Friday, December 4, 2015

Four differences between French and American universities

Hey friends! As I head into my final exam weeks I thought I would share some of the differences between French and American Universities. Most things are very similar to my University in New Mexico, but there are some things that took me a while to get used to. 

1- Lecture based classes. 
In NM, most of my classes are very discussion based. In fact, many times part of my grade will come from how much I participate in discussions in class. Here its completely different. In most classes the teacher simply lectures. If you have questions then sometimes they will let you ask them. The professors are easier on the language learning students than they would be on native French speaking students. I've been told that in classes with all native French speakers the professors rarely take questions. The one exception to the is my language class that I have for two hours every day. This is where we learn basic things like grammar, verb tenses, vocabulary, and sentence structure. We have lots of discussions in this class. 

Yes, I go to school here. Yes, its crazy.

2- Test based classes
In NM most of my class grade comes from a combination of attendance, participation, projects, papers, presentations, and exams. In French most classes grade solely on attendance and exams. Some don't even use attendance. 

3- Grades are discussed
Grades are a pretty secretive thing at my university. The professor usually takes extra measures to make sure that we don't see each others grades. Its like there is an unspoken rules that nobody but you and the professor ever should know what grade you have. I was a little surprised when professors here started talking about what grades the class got. I was even more surprised when they started naming who got the best and worst! Not in a mean way, just in an informative way. The attitude about grades here is much less secretive. 

The campus is such a beautiful combination of old and new. 

4- Grading
Speaking of grading, the system used here is definitely the thing that has taken me the longest to get used to. French schools use a 20 point grading system, but it doesn't transfer to US grading systems the way you might think. For example, in NM a really good grade would be in the 90's, and passing is in the 70's. You would think that this would mean a really good grade in the French system in 18+ and passing would be 14. In one of my first assignments here I got a 12 and freaked out. But in France tests are not designed in the same way. Professors never expect students to get all the questions right. To pass a test you have to get 10/20, so a score of 12 is actually more like a B in US grading. An A would be around 14+ and a very good score is anything 16+. My professors have told me that no one ever scores 20/20 and if you manage to score 18+ then you are in the very top percentage of students at the university. Last week a girl in my culture class scored 17.5 on a test and my professor applauded her in front of the whole class. It's all super confusing. I'm just happy my score of 12 didn't mean I was failing. 

(Photo creds:, Xin Li 88 / / CC BY-NC-ND,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paris sera toujours Paris

This post isn't about what happened last week, although I hope to talk about it sometime. I spent long weekend at the end of October seeing the sights of the capital.

I have this song stuck in my head while writing this. Go listen to it while you read. Spoiler alert, this is not what riding the metro in Paris is actually like.

First up on my agenda was the Musse D'Orsey. 

This museum is a former train station that has been beautifully renovated. Its full of French artists like Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh. This was my absolutely favorite museum. The Louvre is cool, but it is so huge that it can feel really overwhelming sometimes.

I fell in love with French Impressionist paintings. 

Up next was the Louvre.

A selfie at the Louvre est obligatoire.

Oh my gosh. This museum is crazy. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely! But museum fatigue is real, people, and you could end up completely overwhelmed and exhausted if you don't plan a little. Here are a few of my tips. 

1-  Prioritize! There are 70,000 pieces of art in the Louvre. I found out quickly that if I tried to devote the same attention to every piece then I would go museum crazy. Especially since I only had one day. For example, I realized that I love large statues! I mean how cool is that Easter Island guy?And the weird Persian unicorn below? Its awesome! But I don't really care about tiny statues. In the Louvre there are rooms and rooms full of tiny clay and brass figurines. I pretty much skipped all of those and instead spent my time with the large pieces. Choose what's important to you and just breeze by the rest.

2- Don't spend all your time on the most popular pieces. Did I see the Mona Lisa? Sure, how could I go the Louvre and not! Was it cool? Yes. Was it the most beautiful painting I have ever seen? Nope. Other than the fact that you can't even get very close to it and there are tons of security guards, school groups, and people trying to take selfies with it, I personally think that the Louvre has much more interesting pieces.

3- Spend time with the obscure exhibits. I decided to see the Islamic art exhibit near the end of the day, and it was wonderful! There were so many different kinds of pieces like mosaics, architecture, rugs, and tapestries. The mosaics were my favorite. Plus, there were only a handful of people in the exhibit! These less known exhibits are a great place to take a break from the crowds in the Italian Renaissance Painting wing.

After a long weekend of museums I took a walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was a great place to relax and let off some museum fatigue. 


Remember that one time I said I was going to blog every week? Oops. Getting settled here in France was way more difficult and time consuming then I thought it would be, so blogging was pushed to the back burner. But now its time for an update! 

All these pictures are from my town. I really like it here. Its small enough to feel safe but big enough to have lots to do. And it has a beautiful old town center.

Plus a castle. Its right in the center of town. How cool is that?

Three differences  between France and New Mexico.
1- Everyone walks. Everywhere. To the store, to school, to work, to the movie theater, to restaurants, and pretty much everywhere else. People do drives places, but my less frequently than in NM. My host family own a car but they only use it maybe a few times a month. I really like this. Not only is it healthier and more environmentally conscientious, but it means that I don't have to rely on someone else to always be taking me places. The city is set up really well to be a walkable place. 

2- Breakfast and lunch are tiny but dinner is huge. Every time I eat with my host family we have a main course, a salad course, a cheese course, and a dessert course. This is really different from the way I normally eat, so it has taken me a while to get used to. 

3- France doesn't have parks, it has gardens. they're pretty much the same thing except gardens have more flowers and you aren't allowed to walk on the grass.   

Friday, October 2, 2015

Italy: Part One

After a long day in Paris, we headed to Turin, Italy. I honestly had no idea what to expect in Turin. I really wanted to see Italy but I didn't have a lot of time to travel, so I picked the largest town closest to France on the map. It was Turin. It was awesome.

It was seriously the coolest place I have ever been. 

 The first place we went was this castle turned palace. Everything in Turin amazed me with how old it was. Compared to the rest of the world the USA is a pretty young country with a pretty young history. I have always though it a building was really old if it was built in the 1800's. This building was built in the early 1400's as a castle and then renovated in the 1600's into a palace. 

 When you first walked in there was a huge marble staircase. The palace has been turned into a museum . The rooms themselves had beautiful architecture and fresco's on the ceiling. And they were filled with art pieces from all over Turin and the rest of Italy.  

There was not always great lighting so my pictures aren't great, but hopefully you can get a glimpse of how amazing it was. 


Hi friends! I finally made it to my new home and I already have lots of adventures to share. Since I am coming back to America right before Christmas I decided that if I wanted to do any major traveling I should do it before school started. 

Preface: A few months ago I was talking to my amazing boyfriend Josh about my upcoming travel plans and worries he asked me "How crazy would it be if I came with you to get you settled in?". Pretty crazy! But by God's grace he was able to get tickets on the same plane as me, tickets on the same train as me, and rooms in the same hostels as me. What kind of boyfriend would fly halfway around the world with you to help you get settled into your new home? The awesome kind. I am so thankful to have been able to share some of my adventures with him. 

We landed in Paris and after dropping off our luggage at the hostel we started sightseeing. Since we only had one day we didn't go into any museums or monuments, but we got to see a lot still.

Paris was awesome. Everything was beautiful and there was so much history.

The metro was pretty overwhelming and kind of confusing, but I was glad I got to figure it out with Josh. 

There are parts of France that remind me of Senegal. Its nice and weird to have that familiarity. 

This English bookstore was really cool.

The next morning we went to Sacre Coeur and then we hopped on a train to Italy!