March 2006, wondering that student ID number is telephone number, I got ID 0610219 and became a student of French Language and Culture, 06. Because the phone number of my house and whole family is ‘0219,’ I thought Sookmyung is my destiny at that time. I went to a general meeting of opening courses and there was an orientation of exchange students, fortunately. When I saw the picture of France, my heart started beating. Thinking ‘That’s the place,’ without question, I decided to go as an exchange student. After 2 years and 6 months, September 2009, finally, the first step to France as an exchange student has thrilled me a lot since I departed from Incheon International Airport. If you ask, “How was your exchange student life?” to me after I came back from finishing the first semester in France, would reply C’etais magn ifique! (‘Very good’ in French)
Application starts every September. The number of exchange students is limited. Every major can be accepted. There is a competition because of increased demand. You should pass four steps - resume, screening of grade, interview with International Affairs, and interview with professors - to be an exchange student to France. The process is not easy but you don’t have to be worried. I’d like to persuade underclassmen who give up the chance because of a low level of French not to give up. French level is not the biggest factor to pass the screening test. The important things are passion and ability. Although the ability is usually evaluated by good grades, a French certification doesn’t have a big influence on passing. Most applicants are in the lower classes, so even though your French level is low, take the challenge with courage. You may have the chance of being an exchange student to France.
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Then, I’d like to answer the question. Why does it have to be an exchange student not a language study course? The existing system of exchange students to France was a students’ own expense. However, students who became successful candidates in 2008 can receive a scholarship which is 70 percents of the registration fee. You can also get 15 credits in your major, so it could be a better chance for students who consider a temporary absence from school and don’t want to be late for graduation. Because it is based in absolute evaluation, you can get a good grade if you show your passion. In my case, I got 15 credits and 3.82/4.3 in grades. French professors know that we are not proficient in French, so they make valuation based on sincerity, passion, and the process of development in French. So even though you can’t speak well in French, everyone can be evaluated equally.
Of course, France’s prices are more expensive than Korea’s. However, it depends on people, in my case including my friends, living expenses for a month are usually more than forty thousand won. In addition, we should expend boarding expenses and tuition fees for French classes. Then, what is the biggest attractiveness of France to international students who are economically disadvantaged? France gives a housing subsidy to foreign students. The subsidy is distributed according to residence area and only international students who have a length of visit more than eight months qualify. It is very surprising that a government contributes to support foreign students. This is why France is more attractive for international students: a student living in a dormitory in Dijon, Bourgogne, like I was, can receive about 200 Euros per month in subsidy.
Most Europeans like Asian women. You may think it is positively good, but they like us because of a fantasy about Asian women influenced by Japanese comics, so I wasn’t exactly comfortable with that. When I go shopping at a big market like Carrefour, I sometimes hear the word ‘Sayonara’ or ‘Ni hao’ to me from a distance. This situation happened because when most Westerners face an Asian, they think of us as Japanese or Chinese. I was so angry and distressed at that time, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Also it is better to avoid going outside alone late at night because of danger. The life as a Korean woman in France is generally smooth if you willingly submit to these things.
When I tell people I have been to France, I get asked, “Did you meet a French boyfriend?” or “How do you feel about the French?” but not only the French are in France. I also thought that only the French are in France before going there but there are many Africans, Arabs and neighboring countries’ people there, too. I was mixed with different backgrounds and nationalities in class. Through cultural exchanges with various friends, I was close to more cultures and enlarged my view watching the world. I think it is my most valuable and important experience in my French life.
Recently, a lot of underclassmen ask me about how I prepared, about French life, and about how to improve French language ability. Whenever they ask me, I tell them to focus on a goal because it was a goal that I really wanted to reach, so I also accomplished it. As people say, “If there is a will, there is a way.” If you remember the proverb in heart and are preparing, you can make a life in France which was only real in your imagination before. Cheers to every student who hopes to go on a French exchange! Bonne chance a、tous! (“Good luck to you!” in French)