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.


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