Running spontaneous races: my experiences in the French classroom

If you were to look through my class notes, what you would find is a myriad of half written sentences and a handful of question marks in miscellaneous places. This completely epitomizes my experience of studying in a French university.

This year of studying abroad has been eye opening.

I thought I knew a decent amount about French schooling and the French university system. However, I’m not sure who I was kidding, as I had never actually studied in a French university before until this year.

Being in a French university is both easy and difficult. Half the time I have no idea what is going on, and the other half of the time I feel like I’m killing it. That’s the beauty of it. I always feel like I’m on my toes.

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What is culture? What is truth?

I hear it all too often, more than I can count actually: “What are the major differences between the United States and France?” To be quite honest, I get sick of hearing this question, feeling like a broken record, constantly on repeat. My first response to this question is always “In what aspects? What would you like to know about?” Of course, this tends to be met with an even more frustrating, “you know, like, the big differences.” What? haha.

It must be stated that any given culture (or two cultures) cannot necessarily be broken down in simply comparing the two in terms of two to four different aspects. As I was talking to my student about this earlier this evening, culture is a very complex thing, and talking about culture is even more complex because generalizing about culture can be a very dangerous thing that can lead to stereotypes, misunderstandings, and fragmented perceptions. However, on the other hand of that (and something that I have to keep in mind when I teach about culture in the conversation classes that I teach) is the fact that generalizing is almost a necessity when you begin any conversation about culture. You have to start somewhere, right? The complexities of studying and teaching culture. It’s a love/hate relationship.

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