University classes have begun, and I must admit that the registration process is fairly stressful.  As I mentioned before, all of the students in the UCEAP program have access to all of the University of Bordeaux campuses.  I have decided to try to fulfill a couple of GE and French Minor requirements while abroad, so I will be staying at the humanities-centered campus, Université Bordeaux Montaigne.   

 All foreign students have two weeks to try out different courses before officially registering in them.  In the French system, there are Cours Magistraux (lecture courses), which are often accompanied by a Travaux Dirigié (discussion section).  Some courses have only CM’s, and others only TD’s, but I have found a combination of the two to be the most common.  Most CM courses are 2 hours long, and usually there is not a break halfway through.  Make sure you drink your coffee before coming to class because it is not allowed to have any food or drinks other than water in the lecture halls.  Coming from UCLA, it is a little surprising to not see anyone eat or drink in the classrooms, but, like the extra long lecture times, this is just another little adjustment all of us California students are going through!  

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to try out every course you think you might be interested in within the two-week test period.  I have found some professors to be significantly easier to understand than others.  Do not expect to have a detailed PowerPoint presentation containing images and explanations to accompany your lectures.  Most professors have about 3-5 slides containing key words that they show for each two-hour lecture.  It is quite common that they will sit at a desk in front of the lecture hall and simply speak for the duration of the lecture.  It is a little different than back home where professors tend to be a bit more animated, but this is just a reality of French universities. 

Since I am in the French-track, I am required to take a methodology class, which so far has been a great survival guide to French university!  We learn everything from where we can use our student ID card to pay on campus, to how to properly write essays according to the French standards.   

Students in the English-track program do not have any mandatory classes, but the California Study Center has created a course on French Gastronomy which they have the option to take.  Any remaining spots are offered to students in the French track.  Even though the course is instructed in English, I have been really wanting to learn more about French gastronomy and its regional importance here in Bordeaux, so I felt so lucky to get a spot!  

Students in either the English track or the French track have the option to take courses at the DEFLE, the French department for foreigners.  I have decided to take a class on French press there, but they have other offerings in French tourism, literature, grammar, phonetics, and general culture.   

 In addition to these three courses, I have decided to take a course on medieval art in the art history department.  Today I tried out a course on modern French history, and tomorrow I am trying out another course on Earth systems in the geography department.  In total, we must take a minimum of what equates to 22.5 quarter units.  For most students this is about five or six classes.  With the four courses I have chosen so far, I have 21.5 units, so I am still shopping around for one more class to add.  Wish me luck!  

Natasha Szombathy studied abroad in Bordeaux, France in 2017: