19 September 2008

La bureaucratie, c’est la vie.

This week, I had my first real run-in with the hassle that is French bureaucracy and the university system (this is excepting my visa application which, despite multiple tiers, piles of paperwork and a required daytrip to Chicago, wasn’t actually too bad).

The majority of the 23 Smith students on the program are going to be taking classes with the University of Paris IV – Sorbonne, but there are six of us who have been assigned to Paris VII. Although I was initially disappointed that I wouldn’t be going to the historic “Sorbonne,” I’m looking forward to courses at Paris VII. The campus is brand new in a very modern and up-and-coming sector of Paris, and the course offerings are diverse and intriguing. So I have since become content to be taking classes there.

I was not so content, however, regarding the registration process. Originally, our program director had told me I could simple go to the office for the department in which I wanted to take classes and tell them I wanted to register. Done deal. But it was not to be that simple. When I went to register, I was told by the woman at the welcome desk that since I had no paperwork and no carte d’étudiant [student ID card], I would have to go talk to the man in charge of entering international students in the International Studies office. Unfortunately, he wasn’t accepting students at that time. On a different day, a few of my camarades [classmates] tried the same thing and were told they must come back the next day between 9:00 a.m. and noon to talk to the mec [guy].

We were excused from our orientation courses by M. Bloom, our program director. I stayed back, not wanting to miss notes from one class, but some others went ahead early in the morning. They waited for over an hour to talk to the mec, and when they finally got to talk to him, he told them that he couldn’t help them; he was too busy dealing with the 500+ international students at the university. So, we had missed class and traveled 30 minutes on the metro to the university all for naught. And we still had no idea how we would register for classes.

Somehow, however, M. Bloom worked some magic/pushed things along and was able to give us our student numbers the next day. Thursday, after a bit of guilt-filled shopping at “Hache et Em” [H&M], my friend Rachel and I decided to head back to the dreaded Paris VII to see if we could accomplish anything…and, amazingly enough, we just had to go to a couple offices, tell them for which classes we wished to register and registered we were. Facile-y fromage-y [Easy Cheesy].

I am now officially registered for a course concerning literature of the Algerian war and a post-colonial-cinema class. Now the challenge is surviving French university courses.

Today: Amazing walking through Parc de Bercy, which is a real, let-the-trees-actually-grow-wild park near Paris VII and the Bibliotheque Nationale.
Tonight: Indian cuisine in the 10th (Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements [districts] and it’s common to refer to locations by their arrondissement – I live in the 6th).

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