I am spending the semester studying at SKEMA Business School in Sophia Antipolis, a technology park about 45 minutes away from Nice. I take the 7:00am bus to the campus and arrive just before 8:00am. The campus consists of two buildings, and is considered one of the larger campuses of all universities in France. Most of the students live in Antibes or Juan-les-Pins, which are small towns not far from SKEMA.
I have one to two classes each day, and the classes are three hours long. When I arrived at my first class last week, the professor was seated at the front of the room. I made sure to say, “Bonjour!” when I entered the room, since the French consider it very rude not to greet people when you enter a room. In the US, we generally do not greet the professor during classes that take place in large lecture halls.
Halfway through class, everyone takes a 15 minute break. During the break, SKEMA’s lobby becomes a hangout spot filled with energy and noise. Someone brings out a huge speaker (the kind you carry over your shoulder) and students grab coffee and chat with friends. This seems to be the time when the whole school wakes up.
My second class of the week went smoothly. However, when I arrived at my third class, the professor was not there. At fifteen minutes past the hour, I was prepared to leave. No one else had started packing up yet, so I waited. Thirty minutes after the class was supposed to start, a woman entered the classroom and told us all to go home because they were unable to contact the professor and had no idea if or when she would be arriving.
A similar thing happened in my class on Friday. At 8:25am, with no sign of the professor, many of the students started putting on their coats. A minute later, the professor walked in and asked what time the class was supposed to start.
The French have a different view of time than the US, which can be frustrating. It is generally accepted to arrive around the time you are expected to, rather than arriving early or exactly on time as we do in the US.
Despite not knowing when class will really start, I feel SKEMA is a great fit for me. It is an international business school, and I have class with students from France, Russia, Slovenia, Malaysia, Morocco, Venezuela, and China, just to name a handful. My professors make a point of engaging the class in discussions and of discussing the culture and business practices of the countries where the students are from.
I’m happy to be studying at SKEMA for the semester, and I’m not sure I’ll want to leave Nice by the end of my program.