the masters program not to do in france

I’ve been debating about whether or not I wanted to talk about this on my blog, but I think it might do me some good to go out on a long rant about it. I’m not one to really open up and talk about my emotions. Writing this now is me finally sharing what’s going on.

Recently, we heard on the news that 9 out of 10 foreign students are very satisfied with their program in France. I must be that 10th person, because I am utterly miserable. I will name the program and the university in case any foreign student Googles this program, they can find an honest opinion.

I am doing a Master Management et Commerce International at the FLLASH (though it’s supposed to be also tied with the IAE) at the Université de Valenciennes. I was unhappy during the first year, but I figured things would get better in the second year, and it’d go by quickly. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Logically, in France, if you want to change programs for your second year of a Masters (since the programs are divided as an M1 and an M2), you can change for another M2 (as long as you have the qualifications). However, my program blocked us in. I couldn’t change without sitting out a year or starting over in another M1. Why? Because we didn’t validate our first year until mid-October. Most programs start up in September. Most of us are under the impression that they do this because they know we’d leave. I couldn’t fathom starting over yet again, so I stuck with my program.

What started out as dislike has turned to complete hatred for the program. I dread every single class. The classes are all uninteresting, not at all useful, nothing to do with management, and worst of all, many are given by teachers who simply dictate their notes to you. Unfortunately, this isn’t just me as an American being completely dissatisfied with the program. Even my French classmates are criticizing it nonstop.

I feel like I’m not learning anything even remotely interesting. If anything, I feel like I’m getting dumber since I’m just regurgitating exactly what the teacher says instead of thinking on my own. Sometimes, I think we’re in some sort of weird extension of middle school as opposed to a graduate program. Plus, many of the classes just repeat the same damn things we “learned” in another class.

I’m jealous of people talking about how much they love their graduate studies (both in France, the US, or elsewhere). I’d give anything to feel that way about just one single class. I try to stay positive. I really am. But every time I build up something remotely resembling positivity, something happens to knock me back down even further than where I started.

It’s really starting to take its toll on me. I’m reaching a breaking point. I’m grouchy 99% of the time. I fear that I’m starting to take it out on the others around me. I feel like I’m constantly on the brink of tears. I’m unhappy, I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep, and I constantly feel worn down physically and mentally. It’s come to the point that if I’m honest with myself, if it weren’t for the good things in my personal life (a great boyfriend and a super cute dog), I probably would pack up my bags and go home.

If I stick it through, I’ll have an M2 and that’ll possibly lead to a job here, right? If a miracle happens, yes. Because of my programs stupid ass dates, we don’t validate the M2 until November. At that point, I’ll most likely be sitting on an expired visa (the director of the program even said exactly that) waiting to validate. I’ve asked around a bit, and the Prefecture here normally won’t renew your residency card without a new enrollment. So that’s just great.

Plus, I definitely won’t have the same qualifications as people coming out of even slightly decent programs. So how can a French company prove that they should higher me as opposed to a French person?

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16 thoughts on “the masters program not to do in france

  1. Hey Shannon, that sucks big time. Have you thought about dropping out and getting a recruté local gig for the year? That way you’d only lose one year and not two… sounds like a tough call either way, but you’re not the first American I’d know to have dropped out of a masters the second year.

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    • Unfortunately, to renew a student visa/CDS, you need to hand in your grades as proof as being serious in your studies. So if I dropped out and decided to continue my studies next year, I’d have difficulty renewing. We’ll see. I’m trying to hang in there.

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  2. I know the French are pretty hung up on these things, but I think in the long run what matters is just having the diploma, people don’t look into the details that much. So I wouldn’t fret about your Masters being worthless if you do decide to continue. You will bring some great skills to the table, being American. I always thought I couldn’t apply for any job where they weren’t specifically seeking English speakers, since I thought I couldn’t compete with native French people. While I still target jobs that want English, my last two positions have needed virtually zero English, so it does prove that I can compete with French people, and that’s without having a French degree, so you definitely will be able to as well. It also opens up opportunities for citizenship, doesn’t it?

    Other than that, I know how hard it can be doing a Masters at the best of times, so I can imagine it’s really tough for you if you’re hating it as well. It’s a big decision, good luck figuring out what would be best for you (including your mental well-being and personal life)!

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    • It’s not necessarily about competing with French people that scares me, but the fact that, because of visa issues, I will have to be more qualified than a French person for a company to even being able to hire me. With all the “ecoles de commerce” here in Lille, that’s going to be very difficult.

      I started another Masters in the US, and while I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, I enjoyed it. I was learning something. I liked being in class. I didn’t mind having work and very little free time. I felt I was working towards something. I only didn’t finish, because I couldn’t afford the plane ticket home + tuition anymore (it was a French Masters program that only took place during the summer).

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  3. Don’t worry about the end date for your carte de séjour. Four months before it’s going to expire, go apply for an APS: authorisation provisoire de séjour. For students who are going to graduate, France gives them 12 months after graduation to try to find a job that will sponsor them to stay in France. For the final approval of the APS you will need to bring proof of your grades/attestation de réussite, but when you go to apply early summer ask your gestionnaire de scolarité to prepare a letter stating that final grades will not be available until X date. The Préfecture should extend your student cds until then, and then authorize the APS once you’ve graduated.
    http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/particuliers/F17319.xhtml

    As someone said to me once: France is a catholic country; you listen to and obey the priest. America is a protestant country; you study the bible and question things. French education is still really strong with the whole “teacher says, student memorizes” method. I didn’t learn a ton with my Master (some, but definitely not like I would have liked), but in the end I was doing it to have a French diploma so I memorized stuff, passed all my classes, got my degree, and got better jobs.

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    • Thanks for the info! I had looked into the APS, but as I wouldn’t be able to even give them a “certificat de reussite”, I didn’t think I’d be able to. Though they are fairly picky around here, so we’ll see. My uni isn’t the most helpful either. That said, I won’t lose hope.

      Yeah, I’m doing it for a French diploma, but I was also hoping it would count for something in the US. I knew it wouldn’t compare to an MBA, but now, I know that it won’t count for anything more than some international experience. If I ever had to explain to a potential (US) employer what I learned, I’d be ashamed.

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  4. Oh dear. Feeling backed into a corner is the worst feeling ever. It does take a toll on you where you feel almost suffocated. But it looks like you received some sound advice here in regard to your visa. Don’t you feel a little better now that you vented about it?

    Hang in there. I know you will certainly enjoy your upcoming vacation!

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  5. Sorry to hear this Shannon and it doesn’t surprise me. It works the other way too. I’m teaching English in a uni here and it’s often boring or horrid because most of them say nothing in class all semester, they won’t participate in class discussions, most lack the maturity and IQ to do tertiary education. They are there because it’s free. After 10-12 years of learning English from french teachers they can’t speak or understand it with any competence. As a teacher it’s soul destroying.

    Yes, they are formatted like robots, not to think and reflect just absorb and vomit info. I have some lovely students among the dross but it’s not at all like teaching in an anglo-saxon country where students actually want to learn and behave as if they do. There you go… that’s MY rant over.

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    • I taught English at an engineering school for 2 years as a lectrice, and I enjoyed it! I actually always had at least a handful of motivated students in each class. Maybe I just got lucky? But the organization (even if it couldn’t compare to an anglo-saxon country) and the involvement of the teachers definitely gave me false hope for when I started my Masters.

      I did think of changing to a Masters in teaching, but then, I couldn’t see myself teaching here long-term. If I ever go back to the US, I am not ruling out becoming a teacher there!

      Thanks for the rant!

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  6. Pingback: the masters program not to do in france continued | Almost Bilingue

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