On Campus (Part III)

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The Winter semester started in early January, but I can’t seem to put myself into study mode. First, there is my very full-time job. I work in an environment where futile things such as eating and sleeping are almost frowned upon, let alone studying. And then, there is the usual winter blues. Hard to walk to class after a full day of work when it’s cold, windy and pitch black.

Last semester, one of my class was just fucked up. The professor, as well as both of the teacher’s assistants, were native French speakers but the class was taught in English. It was a struggle to understand what they were saying… and it got me mad. I’m not one to make fun of language abilities but come on, don’t teach an English class if you are not comfortable with the language! And shall I remind you that I was myself “forced” to attend my classes in English because I couldn’t prove that French was my mother tongue? I love Canada but this country has an issue with language(s).

I mostly studied on my own. The class quickly gave up on the prof (at one point, I showed up in class and only 8 were attending out of 200 students) and we were left with a massive list of readings to complete. I actually learned a lot from them so I can’t complain too much.

I’m also happy with my grades so far: two A- and — believe it or not — I passed my French as a second language test! (insert sarcastic laugh here) The University actually sent me a very nice framed “certificat de bilinguisme” that I will definitely keep for memory.

This semester, I’m taking a first year class (a pre-requisite). Not to sound arrogant, but I find it very basic and I’m shocked to see a lot of students don’t master basic grammar skills… or lack general knowledge for that matters. Last class, the teacher asked the students to name states. First answer of a student? Africa. Second answer? Québec. Argh.

I feel like an outcast. Students are pretty “young and innocent” and I don’t really fit in. The prof also seem fond of group work, which I hate because I really don’t have time to hang out at university with other students after class. I know I sound antisocial — I’m not, but I must admit that all my group work experiences have been lame. I love working as a team in a work setting but not in academics.I guess I’m learning now…

But That's Where I Was Going!

But That's Where I Was Going!

Phone Booths

Phone Booths



In The Library Elevator

In The Library Elevator







Offices Or Rat Cages...?

Offices Or Rat Cages...?






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. Since I am an adjunct lecturer at Norwegian Business School of Management, I find you’re observations and reflections very interesting. Some of the students are a bit older, mature and experienced that most of the others and learn and study in a bit different way.

    Interesting to look at the photos too and the first to the right caught my eyes (the phone booths). I haven’t seen any of them at the university where I am lecturing as every students have their own mobile phone or use Skype.
    .-= RennyBA’s Terella´s last blog ..Life with a twist at Ice Bar Oslo =-.

  2. Obviously your classes are giving you a serious case of heartburn. Depending on where you go to school (in the US), sometimes you can opt to “test out” for a required class. If you can pass the final you don’t have to take the class.

    Your problems with inept instructors reminded me of one of my experiences many many years ago when I was an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University. The way state funded schools work in many states, Oklahoma included, is that there are two large universities. Oklahoma University is the liberal arts school and Oklahoma State is the Agriculture and applied sciences. There is lots of overlap, but the generalization holds true.

    So I am in my Sophomore year taking a required general biology class with 200 people, many of whom were farm raised agriculture majors who grew up riding horses and managing the family herd of beef cattle, or maybe dairy herd, assisting with the nitty gritty of animal husbandry, impregnating cows, raising lots of little baby calfs. The instructor is from New York City or some location where the only cattle are in a petting zoo somewhere. He is trying to explain basic genetics and proceeds to explain what happens when a white girl cow is bread to a red boy cow. There is a strong ripple of laughter in the room and the instructor looks up from his notes to see what is funny. A large ruddy faced Ag student wearing a stetson hat and cowboy boots tries to explain in a twangy Oklahoma drawl that where he comes from they call them boy cows Bulls. The whole class dissolved in laughter and left the instructor embarrased and confused. The class was never quite the same after that initial encounter. He recovered nicely however, and it ended up being a good class although he was never able to explain just what those boy cows did to those girl cows to get them to make little baby cows,
    .-= Tulsa Gentleman´s last blog ..The MTTA Station, New Art Deco =-.

  3. When I took on my 2nd major in Uni, I was older than all of the students and I didn’t fit in either. Mostly I kept my head down and left as soon as classes ended, but I think it helped that I didn’t have time to “hang out” anyway because I was juggling work at the same time.

    *hugs* I do hope you feel more comfortable there soon, though. Hopefully it’ll just take a bit more time. 🙂
    .-= Lizz´s last blog ..The Joys of Pore Reducers: Hanskin Pore Treatment Pack and BIOTHERM Biopur Pore Toner Review =-.

  4. @Agnes – It’s in the elevator library, scares me every time I take it!

    @RennyBA’s Terella – And I was very surprised that it was almost impossible to find a pay phone in Finland when we were here – even the airport didn’t have one!

    Most students have cell phones here, but plans are rates are very expensive in Canada. You even pay for incoming calls and for checking your voice mail! As a result, a lot of people still use pay phone for 50 cts. because you have unlimited local calls.

    @Yogi – Ah, these employers…!

    @shionge – I’m always better at studying on my own… always been like that.

    @Tulsa Gentleman – I loved your story – it brightened my morning! I can just imagine the scene… truly the meeting of two worlds, the city and the country! Even as I was reading I was “aren’t they called ‘bulls'”?

    It reminds me of my own biology classes in France. Around the age of 15-16, we had to study human reproduction. Our teacher was extremely old-fashioned and didn’t quite enjoy talking of sex in front of a class of silly teens (looking back, I can’t really blame her). She’d blush and turn to the board every time she had to say “penis” or “breast”.

    @Sidney – I hope too! Some classes are bound to be better.

    @Lizz – Really? I think we had some in France too, but then it’s mostly because we don’t have room for outdoor football fields in the city.

    It feel different at soon as you step in the “normal” world, doesn’t it? Hard to be a student again after you started working.

    @Beth – Thank you. The certificate means a lot to me 😆

  5. You know I relate to the dumb first year students problem! I really disliked my lab classes because you had to work in lab groups and I ended up with a couple of brain dead kids. Ugghh. All I can say is, do the best you can. It’ll be over in a few months and you can move on to better classes.

    Congrats on being able to speak French! 🙂
    .-= Soleil´s last blog ..Some movie reviews because I need a break from food =-.

  6. haha. you yourself was dumb once. do you remember?
    that is why one goes to school- to get educated.
    but i agree, one should have learned the *basics* of grammer and language before they enter university.
    i still feel stupid sometimes.
    but what i don’t know won’t hurt me.
    spring will soon be here, there will be a surplus of cheese, and those classrooms won’t feel so much like rat cages.

  7. Oh poor you. I have often thought of returning to school but am discouraged by the idea of being surrounded by all of the things you complain about. I am certain you are not anti-social, but when you have other demands on your time, you tend to guard it preciously. I hope things start looking up for you. (FYI-I would NEVER ever teach a class in French. I don’t even like speaking in front of more than 2 people because my niveau is so low.)

    By the way, do you mind if I link your blog?

  8. futile things such as eating and sleeping – that must be brutal!

    one of my class was just fucked up – all of mine are. In the past 2 years, I have had only class which I actually liked to attend

  9. When I went to Simon Fraser University in 2001 as a mature student of nearly 30, I was pretty shocked at how clueless the first-year students were. I started to wonder if I appeared that clueless when I was 18, too.

    I continued to work my full-time job and attended classes on two different campuses. The downtown (Harbourfront) campus in Vancouver was nearly all mature students; I was in the main demographic of people who were already in the workforce and the location was convenient for us. It made for a completely different atmosphere. I didn’t particularly enjoy the massive theatre-style classes at the main campus in Burnaby, they were too large and it wasn’t conducive to asking questions.

    As a mature student I think the first-year students will always look like kids. And they are!

    Regardless, I think the whole screwed-up language class situation you’re in can be blamed on OTTAWA 😉 I’ve never heard of that before and it doesn’t make any sense at all, like many things that happen there. The whole country blames everything on Ottawa, don’t we?
    .-= Gail at Large´s last blog ..My Third Leg =-.

  10. Bravo pour le test de Francais!!!

    You mentioned basic grammar skills in your post and I am wondering what are the standards of teaching grammar at secondary level in Canada? If it’s like in Ireland, no wonder. Here, pupils are not taugh the English language as it is believed that it’s a skill they pick up naturally through listening and reading. You can imagine their level when they arrive in university; some of the essays are actually illegible and tutors are supposed to teach their students basic writing skills on top of thinking skills (that is not to regugitate everything that was said at the lecture). Maybe it’s the same in Canada?

    I love the poster against littering!

    .-= Em´s last blog ..Rain and Snow =-.

  11. @Soleil – I loved reading your university experience, you are actually the one who inspired me to write mine. Let’s both be united against brain-dead kids!

    @Seraphine – I think I’m still dumb, especially early in the morning and even more so on Monday. I don’t want to make fun of these kids but… really, was I that dumb? 😉

    @angela – For the link, please do so, I’m honored! I will update my own blogroll soon and I’ll be sure to include your blog. Yes, going back to school is a strange experience, even for me who never really stopped studying.

    @Nigel – really? Which class did you like best, and what was the problem with the other classes?

    @Alexander – The campus is nice… huge actually!

    @Gail at Large – You are right, this is definitely an Ottawa thing. As for “mature students campuses”, we don’t really have this option in Ottawa’s mainstream universities. It’s too bad actually.

    @Em – Thanks for visiting and commenting! I’m not sure how grammar is taught here because I went to school in France. But I find students lack very basic skills in both French in English, no matter what their mother tongue is. And I’m talking of students who grew up in Canada, not newcomers.

    For instance, students don’t write complete sentences, like subject + verb + complement. Punctuation is also quite erratic… and don’t get me starting on spelling! French are quite picky about their language in France and we had dictations until we were like 16.

  12. @Zhu: None of the teachers were really interested in teaching. Only one sir taught us well. He taught about “Operating system and UNIX.” He was the head of the computer science dept and his classes were really good. He put some effort and wanted us to learn. Others were indifferent to uninterested.
    .-= Nigel´s last blog ..Sucess! =-.

  13. Awesome. I just love campus pictures… it makes me want to study study study again! Congrats on the great grades!
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Our first couple of weeks in Canada =-.

  14. Hey Zhu,

    I so get your “ennui”! And it is hard to work and study at the same time; but girl…do not give up :D!

    Congrats on your bilingual certificate: you must be proud LOL LOL ;)! And I totally agree with you: if one doesn’t master a certain language please do not teach in it (I had the same problem when I was in the university: Portuguese teachers who knew little of English teaching in Her Majesty’s language…c’était terrible!!!).

    Have a great weekend, girl!

    .-= Max Coutinho´s last blog ..Inside a Woman’s head on Valentine’s Day =-.

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