July 30, 2013

Looking Back: The First Year of My Masters

The first day of school, where we were made to act silly and then sit through orientation presentations all day long, feels like ages ago. The buildings were unfamiliar, and despite being oriented all day long I left feeling like I didn’t know how to do anything any better than I did when I woke up that morning.

A week after taking spring semester finals, I returned to campus in order to drop off my registration packet for next year. The school seemed so small. I knew all its nooks and crannies. And while I had to figure out much of it all on my own (or with help from my fellow students), I now knew how to print documents, use the wifi, and recharge my student card.

La fac (school).
Source: l'aubeserveur

School in France wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I was disappointed, pleasantly surprised, mega stressed, had a lot of fun with good people, and learned some stuff. Overall a good year.

I think a major factor in my disappointment stems from the differences between high context and low context cultures.

Low context cultures are cultures where communication is in explicit codes like words, and rules and expectations are explicitly explained such as in America and New Zealand.

High context cultures are when communication is in physical gestures instead of words, and relies heavily on context such as in Japan and Saudi Arabia (thanks intercultural communication class!).

France is somewhat in between high and low. While they do use words, they leave enough unsaid to where I felt under-communicated with by my professors. My first shock came when nobody handed out a syllabus, and that sort of indirect communication continued on all year.

I had a really hard time being graded and judged negatively on things the professors never told us about. For example, not telling us it’s required to have page numbers on our presentation, or that we’re not allowed to use animations, and then marking us down for it.

This wouldn’t be so bad if there were some underlying rules for all of the school, but a lot of it came down to the personal preferences of the professors, and it was difficult for me to accept losing points for something nobody told me about in the first place.

But even with this cultural difference, I was able to learn new things, meet new people, improve my French, and pass all my classes with flying colors.

I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and despite it being a challenge, super stressful, and at times exceedingly frustrating, I’m really glad I decided to go back to school and go back to France.

I'd like to say that next semester I'll be better prepared for the lack of direct communication coming my way, but I'm not sure I was more accepting of it Spring semester as opposed to Fall.

Sometimes a girl just needs page margins and font size defined before writing a paper.

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful - I am glad you had a great year.


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