Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The studying part in 'studying abroad in Monpellier'

I have already commenced the actually studying in ‘studying abroad’ and wanted to share what I have to do for my program, the process of enrollment, and my early opinions of my classes/professors.

I’m taking the integrated track of the U of M program. In this track I have to take at least one 3 credit integrated course at the University of Paul Valéry (a class with a real French prof and students), a 3 credit grammar course, and a 3 credit phonetics course. I can also pick from special classes given by my program and some courses given by Paul Valery for international students. Overall, the minimum amount of credits I need to take is 15.

Registering for classes at Paul Valery is a lot different than registering for classes at the U of M. Typically, when a student wants to register for a course they have to go to the building of whatever department they are taking the class from and try to find information or course guides on classes that are posted randomly on bulletin boards. Also, in France students mainly only take classes in their field of study, and in each field many classes are offered at three different levels (licence1, licence 2, and licence 3). Licence 1 classes are typically introduction classes, and with each level the classes get harder or more specific. This system poses a problem for us American exchange students because we take classes in many different fields and are used to looking at an online catalogue of classes. Luckily, our program put together a hard copy course guide of all the classes offered for us to look at. So, one day of registration was solely going through the course guide, talking to our advisors, and choosing at least 3 classes we might be interested in. Then the next day we met with the advisors and filled out a sheet with the courses we wanted to take and their registration numbers. They advised us to take more than one integrated class because like at the U of M there is an add/drop period at the beginning of the semester. So, if one of the integrated classes doesn’t work out for any reason we can drop it and have another one to fall back on. After that simple meeting of figuring out working schedules and registering for classes we were all set. Now I can talk a little bit about each class I’m taking.

I have already taken a basic phonetics class at the U of M, so unfortunately this class will just be more practice because I won’t get more credits. This is kind of ok with me because I still definitely need to work on my pronunciation of the language because it is very hard and I enjoyed phonetics the first time I took it. Also, the professor provides us with the course materials, so I don’t need to spend extra money on the class. I really like the professor for this class; she has a lot of energy and is nice. I find that professors who teach or specialize in phonetics or phonology are always very laid back and kind of silly in their teaching methods.

Civilization of the South of France
This class is one of those special classes for Americans and is all about the civilization and culture of the south of France. France may be a small country but its different regions do vary. I wanted to take this class because I’m going to be living in the region for 4 months, so I think it will be interesting and helpful. It will also give me topics to talk with my host father about. Oh and I know for a fact that I will actually get credit for it when I return back to the U of M! For this class I only had to buy a cheap course packet.

Methods and Tools in Contemporary Art
This is an integrated class…a licence 3 class at that. The first day actually wasn’t that bad. Before the lecture I introduced myself to the professor and told her I was an American student, like our program told us to do, and she was welcoming. During the lecture she talked really fast and it was hard to understand her at times, but I found the course very interesting. I’m a little worried that it is a license 3 course, but I have taken art history courses before and I want to try to get this course to count for a credit back at the U of M. I need to take one 5000 level course to complete my minor, so maybe this will count. This class has two parts; a large lecture class and a smaller discussion section. This is very similar to many classes at the U of M. However, like most classes at Paul Valéry and French universities in general you only get one or two grades for the entire semester! This class has an oral exam and a final written exam, each worth half of our grade. The professor said that I didn’t have to do the oral exam because it would be too hard which I’m very happy for. Instead, I think I will have to keep a notebook of work or something. This makes me less nervous about passing the class. Also, if we are super worried about passing an integrated course our program can usually work out with the professor for us to write an additional research paper that would be graded if we did failed the class…which has happened to some students. I will see how it goes, but will probably end up writing a paper just in case later on. Another difficulty with the French classes is that they don’t give you a very concrete list of readings, if they give you one at all. For this class the professor just handed out a large bibliography of books for us to read. I’m definitely going to ask her what books I should read in order to narrow the list, and then I will search for the books in the library or at the second hand bookstore.

Grammar and methodology
This is another class that I won’t get credit for, since I’ve already taken all of the grammar courses at the U of M. Once again I still need practice in this subject and I think it will help a lot. Making this class and phonetics mandatory is kind of a downfall of the program for those who have already taken those courses because it’s 6 credits total that won’t count (it’s a lot of people too because most people in the integrated course are at a more advanced level). I also had to buy 2 course packets for this class, but the total was under 10 euros.

Art History
This class is a special class for our program and it takes place at the local museum in the centre ville, not at Paul Valéry. I think I’m really going to like this class because it takes place within the actual museum (the amazing musée Fabre), each week we will have a different guest speaker and learn about something new, and we get to go on a class excursion to a museum in a neighboring city. The museum has a lot of paintings that I’m looking forward to learn about, since I’ve mainly only learned about sculpture and architecture in my other art history classes.

History of modern music
This is a licence 1 integrated course in the musicology department, but I’m not going to go into detail about because I’ve already decided that I’m going to drop it. The teacher was very nice, welcoming, and easy to understand. However, the course did not interest me whatsoever and a lot of things relating to musicology were confusing for me. I definitely understood more of what was going on in my licence 3 art history class than in this one, which I was not expecting. Also, it’s at 8:45 in morning and two hours long, making it hard to concentrate and hard to get to. I would have to get up super early, and if there were a bus or tram strike, like there was on that morning, I would probably end up missing the class.

So, in the end I will be taking five classes, one of them integrated, and the minimum of 15 credits, which is what most people do so that they have time to travel or do other activities in the city. That is all for now!

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