Teen Scene: The Difficult Choice between Fromage and Cheesecake

Teen Scene: The Difficult Choice between Fromage and Cheesecake

Oriana Timsit School Choices
Photo © Oriana Timsit

It’s hard to believe that just one month ago I was landing in New York with a very busy schedule and some important decisions to make. Now it’s time to go back to school in Paris. Yes, the dreaded “rentrée” has arrived. But before I return to sneakers, alarm clocks and the airless metro wagons of line 13 (or as I call it: purgatory on wheels), let me recap my summer.

This past August, I was a Française in America. Not as a tourist visiting Times Square but touring college campuses, hoping to find the “right school” for me. My American mother was slightly nostalgic as we took on the east coast, stopping by schools such as NYU, Dartmouth and Vassar as well as the Cheesecake Factory, for humongous portions of mouthwatering deserts to replenish our strength on the hunt.

french education
©Oriana Timsit

After the parade of upbeat student guides (with their many anecdotes) and information sessions in unnecessarily freezing auditoriums, everything seems clearer.

This is a huge relief because, like many people my age, I am completely lost when it comes to my future and career choice.


french educationBut I truly believe that if I want to find my path (wow, that sounds cheesy), a good UScollege is the place to do so. I know most people probably think I’m crazy. After all, I am passing up on nearly free higher French education in one of the most beautiful cities in the world to spend 4 years in a closet-sized dorm room… for the price of a 5-star hotel. This is a choice even I sometimes find myself questioning.

We all know you can’t have your gâteau and eat it too. So when faced with this choice, some questions need to be asked. In terms of higher education, what does the US offer that France doesn’t? Is it worth the price? And is it worth uprooting your life? Parents and students alike must ask themselves this before casting away the “French option”. I can’t really answer these for you, but I can tell you what made me decide to go for team USA.

I am very indecisive and also quite creative, a combination that doesn’t get you far as a young adult in France. That system requires you to know exactly what you want to do fresh out of high school, pacifier still in your mouth. So if you end up wanting to quit two years into dentistry school, well that’s just too bad…at least it was almost free!

Balzac school © Oriana Timsit
Balzac school © Oriana Timsit

After Lycée or high school, I find that there is very little room for “self discovery”; most people consider it synonymous to “self indulgent” and “lazy”. That’s why a liberal arts education seems idyllic; allowing me to dabble in subjects I might have overlooked. The French school system might know how to get kids to produce perfectly structured dissertations but as for encouraging creative thinking and trying new things, I feel this is taboo. (There’s a reason that French TV only runs American shows).

Now that I’m back in Paris, I have a lot on my plate, and very little time to get through it all. I will be balancing my upcoming Baccalauréat (aaarrrghhh!), SATs and college essays while getting accustomed to being a grown-up in training. This summer has been about choosing the destination; but now I actually have to get there. So wish me Bon Courage!

As a French-American teenager, Oriana Timsit has lived in two very different environments, picking up two different accents and mentalities. She turned 17 this year and enters the challenging BAC year, the final high school level in French schools that represents a milestone for every student living in France.



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