Éléonore Rivation

Éléonore Rivation, a 21-year-old political science major, has managed to find herself halfway across the world in Richmond, VA. She is a part of an exchange program that allowed her to study at VCU. From the short time that she has been in America, she has learned many cultural differences that have changed how she views the world.

Why did you choose to study at VCU?

So, I am part of a course where everyone goes abroad during their third year. I knew I wanted to go to the U.S. because I had had good experiences before. I wanted to go to an English speaking country to better my English, and I didn’t want to go to the United Kingdom because their culture is more similar to ours than the United States. My university gave us options between 100 United States universities and we had to rank them. VCU was my first choice because I wanted to go to the East Coast and it was ranked as one of the most wanted universities. I got it and was very happy about it.

What is your favorite aspect about VCU?

I love the fact that it is a very diverse environment. You meet all kinds of people from different backgrounds. You can be yourself without fear of social barriers or judgment. I feel like it is very good for my mind.

So, as a political science major do you see any differences within American culture in terms of our politics?

There are a lot of differences and it is hard to explain because we come from such different cultures. Also, please know that when I discuss America I am not being judgmental; I am just explaining my own experiences.

  • On religion: Religion impacts America’s political system and your ideas and how you all think. It plays a major role in your everyday life. In France, we are secular so it does not conflict with our government. Even if you are a non-believer, no one really cares.
  • On sex education: I think the way we view religion affects how we view sex. In the United States, people don’t talk about sex and the only time you all discuss it is with sexual assault. (The French) understand consent more, I think because we talk about sex. Here, I have heard people tell me that they could never get advice about it. When you do discuss it, it is about things like sexual assault and rape.

  • On gun violence: This is a huge thing I have noticed. I knew about it before I came to the Unites States but being here has made it more blatant. In France, the only people who have guns are hunters and the laws are highly regulated. Also, we do not have huge shootings like school shootings. I can’t remember ever hearing about one in France. The only acts of violence we have are terrorist attacks. The United States does not discuss it like we do. People who support guns say more good people and even the people who want gun control say they need more regulation but in France the people who want gun control want to eliminate all guns.

  • On racism: People probably think that racism is stronger in America, but I think people in France are more racist because we are not very diverse. There is also a huge link between race and class in France. Also, there is a lot of racism towards immigrants coming to France. The government does not care about religion, but now they are questioning our secularism saying that France is a Catholic nation just to go against Islam.

  • On economics: In France, we are a socialist country but not in the way you understand. We are not crazy communist we just pay taxes. We pay tuition fees but that’s it whereas you all pay crazy amounts. For example, my sister’s medical school each year is around $300. For medical care, we pay pretty much nothing. We get reimbursed by the state. But we go to the doctor for dumb reasons because we can. If Americans did that, they would be in debt so quickly.

How is the culture different or the same in France?

Well, people do not care as much about clothes as they do in America. The French wear fancier things. They care more about brands and being chic. I think Americans are more practical. For example, everyone here, including women, have backpacks. In France, all the girls carry handbags. Here, I see so many different styles and no one cares. I mean really, in France, if you wear sweatpants people look at you weird. I see people going to Shafer in their pajamas and it is so funny and just cool. It makes me feel more confident dressing here. Also, the university is not state funded so all of you have access to amazing infrastructure. The library is always open and no one has to fight for more hours. That doesn’t happen in France, not even in Paris.

So, France is known for its food. How are you enjoying the American food?

France has such a different approach to food. It is one of the most important things about French culture. We love good food and we are very proud of it. We even have peculiar eating times. In the United States, you all put so much sugar in everything. Also, you mix meats for no reason. That was the worst thing I have ever eaten. You fry literally everything.

What is your favorite American food?

Cookies. They are so good! I can never get those in France.

What is your least favorite American food?

Barbeque, I can’t. It is the worst.