Yesterday I had the opportunity to sing at the Music Associations concert, and it was wonderful! Thank you to everyone who was there and also everyone else who suffered through me sending you the video afterwards ;). University has been going well and I have thankfully stuck to my review schedule here (even though compared to my roommate and the french students here, I still feel like I'm on holiday).
Since we're well into the semester now and I only have two more museums to visit (wow, I should do a list of the ones I've visited sometime here) I'd like to introduce you to the french school system, which is about as complicated as the Austrian one ... not exactly rocket science, but close. The french start "school" at 3, first doing a version of kindergarten before starting elementary school. Until university, things stay the same as in Austria, although you can choose what sort of "baccalaureate" you want to do at 16, which heavily influences your university options. Those with a bac S for sciences usually end up going into the sciences.
For tertiary education, there are "grandes écoles" like INSA and universities. For the grandes écoles, one has to send in an application and they are very selective, only accepting the best students. This is the system for INSA and Polytech, and the other grandes écoles have a different system - you actually need to go to school for two more years to be able to apply. This is called "prépa", as in preparation, and it's usually two years where one doesn't really see the sun. Afterwards, there's a ranking, and based on the ranking, you can go to the best school that will take you.
Apparently, the french have a lot of rankings and competitions, and at INSA after two years you'll be ranked against the rest of your year! This ranking determines your possible department choices and stay-abroad possibilities. Speaking of abroad, every student at INSA has to spend at least 3 months abroad, either on an internship or on an exchange semester/year. They also learn English and another language, which in my opinion should be required everywhere. There's no such fun as to teach my roommate german! :)