Part 3: Excuse my French, Exams & University


I write this sitting in the departure lounge at Marseille airport. In less than 3 hours, I will be breathing the sweet pollution of London air, and relearning how to cross the road with left-sided traffic. Aside from having to navigate this particularly disorganised airport alone, and having had two jars of pâté confiscated from me by the miserable bastard security guard, I am feeling very relieved and completely thrilled to be going home for a few days.

It’s been a pretty stressful run up to this well-deserved trip home, I must say. Over the last week, in almost all of the ten modules I take here, I have had exams – or partiels as they call them here, which seems to be French for ‘malignant little tests’. And they did not go swimmingly, as you can probably imagine, leaving many of the Erasmus cohort with PTSD.

In French universities, you need 50% to pass an exam, and the mark is out of 20. It seems ludicrous that we wouldn’t achieve 10/20, but then I remembered the warnings given to us from the French department before we left for Erasmus. It is rare that Erasmus students pass their exams.

But it’s fine because Year Abroad doesn’t count for anything, I told myself. Well it was a bloody good thing I decided to double check this shady fact that I had apparently pulled out of my arse, because as it happens Year Abroad is worth nearly 10% of my degree.

Inevitably, just as it has on many Erasmus occasions, panic ensued. Not only did I have to pass this year, but I also needed to get a decent mark. And after the exams I have just sat through, I can’t say I’m feeling too confident about my forthcoming results – one exam question was ‘how does the playwright Corneille steer away from the Aristotelian tragedy and create a new model of tragedy?’. To clarify: this was a topic I had not revised, and an exam I was not expecting, on a play I had not even read. In fact, I was planning on skipping that class altogether to watch an episode of Sherlock. Bloody good thing I went, but I will still almost definitely have failed.

And so, a helpful piece of information for Year Abroad students of the future – if you do a work placement, you don’t need to sit exams. You’re welcome.


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