Unlike the UK, France isn’t particularly renowned for having world-class universities. On the QS World University Rankings list, the first French university to make the list is ranked 50th, behind dozens of American, British and South Korean institutions. Honestly, it’s not hard to see why. Since starting my placement at a French university, I’ve been shocked by how differently things work. That said, here are the biggest differences I’ve noticed between attending university in France vs the UK:

Things are way more disorganised in France.

In UK universities, people seem to know what’s going on right from the beginning. Most unis give out all of the hand in dates during the first week and give a detailed outline of the course. Here, things are way more last minute and truth be told, I haven’t got a clue what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m taking several literature classes where I don’t even know what the literature is.

Lectures last between an hour and a half and three hours.

Most people seem to completely zone out after the first 45 minutes and I’m finding I’m not really understanding much of what’s going on. The lectures consist of a professeur.e sitting at the front of the hall reading out an essay. There’s no/minimal powerpoint or whiteboard use which for visual learners like me has proven to be very difficult. Luckily though, most lecturers let the class have a quick break halfway through, at which point nearly the whole class and the lecturer are gasping for a cigarette anyway (everyone in France seems to smoke).

Everyone writes on weird paper.

There’s not a great deal to say about this, it just blew my mind that even the paper is different.

There are a lot of student movements.

The French are famous for their love of protest and striking and it’s nice to see that they start revolting young. You can barely walk through the gates without someone trying to recruit you to the Communist society or handing you a leaflet on some university boycott that will be taking place in a few weeks. Yes, you have the leftie groups in British universities but they’re nowhere near as active as they are in France.

You have to make your own timetable.

The creation of my own timetable is a task that has proven itself to be way too difficult. I miss the luxury of choosing some modules and having your university sort the timetable for you. Some students pick their modules based solely on how early they take place. In France, you have to physically go to the different departmental secretaries’ offices and find out when each class is being taught and then once you’ve been to a few departments, you need to try and slot in all of the classes you want to take. It has taken me two weeks to finish my timetable so it’s definitely not easy. Some departments post their timetables online but navigating the uni website is another problem altogether.