Semester in Lyon: differences inside the classroom walls

University of Lyon 2 is a huge change of pace from ASU

I am currently in my fifth year of learning French, so it was always obvious where I would want to go when I studied abroad: France. 

Most people in America assume this means I’m practically fluent. And I am, if it’s an American professor with an American accent asking me the question. I can hold my own perfectly in a French class at Arizona State University. 

Learning French in France is another story. 

My classes at l'Université de Lyon 2 are filled with people from other countries, not just the United States. French is the only common language among students from Columbia, China, South Korea and Syria. Therefore, all of my language classes are completely in French. 

The professor doesn’t switch to English to translate the word. Instead he or she explains it in French, or even draws it out on the board. 

I have noticed a lot of differences between universities in the U.S. and France, not just related to language.

At ASU and most American universities, we choose our schedule. We choose the time of the class, the days of the week and even the professor. At ASU, we know our schedule a whole semester beforehand. 

In France, a few days before classes started, I received my schedule. I didn’t choose the times or the days or the professors. I have to drag my spoiled self to 8 a.m. classes three out of five days of the week. 

Also, the French spend more time in an actual classroom than we do. Last semester at ASU, I spent a maximum of four hours in a classroom per day, and I didn’t have classes on Friday. This semester, I’m in a classroom for approximately 24 hours per week. 

However, I can’t remember the last time I’ve only had two homework assignments to work on in one week.  We might be in class longer, but it’s because we’re doing more assignments in class with the guidance of our professors. 

Once I’m out of the classroom, I really don’t have to worry about class. It’s a nice change of pace compared to the endless deadlines and projects I’m used to.

Another difference, the classes are more formal. We have to speak to our professors using the “vous” form, which is a formal version of the word "you" in French. 

Professors find it very disrespectful if you eat your lunch or a snack during class. One of my classmates got called out in class for cracking his knuckles. All the Americans get death stares from professors if we switch to English among each other. 

Most of them understand that we’re all foreigners who aren’t used to it, so they kindly tell us not to do something. Plus, they genuinely want us to learn, not just know enough to get through the test. 

Overall, I’ve learned more in two weeks than in my five years of French class in America. 

Reach the blogger at or follow  @alexa_buechler on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this blog are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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