Classes with French professors

Saint Lawrence students will take usually 3 to 4 classes at the University of Bordeaux in the spring.

French universities differ from their American counterparts. Classes are a mix between what professors call TD (Travaux Dirigés, smaller classes with 20 students to foster more discussions) and “cours en amphi” (lecture format with 100 students, often with little class participation or discussion). Student will have to learn to be more independent, to take notes in French, and to work hard with minimal guidance. In most cases, professors don’t distribute a detailed syllabus, but will inform the students as the semester goes on. They expect students to organize their own work schedule. Students are responsible for class attendance, keeping up with the readings, and mastering the material on their own. French students rarely ask questions, much less express their views. It is assumed that students get knowledge directly from their professors, not from anyone else.

Exams can be conducted in different ways. But most of the time, students will have to take a final exam at the end of the semester and/or a midterm. In addition, students can have research papers to write but it depends on the professor. Occasionally, a professor can insist that international students do the same work as French students, but this is not necessarily a disadvantage.

Academic terms

UFR or Unité de Formation et de Recherche: it is the equivalent of a Department in the U.S. Usually French students take all their courses in one UFR but you can take courses in several, which can create some issues because you cannot enroll on the UFR ENT, which is their online “sakai.”

UE or Unité d’enseignement: A course or a set of courses

ECTS or European Credit Transfert System: A European credit. 24-30 ECTS constitute a full load for the semester.

CM or Cours Magistral: A lecture course usually taught in large lecture halls or amphis; it has several TDs attached to it.

TD or Travaux Dirigés: A discussion session or lab. Meetings in smaller groups (between 20 and 30 students) to expand on a lecture topic. TD professors are full time professors and not graduate students or teaching assistants. TD is where you will do all the written work and oral exposés.