“Overwhelming, shocking, sickening and still best month and a half “

On 3rd September 2018, I arrived in Paris together with three friends who study law with me in Bern; this to start our semester in Paris. It was comforting to know that we were in the same situation and that there would be someone to talk to. We came half a week before the start of our “integration week” so that we could get to know the city and its surroundings that would be our home for the next 5 months. At this time, we were still surprised how well we could understand the French language but mostly how well the French people understood us. That would change shortly after.

The introduction week was the most stressful week so far: Every day from 9 am to 1 pm we had French class and from 2 pm to 4 pm or to 6 pm we took a course that was supposed to introduce us to the methodology of French law. It doesn’t sound so bad, but unfortunately, the class in the afternoon focused on the basic rules and methods of the French law. Because this is the same in Switzerland and most other countries, the course wasn’t very interesting, in particular because most students had had this course at their home university at the beginning of their studies. And given that two days were about how to write an essay, something that most exchange students don’t have to do at our university, it was pointless and a waste of time. But thanks to the Bologna system, in which you have to collect points, we had to show up there and participate to get our ECTS-Points. From my point of view, it is not helpful or useful to be obligated to go to these courses, when in the same time we could have make some cultural, linguistic or other kinds of experiences.

However, we were curious about the “real” law courses at the famous “Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne”, where a lot of famous and important people studied. Our first course was the “droit international penal”, international criminal law, at 9.30 am in the old building of the Centre Panthéon, vis-à-vis the well-known “Panthéon” building near the “Jardin de Luxembourg”. It was shocking… we were in a room (Amphithéatre III) for 220 people filled with 300 people and a room temperature of 25 degrees. The moment the professor started talking, in real highspeed French, all of the students (except the Erasmus students) started to hit the keyboard of their laptops and wrote down every word the professor said. It sounded like a beehive and we were taken by surprise. In the following weeks we got used to the tempo and cadence of lecture and the amounts of information they stuck into one lesson and that one lesson usually lasts three hours. However, it was almost impossible to take notes. Thanks to the really nice French students we got notes from someone in every course to learn the subject and to follow the lecture and sometimes the professors just read the exact same text from the previous years and these notes were circulated, so life as an exchange student became a lot easier. The result of experiencing this new style of lecturing is that I miss the way law is lectured in Bern and the possibility to really understand everything the professor says in class and to write it down.

Something else to get used to in my exchange semester are the amount of parties and outings. Every evening there is at least one event organized by Erasmus, one by the university – and the fact that we live in Paris makes it easy to believe – five other events and parties near the university and the city center. Of course, in the first weeks I tried to join as many as possible, which ended in me catching an uncomfortable cold. At least it was not only me but most of the exchange students of our group. As we are beings able to learn, we began to plan ahead and participate more carefully in our outings, and not so influenced by the massive possibilities of night-time experiences the city offers.

To finish my first blog contribution, I summarize that despite all the overwhelming things up to now the first month and a half in Paris at the “Université Paris 1 Sorbonne Panthéon” has been the most interesting, fun and culturally embossed semester that I have ever had and I’m looking forward to three and a half more months in this amazing city.

Mahir Sancar

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