I have been here almost 6 weeks now, and we just completed the fourth full week of classes. In this short time, I have already learned and observed so much about life as an engineering student in France in the midst of a global pandemic.
It has been surprisingly easy to meet people, as the stereotype of closed-off, reserved French people was immediately shattered by the many local students that have become my acquaintances, and even friends. Additionally, despite the reduced number of academic exchanges taking place world-wide, there are many international students here – the school itself boasts that almost 30% of its student body is international.
Although students are ready to converse in English if needed, I have been able to rely almost completely on the French I have studied for the majority of the last seven years, and have made large improvements in the recent weeks. I am even proud to have mastered the more complicated aspects of daily life like opening a bank account (which is a little tougher for Americans than it is for anyone else), subscribing to internet and a phone plan, and making a call to a French company about a potentially fraudulent purchase on my credit card.
I have also been amused at times about the perspective a native English speaker might have on the following signs:
Campus vs. City
The school itself is located in the town of Villeurbanne, bordering Lyon directly and connected by the same public transport system – in fact, as far as I can tell, Villeurbanne is probably better considered a neighborhood of Lyon, excepting the change in address of course. The towering, concrete buildings of this „urban city“ look to be constructed in the 60s and 70s, although some buildings, like those on our campus, are going through some renovations.
In comparison, the historic center of Lyon is a beautiful reflection of the architecture that both natives and tourists appreciate about France. A walk through the historic „traboules“ of Lyon shows the very oldest homes from the inside out, while the older part of the „Presqu’île“ (situated between the two rivers Rhône and Saône and bounded to the South by their confluence) features many classic structures with French balconies as well as extremely modern expansions of the downtown.