I have already started the second week of university classes here in Perpignan. This feels so strange because nothing has started yet in Sheffield back home, and I am already in the throws of university life here.
University here is completely different to that of what I have at the University of Sheffield. The relationship between staff and students, the fact that I can wear shorts and flipflops every day (jeans is impossible – too hot!) and the importance of lunch time and long weekends here (no classes between 11am-2pm and no classes on Friday afternoons!)
As I mentioned in my last post, last week was all about choosing my classes and seeing which ones were right for me. As an Erasmus student, I must take a certain amount of classes per semester to add up to the all important 30 ECT credits. This is new to me, as the credit system in Sheffield is completely different (60 credits per semester, if you would like to know).
All classes in Sheffield are either 10 or 20 credits, so it’s very easy to add up how many you need to do. Yet here, classes can range from 1.5 ECT to 4 ECT credits, so I am trying to juggle which classes are best to take to add up to the right amount of credits. For example, Erasmus French language classes for foreign students are 4 ECT credits each, yet my Spanish speaking class is only 1.5 credits.
Although it is a balancing act, it is very liberating to choose whatever classes I want. Sheffield University’s French department would like me to take a minimum of 3 French language classes, the rest is up to me for I would like to study. I have the whole department of Humanities (Lettres) at my disposal (Year 1, 2 and 3). As I study Spanish and Portuguese as well, these take up most of my other classes.
Some classes I found absolutely horrifying: a 3 hour Medieval history lecture that I wanted to escape from within the first 10 minutes of (I lastest an hour and a half I think), or another one where even the French students were terrified of. Don’t worry, I have decided not to take those classes (lucky me! unlucky French students who have to take them hehehe…)
Instead, I have decided to take the following, which roughly added up to 30 credits if my terrible maths skills are correct:
Version espagnol (3 ECT credits):
‘Version’ is the name in France given to a translation class which is always a foreign language translated into French. In this case, Spanish. It is particularly challenging, especially as neither Spanish nor French is my native language. My native language is English! Many of the students in that class probably think I am crazy, but there is a chance they are right. Still, the teacher is very understanding and friendly which is half the battle over. She often asks me for my translation suggestions and speaks to me at the end of the class to ask how I am getting on. I have found that if you have a nice, friendly teacher here, it really helps here. The class is helping me improve both my French and my Spanish at the same time as well, and personally, that is so useful. Translation is an art and is very challenging. I have never translated Spanish into French so this class is completely new to me!
Pratique de l’oral espagnol (I.5 ECT credits):
This is a Spanish speaking class, and is conducted all in Spanish. Not much French going on here, except for when a word needs to be explained. This is actually a really important class for me, despite it being acredited so low. I am not as confident in my Spanish speaking, so having this class in France is very useful, especially to help me gear up for my second semester in Salamanca! Plus, it is just continuous assessment, no exam (sold!).
Histoire et culture de Royaume-Uni (2.5 ECTS credits):
This is actually a very eye-opening class: to see British history from an outsiders perspective and also learn some things about the UK I have never even heard about. Although, the teacher did say today that Wales is to the east of England, and I am not entirely sure I agree with that statement… At the end of the class, we focused on what is happening right now – the Scottish Referendum. I cannot believe that the vote will be this Thursday. Being outside of the UK right now, I feel so detached from it, but I am sure it is one of the main topics of conversation at home. Still, I am so nervous for the outcome, it could go either way.
Litterature narrative (3 ECT credits):
This is a French narrative literature (fiction) class. I love reading and taking at least one literature class in France is definately something I wanted to do. Literature is not for everyone, but I love it. Luckily the teacher for this class is very welcoming towards the Erasmus students. We do not have an exhaustive reading list as of yet, but she has kindly requested that we read Une vie by Guy de Maupassant by the beginning of October. This was actually a book that was on my summer reading list for 2014, I even had a copy ready at home, but I never got round to reading it! Oh well, new copy purchased from Fnac and I am getting into it already. I have already read Boule de Suif (A Level French literature text) and Le Horla by Maupassant and I love his writing style, so reading Une vie for this class won’t be a chore. If you have not yet read Maupassant, I recommend you do!
Espagnol (2.5 ECT credits):
This is your average Spanish language class, focusing on reading, writing, grammar etc. except think about being taught it in French. The verb ir is not the verb ‘to go,’ but in fact the French verb, ‘aller.’ It can be confusing at times, especially due to the mix of Spanish and French every few minutes but it isn’t that bad.
De Rome à nous (3 ECT credits):
This is a second year history class focusing on Roman history. It is possibly my favourite and most interesting class I have been to so far. The lecturer is quite eccentric, keeps his students entertained with crazy stories and jokes but the work still gets done. He even gives everyone sheets of information of the previous week’s work in class. We are expected to take notes, but he has said that whatever will be on the exam can be found in these sheets. No surprise questions to worry about here then!
Civilisation hispanique (2.5 ECT credits):
This is a Hispanic civilisation module compeltely conducted in Spanish, exam in Spanish, I feel this is a good thing as then I am on an equal footing with the French students as Spanish is a foreign language for all of us. I did history modules n Latin America and Spain in first year in Sheffield, but this focuses on history since the Roman era, which I never covered, so I am learning a lot of new information.
Littérature du Moyen-Age (2 ECT credits):
This is a Medieval French literature module. I find the evolution and history of the French language interesting so this appealed to me, plus it is a literary era I have not yet explored. We covered the history of the French language in a few lectures in my second year French culture module and it was what I did one of my French essays on, so I already had a basic grounding on this topic. No grounded, however, on the literature side though.
The lecturer is hardcore Catalan, quite a strong Catalan accent in French which can be hard to understand. Yet he is very welcoming and understanding with the Erasmus students and engaging with his lessons. Apparently he can speak Occitan (langue d’oc) as well, and he does this in the mountains with his uncle for fun, pretending that they are in a different era that has gone by (I find this very easy to believe and is actually quite cool when you think about it..).
Grammaire espagnole (2 ECT credits):
This is your standard Spanish grammar class, taught all in Spanish. We went over a past exam paper in the first lesson. I managed to translate the imperfect subjunctive of the verd poder no problem. Couldn’t remember the conditional for hacer (face palm!) Of course, I can do the tricky things but ask me to do something simple and I fail miserably…
Expression francaise (1.5 ECT credits):
It is difficult to explain this class, however I like it and think it will be very useful. This is no exam – hurrah! We have to keep a notebook and jot down any phrases that interest us in books, newspapers, song lyrics, things people say on the street etc. in any languages we want. I believe it will cover a lot of topics but for now, let’s just say it is a class about how to express oneself in the French language! I have to analyse the language in a speech by Victor Hugo, La Misère for homework this week but in the future we could be focusing on different areas of the French language.
Portugais (2 ECT credits):
This is a Portuguese language class (8am Friday morning, ahhh!). It is a second year module, but there are people in this class who are fluent and then there are others who are complete beginners, so I don’t really know what will happen. There is an advanced 3rd Year class, yet unfortunately I have a clash with Hispanic Civilisation.
Français langue étrangère (4 ECT credits):
FLE, this is a French language class designed for Erasmus students studying French. The classes have not started yet, they will commence in October so I don’t really have anything to say about them for now. These classes are worth 4 ECT credits, the most of any classes I have chosen. These will be useful in filling in my missing credits. I may take one or two FLE classes, depending on how they go. If I take two, it would mean I wouldn’t need to take exams in another module, such as Version espagnol or or Medieval literature. On verra (let’s see)!
Would you like to spend a semester studying at a foreign university? Where? Europe or beyond?
To my other Erasmus bloggers: what classes are you taking, anything very different to what I am doing?