It’s been 2 months since I’ve been on exchange at HEC Paris, and needless to say, French students are very different from Canadian students. So, without further ado:
Here’s how YOU TOO can be French – in the classroom!
- Don’t show up to class on time – there is always a 5-10 minute grace period of people arriving to class on time, and the professor’s need that extra time too to prepare for class. They don’t mind if you’re late, since they may be late too.
- Take an extra long coffee break – Sure, it’s supposed to only be 5 minutes long, but no one returns to the classroom for at least 10-15 minutes. You need time to drink a coffee and chat with your friends so your brain can keep working for another 1.5 hours.
- Don’t be surprised if participation is worth 30% of your mark, but your professor barely leaves space for you to get a word in. Participation is just another word for attendance. And on that note…
- Always always go to class, and do your homework. There isn’t even that much to do compared to the workload at Canadian universities, so you may as well take the time to do it.
- If you do address the professor, do so formally. French professors are happy to talk to students, but don’t expect them to meet you outside of class. If you have any questions about courses, email them or talk to them after class.
- Do not eat, sleep or even slouch during class. You need to take notes once in a while, understand the main concepts and do well on the assignments and exams and in order to do that, you need to be awake and at least look like you are listening.
- Don’t clap after presentations. No one claps in the classroom in France! When your peers give a presentation, the professor will thank them at them at the end and they go to their seat. And no one claps for the professor on the last day of classes, either.
- And finally, dress up for class. You are in France after all!
A small disclaimer: I have only seen one French university and spoken to French students about how students handle themselves in the classroom, so this list doesn’t necessarily hold true at every single French university. I didn’t think there would be so many differences between Canadian and French schools, but the culture and the structure are very different and fascinating. Gotta love culture shock!