Saturday, March 4, 2017

University Life/Students - Ecole d'ingénieurs de PURPAN

Ecole d'ingénieurs de PURPAN
University: 75 voie du TOEC, 31076
House: 54 Rue des Fontaines, 31300 Toulouse
Google Maps: Université, Moi, Place Saint-Pierre, Centre-Ville

University Life and Students. I figure this blog will be most important for anybody thinking about coming to Purpan to study and is unsure what their life outside of studying would be like. For me, there's no question that Purpan is a lot of fun, but you need to be a social butterfly. It's been 2 months since I've arrived and I've meet A LOT of great people and new friends. But, I still haven't made any close friends. Of course, these things take time. Until then, keep grinding, studying and never... NEVER stop meeting new people. :)

University Life: 
1) Sports, Various Activities 
     - Soccer, Rugby, Volleyball, Tennis, Skiing, Dancing, Wine Tasting, Beer Brewing, Apiculture and more. I haven't had any club turn me down so far so get out there and try something new!

Vinothéque (Wine Club)

Club Danse (Dance Club)

2) University Galas/Parties (Les Chouilles) 
     -These are fun and you must go! These are parties held at the university. If you want more info, you'll have to experience it yourself ;)

Gala 2017 - Casino Royale

3) General attitude/atmosphere
     - Imagine you left Purdue and arrived at a university where everyone speaks a different language, is 40 times smaller and is just as welcoming as Purdue. Every student I've meet so far has been kind and welcoming. Because the university is so small, everybody knows each other and everybody knows the most recent gossip that is floating around. Think high school, but with young adults... aka it's a mess haha. I will say it's refreshing to see the same people every day. As you may know, you rarely see the same people every day while walking around on campus or eating lunch as a student at Purdue. Also, there is a strong sense of unity between the years, "promotions" (in French), and they love planning events and other activities together.
     - Taking classes in another language can be challenging at times. You have a vague idea of what is expected of you, but when all the French students start to do something and you have no idea what you're doing because you only understood 50% of what the teacher what talking about... you have to improvise. I advise that you always sit next to a French student. Many are very helpful and can help guide you when you are lost. There's no competition between the students to earn the highest grade so if you have a question makes sure to ask. Even if the question may seem stupid.

University Students:
1) Why are they here? 
     - The degree earned from Purpan covers agriculture and agronomy in general. This degree opens up for them a variety of options after they graduate because they can begin working in any field and have a general background and knowledge of it. This is the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to the system in the states. I'll use myself for example. I study entomology at Purdue. After I've earned my degree, I'll be considered an "expert" within the field of entomology. The students at Purpan have taken one course pertaining to entomology, but that is all. They are more knowledgeable than your average Joe, but nowhere near being an expert in entomology. One thing they do teach students at Purpan is adaptability.  They've learned this from the many courses and projects they've finished over the gigantic field of agriculture and the multiple international internships they are required to do and write about before earning their degrees. Purdue doesn't require study abroad, but Purdue strongly recommends it and offers a $3,000 dollar scholarship to every student that studies for a semester abroad, $2,000 for any program more than a couple weeks and $1000 for the 1-2 week programs.

2) International Students
     -Students come from all over the world to study in France. Purpan isn't a large university compared to most back home, approximately 1,000 students, but it is considered large compared to many universities in France. There are somewhere between 20-30 international students studying at Purpan right now and they hail from all over the world including America, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Germany, China, Brazil and more. You don't have to worry about making friends while you're here because all these people are in the same boat as you. They don't know anyone here, aren't familiar with their surroundings or the city and many don't speak or are learning French. Every one of these students has an interesting story and everybody, for the most part, is open minded and nonjudgmental. Plus, most if not all, speak some English!

3) L'apéro and Chez Tonton/Saint-Pierre
     - I don't know if I'm required to say this, but drink responsibly and don't do anything "sober you" wouldn't do. Ok, now with that being said, if you want to integrate into the French culture and make some great memories while doing so, then you are going to go to Saint Pierre. "Place Saint-Pierre" is basically the Chauncey of Purdue in Toulouse. You'll find bars and clubs nearby along with plenty of spots to have a late night snack. The one place the Purpanais (Purpan students) will insist you go to is Chez Tonton. This bar is super small, loud, crowded, filled with Purpanais and is a lot of fun! You'll learn quickly while you're here that the French have a different perspective on personal space. Aka, there's no such thing. You'll notice every time you buy a drink you've actually bought half of a drink because once you've turn around, you've been smacked by a wave of people and you've just spilled most of it. 
*Note: Beware of loud places!!! I have a personal vendetta against loud bars or clubs because nobody will understand your French here, unless you're a native speaker. So instead of practicing your French, practice your skills on the dance floor. Everybody loves a foreigner "busting a move".

     - L'apéro is the French equivalent to the pre-party. Basically, a few or a lot of people gather in someone's apartment around 6:00 - 11:30 pm to socialize and save some money before going to the bars. I've found these to be great times to practice French and learn local phrases, expressions, make friends and ask questions. 6:00 - 11:30 pm may seem like a ridiculously long time for a pre-party, but you aren't expected to arrive on time. Come when you're ready. Personally, I like to wait until after I've eaten dinner and go around 9:00 or 10:00 pm. 

Any ideas for travelling later in the semester? I've already been to Paris, Bordeaux, Munchen, Rome, Venice, Turin, Milan, Viterbo, Barcelona, Andorra, the Pyrenees.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

University Classes - Ecole d'ingénieurs de PURPAN

Ecole d'ingénieurs de PURPAN

Address of University: 75 voie du TOEC, 31076
Address of my House: 54 Rue des Fontaines, 31300 Toulouse

University Classes Info - Found Below
First, an update on my daily life here in Toulouse. 
This past weekend (Janaury 14-15, 2017), I went to the Pyrenees in Andorra to ski for the very first time! For some reason, Thomas (the guy teaching the beginners how to ski) thought it would be a good idea to start us on the 2nd to hardest level (there was 4 levels of difficulty). So I spent 1 hour trying to get down to the bottom of the course. Needless to say, I was bruised all over my body from falling over and over again, but after I tried some of the beginner courses afterwards I finally learned how to turn and slow down a little... 

I also tried for the first time "fondue bourguignonne". Super delicious!

While we were there, there was a  gigantic blizzard and the route back home was blocked off. This was a problem because, if I understood correctly, our bus driver was going to come back to get us from this route. So, we were stuck in Andorra for awhile until we finally found a bus and a driver who would drive us through Spain to get back to France. We arrived back in Toulouse around 2:20 am. Those roads were SKEEETTTCCCHHHY.
This week (January 16-20, 2017) was super laid back, I didn't have any classes due to a hiccup in my schedule, but it's been worked out since then. I explain more in the section below. :)

Has anything interesting been happening back home? What's new?

University Classes:
1) System 
     - Basically, it's nothing like a semester at Purdue or any colleges that I know of in America. You must take 5 years of classes to obtain your diploma at PURPAN. The diploma is considered an equivalent to a bachelors and a master's degree in the USA. At PURPAN, courses can last a couple days (extremely low credit courses), a couple weeks (low credit courses) or for most of the semester (medium/high credit courses). 2 European credits (ects) equals 1 American credit. Extremely low credit courses can range from 0.5 - 1.0 ects and medium/high credit courses can range from 3 - 6 ects.  
     - Attendance to class is mandatory and and showing up late is frowned upon. If you are late you have to talk to the "responsable d'année" to explain why you were late. This person acts as a student adviser for the entire grade/year. Classes normally last an hour and 45 minutes and you can have up to 4 classes per day.
2) My experience so far 
     - Personally, I think the classes are way too long. Especially when you can have 4 of these classes every day for the week. They give you a lot of information in a short amount of time, so make sure to listen in class and sit near the front so you can hear. 
     - IMPORTANT INFO. Make sure your schedule is nearly completed before coming to PURPAN. They don't schedule classes here like they do back home. All the classes are already preset for each year for all the "Purpanais" (PURPAN students). This means crisscrossing classes from different years is nearly impossible. There are way to many overlapping of class times to be able to make a schedule with some classes from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year. Pick just one year that you like and stick to it. You may be able to add one or two classes from different years if you can find a way to fit it into your schedule... if you're lucky. Another aspect to be aware of is that classes aren't scheduled until a week or two before the semester begins. So, you won't know when and where your classes take place until you arrive.... oh, I forgot to mention... the classes can change times from week to week based on professors leaving or due to other unforeseen happenstances. For me, this grinds my gears because I like having set times for classes and making a schedule for the semester. 
     - When I arrived, my schedule was a mix of classes from all the years. They told me that it would be difficult to make it work, but in my head all I saw was a challenge waiting to be conquered... it ended up being a really bad idea haha. I've just recently up heaved my old schedule and created a new one based around classes in the 4th year. It's more clean,  streamlined and I'm no longer sweating beads whenever I look at my schedule. At least for the moment. :)
3) Exams 
     - They aren't really different from Purdue's exams, but it really depends on the type of questions (multiple choice, short answer, etc), the professor and the course content. Exams are graded out of 20 points. Anything above 9.5 is passing for international students and anything over 11 is passing for French students. I'm also told that getting a 19 or 20 on an exam is nearly impossible. High scores for exams range around 14-17. Receiving a score in this range basically means that you earned an "A". For me, I'll be taking everything Pass/Fail (aka any score of 9.5+ will earn me the credits) soooo... no worries :)... I hope 
     - For international students, they allow you to use a simple French-English dictionary during the test. You can use it to look up words that you don't understand... or tear apart because the test is in a different language haha.

Friday, January 6, 2017

First Day in France - Le Premier Jour

Written on 1/1/2017
I'll be writing a couple blog entries over the next couple months pertaining to my 6 month stay in France. Purdue University wants me to write these because they can prove very useful for future students who want to study abroad. They're also giving me a lot of money just to go to a foreign country, study in a different language and then write about it. Sooooo.... voilà!
I thought the best way to describe my feelings so far can be best shown by some messages shared between my mom and me. But first, some quick tips.

My Address: 54 Rue des Fontaines, 31300 Toulouse, France - Benjamin A. Savage

Tips for studying abroad:
1) Make sure to schedule linking flights on the same ticket. If you don't and you miss a flight due to a delay, you won't be refunded and you'll need to pay for a completely new ticket. If all your flights are derived from the same ticket then any flight missed due to a delay will be rescheduled for free.
2) Be aware of culture shock when you enter a new environment. Everything is foreign and it will stay that way until you've spent some time deciphering and decoding your surroundings.
3) I'm personally trying to learn a different language. The immediate problems you face while abroad is that everybody speaks better than you in this language. You begin to feel a little uncomfortable when speaking because you make mistakes that just sound stupid. Like really really stupid. Perfection takes time and practice. You learn more from mistakes than you do triumphs. So go out there and make a fool of yourself! #YOLO
4) Stay positive and always ask questions. Especially when you're a little nervous or uncertain.

I made it safely to Toulouse and my living arrangements. The old French couple here seem super nice and lively. I've just got my room set up and I'm about to make a list for everything I need to do. Feeling pretty out of place here so far. Probably because I don't have a place here yet. Tomorrow should be fun though. I'm going out to meet some students from PURPAN before the school year starts and also meeting with a friend I made last time I was here. I'm also experiencing jet lag right now and I have no real food yet. That might be number one on my to do list. Hope to hear back from you soon. Love you
HI BEN!! Dad and I were just talking about you! Glad you made it safely and that your host family is nice. Yes, go find something to eat and get some sleep so you can enjoy your day tomorrow. We saw that the lay over between flights was really tight....did you get your luggage okay? Also, did Daniel ever make it to Purpan? Love you loads!
I made everything with good timing. It was funny because I had no clue what the time was when I got off the plane and I had to schedule a new flight to Toulouse. I ended up calmly strolling to my gate when I should have probably been rushing. The timing worked out perfectly though. I also received my luggage with no problems. They even gave me free beer on my upgraded flight and I got to lay across 3 seats because there was barely anybody on the plane. Daniel will be here around 5 am tomorrow. Then he needs to find a hostel to stay in until he finds a place to live.
Wow! Do you mean their was nobody on the flight from Chicago to Paris?
A little more than half of the seats were filled.
wow--so you got some sleep on the flight?
Not much. It was loud and uncomfortable. Even for having 3 seats
Dad wants to know if the new flight cost us $?????
They rescheduled with no questions asked.
that was nice! Dad is smiling....he also wants to know how you got to your apartment????
Tram. Then I walked for 15-20 min. A taxi driver told me that for $30 they would take me to my residence. Instead, I looked around and paid $3 for the tram. They almost got me, but I'm just too smart
LOL! Dad is smiling bigger - atta boy! Do you have your own bedroom?
Yep. There's a shared bathroom though. Oh well
sounds great Ben! Enjoy the rest of your evening. Maybe you can send some pics tomorrow? Love you loads! oxoxoxo.....
Love you too. My body is so confused right now. It wants to eat and sleep at the same time. My head is spinning a little actually while I type. I might take a quick nap and eat the last of my snacks before getting some real food.
ok....feel better! love you!