One month has passed since I last posted and, as months go, this one seems to have been universally eventful:
- A case to challenge the Prime Minister Teresa May’s attempt to use the Royal Prerogative to invoke Article 50 without the involvement of Parliament was won in the High Court.
The Government plan to appeal the decision to the United Kingdom Supreme Court in December;
- The Scottish government have published a draft bill on a second independence referendum;
- French Authorities began evicting refugees in Calais and began the demolition of the ‘Calais Jungle.’; and
- Donald Trump has become President-Elect of the United States of America.
In my own personal bubble:
- I have written my first essay (in French) on the Théorie de la separation des pouvoirs;
- Endured a period of 3 hour-long classes on Saturday mornings;
- Volunteered in Calais during the week of demolition of the Calais Jungle evictions;
- Visited Paris for the first time in my life;
- Spent Halloween at Disneyland;
- Booked my flights home for Christmas; and, on top of this (quite literally),
- The snow has finally arrived!
If you have read my other blog posts you will know that I am in France on an academic Exchange. I will be spending the year studying a Diploma in French Law at the Université Grenoble Alpes. This requires I study and gain credits in law and French language.
I don’t know if it is because I’m foreign, or due to the recent restructure and merge of universities in Grenoble, but the process of settling in and picking classes was a nightmare. That ‘famous French bureaucracy’ is not just a term used by the English to take a passive-aggressive jab at the French who they historically love to hate, it exists and it is worse than I could have imagined.
I have never filled in so many forms in my life, and it felt like every document had to be filled in; signed (by multiple parties between Grenoble and my home university); stamped; accompanied by at least 2 forms of identification (notably, a driving licence is not a valid form of identification in France) and a signed passport photo; and dipped in the blood of a unicorn on the night of the full moon before being scanned and returned to the university/public transport office/bank/accommodation office/CAF office on the festival of any female saint who is celebrated on an even numbered date in any month ending in -r.
Thankfully, now into November, I think this is behind me.
As an Erasmus student I was given free reign of the options available from any level of study at the university, from Licence (undergraduate) to Masters classes. The classes I have chosen are as follows:
Methodologie de Droit (Methodology of Law)
Philosophie et Théorie de Droit (Philosophy and Theory of Law);
Droit Constitutionnelle (Constitutional Law);
Relations Internationales (International Relations);
FLE : Français Langue Étranger (French as a foreign language); et
Mon Employ de temps
My timetable is not at all like any I have experienced at university back home, for starters I will be undertaking at least 6 modules per semester in France, which is the number I would have normally expected to follow in a year. Classes tend to start at 8am and I spent a period of time being in class 6 out of 7 days a week.
Each lecture lasts at least two hours and is usually packed to capacity. In class the French students seem to be far more enthusiastic about their studies than I am used to. In Scotland, students who attend 9am lectures are few and far between, but here in Grenoble I have classes most mornings at 8am and if I don’t arrive early enough I will struggle to find a seat.
More generally, French students seem to be far more animated in lectures; they ask a lot of questions and seem to be far more adept at taking notes than anyone I have met. When choosing where to sit in any lecture theatre, I attempt to sit behind a French student using a laptop so that if I cannot follow the speech, which is not uncommon as slide shows are not widely used, I can read the notes of the person in front.
The study of Law
The study of law for me, although being something I enjoy, has not come easily. I remember initially starting the LL.B in first year thinking that I may as well have been doing a degree in Swahili as that was about as much sense as it was making to me. Despite being able to understand the language (English), it was applied in a way that was completely foreign to me which took some getting used to. You think you know the meaning of a word until you have to use it in a legal context. It is this fact that fills the study of law with a crippling self-doubt (and it doesn’t help when we are told horror stories by our lecturers about students who have gone on to practice and have lost their firms thousands of pounds due to the misplacement of a comma or a semi-colon… while I am still reluctant to believe these stories are true but the fear remains regardless).
Arriving in France this feeling has returned only now in reverse. Two years later I feel more comfortable with the substantive law and a lecture on the constitution isn’t as dreadful as it once was, but the classes are now difficult to follow being in French. Much of what I am studying would not be as challenging if my French were as it should be, that is, a lot better than it is.
L’evacuation de la jungle de Calais
At the end of October the University broke for the Toussaint (all saints day) which is a week long holiday during which time I spent three days volunteering with Help Refugees in Calais at the time of the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’. I have written a separate blog post about this experience which you can read here.
Paris and Halloween
After my time in Calais, I traveled to Paris to meet with friends from Grenoble and (perhaps most excitingly for me) one friend who came to visit from home. I had never been to Paris before and I still can’t believe it had taken me this long to visit. I must have been the only French student never to have been. Some of my party had been previously 4 and 5 times.
While in Paris, we stayed in an AirBnb next to the Sacré Coeur in the Art District, Montmartre. Sleeping 7, the apartment was a steal, we each paid under 20€ per night to stay in such a great location.
Our days were spent doing the typical tourist things: we ate croissants and pain au chocolats for breakfast each morning ; we climbed the never-ending staircase which lead to the top of the Arc de Triomphe ; we walked down the Champs-Élysées to the Louvre ; we drank coffee on chaises vertes in the Jardin de Luxembourg ; we were told to ‘shhhh!…’ repeatedly by the looped recording in Notre Dame ; we ate ice cream by the Seine ; we walked around endlessly each night trying to find a restaurant that would seat 10 ; and, at the end of each day, we slept like babies.
On the 31st we traveled to Disneyland for their Halloween Party. For £34 we were granted access to the main Disney Park from 5pm until close at 1.30am in which time we were able to get on through all the major attractions (including ‘It’s a small world’ which I was surprised and excited to see had its own small Scotland); watch perhaps the best fireworks display I have ever seen; and follow the special Halloween themed evening parade, the music from which I don’t think will ever leave my head – the same verse and chorus on repeat for 20 minutes while we were hypnotised by dancing pumpkins and Disney villains.
All in all the Paris trip was a success. We managed to squeeze as much Paris into 3 days as possible despite being skint students. I would like to return so that I might be able to spend more time at each of the attractions, but, for now, my Paris thirst has been quenched.
I hope not to take as long with my next blog post but until next time, happy belated Halloween.