November 23, 2012


This year was my fourth ever Thanksgiving spent in France. Four out of twenty-five total might not seem like a lot, but missing out on one of the few truly American holidays always makes me homesick.

This year I organized a Thanksgiving get together with my fellow masters program students, and I think it was my best Thanksgiving abroad yet. Everyone really appreciated the food (recipes here) and the party really had that uniquely Thanksgiving spirit of sharing and appreciating what you have.

While I know I complain a lot about my French life, I thought I’d take this opportunity to list five things about it for which I’d like to say “merci”:

1. My classmates
One of the things I was really worried about when moving back here was being once again faced with the sometimes-difficult task of becoming friends with French people. I am so grateful to have met the other people in my program, and in three short months build some truly great friendships. I can’t imagine my life in Troyes without them.

2. Troyens
I also was lucky enough to meet some local Troyens and I don’t know how I would have gotten by without them. From taking me to the supermarket, to driving me all the way to Lille to collect my things, I have stumbled upon some remarkably generous people here and I couldn’t ask for more.

3. Troyen Architecture
Waking up in the morning, and being greeted by gorgeous 16th century timbered houses is an amazing start to every day. I’m so grateful I get to appreciate it’s beauty on a regular basis.

Beautiful timbered houses and blue skies on Troyes' main shopping street.

4. Traveling
Although I haven’t been able to travel as much so far this year due to my coarse work load, I have loved every trip I’ve taken and feel so grateful for the abundance of travel opportunities here.

5. Champagne !
Living in Champagne has its perks. I have really enjoyed visiting champagne caves, getting not only to learn how champagne is made but also see the process first hand during les vendages(the grape harvest), and drinking all that bubbly at advantageous prices (even if it is still too expensive to drink quotidiennement).

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's to appreciating all the good things in our lives.

November 13, 2012


I don’t know why I thought French universities would be similar to my university experience in California, but I unknowingly did.

I sort of felt that having already lived in France for 2.5 years straight and being part of the educational world (as my days as an English language assistant) combined with all the stories that exFBF told me about getting his masters and what school was like, that I was already pretty prepared for going to college in France.

This, however, was not the case.

The first surprise came on the very first day when not a single teacher passed out a syllabus, and instead dictated the important facts, deadlines, and grading policies. This was not a pleasant experience for my rusty French and me.

I had already heard exFBF complain about classes that lasted four hours, but I thought long classes were a rare exception, not the rule. Most of my classes are at least three hours long (with one class lasting four), and even though some of my teachers give us a ten-minute break in the middle, I have been poorly trained to pay attention to the same subject matter for such a long time. My brain starts to check out after two.

I know that some of the changes have to do with school size. My university back home had 20,000 students and an eight-story library with a room open 24/7. My new university has 2,500 students and a two-story library, which closes at 22h.

Top: UTT (my French school) Bottom: UCSB (my American school)

But even taking into account the difference in size of the student body, my new school seems under developed to provide for the student’s needs. There is never enough space in the library, and nowhere else on campus is open for students to work on group projects (which I seem to have at least one of in every class).

So far I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed with my coarse load and constantly being in a French language environment. One might say I'm experiencing pedagogical culture shock, if such a thing exists.
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