La Rentrée: My First Week at the Sorbonne

Of course there are other buildings next to it, but here's my "campus"
Of course there are other buildings next to it, but here’s my “campus”

I made sure to get to my first class, “Introduction to the Cultural History of the Middle Ages” early.  French students? A French professor who will probably hate me immediately? A class all in French? Saying I was nervous would be an understatement.

Can we go back to summer now?
Terrified would be a better word.

The first class was a CM, Cours Magistral, or a lecture style class. It went surprisingly well. The professor, thankfully, had a powerpoint to go along with his lecture so I understood most everything he said when he was talking about the Franks and Visigoths. I even talked to a girl after class! Making French friends? I sure hope so.

Unfortunately, a CM is only about 1/2 of the actual course. The rest of the course is a TD or Travaux dirigés, also known as a seminar of sorts with a teaching assistant and only about 50 students instead of the 200 in the CM. Of course, the only grades you get are in the TD from your teaching assistant so when you end up looking like this during your first TD:

Uhhh what?
Was that French?

You might have a slight problem.

Thankfully my other classes went much, much better.

Which is frustrating because I signed up for a backup class just in case the Middle Ages course was horrible (and it was) and it turns out my backup class is amazing! The TD professor has the perfect accent, talks at a normal pace, and seemed really happy to have me there! Unfortunately, as it’s an analysis of very recent history, it also has a real life application to my major and career path… Why do I say unfortunately?

My inner Diana Bishop just really, really wants to learn what the heck went on all that time ago… and maybe a little alchemy.

Who wouldn't want to learn the symbolism behind this picture??
Who wouldn’t want to learn the symbolism behind this picture??

So I’ll probably go to all of my classes again next week and then decide which one to drop. Maybe the Middle Ages class was just horrible because it was the first day and she didn’t know what else to do besides name drop all of these philosophers? When she wrote Huizinga on the board I was terrified. It didn’t look like a French word at all so no wonder I didn’t understand!

The only bad thing about my other classes is that there really isn’t an assigned textbook. They each hand out bibliographies with dozens of books listed. One professor actually told us that there was no required reading, but if we wanted to do well we should read a few.

Optional, but highly encouraged, giant reading list?
Optional, but highly encouraged, giant reading list?

I don’t even know.

As far as meeting French students… I’ve had mixed results. I feel like it’s your average university setting: unless you reach out to someone either by smiling, offering up a pen, or flat out introducing yourself, most everyone will just mind their own business and leave you be.

They obviously didn’t hear or see my inner plea for French friends.

I guess I need to work on my adorable, help me vibe
I’m taking lessons from Stitch.

But it turns out I have another class with the girl I talked to after my Middle Ages class! I talked to both her and her friend for a few minutes about classes and then sat next to them in the lecture. So I’m even more reluctant to drop the Middle Ages class because I’m very slowly making friends!

That sums up all of the information I have on my classes at the Sorbonne since I’ll only be taking 2 classes at the Sorbonne and 2 with Sweet Briar. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post how fantastic my grammar class is- yes, yes you can use that adjective with grammar- but I haven’t talked about my other Sweet Briar class. It’s an art history class where we spend an hour and a half each week sitting around analyzing paintings and sculptures in the Louvre.

I might have actually twirled like that too...
I might have actually twirled like that too…

I don’t think much more description is necessary here. Our professor is funny and has a massive knowledge of art and the Louvre in general. Apparently, he noticed that a painting was gone from its usual spot so he went and asked a worker where it was. They then told him said painting had never actually been in the Louvre’s possession. So he told the worker that if they didn’t email him the location of the painting in three days, he would write an article saying that the Louvre had lost a painting (or was robbed).

Where is she?

Needless to say, they emailed him the information detailing the painting’s new location. So kind of an Art Historian bad-ass. Is that an oxymoron?

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