What would you score yourself out of 20? Naturally optimistic, I’m sure the majority of us would aim for the higher end of the scale. So what if you discovered all work would be graded out of 20, with the average being a meagre 10?

10. That’s the score, or higher, that I need to receive for each assessed piece of work. Written on paper before arriving it seemed a little too easy; that is, until, I actually sat a French assessment.

I’ve completed the first few of my partiels, exams that form my grade for each module. Good news, I didn’t cry during any of them. Bad news, the sympathy probably would have helped my case. I had been optimistically informed that Professors would offer a separate, easier option for foreign students. Reality hit very quickly. I’ve now been advised to just write ‘Erasmus student’ very neatly on all of my work. Dishearteningly, when I handed in my first piece for Image class, I pointed out this neatly written plea for help to the Prof and he laughed. “I know you’re the Erasmus student, it’s very obvious”. Cool.

“Little and often”

Gone is the delicious comfort in knowing I have 11 weeks to gradually understand, with a final weekend living in the library to produce a few thousand words. The French mentality is ‘little and often’ for assessment. This works brilliantly in theory; in practice, it’s a shock to the system. Further complications arise when all modules have a different time frame; I’ve barely finished one essay or assessment before the next for another module begins. Another class of mine gives a mark for overall class work and contribution, with every class exercise counting – I don’t even have the privacy of the apartment to cry over my lack of understanding.

Good thing I haven’t passed all assessments up until this point in my life by being a last minute, night-before sort of student…

How many sous-parties is too many?

Key piece of information I never learned at UoB; how the French structure a formal essay. Hint – it’s more scientific formula than natural progression. The number of sections and subsections required seems to grow every time I ask the question. 6? 9? An infinite amount? What have you titled your thèse, antithèse, synthèse?

I’ve decided to brazenly section my work whenever the little logical voice in my head says to. Giving a clear title for each and sticking to my own numbering system, of course. How many sections does your Introduction have? Clue; it’s not a section in itself, as I mistakenly thought.


10 isn’t that bad

I assumed 10/20, being the pass point, would be looked down upon. A mark of just 40% wouldn’t necessarily be celebrated at an English university (unless its a French grammar exam I managed to pass). Turns out, it has a weird sense of respect here. For my Poetry analysis, the average mark was 9. You can imagine my embarrassing celebration at my solid 10.

Dad had good advice during his last visit, as we ate bone-marrow (never again) and drank a lot of wine. “It all depends on what you want to get out of your time abroad”. Apparently, academic success isn’t what I’m aiming for. I’ll take my 10/20 and feel pretty pleased with myself. Problem is,  I have to figure out what else I want to gain from the next 8 months. Good thing I still love croissants.



2 thoughts on “10/20

  1. Sophie – you are doing brilliantly – and with a great sense of humour – you are a star.
    Aiming for a career in the diplomatic field once you graduate? You would make a very refreshing choice 🙂


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