Problematique? Yeah, You’re Telling Me

It’s Mid-Term season (finally) here at good ol’ Aix-Marseille University which, as all of us college students know, means two things: tests and papers. Personally, I have no problem with tests or papers. It’s like I was designed to be a student. And I’m an English major, which should tell you a lot about my feelings towards essays and papers (YES! GIVE THEM TO ME! I WANT ALL OF THE ESSAYS!).

HOWEVER. I have a problem. French university comes at their papers…well. Differently. In fact, it goes something like this:

In America, you get a question, formulate a thesis and then discuss, analyze and synthesize all the information that supports your thesis. We’ve been learning how to do this since probably sixth grade, if not earlier.

In FRANCE, however, you formulate a “problematique.” What is a “problematique” you say? Excellent question! Basically, it’s a question that you ask in response to the question you are given in the assignment that is both more narrow and less precise and will guide your exploration of the topic and ultimately lead you to your response (known in the States as a Thesis).

Today we spent about three hours trying to figure out: a) what in God’s name a “problematique” is b) how to make a good problematique (I still have no idea how to do this) and c) what to do with the thing once you have it. Haha

It was kind of hilarious to watch my classmates try to figure out what in the world was going on. I think it might best be described as throwing a bar of soap in a bathtub. Nobody knows why its there, how to direct it or what to do with it.

If I haven’t really been culture-shocked by the French culture itself, I think this is pretty much my first tussle with Madame Cultural Frustration. My sympathy level has gotten so much higher in the last three hours haha. Oh boy. I love it. I hate it. I miss the good ol’ American way of BOOM git ‘er done. But I imagine this will be good for my intellect. Right?


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