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Sciences Po Profs: A Comparison

Audrey Telfer, Sciences Po Exchange, Fall 2014

No I’m not going to compare SP profs to NU profs.  There really isn’t a point; they vary as much as NU profs do. Instead, what I would like to do it is contrast a good professor for exchange students versus a bad professor for exchange students (for courses in a foreign language).

The good example: My history teacher created a wonderful class for exchange students.  First, he is actually aware that we are exchange students (which, surprisingly doesn’t always seem to be the case).  In light of that information, he speaks rather slowly and presents his lectures in a very organized manner. Second, he writes important dates (numbers are always hard in French!) and names on the whiteboard.  Finally, our grade is based on two assignments: a group essay and a written in-class exam.  The group essay was required to be done with no more than two people of the same nationality in a group of 4.  For example, my group was an American (me), two Turkish students, and an English student. For the exam, he has given us the option of writing in whichever language we are most comfortable in (French or English).

The bad example: My geopolitics teacher created an extremely confusing and frustrating course on an even more confusing and frustrating subject. First, it took him several weeks to figure out we were not fulltime students at Sciences Po, even longer to figure out we all didn’t speak fluent French.  He makes no attempt to speak clearly and loudly or to ease up on his extreme Parisian accent and use of slang.  Second, there is no order to his lectures; it is just whatever his thoughts lead him to while discussing a certain broad topic (like China, or Europe).  Finally, he gave no instruction for the nature or expectations of the final exam.  Many students arrived without any paper to write it on (how I never thought I would miss blue books!).  Others, including myself, arrived with the wrong type of paper (French style v. American style).  He expects us to know how everything at a French university works, including the computer system that he, himself, cannot understand.

The synthesis: The good professors recognize and encourage the diversity of students in an exchange student class.  The bad professors ignore and penalize you for it.  The good news is that with either type of professor, a certain solidarity forms among the exchange students. We are either working together to fight through a nightmare course, or we are reveling together in our success in a foreign school.

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