From Teacher To Student



I kept my promise: I wanted some changes in my life and I have slowly been working on that.

I had decided to attend university again. I already have a 3 years degree from the Institut des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (my former university in Paris), plus some post-grad credits, plus some French teaching certificate. But I was interested in taking additional classes in Canada, hoping to eventually complete a degree here. What can I say, I like studying.

It wasn’t an easy process, though. I chose to study at Ottawa University, hoping that as a bilingual university, they would know how to deal with my French degrees. Oh boy, I was wrong…

Within a few months, I discovered that:

  • I was considered a “mature student” (I’m 26, people!)
  • My French degrees didn’t worth more than 50% of a Canadian Baccalaureate
  • Being French and having studied in French wasn’t a proof that I could speak French (?!)
  • My English TOEFL test was lost, found, lost, found…
  • ….and so was my Chinese language placement test (which is really lost, I think)

Never mind. I finally got in, somehow. I’m studying part-time, taking only a class or two per session. I’m paying for it myself and working full-time, I can’t study more.

So, this summer, I completed the macroeconomics course and I’m currently taking political science. And I’m also taking… suspense… French as a second language!

Are you done laughing yet?

Yes, the university registered me as an English student. According to their logic, because I can provide the proof that I speak English (I passed the TOEFL) but no the fact that I can speak French (being French isn’t enough), then I must attend classes in English. And since my degree requires learning a second and a third language, well, my second language is French.

Now, it gets weirder. The University of Ottawa is bilingual, so I can hand my papers in either French or English, and many French-speakers teach classes in English and vice-versa (and not all professors are fluent in either language, trust me…). Canada does have some language-related issues.

Unlike in Europe, to study in a Canadian university, you have to be admitted. The process was very new to me: in France, all I had to do was basically to register at any university I wanted and then it was up to me to succeed academically. But in Canada, I had to first submit an application through a general provincial website: OUAC. I could make three choices: three programs, three universities. And of course, I had to pay: $120 for the base application fee, plus $50 for the document evaluation fee. I then brought all my French degrees and transcripts to the University of Ottawa for evaluation, plus a resume and a cover letter. I felt like I was applying for a job there!

The process wasn’t smooth at all.First, there was the English TOEFL story. Then for some reason, I wasn’t admitted at all: according to the website, “After reviewing your application, we regret to announce you that we do not accept your application for the program YYY for the following reasons:” (followed by a big blank). I showed up at the admission office and no one was able to tell me why my application was rejected. Eventually, about a week later, they changed their mind and I was accepted.

Meanwhile, I finally met two really helpful employees at the University who helped me through the last steps. Indeed, by the time I got the formal offer, it was already mid-August (and I had applied in April!) and most classes were full. On top of that, the university still hadn’t evaluate my French degrees, so I didn’t how which class I was exempted from taking… therefor, I couldn’t choose my classes.

But eventually, I made it. I picked two classes and was set to go. Sure, my Chinese placement test is still lost somewhere, I don’t know for sure which kind of credit I’m getting for my French studies but here I am – a part-time student again.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I’m glad that I’m done with University! I’ll actually know if I’ll graduate or not in the end of October. Best of luck to you in your new adventure.

  2. Congratulations for your achievements! What a success! Thanks for your great sharing. Quirky, funny and even beautiful in its way, your writing is always wonderful and makes me smile.


  3. Who knew there was so much bureaucratic ineptitude in Canada, too? I never thought of how strange the application and payment process of trying to go to university in North America must seem to someone from France. Looking forward to more amusing stories about your take on our university system!

  4. My goodness… what a nightmare! There are so many crazy rules here in Canada, and we’re trying to jump through hoops too. It’s nuts. That’s so odd that they don’t see your French-ness as enough. It’s interesting, I had an IELTS candidate (IELTS is like TOEFL) who said he needed to do it in order to work in Australia – to show his English level was high enough. And he was BORN in Toronto and went to university here! Weird eh… I don’t get it.

    And I had no idea you didn’t have to be accepted at universities in France!
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Our first couple of weeks in Canada =-.

  5. It’s funny how all strangers run into weird problems when dealing with Universities. But I have to admit I have been lucky with the university I’m attending, I declared two mother tongue (French and English) not to take a ESL test and my degree was accepted as equivalent so I did not have to take extra classes 🙂

    But can’t you prove your French language proficiency by having proof that you went x years in a French school?
    .-= Cynthia´s last blog ..Très bien =-.

  6. Wow. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to start over again. That’s one thing that I wanted to avoid when I had the chance to join my parents in a foreign assignment, but instead opted to just stay in Manila and finish my degree. I wish you well.
    .-= Linguist-in-Waiting´s last blog ..Boston =-.

  7. Salut Zhu,

    And I thought that the paperwork was bad in France…. Ooooh !
    That’s all so confusing but I hope that all these administrative people have put everything in place.Then the real work can start and you won’t be bothered ( I’m hoping!) after that.

    I don’t have to tell you to study hard; I know you will. And Bon courage for juggling your long days with work too.

    Bises xxx
    .-= barbara´s last blog ..Our B&B while in Quebec city =-.

  8. oh zhu, i thought canadians were the models of efficiency.
    pouvez-vous montrer que vous existez? je pense… je pense.
    but what i like most of all is your persistence. how logical you are in a world that proclaims logic but falls apart on common sense.
    you have my best wishes towards your studies. belle. bon bon.
    .-= Seraphine´s last blog ..It’s Right Under Your Nose =-.

  9. Welcome to the wacky, wonderful world of being Canadian!
    The university admittance procedures are certainly daunting & confusing. One of my sons just completed his applications to medical school – what a time-consuming and challenging process that was…
    .-= Beth´s last blog .. =-.

  10. @Bluefish – Thank you! Best of luck for your graduation – I’m sure you will graduate.

    @Angela May – I find it hard to study while working, especially since universities don’t seem to realize a lot of us are not full-time students, but full-time employees and part-time students!

    @Tulsa Getleman – It is funny indeed! I wish the persistence grade wold show on my report 😆

    @Lynx – Thank you! I’m curious now: which university did you attend?

    @Soleil – Oh, don’t worry, I have a few posts in progress about university life. It’s an endless source of fun and observation for me! 😆

    @Sidney – Kafka, indeed!

    @Brenda – I personally think the TOEFL is a big business and some candidates really don’t need to prove their English is good enough, but anyway… I don’t mind, I passed and that’s it. Never gonna take it again though, it’s expensive and quite stupid.

    @Cynthia – I have always been fairly lucky with the Canadian administration – it’s just university that is a bit nonsense, hence my surprise.

    @Nigel – You said it!

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Well, I still have my French degree and employers know that so it’s not too bad. But I wish I could have gone into a master degree directly.

    @barbara – Canada isn’t usually that bureaucratic, it’s just the university system… or this particular university.

    @RennyBA’s Terella – Age doesn’t matter: both of my parents are students! 😉

    @Seraphine – J’existe, j’existe, mais je suis quoi au juste! 😆 The system is way more efficient than in France in some many area, it’s just university I think.

    @Beth – I have been told that it was difficult for all Canadians, not just “new” Canadians. Somehow, it makes me feel better but I wonder why the system isn’t easier.

  11. Unfuckingbeleivable… what total and utter incomepetence… what is it with administrators, can they not apply common sense… why are the bound to the most inefficient and illogical processes… you must have great patience, I am so pissed off on behalf of you just reading this post… WANKERS!
    .-= beaverboosh´s last blog ..Aristocratic Wedding =-.

  12. Oh Zhu!
    I am so sorry to hear that. As if your TOEFL story wasn’t bad enough, it was worse to hear that you had to take university again. Jeruen and I were wondering about it too when we met. I don’t want to comment on the bureaucracy here as it makes me agitated. But hey, all’s well that ends well. I wish you the best and no more obstacles! 🙂
    .-= Final_Transit´s last blog ..Bogolyubovo’s Church of the Intercession on the Nerl =-.

  13. @Seb – Yep, you said it!

    @beaverboosh – It is very annoying. I’m a bit over that now because I somehow got into and I already have a degree so it doesn’t worry too much. But I feel bad for immigrants who must go back to school in order to work in their field. It must be hell.

    @Final_Transit – It should be okay now. I mean, I have a lot of stories to tell about university but they are more observations than real frustrations. As said, at least I already have a degree which employers usually recognize and I don’t work in a very specific regulated field, so…

  14. Hi Zhu,

    I had figured it out that you were back to school (we don’t see you around that much in the blogosphere); and I glad you did *hug*! I know that you will be rather successful!

    Political science, eh? I knew it LOL ;)…

    ROFL ROFL ROFL no, I am not done laughing yet LOL LOL LOL so, French girl is taking French as a second language…you kill me!

    Girl, the path wasn’t smooth but you did it just the same, and that is all that counts! Congrats :D!

    Have a great week, Student girl :D!


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