French international student compares experiences as a senior

A new day begins at Université Charles de Gaulle - Lille 3 in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France. Photo from WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/UNIVERSITE.LILLE3/.
A new day begins at Université Charles de Gaulle – Lille 3 in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France. Photo from

What will I do next year? Did I choose the right major? Will I be able to find a job? These are questions most seniors ask themselves when entering or finishing their last year of college. Although educational systems differ from one country to another, being a senior in college is universally nerve-wracking and difficult. But it is also exciting, no matter which country you study in.

I am a third-year student of English Literature and Civilization studies at University Charles de Gaulle – Lille 3. It is one of the three universities of the main Université de Lille and focuses on Humanities and Social Sciences (languages, art, etc.)

Although I am coming up on graduation, I do not feel sad nor excited. The reason for this may be that my experience has been very different from my classmates in France. I am spending this last year thousands of miles away from my university.

In France, the duration of one’s college career is determined by the field of study as well as by the school you choose. In my university, students start by earning a bachelor degree which takes 3 years. Most students then earn a master degree, and some even take on a doctorate.

Here, at Maryville College, each student embarks on a four-year journey of hard work. Then only some may enter graduate school. The school system is different, but being a student is somehow similar all around the globe.

“I’m excited to be done with school and to not have to go to classes anymore and get a job,” said Bethany Evans, a senior who will graduate with a Chemistry Bachelors of Science Degree in May, “But I am anxious because all my friends will scatter.”

At MC, most students live on campus for the entire four years. Students make friends and live in a beautiful community before they have to leave this life behind to start a new one. Saying goodbye to the campus is probably hard because everything that a student needs is at a walking distance; the cafeteria, the bookstore, the library, etc. For MC students, graduation often means leaving a nice cocoon and facing the harder reality of working life.

In France, being a senior has another meaning. Most students live either in residence halls or in apartments, or even at their parents’ house. Usually, student residence halls are off campus, as it is very rare to find living facilities on campus.

Because they do not live in one small area, students in France build their student life both on and off campus, which makes it easier once the time of graduation has come. Also, most students in France pursue an additional master degree which makes them seniors at least twice in their life.

Thesis and Comprehensive Examinations are also the major highlights of a college’s student career, at least at MC. Some students start working on their thesis during their junior year, as Evans did, while others complete it all during their senior year. Senior students are also responsible for completing Comprehensive Examinations (or Comps, as everybody calls it).

In France, thesis or dissertation is the final examination to obtain your master degree. There are no Comprehensive Examinations, but examinations throughout the year. Both here and in France, these final projects are what will decide if you can graduate or not.

Because so much depends on it, thesis is a very stressful process. “Will it be good enough to turn it in?” is what Bethany Evans and probably every senior student wondered before submitting this final work.

Comparing life as a senior at MC and life as a senior in France is rather complicated. The school system is very different, and when I am asked “What are you? Sophomore? Junior?” I  answer “Technically, in France, I am a senior. But it is not the same kind of senior as it is here.”

I will have to submit a thesis at some point, and I will most likely doubt my choice of major. One thing that I know to be true for all seniors is that it is scary and overwhelming. But being a senior also means being right behind the doors of a new life, and this makes everything truly exciting.

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