Back to School

Ok, I know this it’s a bit late to be saying ‘back to school’ after four weeks worth of lessons (eek, already!), but I think that I can talk about things a bit better now that I know a bit more about the university system here. And sorry if I’m repeating myself, I know I wrote some bits about it in my ‘The Odyssey/Welcome to UNIGE‘ post (shameless self-promotion)…

First I’ll tell you a bit about the university buildings. The University of Geneva is actually a city university, so there isn’t really a campus to speak of. Instead, there are lots of different buildings in lots of different ‘sites’ around the city. The ones that I know best are the ones around Plainpalais (an area/square in the city) – Uni Mail, Uni Dufour and Uni Bastions.

Uni Dufour, UNIGE's administration building.
Uni Dufour, UNIGE’s administration building.

Uni Dufour is the administrative building – there are lots of student services there, and it’s where the Faculty of Art History and the Faculty of Music are based. If you remember, it’s where I had my ‘séances d’information‘ with the exchange students.

Uni Bastions is probably the prettiest building at UNIGE – it’s on the edge of Parc Bastions (a huge park in the middle of the city, with more horse chestnut trees than I have seen in my life), and dates from around the 18th century. This is where the Faculté des Lettres (language and literature, basically) is, but unfortunately I don’t get to do any classes here. Perhaps if I decided to do some extra French lessons next semester… (Another thing, I forgot to take any pictures of Uni Bastions! I’ll have to add some later…)

And finally, Uni Mail. This is where the Faculté de Traduction et d’Interpretation (FTI, or Faculty of Translation and Interpreting) is based – on the 6th floor… So, I have all my lectures here (well, fortunately not all of them are on the 6th floor, actually!).

But my lectures are going well (although there is a lot of reading, and I’m a slow reader, then add the fact that it’s all in French, and then ‘academic-ese’). But I’m enjoying them, and to be honest they’re quite fun! I do two translation modules (French-English and English-French), two language modules for French (improving written French and just generally understanding the language better) and two linguistics modules (I never realised I’d split them up so evenly!), because I’m a language nerd and want to know how they work. But that meant that I had to buy Swiss stationery as well, and if you know me, you know how much I like Swiss/French stationery.

Mmm... stationery...
Mmm… stationery…

But the university system in Europe – well, most of the universities that I know of – is slightly different to the UK one (Scotland excepted) which I’m used to.

First, the credits system. For a degree, you need to get a certain amount of credits, which you get from the modules you take and their exams. In the UK, one academic year is worth 120 credits, and each module you can take is worth 20. So, you need to take six modules in one year to get the right number of credits to pass the year. Are you still following me?! But in European universities, they use ECTS credits (European Credits Transfer System) – you need to earn 60 credits over the year, and each module is worth five (give or take), so that means 12 modules in one year (six in each semester). It seems like a lot, but I like having things to do!

The second difference is how you sign up for modules. Here, you have to do it yourself, and then sign up to the exams later on. In the UK, you choose the modules you want to do and fill in the online form before you get to university (although you still have to check the modules don’t clash), and then the admin does the rest. Here, you have a deadline which is three weeks after the beginning of the semester to sign up to your lectures. But this means you have the chance to try things out, which is really good, because sometimes I find it really hard to decide, and that way you might find yourself liking modules that you didn’t expect to. But then you also need to sign up to the exams. In the UK, you’re automatically enrolled for the exams for the modules you take, if you have them (actually, most of my marks come from coursework in the UK). But in Switzerland there’s a deadline in the middle of the semester where you have to check and sign up to the relevant exams (check that they don’t clash and things). So, that’s a lot of pressure! I’m already scared that I’ll forget to do it, or two of my exams will be at the same time. But it’ll be fine, it has to be fine!

Anyway, I’ve just realised that I’ve waffled on a bit, so I’ll leave it here! Hope you have a good week!

A bientôt,



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