As I’m getting used to university in France, I’ve been reflecting on my expectations for school here and how they’ve been changed throughout my time here at the University of Pau and the Adour Region. Overall, I love the French university structure and the American structure. They’re pretty different, but both have their advantages and disadvantages! Here is a short summary of what you can expect from a typical French university: 

The Classes: 

Initially, I expected my classes to be pretty similar to my language courses at the University of Alabama. Upon my arrival in Pau, I found out that I would actually be spending much more time in class than I thought. French university courses tend to last much longer, anywhere from 2-3 hours, with a small break around the halfway mark. While this took some adjusting to, I eventually learned to appreciate spending quality time with my classmates and professors. In France, we spend much more time in class than we do on homework, which I personally love!

The Food: 

Dining halls are a bit different here in France. Rather than exercising an “all you can eat” method with meal swipes, I pay for each individual meal (about $3.50 per meal). This meal includes an appetizer, a main course, a dessert, and bread. Bread is a must for every meal! There are usually 3-4 appetizer options, 2-3 main options, and 3 dessert options (though here, yogurt and cheese are considered desserts). I’ve loved getting to try authentic French foods on a budget, and it’s so much cheaper to dine here than it is in the United States on a meal plan. If you ever eat in a French dining hall, I recommend the Cordon Bleu!

The Campus Culture: 

Campus culture is one thing that I have to say I think the United States does better (Sorry, France!) School spirit is much less prevalent here, and since university is free for French students, buildings tend to be a little more outdated and the campus not as beautiful as Alabama. Though, even in the U.S., I have yet to find a school as beautiful as Bama ;). It’s much more typical for French students to go to campus, and leave after classes. While I do miss spending time on the quad with my friends, this has given me more opportunities to spend time in the city of Pau, which is where you’ll find other students when they aren’t in class!