The girl with a French beret was destined for Munich
by Elizabeth Willoughby
As Aurore Taillet, a student from Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) who is doing her Erasmus year at LMU, stood before a 5th grade class in Freising, Germany to introduce them to France, it reminded her of her own trip to Germany years ago when she was about the same age.
It seems inevitable that Aurore would end up in Germany long-term. After all, she badgered her parents, unmoved to travel, to allow her to go alone on a week-long stay with a host family in Germany when she was only 10. She'd just finished her first year at the French German Lycée of Buc bilingual school, where she would remain until the end of high school.
Years later, on a chance visit to Munich in 2012, she discovered the Christmas markets and a city under snow. "I come from Paris," she says, "where everything goes fast and people are stressed all day long. When I arrived in Munich I found a city that was big enough to be interesting and small enough for a quiet way of life."
The bond to German culture fostered in her schooling galvanized a connection to French-German relations and to the EU. When her 3rd year B.A. required a year abroad, Germany was an easy choice, and so was LMU, "one of Germany's best universities."
A smooth landing
Now attending Geschwister-Scholl-Institut (department of social sciences) at LMU, she cannot recall a single cultural challenge since arriving in Munich last September besides having to pay more attention to where and when to cross the street. "Although I sometimes miss my family in France, I do feel at home in Germany," she says. "I can work at the university, meet friends, go shopping, everything as if I were in France."
Her C1 German level has helped make it easier to settle in at LMU with little language barrier, but most of the students she knows are also exchange students, so Aurore has plenty of opportunity to communicate in French and English as well, especially with the friends she quickly made during the German language course last fall.
"I spend leisure time with my new friends discovering all that Munich has to offer," she says. "I've been to Staatsoper several times to watch ballet because the student price is amazing. I used to dance ballet, so it brings back really nice memories. One of my best experiences was in October when I went to "La dame aux camellias". It's one of the most beautiful ballets I've ever seen.
There are some differences between studying at LMU and Sciences Po. "At LMU I've got 10-12 hours of courses per week, not 22-24," says Aurore. "Also, after student presentations on a political science topic, LMU students are able to debate concepts freely, whereas in Paris the teacher gives explanations and asks questions before the discussion, forcing students to be more on their toes."
Besides teaching philosophies, cultural differences are also important in her field of study, but cultural awareness need not be limited to university. With so much experience on both sides of River Rhine, Aurore was thrilled to discover the Europa macht Schule program, where European cultures are introduced into young German classrooms by foreign university students.
Eager to participate, Aurore says, "First I presented myself in French and German to the 5th graders, asked them what they knew about France and answered questions. They were very enthusiastic. They asked me if I had a beret because they think that every French person wears one. The teacher had warned me ahead of time, so I made sure to bring one and they were happy to touch it. We drew a map of France and labeled it with the most important landmarks, and I taught them two easy French songs. It was good to get past the stereotypes of croissants, wine and the Eiffel Tower."
Aurore anticipates some challenges going back to her former way of life to do her Masters in European Affairs at Sciences Po. "It will be strange to live with my parents after a year living on my own, and public transit into Paris won't be as great. Plus I really hope I'll be up to the challenge of dealing with Parisian stress again!"
Originally published at insightLMU, July 2015
Photos provided by Aurore Taillet.
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