Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh Yeah.... I'm in School Here....

I attend classes at the Université Paul Valéry in Montpellier. The university is located far from everything else I care about. From my homestay, I walk 20 minutes to the tram, take the tram for a little less than 10 minutes, and then walk another 10 to the University.

I wouldn't consider the university campus to be very big. In Penn State dimensions, it's about as long as Willard to Thomas and as wide as the library to the HUB.

Classes at a French university with French professors... Isn't that intimidating? Nope. My required classes, Grammar and Phonetics, have only 'muricans in them. The French set up these classes in our learning style.

Grammar should really be called "Translation" because that's what we do. A Canadian named Lynn teaches it and she really likes to hear EVERY possible way you could translate a text. Good God.

My Phonetics class is taught by a Parisian with short blonde hair and sass to spare. She gets to the point and I like her. (Odd, I know, since I take awhile to get to my point).

I'm also taking a class about the history of the South of France. The Parisian teaches it as well. The U of M program told me it'd be what's called an "integrated" class, which means I'd just be an international student among Frenchies. False. Only 'muricans signed up for this one.

I take a conversation class taught by Cédric at the U of M center. Obviously, since it's at the center, it's all 'muricans. I dish his 'tude right back to him. It reminds me of high school where my primary goal was to annoy the teacher. I may make fun of Cédric, but he is a really good teacher and he makes the class fun.

For my last class, I wanted to take a Spanish class. I thought this would be a nice challenge because I would not be able to resort to English. It would also serve as a welcome break from French that isn't English. I wanted to take a 3-part class that studies Contemporary Spanish texts, documents, and films. I got to the first class and the professor was mumbling away in French. I tried taking notes, but this was not what I had been hoping for. Then the prof started speaking Spanish. My ears immediately perked up. He kept saying "virgule", spanish, spanish, spanish, "virgule". I look around and see all the other students ferociously scribbling. I had the clueless appearance and reaction of Elle Woods on her first day of law school. As he said "virgule" one more time, I thought to myself, "Doesn't that mean comma?" It does in fact mean comma. The texts and documents we'd study are not handed out in photocopies. There is no ANGEL to access them online. We don't go to the bookstore and find a book of Spanish documents and texts. They are dictated to us. We copy down the dictation in Spanish and discuss it in French. Oh HELL no.

I planned to slither surreptitiously out the door at the end of class, but as the prof looked over the sign in sheet, he was confused by my email. "What is .edu?" "It's my university." ... quizzical look. "It's the Pennsylvania State University." WOOSH... all heads turned toward the back corner of the class where I was trying to hide. C'est pas grave though, cause I ain't coming back!

Disappointed by my Spanish experience, I went to a travel writing class instead. It’s taught by a prof from Iowa, who is a writer and humorist too. He may be a humorist, but sometimes he is just funny on accident. For example, when he mentioned he is originally from New York, I asked him which part. He stated “Manhattan” and looked at me as if this was a stupid question. Of course when he says “New York,” there is NO possible way for me to confuse the other 4 boroughs and 54,521.23 square miles that comprise the rest of the State of New York with his obvious meaning of “Manhattan.” How foolish of me. To me, this was just funny. I felt like this was a cop out: taking an English class in France. But, I’m not taking the class to learn or speak French; I’m taking it to learn something. French would be a bonus, but it’s totally fine.

In order to get my full credits, I have to take another class taught by the American. It’s a class comparing French humor to American humor. Brief synopsis of the class: Frenchies don’t find our humor funny.

Those are my classes. I know it might sound like the best idea not to be surrounded by ‘muricans in all my classes, but I have my excuses prepared. I am required to take the grammar and phonetics. Conversation with Ceddy is the only class I get to speak in (helpful). History of South of France gets accredited at Penn State. I wouldn’t get enough out of the Spanish class to make it worth the effort. Besides, I wouldn’t get Spanish credit at home since it’s taught in French. I like the English classes, even though an American who doesn’t speak French teaches them.

So there you have it.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent (and funny) synopsis.

    BTW, one of the (many) reasons people who went to my University (Univ of Buffalo) hated New Yorkers was the attitude you describe. A good percentage of the people who came to UB were from NY or Long Island. They were obnoxious (with exceptions, of course) and condescending if they ever deigned to speak to a local.