Monday, September 20, 2010

First Day of Classes!

Today was the commencement of courses at the Institut Catholique de Toulouse. This renders it appropriate for me to recount my experience, and perhaps add an analysis of French versus American university classes. This was supposed to be that post. But it's not. For reasons which will soon become clear.

I arrived at the ICT early this morning, and asked the receptionist (part of her job description is literally to give people directions) where my class was located. I found it, along with another Dickinson student. The door was locked (oh, France), but the arrival of other students confirmed that we were in the right place. The course selection functions differently here than at Dickinson. Students arrive at school with a set major, and within that major they are told which courses to take, with little room for electives. Unlike Dickinson, there is no battle to get "accepted" into certain courses. If you're a second-year psychology student, you receive your schedule, and that's it. This of course means that you take EVERY class with the same people, 3 years in a row. The group immediately recognized us as outsiders, and a couple girls started up conversations with us. 20 minutes later, there was still no professor to be found. The students decided en mass to leave. So we did, and returned an area where all the schedules and notices are posted. Our class had been cancelled! I spent the rest of the day attending a "welcome" persentation courtesy of the Director ("big boss" - a bishop!), then eating lunch in the cafeteria (scrumptious) with some new French friends - they even took us out for baklava after! Tomorrow I only have a Dickinson class scheduled, so hopefully Wednesday night I'll have some academic stories for this audience.

Highlights from this weekend:

Friday we received a tour of the ICT campus from another 3rd year student. It's a tiny place, but pretty nice. My only complaint is that not all the buildings have identifying marks that they belong to the college, and not all the classrooms have numbers? That should be interesting.

Saturday we explored some of Toulouse's "Journées de Patrimoine" - meaning that there were all kinds of events throughout the city. Most museums are open to the public and free, as well as churches and private homes that are otherwise closed to the public. Same goes for Sunday. I'll have the pictures up soon - we saw le Palais Niel, l'Hôtel du Barry, as well as several incredible churches.

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