Having a beer with my professors in Quebec City

Having spent almost two months in Canada now, I have many striking experiences worth narrating. The big portions at the supermarket which make it difficult do groceries for one person, the excessive overuse of and dependence on cars which make it difficult for exchange students to get by without a car and the extreme distances in this big country are only a few examples. The one I would like to focus on here, however, concerns one of the first things I noticed at my exchange university – Université Laval in Quebec City: The communication between students and professors, which is based on a much more familiar atmosphere than what I am used to in at my home university.
To start with, most professors and students are on a first-name-basis. Not only do most professors and students address each other by their given name rather than by their last name, but also communication is based on “tu” rather than “vous”. Whereas at my home university in Bern, I am used to being on a first-name-basis in the English department, this is not the case at all for the French department and student-professor communication is rather formal. This is why this is something I still have to get used to and I keep catching myself wanting to address a professor by their last name or by a “vous”.

Further, professors and students – especially the respective assistants – seem to work very closely together and share much time together. One the one hand, there are so many activities in which students and professors work together. One example being a language program for exchange students led by professors and students of the linguistics department. On the other hand, there are many field trips or events professors and students participate in together: Our literature seminar will take us to the film festival in Quebec and with the same seminar I was very lucky to have a field trip in my first week of classes, which helped me get to know the students better. After the field trip, the professor suggested to take a scenic route back to university, so that me and another exchange student would be able to take in the views and learn more about that part of Quebec. After the excursion, we ended up all going out for dinner and beers – with the professor of course.

Finally, this rather relaxed atmosphere definitely changes the way seminars work. Whereas professors back home struggle to keep the students motivated to participate in group discussions, here, active participation is not only on a daily basis, but also highly mandatory as it is in fact reflected in the final grade. Participation is further reinforced by the fact that professors know their students very well and are thus able to ask them about their individual situation. As an example, in my bilingualism seminar, I often get asked to share how I experience a particular phenomenon in Switzerland, a multilingual country.

Whereas I am usually not the type to share many anecdotes and my opinion on every occasion, I am slowly getting used to and more at ease with participating more actively in class. Connected to the fact that the atmosphere is rather relaxed, laughter and sharing of funny anecdotes is on a daily basis and student’s opinions are highly valued, I feel more comfortable in classes here than at home.

As for now, I can say that I appreciate the relaxed atmosphere, as it helps me participate better in class. However, I am not too sure yet how I will be able to handle this intimate relationship with the professors once it comes to handing in papers and being graded by people who I went out for beers with. I have a feeling that in the end, I will be happy to go back to my home university – with a strengthened sense of sharing my ideas and opinions in class on the one hand but also heading back to my professors with which I share a hierarchical relationship, on the other hand, a relationship I apparently I still value.

Tamara von Rotz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: