I made it long again. Oops.
The water was getting shut off all day so I had to get up at the godforsaken hour of 8am to have a shower. Had to fight all my natural urges not to go back to sleep as I didn’t want to be THAT antisocial on my second day in the flat. Went to the bank to sort stuff out (and still didn’t have all the correct paperwork) then went to the big supermarket to buy stuff for my room. Managed to make it home via the metro and tram with a backpack, two huge shopping bags and a duvet at peak hour without receiving any abuse, so that was an achievement.
I woke up at midday to discover (via facebook) that it had snowed! I opened my blind and sure enough, voilà:
Typical, the one day I sleep in that late it snowed. I can only imagine how much more powdery goodness there would have been had I woken up earlier! I decided to make the most of my last day of freedom/the snow and head out to take some photos of the university by the Rhône, which I mentioned I had been past at night in my last blog. Sure enough, walking along les Quais from the tram was beautiful as the snow was largely undisturbed even in the fierce midday sun!
I then roamed the city for a bit trying to find a post office where I didn’t have to queue for half an hour just tobuy a stamp to send off my visa documents. No luck. So I headed to Part Dieu where I got that sorted, spent a small fortune on stamps for eventual postcards, and then went in search of the postcards themselves. Unbelievably, there was only one shop in the entire ginormous mall that had postcards, and they only had one type. I knew there were a few places in the centre of town where I could have got them but I figured those would have been the most expensive. Apparently not so. The ones I ended up buying, which little old me doing the old conversion back to NZD didn’t think were that bad, all came with their own envelope. Kinda defeats the purpose/excitement of a postcard IMHO so I’m not sure whether I’ll end up using them. I wasn’t going to say no though! I had a bit of a look round but it was still pretty busy with the sales going on. While I was in FNAC, which is kind of like an all purpose book/electronics-y store and looking at all the cheap books thinking I should buy one but not knowing where to start, I had the great brainwave that I could kill two birds with one stone and read Les Misérables (newsflash people, before it was a film and a stageshow it was a classic by Victor Hugo) while I’m waiting to see the film which doesn’t come out here until the end of February. How naïve I was. Turns out it’s a three tome epic and not quite as cheap as the little old Balzacs! So I did as I know best and put the issue on the backburner for the moment.
University in Lyon
So I mentioned last week that I would talk a bit about the different universities of Lyon, and now I have some pretty photos it’s the perfect opportunity! Lyon is a major student city with around 30 tertiary educational institutes and 120,000 students; 16,000 of them international. The French higher education system is quite different to NZ. Essentially, all universities are public and it is therefore free (or just about) to attend. They have a legal obligation to accept everyone who obtains the Baccalauréat (high school diploma), meaning most of these students head on to uni, for first year at least. The counterpart to ‘universities’ are the Grandes Ecoles which are private,veryexpensive and very prestigious. There are also various institutes and schools. The original Université de Lyon has evolved over time is today made up of three public universities which have each evolved to specialise in certain fields. Each is named after a notable Lyonnais. Université Claude Bernard-Lyon I focuses on science and medicine; Claude Bernard being a famous physiologist. Université Lumière-Lyon 2 focuses on the social sciences and is named after the Lumière brothers, who invented cinema. Lyon 3 focuses on the humanities and law and is named after Jean Moulin who was a hero of the French Resistance in WWII. I learnt a lot about him in 2011 so I am quite proud to be attending ‘his’ university as some form of tribute!
Lyon 3 is the youngest of the three universities, having split from Lyon 2 following the overhaul of the system brought about by the huge student revolts in the late 1960s (if you’ve studied French for an extended period of time you will know allll about good old mai soixante-huit). It has two main campuses, one on the quays of the Rhône beside Lyon 2, and one in a former tobacco factory further out from the city centre. The majority of courses are at the ‘Manu‘ (Manufacture des Tabacs) but all philosophy courses, postgrad law and 3rd and 4th year humanities are at les Quais. The Lyon 3 campus at les Quais is kind of split into several buildings around Lyon 2.
Now that you have somebackground we can proceed through to Wednesday! It was quite hard to organise how I was going to talk about everything so hopefully this has some sort of flow.
Wednesday was my first official day of ‘uni’. It started with a welcome presentation/info session about the city and the uni. This was followed by a lovely French test to place in our FLE classes which are the equivalent to ESOL. This was entirely multi choice and it was absolutely stressed that we MUST NOT guess an answer if we didn’t know it as we might end up in a class too hard for us.I guess this makes sense, but it went against everything that’s ever been drummed into us in NZ! I befriended a German and Slovakian who I was sitting next to and we spent the next couple of hours tracking down the various noticeboards with course timetables on them to attempt to put together our courses. As they STILL weren’t available online this meant we had to trek over to the other campus to see the third year courses. If you think this sounds unnecessarily complicated you don’t even want to know about opening a bank account.
While we were looking at the boards we met a French guy also looking at them who was really nice and gave us some tips about teachers etc. In fact all of the people we have had to ask for help with stuff have been really friendly (which is totally unexpected). We then headed next door to Lyon 2 as the exchange coordinator had told us it is actually possible to take some courses there, if you are taking certain subjects which Lyon 3 doesn’t necessarily have enough (or any) papers in as they specialise in certain thing. Well, this was right up my alley as Lyon 3 has exactly one third year art history paper (which is from 2-6pm on Fridays. I know). After talking to the crew at Lyon 2 I headed home and spent the evening attempting to sort out what to do with my life while I’m here. It was exhausting!
Thursday I headed back to uni for more presentations from the language and humanities faculties. The languages guy was really helpful and actually explained what sort of a chance we would have at doing any languages papers. The humanities lady spoke at about a mile a minute and pretty much told us nothing new. I understood everything she said but she was speaking so quickly so unnecessarily that it was stressing me out! I did more course ‘research’ and then Amandine and I finally tackled the issue of the Christmas tree. Yes, it was still up. There seem to be designated ‘dumping’ points where you’re meant to take your tree for it to get collected and … dealt with. Well, we’d missed all the days because we hadn’t figured out how to remove it. Amandine’s parents had been here for Christmas with a bigger car which is how it got in, but her car was too small to get it to the collection point. After we’d got it out of the apartment. I was on team ‘let’s just buy a saw and attack it’ but that idea wasn’t so popular so instead we spent at least an hour using steak knives, the most formidable blades available, to hack off all the branches. Note that we still hadn’t tackled the main issue of how to actually get rid of it, so it stayed like this for a few days :(
I headed in to uni to meet my ‘buddy’ only to discover that she couldn’t come. I wasn’t surprised as I had only signed up the day before and been told to turn up at midday, which I had found a bit ‘presumptuous’ for want of a better word (I have not been exercising my English vocabulary recently, ok!). Fortunately I had other stuff to do and live nearby otherwise it would have been rather annoying! We have since been in contact and she’s really nice (and isn’t even in Lyon at the moment, go figure). Then I had meetings with two ‘tutors’ from each of the faculties, who had been assigned to help us pick courses and give us advice etc. They were both really helpful; the languages one telling me which Spanish paper I might actually have a chance with (as I would like to keep it if I can but there’s not exactly an abundance of entry-level courses) and the humanities one recommended courses. So I came out of that actually having sorted out a timetable that worked, kept Mondays free for travel and was all courses that I was actually interested in doing rather than having to pick random ones just to fill in points. So that was such a relief. I still have to actually go to the classes next week and see if I like them and can understand the lecturer etc but providing that all goes well I’m SORTED! Will post more about this once it’s confirmed.
After that I intended to head home except, slight drama, the entire metro had been evacuated and shut due to a bomb threat. This didn’t affect me directly as I get a bus, but it meant that there were people EVERYWHERE and the buses were packed. Fortunately I only had to go two stops or so. Aside from that, the worst part was not being able to find any information on it. I don’t know what the equivalent to Stuff is and there was nothing on google so I had to wade through all the tweets with the word ‘metro’ in them until I found something that was actually relevant. After about two hours once the entire network had been examined and it was determined there was no bomb it reopened. I imagine most of you aren’t aware, but there’s huge conflict going on in Mali at the moment, and the French military is involved. Since last week France’s national security level has been raised to the second highest with increased police and military presence in the city, especially at transport stations and busy areas of town (it doesn’t help that it’s the sales so there are way more people around). There was no official verdict but I think it’s pretty clearly related to that. Given that it didn’t directly affect me, and that I live out in the burbs so that if there was something serious going on it probably wouldn’t be targeting where I live, I must say I found it quite exciting! I think more than anything it was the first time where I really felt like I was living in a big city, in Europe, dealing with affairs on this side of the world. Hard to explain.
We spent the morning doing housework and finally dealt with theChristmas tree. We managed to break the trunk in half using our bear hands/feet so then we took the whole thing to the dump (which was not really a ‘dump’ but whatever it was in the scary backstreets near an army base and a lot of brothels, apparently). Then I met up with Sophie, one of my new friends (une américaine), and we got coffee at the ‘NZ cafe’ as I keep accidentally referring to it, which was packed! It’s not just me going on about it, it definitely does have a reputation amongst anglophones of all sorts!
Had a pretty lazy day. Did my HOMEWORK for my first French class next week, swotted up with my trusty Schaum’s French grammar book (as they’ve chucked is right in the deep end with prepositions which I suck at) and wrote this. That’s about it! I don’t want to go out on an anticlimax though so here’s a pretty picture of Lyon 2.
Catch you next time!