In May of 2006, during a vacation in Paris, I saw Université de Paris, La Sorbonne for the first time. This 13th century, prestigious center of intelligence and culture is known all over the world and I was anxious to visit. There was only one problem. The guard at the door would not allow my friend or I to enter; only students are allowed. I explained that I just wanted to look around and buy a T-shirt at the bookstore. No, only students are allowed he repeated. I told my friend that one day I would be back as a student and would THEN be allowed inside those hallowed doors!
Six years later and countless hours of studying French, I was awarded a graduate Internship by University of Texas, El Paso, to study at La Sorbonne in Paris. As part of their Cours de Civilisation Francaise, I was enrolled in five courses: Grammar, Phonetics, the Origins of Paris, the History of French Art, and the Civilisation of France.
[The Lecture hall at the Sorbonne for my Art History course]
There is quite a contrast in university courses here verses the United States. For this particular program, the courses are all taught in French and there is no contact with your professors outside of class. Any questions about assignments, exams, concepts must be asked in class and with correct grammar! Each course is two hours long with daily assessments. The grading scale is very strict and there are no progress reports throughout the semester. The in-class assignments and tests for grammar and phonetics count 40% of your grade with the final exam counting the other 60%. The final exam is a standardized test which is taken at the “Exam Centre” about 20 minutes outside of Paris. The exam is three hours long and is not graded by your professor. Their job is to get you ready for this difficult exam.
[My Grammaire classroom in a 13th century building.]
As far as the Civilisation courses, there are no in-class assignments or tests, only lectures. At the end of the semester, there is a final exam which is your grade. The final is multiple-multiple choice and short essay. In addition, classes continue throughout the final exam week. Finals are taken in the evenings and on Saturdays.
However, the lecture halls and classrooms are beautiful with wooden floors, winding staircases, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and chandeliers! My grammar class was in a 15th century Music Consortium and we would listen to Mozart, and Bach while conjugating verbs!
Last week, I took my last final and have completed my semester here! This has been the toughest challenge of my life and yet, the most satisfying. To be honest, my first day here back in September was very hard. I didn’t think I could do this. If it had not been for my daughter Kalie’s encouragement and the Lord’s powerful presence, I would have been on the first flight back home! He reminded me of his promises by giving me two double rainbows that day; one in El Paso that morning and the second when I arrived in Paris. This was God’s way of showing me that He is always with me no matter what continent I reside on. He has been my Constant Companion.
As rewarding as this adventure has been, I recommend it solely for the Young and Restless! It has been extremely hard to be away from my family and friends. However, this experience academically and culturally has been worth it. I have loved living in “19th century Paris” of Hugo, Balzac, the Impressionists and have made some sweet friends with a lifetime full of memories.
And as an added bonus, I finally got my T-shirt!!
Copyright 2015 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)