“In veterinary school I discovered the scope of the culture of domination among students”

Being a veterinarian was my dream. I had just spent three years in preparatory BCPST (biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences) at Saint-Louis High School in Paris, preparing for the competition for veterinary schools. I chose without hesitation the school of Maisons-Alfort (Val-de-Marne), because of its reputation and its geographical location. When I arrived, I was very excited.

I quickly lost hope during the first week of integration, organized by fourth graders. The staging begins with our first lesson in the amphitheater. Suddenly, the fourth-year students, all dressed in black and red, with berets, sunglasses, arrive and interrupt the lesson. They call us by our surnames preceded by “poulot” or “poulotte”, they ask us for silence.

We must pair up with an “old man” who is responsible for our integration into campus life and parties throughout the year. These seniors had chosen us over the summer, after sending us a questionnaire: the fourth-year student who had chosen me “wanted” a girl with whom he had things in common. During this course in the amphitheater, the “elders” played a PowerPoint with our photo, followed by three answers that we had given during the questionnaire, fun questions – like our nicknames – but also questions about our sexuality.

I quickly refused to humiliate myself

It was during the first night that I understood the scope of this culture of domination among students, and that this situation was not going to please me at all. We had to address the elders as direction to mark their superiority over us. Whenever we were introduced to other students, we had to decline the letters of our last name with negative adjectives, and decline the first with flattering adjectives. If we refused, or if we made a mistake in the formal address, our elder asked us to crouch down and crouch down, that is, to imitate the animal flapping its wings. I quickly refused to humiliate myself. All week I opposed the more “hard” integration rites. Some of my classmates were up during the night and agreed to eat dog food and other cocktails and preparations of the most repulsive. Many lent themselves to the game with disconcerting ease and total attachment to humiliation.

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