After having spent nearly 3 months in France, I have gotten a pretty good handle on the sequences of French living and can clearly see and feel salient differences between the land of Francois and Donald.

I have talked about the French education system before. However, after three months, I have had a chance to experience all my classes and establish a more thorough and informed opinion. I am currently taking six classes this semester: five political science classes and one French language and culture class. Two of these classes do not last the whole semester and only run for six weeks at four hours per week. Only four of my classes actually run the length of the semester. I do not know if it is just because we are international students, but the classes also all end at different times; some end a week earlier and some 2 weeks later. The class sizes are also are very small. With the exception of the BREXIT class, every other single class is never more than about twenty students. One of the most forward differences between classes in Lyon and in the US are the final exams. Besides not really assigning any homework or readings, professors tend to ask students their opinion on the final exam and some will even make amendments to the exam depending on popular opinion. My finals for all my classes range from presentations to short in class essay and short take home papers. There is even one class that let us come up with our essay question for the final. The latitude in these classes is both good and bad.

While the relatively low workload allows many of us to travel more easily, the lack of work and structure at times detract from the education and sometimes I feel that there is more we could have learned. However, this is my first time in Europe and I am traveling all over the place so I really have no complaints.

In the states we are all use to bigger college campus that resemble small towns more than institutions. However, in Lyon, many of the universities and grade schools are just one building and not really campuses. There are not really dedicated places for students to eat (at least for those who brought their own food), there is no public gym, and the libraries are relatively small. However, these schools have much less students than the typical UC, so the infrastructure does not need to be as big. The university is also very integrated into the city. Instead of hanging around on “campus” after classes, students just wander into the city and lounge around in coffeeshops and small restaurants. This is a pretty good phenomenon as there are plenty of student friendly establishments that offer some great deals. There is a burger place that offers killer deals on Mondays and Thursdays where you can deluxe customized burgers for four euros.

Speaking of euros; living in Lyon is comparable to the US. Food, that is not fast food or kebabs, run around 12-14 euros a person. The portion sizes are very small and hardly filling. More authentic Lyonnais restaurants or “Bouchon” run upwards of 30 euros per person. Fruits and vegetables are more expensive than in the states and there is less variety. The thing that makes living in Lyon more expensive than the states is the inconvenience of making your own food. Living in a host family is nice, but only breakfast and dinner are provided and only during the weekdays. This leaves 11 meals that we have to figure out on our own. Most of the time we resort to eating out simply because it’s difficult to cook in our host families’ homes. For me personally, the time I get home is also usually around the time my host mom is cooking dinner and I do not want to be a bother and take up space in the kitchen cooking my own food for tomorrow. However, if you really wanted to, it is possible to cook your own meals. It is definitely not as easy as when living on your own or with your personal family. The inconvenience and low key awkwardness of cooking your personal food in someone else’s home helps induce a laziness to not make your own food.

The cars in Lyon are a lot smaller than those in the US, and so are the roads. People tend to kind of just weave through traffic and its hard to decipher whether traffic signs are actual legal signage or merely suggestions. Last weekend we took a ride in a BlaBlaCar (ride sharing service in France) and many drivers on the freeways were essentially tailgating each other and no one really signaled until the moment right before he or she changed lanes. The lanes are also very narrow and when you pass another car you get a real good look at the other drivers. My girlfriend and I are contemplating renting a car this weekend to explore the countryside surround Lyon. However, given the countless one way streets, turnarounds, and obscure traffic signs, I am a little hesitant as crashing a French car sounds incredibly unpleasant and I would really not like to get in any arguments with French drivers…I hear three day old baguettes hurt.

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017: