Change is always difficult in life. I have been in France to pursue my master’s degree for two months now. The change of curriculum system is difficult, and the change of culture is difficult. There is some time when I am walking down the street, with unrecognized French words surrounding me, and pondering:

Why am I here?

by me

To be honest, although I expected some hardcore courses from the syllabus, I still underestimated the commitment, or may I say, challenges everywhere. The first challenge comes from the fact that the learning system is different. I did directly get into the second year of master, but there exists a first year master which most of students finished. Bluntly speaking, I am like an outrageous undergraduate stumbling into a group of masters. Fortunately, I did self study some mathematics during my gap year, but those are far from enough compared to one year of master studies.

A sample week routine: The right hand side reminds me of what I need to learn in the weekend.

The next challenge is the teaching. Although I do admit that being in France barely know any French is not the smartest idea, I am confident to say that some lecturers do not know the best way to teach students. The worse thing is that among those lecturers, some of them do not have a corresponding, comprehensive, and self-contained textbook for students to look for references. I do understand that as an enthusiastic lecturer, one would like the students to listen to them during the class and teach some knowledge outside the textbook. However, in mathematics, the uniformity is really important. Unless one teaches a subject from the scratch, ONE SHOULDN’T ASSUME ANYTHING FROM THE STUDENTS! I have experienced, several times, that I am searching a definition from the Internet and every possible textbooks, but still failed to find the one taught in class. I have also experienced during the lecture that the lecturers use a different notation or a different symbol WITHOUT MENTIONING, and I have to find those out by reviewing and inspecting the notes later by myself without doubting my thinking. I do want to say that some of these obstacles are extremely difficult and unnecessary, and they are the exact reasons why a corresponding and comprehensive textbook are important. The lecturers can skip some parts and focus on the materials they love to cover, while students can consult the textbook without any confusion.

99% of disagreements in mathematics are because of the difference of definitions

by anonymous or by me

Unlike the grading system in America combining homework and exams, the grading in France only depends on the Finals. Therefore, if you perform badly in the finals, you are screwed. Usually, if I fully understand every bit of the materials, I do think that I can take the finals without any fear since I am confident enough to not get completely outperformed by anybody else. The problem is that I don’t quite understand every bit of the materials. At the beginning of the semester, I followed 6 classes: four mandatory and two auditing. Because of the teaching qualities of the auditing courses and the time usage for the mandatory ones, I successive dropped those courses and stopped following, which is a great decision when I now come back to see.

One particular thing that I love about my experience studying in France is my enthusiasm in learning mathematics. The more I don’t know, the more I want to know. I seems to go back to the good old days when I was eager to learn mathematics out of curiosity and interests. I find myself motivated. I enjoy my way of understanding so many exciting things. I am able to study in my dorm and immerse myself into the world of mathematics. These are positive things happened to me, and I know that I am improving during the process.

Wir müssen wissen, wir werden wissen!

David Hilbert

Why am I here? Indeed, this is more like a rhetorical question. I am here for the culture, for the people, for the learning, for the master degree, for the experience, and so on and on. Only one months to go before the finals, I guess I will try my best to learn, and enjoy a little break in this 9 days long holiday.

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