The number of forms I have had to fill out in order to attend Ecole Polytechnique continues to amaze me. I understand them wanting to see my demographic information and academic record and proof of enrollment at Caltech, but my original birth certificate translated into French? Really? Not only do they want a notarized translation (along with three copies, as is apparently standard), they want my original birth certificate in English as well! This involved getting in contact with the city hall in Philadelphia, where I was born, and asking for a “new original”. As if my passport and student identification aren’t enough to prove who I am. I also forgot to mention that this is after I have already completed the entire visa process. So they are willing to let me into the country for six months, but still want to make sure I’m legit before letting me stay on the school’s campus. If a fraud were to be able to make it this far, this step would trip them up for sure.

The university also requires about a thousand passport photos, give or take a few. The housing office, security department, food services, on-campus bank, and the campus dog all need their own set of copies. Just kidding about the dog. But seriously, did they never learn to share? I thought that once I got my Ecole Polytechnique ID badge I’d be good to go, but apparently everyone and their mother wants to make sure that I can properly follow instructions on how to print a French passport photo. Maybe they are just preparing themselves for when I inevitably make the most wanted list by breaking some silly law, like calling a pig “Napolean” or wearing pants (which is illegal as a woman, although I am allowed to go pantsless) or not giving the right of way to a man carrying an onion. While I’m on the topic of outdated laws, apparently an ashtray is still considered a deadly weapon and it is illegal to kiss on railways (meaning the track itself) in case you get so distracted that you can’t hear the train approaching. Who knew?

My welcome letter also mentions that for international students, bed sheets are provided only for the first month, after which I must provide my own. I find it hard to believe that sheets are in such high demand that they need to take them back after a month. What are they doing with all these sheets during the off-season? Maybe there are an excessive number of toga parties on campus and they need all those sheets so that they can rent them out as costumes. Seems to be the most likely explanation, for sure.

Welcome to the world of the French!