I’ve been back in university for two weeks. After a month at home for Christmas, it’s been difficult getting back into the swing of things. The start of term works differently here. I can’t speak for other departments, but in the Modern Languages department at Leicester you choose your modules for both semesters before the academic year starts. Module choices are limited, but you’re given essential details, including a description of what the module entails and the name of the lecturer. This means that when you start back at university in September and in January, you already know your timetable and have a vague idea of what you’ll be studying. This kind of organisation doesn’t happen here at the University of Avignon. Here, you’re sort of left to run around for the first two weeks of term. You can attend as many lectures and seminars as you want, and pick and choose the ones you want to continue with. This system has its pros and cons, and what better way to demonstrate them than with bullet points?
- You can choose the subjects you WANT to do and genuinely have an interest in.
- If there are lecturers you particularly like or dislike, you can choose to attend every module they teach, or avoid them like the plague.
- You choose your timetable. What does this mean? No 8am starts and of course Fridays off. (That’s right, uni starts at 8am here. Unfortunately I have one 8am start in my timetable this semester, but it’s with my favourite lecturer. Sometimes lie-ins must be sacrificed for the greater good. The Greater Good.)
- Sometimes being spoilt for choice makes it harder to make a decision. You either have too many and can’t decide which modules to drop, or you can get picky and struggle to find 10 modules you actually want to do.
- The first two weeks are a nightmare and make you want to bang your head repeatedly into a wall.
Without doubt, these two weeks are the most stressful of the year, and that’s including exams. It doesn’t get much easier the second time round either. Of course, in September you’re stressed enough as you’ve just moved to a foreign country. Then you have to attend a bunch of classes in a foreign language. You understand very little of what’s being said, but with what little information you do have you’re expected to decide which classes are interesting and could be of use to you. In January, you have the gift of hindsight. You have a better understanding of the language and a better idea of what’s going on generally. That doesn’t stop timetabling from being an absolute pain in the backside, though.
Technically, I should have my timetable sorted by now. But I don’t. It’s going to take me another week, but I’m happy to have most of my classes sorted. I’m also happy to have received my results from last semester. I failed a module! Do I care? Not in the slightest. My department at Leicester only takes into account the top 5 best modules marks from each semester, so thankfully that one class won’t count towards my final degree.
I’d have been disappointed had I failed everything, but that means nothing when I think of what I’ve gained from studying here. I’ve written essays, given presentations, and sat 3 hour long exams all through the medium of French and only failed one class. And I was off ill for 3 weeks. It’s a miracle! I’m going into my second semester in France with some confidence and with the knowledge that it’s not going to be a total disaster and that I can actually do this, and do it well.