My newsfeed on Facebook is full of complaints about UCC at the moment, thanks to the joys of introducing semesterisation to a group of students who are very happily accustomed to procrastinating until May, with a month beforehand to try and figure out what they missed the entire academic year. Lads, I feel your pain, but you’ll never understand how lucky we are. I feel like a war veteran who has seen the horrors of battle and spends the rest of their life trying to forget about it. I’m nearly half way through my battle with Lille 3 right now and things are not looking pretty over here.
From the start, I got the feeling that college was going to be different in France. Lecturers at home gently warned us not to expect the luxuries of UCC and those warnings were well deserved. My current university campus seems to be a greyish yellow colour- much like the colour a jaundiced person would appear to be. I’ve moved from the Hogwarts-like UCC to what looks like a mental hospital built in the 60’s. The library alone is genuinely a health hazard- there are plans to demolish it in the near future but until then sections of the building are closed off as there are concerns parts of it will actually collapse.
And then there are the main buildings. Lille 3 has about the same student population as UCC, but manages to contain this all within only two main buildings. How did they manage this ingenious feat? you ask. Well, instead of having multiple buildings spread across a wider campus, they decided to shove them all together into two of the most labyrinthine buildings you will ever come across. I’m not exaggerating when I say they go on for miles. Multiply the confusion of the ORB by about twenty and you will begin to feel the frustration you would feel inside of these mazes. I’m almost positive they have those staircases from Hogwarts that move direction as you climb them because you will climb one set of stairs and manage to go from the first floor to the third. Students who have been here for three years will come up to me and ask for directions to a room (which I have of course been unable to provide). Could you imagine being so lost that you have to ask an Erasmus student for directions? That’s how you know things are in a sorry state.
Then there is the matter of administration. First and foremost, the Internet has not hit Lille 3 just yet. They’re catching on, I’ll give them credit for the fact that they have Moodle- only three of my eight lecturers actually use it, but in fairness it’s there. But the whole idea of registering for modules online? No. That’s not going to be possible. No no, if you want to register for a module, you first have to find the department noticeboard (conveniently hidden somewhere in the aforementioned maze buildings), note down the timetable of lectures (which will change sporadically, so do check it regularly), then turn up to the class and hopefully, it won’t be too full for you to join. Then, after a few weeks, you fill in a sheet of paper with your modules, and your lecturers contact details, bring it to your relevant department to be approved and then bring it to the international department to be accepted. All of this could be done with the click of a button, but what fun would administration have if they couldn’t see a little glimmer of frantic desperation in your eyes every time you speak to them.
But the worst thing of all about college, without a doubt is the International department. It’s an area of college that I do my best to avoid, but as an Erasmus student, if you need to get anything signed you must go to this corridor of hell. Ironically, the one part of the college that is entirely intended for me as an Erasmus student, is also where I happen to feel most unwelcome. Prepare yourself to wait a long time to be attended to and then to be ignored for a little bit longer before you actually get what you need from them. A prime example of this is when last week I waited two hours in the International office to literally get a form stamped. I’m sad to say I nearly lost it- I could see the stamper I needed as I peered through the window into the office. I very nearly burst in the door and snatched the stamper right from the hands of the people who had been so rudely ignoring me and stamping my stupid little sheet myself. I pictured myself doing so and dancing out of the room, cackling like a victorious mad woman. But I also needed them to scan the sheet for me and that would have taken too long for me to get away with it. Awkwardly standing by the scanner next to the people whose stationary I had just stolen wouldn’t have had the same dramatic satisfaction.
I find it awkward when French students or teachers ask me what I think about Lille 3. My most commonly used adjective is “…different”. I have no intention of insulting anyone who may be reading this post and for this reason I must add a disclaimer. There are some really great things about Lille 3 and I will mention them to avoid accusations of bias. Firstly, Lille 3 is so much cheaper than UCC- the fees are far lower and even the food is amazing value for money. The college restaurant offers an absolutely huge dinner for €3.20- a price which would hardly buy you a good coffee in UCC. Also, the lecturers are great- they are all so accommodating to foreign students and the classes on offer are genuinely interesting. You would never catch UCC’s English Department offering classes like Creative Writing and Detective Fiction. And while there aren’t many societies in Lille 3, one that is definitely worth mentioning is Ulysse- run by the cheeriest man you’ll ever meet, it is a society that organises trips for students and this weekend will bring me on my fourth trip to a foreign country this semester.
Lille 3 is frustrating and out dated, but like everything it has some good aspects to it, and Lille is an impossibly pretty place (expect future posts of photos from the Lille Christmas market as proof). While UCC is no piece of cake either, I look forward to seeing my familiar beautiful buildings and not regularly getting lost next September.
That’s all the ranting I’ll do for now, I can’t guarantee that no French people were hurt in the making of this blog post, mais c’est la vie.
Until next time mes amis!