Université Paris VII Diderot – Q & A

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a future Paris VII international student who had seen my blog posts.  I thought I’d share the responses to her questions here, as I know from my own experience that there’s not a lot about the uni online.
If you have any more questions feel free to comment below and I’ll try my best to help!

I’ve got student accommodation but it’s not near the university. 
Don’t worry!  I applied for dozens of student residences and didn’t get a room in any of them.  I live alone, and it’s worked out okay because most of my friends do too.  But I’d much prefer to have people nearby!  Pretty much everyone commutes by public transport in Paris (including the majority of the French students).

What is the assessment like?
In most cases, assessments all come down to your teachers.  For the majority of my classes I’ve had either a partiel (a midterm exam) in class in week 6-9 or a piece of coursework, then a final exam (sometimes in a different room to the usual classroom) in either the last week of the semester or in the exam period.
I was allowed to use a paper bilingual dictionary for all my exams.  Make sure you write ‘Erasmus’ all over your papers!

I’ll only be there until Christmas so is it possible for certain students to be exempt from January exams?
Again, I think a lot of it comes down to the teacher.  I just asked all my teachers if I could do the exam in December and I ended up with no January exams. In most cases the whole class did the exam in December but in one where there were about 25 international students we did the exam in December while the rest of the class sat it in January.
The levels of the classes are L1, L2 or L3 (or M1 or M2).  For Linguistique the distinction is between L1/L2 and L3 (all the L1/L2 classes are open to students of both year groups).  I think this year at least all the L1/L2 classes in Linguistique tried to have their exams in December.  But I’m sure this will differ between departments!

Can you recommend any French modules to take?
Are you just choosing from the documents from this year?  I’m not sure if the same classes will be running as there were a lot of cuts between 13/14 and 14/15 (literally almost none of my learning agreement options were still there!).  I had to redo my timetable when I got here, so I wouldn’t put too much time into choosing classes now.
I recommend choosing a FLE class as it’s a good way to meet other international students.  I do a grammar class and I tried ‘Actualités’ but I found it really dull.
In Linguistique (in Lettres) I recommend ‘La Langue Comme Fait Sociale’.  I took ‘Histoire des descriptions du langage’ and that was okay too.  ‘Description du français parlé’ was really really dull but I did end up with a very good grade at the end!
In Lettres I recommend ‘Histoire de la langue française’.
In Etudes Anglophones I took ‘Linguistique Contrastive’ which I really enjoyed.  It was taught in French but the teacher could always answer queries in English which was a huge help.
If the classes all change by the time you start, the teachers I’d recommend are: Rémi Godement, Laure Lansari, Bernard Colombat, Mélanie Lévêque-Fougre (one of whose surnames is sometimes missing in documents!) and Alain Diana.

Could you give me any more info about the SILC course? It seems expensive on top of all the other Erasmus costs but if it’s the best way for meeting people then it seems worthwhile. 
This year the SILC course was free for everyone, so I would have said definitely do it.  But I just had a look and 250€ seems a bit pricey unless there have been changes.
It was a undoubtedly a great way to meet new people.  I wasn’t in classes with anyone I met at SILC but it was good to have a few friendly faces about uni, and it was helpful to struggle through signing up for classes together!
The actual content was a morning of grammar and an afternoon of ‘civilisation’.  I don’t know if it was just my teacher, but the classes offered very little opportunity for discussion and I literally spoke four or five sentences in a lesson, until the afternoon where we all had to do a presentation on street art in our home country.
We also had excursions which were slightly different depending on what group you were in.  I went on tours of the Sorbonne, La Comédie-Française and Hôtel de Ville, all of which were really cool to see (and I wouldn’t have seen otherwise) but I know one group was taken to see street art in the 19th arrondissement and another definitely went to a rehearsal at the Opera Bastille.
I only know a couple of international students from Diderot who didn’t go to it, but that was when it was free, so I’m not sure what I’d do if I were you!
I wrote a blog post on it so there’s more info here.

Do you remember when exactly the SILC course/orientation day(s) were last year? I’d like to have an idea so I can tell my accommodation. 
The welcome meeting for international students was September 2nd.  This was the only welcome meeting for international students, and if you missed it that was that!  I think we were given the date in mid July.
SILC was September 3rd-12th.

Have you managed to get the CAF grant? If so, how has your experience been with that?
I have, eventually!  But I put it off for ages, some of my friends were a lot more on the ball and received it early on with no problems.
There’s a lot of paperwork and you will need an official translation of your birth certificate, proof of your student status (which the uni give you when you start), proof of address and there’s a form which needs to be signed by your landlord too.
CAF needs to be paid into a French bank account, so you’ll definitely have to open one ASAP to receive it if you’re only here for one semester.

I have heard from my friend abroad at the moment that French students tend to be antisocial, is it easy to meet people in Paris VII besides this?
On the whole, I’d probably agree. They just leave at the end of their classes- I don’t know where they go!  Most I’ve asked live with their families or in colocs with school friends and aren’t keen to make international pals.  I’ve met some nice people in classes but I’ve never been able to extend those friendships outside the classroom.  I don’t know if this is a Paris thing or a French thing, and obviously there will be exceptions, but on the whole I’ve had to make a big effort on the friends front!  All my good friends are international students, they’re all fab people and it’s good to be friends with people who can empathise.  International students are also probably more likely to want to do touristy stuff at the weekend and go on trips with you too!

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