On Friday night I had the opportunity to attend la remise des diplômes , or a graduation ceremony. There are several differences between high school graduations in the USA and France, the most obvious one would be that this graduation was help in early November while most high school graduations in the US are held in mid to late June, when the school year ends.
I was invited to the ceremony by my contact teacher, and it was a fascinating cultural experience. The graduation was held in the high school itself, in an area of the school I had never been before- sort of a multipurpose conference room\ kitchen. This sort of ceremony is brand new to Lycée Arbez Carme: until this year students received their high school diplomas on a Saturday morning without any fanfare or ceremony. This year the administration decided to fancy up the occasion and hold it on a Friday evening, inviting families and the faculty.
It was quite a different experience than my own high school graduation- ceremonies such as this are just catching on in France, and post-high school graduation ceremonies are unheard of! It was a cozy and personal ceremony. For one thing, as it was held in November for the previous years high school graduates (class of 2015), la remise des diplômes was a chance for friends to catch up and for teachers to connect with their former students. Many had stories about their universities, internships, or jobs. A major difference is that students wore casual clothes- caps and gowns are considered a very Anglophone phenomenon.
Students sat wherever they wanted with their friends- no alphabetical order nonsense! Additionally, parents and families could sit with their children- although the ceremony didn`t seem to a full-family affair as in the United States- only about a quarter of the students graduating had family present, and very few siblings were there. Teachers stood in the back or handed out diplomas by subject. Since the high school where I work is a technical school, and French students specialize academically very early on, teachers handed out diplomas within their own subject areas. Each teacher was then able to add personal touches to the reading of diplomas, since they knew the students more intimately than high school guidance counselors would in the US.
The principal of the high school made a short speech, but there were no student speeches and the whole ceremony took under an hour for approximately 150 students. There was a slideshow playing in the background to highlight student activities and achievements of the Class of 2015. Afterward, there was a yummy buffet of refreshments available to students, families and faculty. I`m glad I had the chance to attend a French graduation ceremony, and learn about more differences between French and American schools!
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