Archive for the ‘Université de Strasbourg’ Category

Back to School

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

Dear Université de Strasbourg,

I’m so glad to return to school finally! After a whole month here in your home country, I really looked forward to stepping back into the classroom. I want to thank you for letting me study at your school! It looks like it should be a good year.

I must say, though, you certainly didn’t make it too easy. Back in America, we sign up for classes on the Internet. We receive an electronic version of the course list that includes a comprehensive list of all the classes in each department. I will say I do appreciate the way your system works though too. I certainly worked off a lot of those bread and cheese calories walking to each individual department located in various buildings scattered across the city to pick up the paper copy of that subject’s course listings, and then returning the following week to stand in line so that I could register for the classes I wanted to take. (Out of breath after that sentence? So was I.) With a lot of help from our academic advisor over here (and good walking shoes), I finally completed my enrollment. I found some great art history classes and an interesting course on Guy de Maupassant.

Now, I never would have guessed how keen you were at keeping your students on their toes. I suppose all the schedule and classroom changes make back-to-school that much more exciting. I didn’t know you pushed back my French literature class one hour. But, I did learn a lot about the mathematics of literature when I sat in on that other course in the same classroom at the time my Maupassant lecture was supposed to start. I know you just want to expand my academic interests and deepen the profundity of my life experience. However, I do wish you had told me that my Renaissance discussion group had moved. My French is okay, but my ancient Greek has become a little shoddy recently. Can you give me a hint as to where I can find that Renaissance class? My Greek professor didn’t know.

Well, I’ve learned you like to do things a little differently than I am used to back home at Holy Cross. But despite these Jedi mind tricks, I actually am looking forward to the classes I’m going to be taking. My professors seem smart, nice, and they don’t speak too quickly. The students I talked to have been incredibly helpful and good-spirited. I might just get the hang of this after all.

With anticipation, curiosity, and newly-minted, yet particularly defined calf muscles, your friend and student,

Mark Weyland

A Scientist in France

Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

Hi Friends!

If you can believe it, my five fellow Crusaders and I have now been in France for two whole months. As such, it is only appropriate that I provide an unbiased evaluation. Lucky for you, I have conducted tenacious analysis and completed daunting qualification of quantitative experiences. I believe a preliminary hypothesis I developed back in Tours (in the clandestine corner of a coffee shop, aptly named The French Coffee Shop), now has sufficient proof to become a theory. And much like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, I am ready to present my results, despite the fact it may not be a law:

Hypothesis (flagrant stereotype):

French cultural norms would be eviscerated with acerbic celerity in the United States.

Experiment (daily observation):

-Lemonade stands are illegal, as is having two jobs. That is not a typo.

-Some days, the newspapers just aren’t printed (oui, vous Le Monde).

-During the month of August, nearly every store is shut down.

-Stores also like to close on Mondays.

-Many businesses, including the post office, take a two-hour lunch break (smoking can take up more time than one might think).

-“Edible” cheese can be entirely moldy, as in completely blanketed in the color green.

-There exist lingerie stores… for men. Just for men, like the hair-coloring product.

-Often times, using the restroom in public places requires payment.

-The notion “pick up after your pet” is more foreign than the terrain of the planet Neptune.

-Bus drivers do not always know their route.

-Teachers do not always provide their students with a book list or bibliography even six weeks into a class.

-Occasionally, one’s cell phone will deliver a message up to four days late.

-Primary school children only have school four days a week. See ya Wednesday!

-Here and there, a waitress will drop a carafe on a child’s head before it shatters on the cobblestones spilling its aqueous contents every which way. I wish I were making this up.

-A strike can happen any time, anywhere. This month’s topic: changing the retirement age from sixty to sixty-two (this month, last month, next month, etc).

-Now and then, a student will answer his or her cell phone in class and proceed to carry on a conversation. The teacher often says nothing.

-Drivers often invent parking spaces if one does not exist. Regard for means of egress or pedestrian accommodation is as real as the Tooth Fairy’s twelve-year-old molars. See image below (not of her molars, silly goose).

creative parking

Analysis (comparison to American daily life):

Due to the litigious and quick-paced nature of the American people and their market-based economy, an average Marylander might find himself somewhat culture-shocked.

Conclusion (my theory):

The French way of life is quite different from that of the typical American. So, yes the aforementioned egotistical, xenophobic hypothesis would be more or less correct. But with refocused global lenses, I may revise my premise a little. The calmer tempo of French daily life that focuses more attention on family and friends is a welcomed change for an adventure-seeking Crusader. For any American, these changes would be difficult, but place a French person in the US, and he or she would have the same difficulty. This is what I call the Weyland Theory of Cultural Relativity. All it takes is some perspective.