An interview with Kamila Babiuki

Kamila Babiuki, a Brazilian Erasmus + student in philosophy, tells us about her semester at Université de Rennes 1.

Kamila Babiuki, Brazilian Erasmus student. Illustration: Emma Burr

Why did you choose the Université de Rennes 1?
I came to the Université de Rennes 1 thanks to an agreement between 3 universities: the University of Paranà in Brazil, the Université de Rennes 1 and the University of Sherbrooke in Canada. I’m doing a master’s degree, and I’m planning to go to Quebec after Rennes. I’ve really enjoyed being here. And at the end, I’ll have the three diplomas from the three universities!

So, could you tell us why you chose the Erasmus programme?
It was an offer from Université de Rennes 1. I had a grant from Brazil but it was cut. My teachers talked to me about this grant because of the bilateral agreement with Rennes 1.

What was your level of French when you arrived?
I hadn’t done a test but I think it was around a B1.

Was that enough to follow courses easily?
Yes. And I carried on studying French here. That was important as was able to make progress more quickly than if I’d just attended my philosophy classes.

Is the approach to philosophy at university in Brazil different to France?
It really depends on the university. Where I study in Brazil, they encourage us to do fewer courses and to stay longer if possible. We go more slowly so that we can really integrate the content. A bachelor’s degree in Brazil lasts 4 years but in philosophy it’s possible to stay longer, do fewer courses per semester and stay, on average, 5 years.

We study more political philosophy here than in Brazil. All the courses I’ve followed this semester can be linked in one way or another to political philosophy. That’s not so common in Brazil. In general, one or two courses are in political philosophy. Modern philosophy and moral philosophy can be linked to political philosophy. Everything else I study in Brazil would be considered literature in France.

Is there a course you’ve enjoyed more than others?
The three courses I followed in the form of a symposium. I enjoyed all three. I didn’t have all the knowledge required for these courses and I had to study before attending but it was a good opportunity to fill a gap in my learning.

In terms of workload, is 4 courses per semester a good balance?  Do you have enough free time?
At the beginning, the workload was too heavy. I had 5 courses. In Brazil, we don’t have as many because we have a lot of reading to do. At the beginning I spoke to my professors in Brazil and they let me drop a course. So with 4, plus the French lessons – and I still have my dissertation to do - that was fine. I had a lot to do but it was ok.

And during the semester, did you stay in touch with your professors in Brazil? With your cademic advisor? Did you write to them regularly?
If I needed to, I could write to them. I wrote once at the beginning of the semester to talk about my workload and once because I am following a bachelor’s degree in Brazil and a Master’s here. I have to maintain a link with my bachelor’s degree.

How many exams have you taken?

And do you feel confident about the results?
Yes, I think so! (Giggling)

Did you write in French or did your professors let you write in English, in Spanish or another language?
I didn’t ask to write in another language in fact. I wrote in French.

Do you think the welcome is good for foreign students at Université de Rennes 1?
When I needed to speak to the professors here, they were helpful. My experience was positive, and students were friendly. 

Have you met other Brazilian students?
Not in philosophy, but in other subjects, yes. I’ve also made a lot of friends from other countries. More than French in fact, but I suppose that’s normal!

In philosophy or in other subjects?
At the CROUS more than anywhere else in fact.

How would you describe your campus life?
Where I study in Brazil, it’s a small campus in the centre. There’s not much space. So here, it’s great to be outside and to walk around. It’s very green. I really enjoyed the opportunity to do sport. I didn’t have a lot of time but I tried to make the most of the opportunity. And I have a lot of friends on the campus.

Was it easy to find activities to do? Sport and culture?
Yes, right from the start I did sport at the Diapason (the arts and leisure centre on the campus) and cultural activities too, although I didn’t have much time because the activities were often at the same time as my French classes.

What sports have you done?
Climbing. And I started circus but it was at the same time as my French lessons.

Can you do sport at your university in Brazil?
Yes but it’s on another campus.

Did you stay on the campus or did you spend time in Rennes and visiting the region?
Both. I often went to Les Champs Libres in Rennes centre, making the most of the conferences, the library, and so on. My French lessons were at the Université de Rennes 2 in the centre. And I visited Saint Malo on the North coast of Brittany.

Did you find student life affordable?
I receive the Erasmus grant. Without the grant, it would have been difficult!

Has there been anything negative about your stay?
The cold? (laughing).
No, in fact, I was well prepared before I came. I regularly talk to family and friends. So no, I didn’t feel sad. The food was great! I ate almost every day at the student restaurant.

Would you have liked to have stayed longer?
Yes, of course! I’d like to come back in the future, for my doctorate perhaps.

When do you return to Brazil?
At the beginning of July.

What image do you have of Europe?
I can’t say I know Europe really. I only know Rennes, but I like it a lot! It’s very different to what I’m used to: the landscape, the people, the food… I really would like to come back later. There are a lot of differences, especially the climate. Even if everyone says there hasn’t been a real winter here this year!

Is there a word in French that you particularly like or would like to use more? And a Brazilian word you could teach us?
Hum… Saudade! Nostalgia I think? I don’t know if it’s the most beautiful word in Portuguese but I like this one! It’s poetic! And in French? I don’t know. I started learning French with the 18th century philosophers so sometimes my French is a little strange! Sometimes young French people look surprised when I speak!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, I hope to be at the end of my doctorate and to maybe have the opportunity to teach at the university.

So in 10 years you’ll be in front of a lecture theatre full of young students?
Not in a lecture theatre as there aren’t many students in philosophy!
Your grant is financed by the European Commission. Does that mean something for you, the European Commission, European institutions? Did you feel you were in Europe and not only in France?
The feel of being in Brittany is very strong. The flag is everywhere! On the other hand, I met a lot of other nationalities, Italians, Germans, Latin Americans… What I found is that I spoke a lot of English. More than French in fact!
So it’s difficult to say. I only know a small part of Brazil, where I live or where I’ve been able to travel. It’s like Europe; I only know a small corner.

But do you feel that you’re in a network of European countries? I know it’s difficult after only 4 months! I’m asking the question as you are one of the first Erasmus students from a country outside Europe. The Erasmus programme has existed since 1986. It’s a programme which encourages mobility for students, particularly in Europe. Since 2015, the Erasmus programme has been open to non-EU countries, with the goal of showing non-EU students a kind of European ideal.

During your stay, did you read the local or national press? Local or National? And have you followed European news about, say, the Brexit, the situation in Greece and so on?
I tried to. Sometimes it was difficult as there’s a lot of information and I try to follow the news in Brazil at the same time.

And my final question! What did you forget to put in your bag before you came?
My cat! But there’s one here, on the campus!