May 23, 2006

A truly French story

My younger and infinitely cooler sister is an undergraduate at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. As a French major, and serious Francophile, she spent this past year at the University of Grenoble. The spring semester afforded her the opportunity to witness and experience something that I am convinced could only happen in France, and can be conveyed properly only by narrative.Towards the beginning of the semester, students and professors started striking. From my perspective it is still unclear who actually went on strike first, but it happened nonetheless, and was tied up in the labor law protests. Without working instructors and pupils, Caroline basically hung out in Grenoble, and soon found herself out of classes for much of the spring, obviously very worried about not receiving credit for her hard work over the course of the year. When the French strike, there is really nothing that they are willing to do...including announcing a policy for canceling or rescheduling exams. Everyone is just expected to wait. This poses a serious problem for exchange students who aren't necessarily around to take exams whenever the gears start turning again.Caroline eventually gave up on Grenoble (she lasted way longer than I would have) and arranged with St. Andrews to receive enough credit sans exams to get her out of the bind. Eventually, and without notice, the strike ended and the University of Grenoble announced that exams would in fact be taking place and not very far in the future. Caroline studied like crazy to once again prepare herself for the exams that had been randomly sprung on her.Fully prepared, she walked out of her apartment the morning of her exam to find that the trams were on strike and she could not get to campus.This story, right up there with the classic picture of Tour de France competitors lighting each others' cigarettes mid-race, just screams "French" like no other. Sorry, but it's true.