Makenzie is a current UniMelb student on exchange at Jean Moulin University Lyon III in France for a semester.
When it comes to university admin and facilities, we have all done our share of complaining. We know too well of the moments when University admin gives us a run around or when the Wi-Fi drops out when we need it most. It is often that we take these simple glitches in our system for granted and melodramatically complain about their inconvenience when, truth be told, they are rare occurrences and are almost always quickly amended.
For the past six months I have spent my university semester on exchange in France. Attending a new university has somehow left me with a yearning for those UoM portal crashes, strict word count limits and the occasionally overbearing tutor who takes attendance like its border control.
Whilst at my French host-university there is the added bonus of an abundance of delicious pastries and cheap student cafeterias. Sadly the array of decent snacks aren’t all a university student needs for sustenance. It turns out we actually are very well off at The University of Melbourne and here are just a few things that I miss about that beautiful campus I am able to call my university.
I will begin with something obvious; any university that attempts to function with poor Wi-Fi instantly presents a dilemma. For some reason accessing the Internet at my French university is hugely difficult, unless you are that one lucky person in the classroom sitting in the magic zone, which has a radius of about 30cm. There has even been the odd occasion where my teachers haven’t had Wi-Fi access which blows my mind.
It seems weird to say it out loud but for some odd reason all the bathrooms at my host-university, and in greater France, lack the toilet seat. As an Australian standard in public bathrooms it is certainly been an experience adapting to French bathrooms and it still baffles me each time I enter a bathroom that is sans toilet seat…
This has probably been the most interesting obstacle to face. It appears that the French teaching method approaches classes with an even more self-motivated teaching style then at the University of Melbourne. Oral presentations were frequent throughout each of my classes and assignment structure was continually modified throughout the course, with optional extra credit assignments being offered for those motivated enough.
The laissez-faire approach to assignments has also been very different to our assignment standards at UoM. For me personally, I like having a word count. A strict set of guidelines for an assignment is ever so helpful and plagiarism checks are without question at UoM. The French system has instead dealt me the ‘5-10 pages’ version, a direct submission to the tutor via email and no cover sheets or strict referencing procedures. As someone who enjoys structure with assignments I find this system different and it always left me wondering about the academic quality of my work.
This is a big one. Around the world France upholds a reputation for having terrible long-winded, time-consuming bureaucratic systems that make any kind of administration difficult. So believe me when I say the rumors are true.
Even at the halfway point of our semester I still had friends caught in the university administration current or dealing with visa administration. It is frustrating, but unfortunately you really can’t avoid this one. So if you are travelling to France, just be prepared.
The University ‘Portal’
At the beginning of semester we were taught how to access our university Intranet, which is basically the same as UoM’s Portal. I assumed that we would use this for each class for all the usual things. Well since that day I can say I have not used it once, and even some of my teachers don’t know how to use it.
A lot of the things I have listed could be attributed to the fact that we were in an international student program. It could be just French university systems. Nevertheless, they say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone and the French system has certainly left me with a desire for all things Unimelb. Exchange however is exactly that. It is all about trying something different, getting out of your comfort zone, and experiencing another lifestyle.
Whilst I may miss the numerous student study areas, the word limits, sufficient wireless, and decent lattes, that fulfill all my coffee dreams at Unimelb, I wouldn’t change my exchange University. Undertaking an exchange semester or year is something I couldn’t recommend more. Prepare yourself for a different learning environment and experience, and you may just be surprised with what you find.
My French university showed me just how good we have it at the University of Melbourne. However, the University of Melbourne just doesn’t have the same accessibility to fresh croissants and good, cheap wine like in France.
For anyone who is considering a student exchange as part of their degree, Unimelb has some amazing partner universities, check them out here: (http://www.mobility.unimelb.edu.au/outbound/index.html)