On Student Life in France

This is a story about the student life in France I’ve written to Campus France Hong Kong a year ago.

Here we go!

March, 2011

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!


6 thoughts on “On Student Life in France

  1. Salut, I enjoyed reading your post and can empathize with both the struggles of living in France as a foreign student and dealing with the French bureaucracy. There are also many delightful things in both French culture and in the way they go about their education system. I’m eager to hear more about how your Master’s experience in France has progressed.

  2. Pingback: On Student life in France 2 « Romance of the Chinese man

  3. Hi

    I just read your blog and found it interesting. Please let me tell you something about myself: My name is Michael and I run a small company offering international relocation services for people moving around Europe. What we are looking for is a blogger like you who can write an article (kind of a guide) based on your experiences while living in a foreign country for those who are planning to move to the same as you country.

    If your article (s), if helpful, unique and interesting it will be published on our website http://www.europeanrelocations.co.uk .

    The information we would like to be included in the article are:

    • information about local culture and customs
    • practical information about finding accommodation and jobs
    • and possibly some information about local officialdom and immigration policy

    You might like to write it in English or other European language. You can also support your article with links to the third party sources of information.

    Ps: If you already own a collection of interesting articles we would like you link them to our website. We will obviously pay for it.

    Hope you can help

    I look forward hearing from you.


  4. It’s funny you should have this point of view! I’m French and have had a taste of the student life in HK back in 2004 (Also in the university of HK). Lived in Lady Ho Tung Hall surrounded by local girls for 6 months, and though my flatmate was from Australia, it felt surreal in many ways! I recall libraries never closed, most chinese guys had developed an intimate relationship with their computer/video games until 3 am…
    That said, I do realize the bureaucracy is just non-sense in France…
    Good luck with your studies!!

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