This is a story about the student life in France I’ve written to Campus France Hong Kong a year ago.
Here we go!
To begin my story with the beginning of my background, I was born, raised and educated in Hong Kong with limited overseas experience prior to my present sojourn. I believe this information would be helpful to comprehend the description and opinion I will be giving in this article.
I am currently a second year postgraduate student/trainee in Strasbourg, one of the most elegant cities in Europe. I did my first year in international relations and am doing my second year in competitive intelligence. In France, a masters degree lasts normally two years. In the second year, we only have classes for one semester and we are obliged to do an internship as a graduation requirement. I follow an entire French curriculum which means the medium of instruction, essay methodology and approach are all French. I was totally ignorant and I thought that doing my studies in another language would be the only change. But I was wrong. I had a hard time to adapt to the lectures, my daily life and most of all the French mentality. I was so naïve that I had treated the language barrier as a synonym of cultural difference. In fact, language is just one of the many colors on the whole painting of culture. The first few months I had so much to learn other than catching up with my French. The vocabularies that I had learnt from literature and textbooks during my undergraduate studies were not very relevant to the daily life. It always made people laugh when I used a word of 19th century or swear words that I newly acquired. I was lucky that my peers were in general caring, patient and kind. They often explained their cultural codes and habits in detail. It made me so much easier to integrate to this country.
In France, the higher education system is relatively lenient compared to the one in Hong Kong. Competition among students in university is far less keen and very rarely a student will be ashamed of not having a good grade. Normally every student has a second chance to take the examination in case the first time does not work out in the same year. Some schools even have an assessment adjustment for foreign students. Therefore, the study atmosphere is harmonious. The majority of the teaching staff I have encountered so far have been encouraging. My course coordinator, for example, has been very kind to me because I was the only foreign student from the Far East which he believed that I must have had more daily life troubles than other European students. He has also been very tolerant to my sarcastic and fierce criticisms against the French bureaucracy, egotism, superiority, etc. In my opinion, the spirit of French education is supportive and egalitarian. The social expectations for university graduates in France are much less harsh than in Hong Kong. The French society allows people to be proud of what they are, not necessarily their qualifications, GPA and salary. French students of my age consider their studies important for getting a job. But, I believe that they do not treat it as the only thing in their life. I say the same for their career vision too. They love music, dance and reading. Working is not the only thing they do in their life.
So, I ended it with “Working is not the only thing they do in their life.” In these few days, I will continue this discourse with a one year late.
Bye for now, see you next blog!