The New Sorbonne: First Week of School

Busy at the Sorbonne...
Cram 20 French students in a tiny room with inadequate chairs, terrible acoustics, and a professor who can’t talk about Italian Renaissance art while sweating and competing with yapping students in the hallway and what do you get?  The Sorbonne.

Conditions seem ripe for another May ‘68 protest, but fortunately we’re all too focused on our iPhones during class to motivate ourselves. Vive multitasking.

It’s back-to-school time for my program, a communications masters at the University of Paris III, fondly known as Sorbonne Nouvelle, or New Sorbonne.  I guess in the 70s it did come off as new compared to the beautiful older part of the school on the other side of the Latin Quarter. 

Conditions are on par at best and professors are all too ready to cancel class.  I commiserated with a fellow American who happened to be in one of my classes, and our capitalistic upbringing set in: “At least it’s cheap.”  You really do get what you pay for.  We just kept smiling through the class, even though neither of us quite knew what the objectives were.  This was the Sorbonne, after all.  All we learned that class was that the professor apologized for sweating. 

That said, among the long classes that leave me contemplating a career in copybook illustration or wondering how some of these students feed themselves let alone conduct research, there are a few moments that make it all worth it.

Top-notch professors who are seriously passionate about their work, liberty to pursue your own interests for the thesis, and 3-euro 3-course meals at the university restaurant balance the chaos of the Parisian public education system. 

Back to the books...
It’s amazing to think that one day I’ll exit the Sorbonne with a degree and absolutely no debt incurred during my years of study, while living in a major world capital.  And I’ll have eaten more than my share of chicken thighs and string beans for the price of a song – or like, three songs on iTunes. 0010