Since my plane landed at Charles de Gaulle last Monday, I’ve been keeping pretty busy as I try to adjust to a new life and get all the important details sorted out. The day after I landed, on Tuesday, I had an appointment at ESA to sort out the last things officially. I didn’t really know what to expect (and to be honest was expecting the worst where they would take one look at my portfolio and send me out the door) but luckily it ended up just being a pretty short meeting with Marie-Helene, the international student coordinator, and Marie-Helene, the dean of sorts, to place me into semester three. That means that I will be with students in their second year of school who have taken two studio courses in two semesters, which seems to correspond well to the two studios (130 Intro & 330 Intermediate) at Middlebury.
The next day was a short orientation for “Exchange Students” that was really more confusing than helpful. The reason is that as a Middlebury student at ESA, I am NOT an exchange student. Those kids are from Architecture schools around the globe that have partnered with ESA to, well, exchange students. Also, these students are typically in year three or four (or five) of their architectural education which means they are all placed in semesters 5, 6, 7… you get the picture.
Thursday was “la rentrée” for ESA (aka first day of school), which here in France seems to be quite a big deal for some reason (see above). When I showed up to school that day in a simple skinny jeans/t-shirt combination, I was a little embarrassed since most people seemed to be dressed up. Of course I had worn dresses the two previous days… For me, this day was my first sneak peak into real French Scholastic Culture. Needless to say, I was mildly horrified. As administrators and professors explained seemingly important information to a few-hundred students, there were at least 100 separate conversations in the room. When the noise got to the point where you could no longer decipher the words being spoken into the microphone, they would sternly demand silence and the relative quiet would last for most of five seconds. In the end, I figured that I shouldn’t be too concerned with missing some information since no one else was hearing it either and what I did hear (exciting lectures, a week of a school-wide workshop, study tours…) seemed pretty fabulous.