So what’s it like to be an English Masters Student at the University of Strasbourg? Well after a whole semester there I feel I am now in a position to make an objective(ish) judgement.

  1. First off, I have to say that the quality of teaching is superlative.  I have had the honour to be in the presence of some very great minds, all of whom are capable of some quite profound elucidation, not just in English but in French too – and both flawlessly.  An inferiority complex is not hard to come by here.  I’m rubbish.
  2. Personally I found the timetable a bit of a challenge.  Up to 14 hours of seminars every week … which in addition to 6 hours of teaching, 8 hours of freelance work and copious parenting obligations – made finding personal study time a near impossible task.  Which is my excuse for failing my exams…
  3. The teacher-training element of the course ‘didactics’ is handled by the IUFM from a brand new building down in Meinau.  While the facilities there are excellent, the positives in the classroom were few and far between.  The overly-long 3 hour weekly seminars rarely seemed to touch on acquiring any practical classroom skills. Only actual placement (stage) experience proved to be anything of an education to me.  I plan to drop it next year (and skip the bloody CAPES.)
  4. C2i2e, the compulsory IT certificate for all French public servants, was cunningly added to the workload half-way through the semester.  It’s a taxing self-study course where you have to provide answers to tough questions such as “What is wifi?” If you want a public sector job – you’ll have to get used to pointless bureaucracy – and voila it starts here.
  5. My experience of the University libraries has been largely positive. Aside from an apparent lack of power sockets for laptops and unshuttered windows that attribute to snow-blindness when the sun comes out – I have no real complaints.  The “bring it back late and we ban you for a week” rule may seem a little harsh at first – however you can see the benefits of this system, which is designed to discourage borrowing books at all.  By the end of semester almost every book I needed was back on the shelves.
  6. The elections in late November reaffirmed my belief in democracy.  (A Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich?) Thankfully, sporting so many grey hairs, the students canvassing across campus with all the diplomacy of the Zanu-PF overlooked me.  I have no idea what they wanted us to vote for or why … maybe next year I’ll pay more attention. Maybe not.
  7. While none of the buildings on the University campus are particularly noteworthy for their architectural value, the Platane building deserves a special mention.  I have it on good authority that this stack of portakabins was erected over twenty years ago, presumably as a temporary measure – yet remains sur place today.  Walls of cardboard and a pervasive smell of raw sewage lend it all the charm of an Australian ladies prison.  Thankfully I have only had to endure 1 hour a week in this pit, but next semester I may not be so lucky.

In all seriousness though, I have learned a great deal since becoming a student again; almost twenty years after graduating would you believe? I’ve learnt that you can learn new tricks, that you can actually enjoy studying and, perhaps most importantly, that you can still find cheap beer – you just have to know where to look.