Exchange Diaries: Campus differences

I’ve vowed to never complain about having an 8:30 a.m. class again. As luck would have it, my course schedule here in Lyon consists of four days in a row of 8 a.m. classes. Although the 30-minute time difference may not sound like much, it makes all the difference in the wee morning hours – especially when trekking 20 minutes to campus.

I’ve come to learn that the class starting time isn’t the only thing differentiating my university experience in Lyon from Queen’s. For starters, a typical class runs for three hours, once a week. Instead of breaking down classes into shorter lectures, the French seem to prefer testing the endurance of a student’s attention span.

Fortunately, we’re given a break halfway through class. It’s during this time that students and professors alike make a mad dash for the beverage vending machines. With flavoured coffees, hot chocolate and teas costing only 0.35€ each, it’s well worth the long lineup.

Another key difference is in tuition prices. It’s unbelievable how cheap a postsecondary education costs – the average French student only shells out around $263 per year while Canadians pay approximately $5,772. It’s clear, however, that less funding is put into university amenities here. There are no football fields or stores on campus and certainly not any TVs in the gym.

With a reduced budget comes a smaller campus. We completed a campus tour in less than ten minutes, and that was while making stops. I couldn’t believe it when the tour guide told us that the library closed at 8 p.m. on weekdays. Not only that, but on Sundays, it wasn’t open at all (then again, I shouldn’t have been too surprised – it’s almost impossible to find anything open on a Sunday).

Unlike Queen’s, the campus at Jean Moulin 3 clears out after evening classes end. I found this concept strange at first, but it makes sense seeing as nothing is open. Even the cafeteria closes mid-afternoon. It’s unfortunate too, because their meat-filled menu and generous portions are deliciously Lyonnaise.

In terms of academics, the workload here is significantly less. Most of the professors seem to understand that exchange students want to make the most of their time abroad and travel as much as possible. That said, exams and group projects are heavily weighted. So while the workload may be light for now, I know that once presentations begin, my weekend trips may be restricted to day trips.

Jean Moulin may not have Queen’s infamous spirit or tradition, but it sure looks gorgeous when it’s lit up at night – even if the campus is deserted.

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