The United States has long been known for its diversity of cultures. Missouri Western State University has also become a gathering place for students of many different races, languages and religions. One such student put together a presentation to better educate our students on her culture.
Melanie Schneider is a business major at Western, but she is not from St. Joe. Schneider hails originally from France. Western has an exchange program set up with six other universities in six different countries. Schneider came from our French exchange school, Université d’Angers, pronounced ‘onshay’. Schneider’s hometown is called Le’Mans (‘la mon’), and is about an hour from Paris. In addition to learning the English language, all students in France must study abroad. Schneider says she signed up late, and the only school available for a business major to attend was Western.
I don’t regret it,” Schneider said.
Wednesday, April 13, Schneider presented a PowerPoint all about life in France. It was focused on French culture and also talked about what school there is like for students. For example, when they go to college, it costs about 350 Euros to get a bachelor’s degree. In American money, that’s only about $525. It sounds like a great idea, but their curriculum is very different from ours as well. They don’t have midterms, but they do have finals, and unlike ours, these exams contain only essay questions: no true/false, no multiple choice. Like us, the classes aren’t mandatory – it’s the student’s choice to show up or not. But in French schools, you really want to be sure and go to class because their professors don’t print notes or post them on the computer or use a textbook for their assignments. If you miss a class, you miss the notes; if you miss the notes, you fail the class. And if you fail a class in France, you don’t just retake that class. You must retake the entire year of classes!
Another trait Schneider talked about was learning languages in French schools. From the time they turn 11, French students begin learning English. It is a mandatory class. In high school, they can choose to learn Spanish, German, Italian, or many other languages as well. There was only one drawback.
“The English they had us learning was British English,” Schneider said. “It was quite a shock to come over here and find out that Americans don’t talk that way.”
European English sounds very different than American English, but Schneider learned to speak with Americans very quickly. In fact, she’s only been in America since August 2010. Guess those lessons in grade school paid off.
Americans are also culturally very different from France. For one thing, a topic that we openly discuss quite often in America is religion. In France, your faith and beliefs are considered very personal and are never talked about in public. Something else that would never happen in France that Americans do all the time: we greet strangers on the street. Schneider was very uncomfortable with this when she first came here.
“[In France] people you don’t know, you don’t talk to.” Schneider said.
Remember our discussion on how much school costs in France? $525 for a year compared to our $13,000? Well, there may be a very good reason for that. Have you also noticed everyone complaining about the crazy climb in gas prices? Let’s do some more French math. Our gas is almost $3 a gallon right now. Theirs is 1.50 Euros a liter. That’s about $2. But there are four liters in one gallon. So their gas costs about $8 to our $3. This is also why the vast majority of French inhabitants, students and career-men and -women alike, walk or take the trains and buses to their destinations. Few of them own a car. Not to mention their driving school is almost like real school. You have to pay 2000 Euros and take so many hours of training classes to get your license.
Sharon Moore, a French major hoping to teach English abroad, attended Schneider’s presentation.
“[I learned] that the university system is much more affordable,” Moore said.
Ceasera Robinson, an English education major minoring in French, was also in the audience.
“I learned that gas prices are high and that I can’t be too friendly to people on the street,” Robinson said.
Schneider has enjoyed adjusting to life here in the States and other students enjoyed learning about France from her.