At ESA you don’t get to choose any of our courses until your 3rd or 4th year. Even then, the choice is mostly between studios (i.e. which professor you prefer) and maybe an either/or elective option. Since I was place with the 3rd semester/2nd year students, however, there are no alternatives. I’m not, however, taking the full load of courses which means that apart from the studio I get to pick and choose what I take. I chose to take the art class, and two more engineering based courses: “Methodology of Structures” and “Construction”. Surprisingly, there isn’t much overlap between the two. My reasoning was that art would be fun and that the two structures classes weren’t available to me at Middlebury. A year abroad is supposed to be different, right? The other options were a “Descriptive Geometry” course, an art history, an architecture history (they said the teacher was awful, otherwise…), “Methodology of the Project” and of course, English. There is also a computer class where we learn all the fancy architectural software programs. It meets on Saturday mornings (I know!) and although I’m not taking it for credit, I have been making it to school and following it since I so desperately need to be caught up to speed with all the fancy computer stuff we do here.
The advantage of having a choice is
that there some classes that are painfully boring (so I hear), others that are unnecessarily hard (also hearsay) and still more that offer pretty much the same thing that I could get at middlebury (art history for example). The disadvantage is that I continue to be the ‘cas spéciale’ [read: outlier]. I’ve been getting a lot of “why weren’t you in class this morning?” from other students and while this is a helpful conversation starter as I slowly try to make the ever-elusive “real french friend” that they told me about in orientation, I always feel bad when I explain that I’m mostly just taking what I want.
Part of me would love to do it all, but since there’s still a class to take at the Centre Madeleine (Middlebury’s outpost in Paris) and cultural/language adjustments to make (and some traveling to do perhaps?) I know that it really isn’t a very good option. Plus, the atelier (studio) counts only as one class even though you meet for at least 12 hours a week (and pour your heart and soul into it). [note: Middlebury requires a minimum of about 14-15 hours a week of total class time, but if you're following an architecture or science curriculum (with labs) they usually tell you to take 5 courses] A lot of what you see on this schedule is related to orientation activities, which in two days will be replaced by the course I’m taking at the Middlebury Center. I’m still overwhelmed but have finally gotten all of my paperwork handed in for the residency permit, opened a bank account, got a cell plan, a metro card etc. Now it’s just time to work…