This week I started my first and (hopefully) last university semester for my Bachelor’s degree. It was not at all what I expected!
Officially called Institut d’études politiques d’Aix-en-Provence, it’s referred to by the students as Sciences Po. There are a number of campuses around France, with the main one being in Paris. These institutions have the status of what they call in France grand établissement, which means the university is allowed to be highly selective on who is accepted. The French students have to sit an entrance exam and get a certain mark to be able to attend. It’s considered one of the best political science universities in France and is ranked number 14 in the world – what the hell am I doing here!
When my first day of lectures rocked around I was feeling slightly nervous and clammy, having rushed from being 10 minutes late. I thought I would have to stumble into a formal situation and apoligise to the lecturer for disrupting the class. However, this turned out not to be the case as the lecturer was even later than me and decided to change rooms last minute. The room we changed to was not a room at all but a beautiful old amphitheater, with a second story of balcony seating and the walls adorned with renaissance art. The class was called Democratization and Human Rights and proved to be quite interesting for the 15 minutes that I tuned in for… I was too fascinated by the amphitheater and then our lecturer, whose shirt had turned dark blue from all his sweat. To be fair it was a 30 degree day!
University has turned out to be a complete surprise. Because I am taking English speaking papers, which are aimed at the French students, it sounds as though it may simpler than I thought. For the first three weeks, we have the opportunity to attend any classes we like, then sign up for the ones we want to take for exams. All the lectures are 2 hours long, once a week and have either a short written or oral exam worth your whole grade. To pass you need 10 out of 20, but the French lecturers are apparently notorious for not giving anyone above 14. Some lectures are 4 hours long but for 5 weeks. Another one of my exams is also an essay on any topic due in November. I managed to wing my timetable so I have Thursday’s and Friday’s off too. So far university is looking pretty chilled without any assignments or tests, let’s just hope it stays that way!
I visited La Ciotat this week as well. A little harbour town, not as nice as Cassis but still very sweet. It feels like I am on one big holiday…La vie est belle X