side effect of bad air from all the traffic, Paris is after all still the city of cars and mopeds.

In addition, there are nearly no pedestrian zones in the city, most of the central city is stuffed with traffic and there is few space for pedestrians or bikes. In my opinion, the city of Paris should start with some kind of a tree-planting-program. It would make the city look much greener, bring the people to parks, giving a place to birds and other animals and help reduce air pollution. Some of the metro lines are overcrowded already, but there need to be less cars in the central part of the city, that is for sure.

The funny thing is that it seems that the Parisians themselves are not really into change, at least not the few people I’ve talked to: Cars are a natural part of the city, and pedestrian zones are nice in Bordeaux or Lyon, but not possible in Paris. – That’s the credo, more or less. I think they are on the right way though, considering the excellent public transport and the bike-rental services provided by the city. It will just take some time.

My thoughts about my stay in Paris are numerous, and I wanna share a lot with you. In the following weeks, I will try to write about my way of dealing with the university system here, the Austrian presidential elections and much more.

Stay tuned! 🙂