My greatest worry is ...

Ce qui me préoccupe le plus, c'est ...

doing well in my classes, taking the GREs and applying to grad school at the moment.

failing myself, disappointing my parents, regretting.

failing to live up to expectations.


failure, losing a close friend/family, and my future.


I won't reach the expectations of others and, most importantly, of myself.

is that we humans will keep competing with each other, trying to be the best, and trying to make the most money, but we will end our lives being dissatisfied and having unfulfilled dreams.

living away from my parents and not being able to take care of them.

not being able to finish all that I have wanted to do, not being able to see the world, and not being able to truly appreciate myself until the very end.

not being able to improve.

not finding a good place to live.

something I try not to think about? Hmm, I seem to be succeeding, as I can't think of it now. Being beheaded before I reach middle age. That could be worrying.

That America will lose its values

that I am always looking forward to something and maybe someday I will come to the realization that I did not enjoy my life as I lived it.

that I am not the best that I can be.

that I do not get to see my family again.
I am very far from home and only get to visit about twice a year.

that I do not have purpose to my life.

that I will be homeless

that I will end up unhappy. What if I do end up living the life that I dreamed of, but realize part way through that it's not exactly what I thought?

that I will fail.
that I will die young.
that I am not living a full life.

that I will not be happy with where I end up in life.

that i will not accomplish all my goals.

that I won't succeed in life and also that I'll end up alone.

ce que je fais au moment où je le fait.

de finir mes études avec un bon diplôme qui me permette d'avoir un bon niveau de vie plus tard;

de pouvoir avoir du travail à la sortie de ma scolarité

de valider mon semestre, d'avoir un salaire me permettant de voyager régulièrement, de savoir que mes proches vont bien

l'équitation et mes études.

la liberté d'autrui dans le monde.

la pauvreté, les inégalités

la réussite des études et la fin du monde en 2012

le présent.

les amours, les amis, la famille, les études

les concours de fin d'année, la houle et le vent (pour le surf)

les inégalités dans le monde: économiques et sociales.

ma famille et mon avenir.

mes études

mes études, amis, loisirs

mon avenir

mon avenir (choix d'études, choix de secteur d'activité...)
et la réforme des retraites

mon avenir professionnel
l'augmentation de l'intolérance

mon avenir, celui de la planète,

réussir, aller le plus loin possible.


Les américains semblent tous inquiétés pour leur futur et fin de vie. Nous, français, même si beaucoup on des inquiétudes similaires, certains semblent plus inquiétés par le présent...

Quand a la personne inquiétée pour la fin du monde en 2012, je me suis approfondie sur le sujet! Conclusion: elle n'aura pas lieu, c'est une erreur de calcul...

Il n'y aura pas de fin du monde enfin espérons!

Apparemment autant au niveau français que américain, c'est notre avenir économique qui préoccupe le plus. Les préoccupations à court terme ne sont pas très présentes..


Je trouve que les français insistent plus sur les inégalités dans le monde, le respect d'autrui, alors que les réponses américaines sont moins altruistes. Etes-vous d'accord?

Je vois qu'une grande majorité y compris du coté américain, ont peur de décevoir leur proche, de ne pas réussir dans leurs études ou de ne pas accomplir se qu'ils désirent le plus et échouer.. On peut peut être considérer sa comme universel? Non?

En effet, après avoir lu toutes les rèponses les Américains paraissent plus préoccupés par tout ce qui touche à leur avenir et leur peur d'échouer entre autre. Je pense que c'est universel et que même nous français ressentons la même chose !

I was surprised by the number of responses mainly revolving around self-centered things, such as "failure" and disappointing friends and family. I think it is a tough topic to discuss and identify, because it is just the surface of a much deeper question, what is the meaning of life? And what motivates us to wake up every morning and live our lives the way we do? If not for fear of something, would anyone accomplish anything?

I expected MIT students to be very worried about "mes etudes", but it seems that French students think about it more! Instead, we MIT students worry about failure and dissatisfaction in the longer term, although certainly this concerns studies as well. Many French students wrote about things that do not pertain to themselves (les inegalites dans le monde, avenir de la planete, la liberte dans le monde, etc). Several American students also wrote non-selfish responses, but it seems to me that on average the number is different between French and American.

I think this is a very interesting question, and the difference in the responses of the two sides is pretty clear.  Both sides discuss relatively "selfish" things, but the nature of these things are different: as Danielle and Sasha have said, the Americans mention failure and happiness a lot, while the French mention studies and the future.  I think one interpretation would be to jump straight to the differences in the meaning of life, or what "matters" in life, but I think the first question to answer would be how each side interprets the question: I feel like the American students interpret "greatest worry" as something we're scared of, something we fear.  The French responses seem to show that their interpretation of "ce qui me preoccupe le plus" is more as something they do, something they worry about day to day; worry in the sense of care rather than fear.

I think some answers such as ending up homeless is really reflective of today's economic situation, and while the French mention economic woes, no one seems to think that they'll ever be homeless. The American system is much harsher on you if you fail.

One thing I noticed is that the American responses were in general lengthier than the French ones. Is this because Americans are more culturally willing to talk about their worries?

Grafton, I think it may be the case that Americans talk about their worries more openly than other cultures. But I would think that the French are blunt as well.

Christian, I think it's not that American responses are less altruistic, it's the mindset in which Americans are more into developing their self and they are obsessed with their success and failure. This goes back to the idea on the word, individualism discussed in another forum. Americans (historically) think that individualism and self-reliance are very important. Do other Americans want to comment on this?

comme l'a dit samin le système américain est plus restrictif, il est plus dur de se faire une place dans le monde du travail sans bonnes études. En france même si les études effectuées sont bassent, il y a toujours moyen de gagner sa vie en travaillant, il y aura toujours du travail pour les personnes qui ont peu de dipômes. c'est différent pour ceux qui n'en n'ont pas du tout mais en france nous avons des études que nous appellons des études professionnelles, des "bac pro" qui permet aux étudiant d'étudier à l'école tout en apprenant un métier : 2 semaines en entreprise, 2 semaines à l'école.. etc. Grace à ça on apprend un métier et on travaille plus rapidement.

Y a t-il ce genre d'études aux USA?

Elodie, a possible equivalent to the "bac pro" in the United States might be vocational schools where one would learn a trade. There are also a variety of degrees and diplomas that deviate from the normal track (GED, Associate's) for those that are intent on specific professional work.

I find the comment about Americans being less "altruistic" based on their fears very interesting. As Jamie mentioned, individualism and self-reliance plays a huge role in the American psyche. Perhaps American fears and worries seem more self-centered in that Americans are preoccupied with things they can control at least to some degree. The fear of failure is the fear that your efforts and your work ethic won't be enough to succeed. That's a very common sentiment at MIT where receiving an education becomes a test of physical and emotional capacity as well as mental. That said, I think everyone in the US genuinely fears the larger and universal things like inequality, war, and poverty, but without the means for direct control, we choose to push those worries to the back of our minds and focus on the tasks at hand.

Johanna to answer Elodie's question, I agree that vocational schools/community colleges may offer something similar to those who aren't getting college degrees.

I completely agree with you Johanna that there are sentiments for the fear of failure and not succeeding in the U.S. In fact, I think there is a general drive for success and working hard among Americans. Although ironically, Americans are stereotypically lazy (i.e. Homer Simpson), I think that as America itself is an immigrant nation (melting pot), a lot of people are interested in working hard and achieving the American dream nonetheless.

As a result, a lot of Americans worry greatly about their futures, their careers, etc, rather than respond to such a question with, "I worry about someone else."

Would other Americans want to comment about this?

To French students, why in particular are you worried about "mes etudes"? How much do you value your studies?

I think that some of the differences between our responses and those of the French students has to do with a difference in meaning: "ce qui me preoccupe le plus est..." can mean "what concerns me most...", which is quite different from "my greatest worry is..." If we were asked to complete the former sentence, I think we would have seen a lot more common answers. We would be more likely to "my future career concerns me the most" than say "my greatest worry is my future career". Do the French agree that the translations differ?


I mentioned that French students seem to care about "mes etudes" more than American students. What I think I should have added is that Americans seem very worried about "failure", whereas French students worry about "l'avenir" - the future. I think there is a difference beyond semantics. It seems that American students expect to succeed and thus worry about the possibility of failure. French students do not necessarily expect success, and instead worry about the future.

Of course, this may be a poor interpretation. Is the meaning the same, "failure" and "l'avenir"?

Oh non "Failure" = Echec et Avenir = " future "

I am curious to know what the Americans mean by "failure" - what criteria is being used to define success and failure because that can vary greatly from person to person.

Dear Josephine,

the calculation is correct, there are two variables that only the chosen ones know. :)

In general, the French are more concerned with the state of the society/world and others (Grand Autre). The Americans are more apathetic when it comes to that. This is reflected in many other areas that we have discussed so far (e.g. individualism). I agree with Sasha that it is unexpected that MIT students are less concerned with "ses études" than their French counterparts.

A good point is made by Samin on the "protective net" that (supposedly) exists in France but is missing in the USA (any "protective mechanism" is labeled as "socialism" these day). This was also reflected in the previous discussions of the different perceptions of the what the role of the state is...


It is interesting that there were very few (no?) responses concerning catastrophic events from the side of Americans, even though the US has been hit by some recently (Katrina, BP etc).


(If we were UC Santa Cruz or UCLA, I am sure that we would also have people being concerned with The Surf.)


I think that a lot of the differences in the two sets of responses can actually be attributed to the construction of the prompt. The Americans interpreted it to be "At the moment, I am most afraid that..." whereas the French thought it to be "I care most about..." Were these qusetions posed separately, I think that we would have seen a good deal of difference. I wouldn't attribute, for example, the fear of failure as such to American mentality any more than I would to any other.
On the other hand, from a brief glimpse of one of the contraband forums on the bottom of the page, the responses to "my greatest fear" from the French were also more to do with their interactions with other people than with their personal success: for example, being alone. What else are you afraid of?

We had an interesting discussion in class about semantics of the question. Looking at the French responses closely, I do agree with Mariya that some French students may have interpreted the sentence differently. So I wonder if the responses would be different if the sentence in french used the verb "s'inquiéter" instead of the verb "se préoccuper".

Jamie, nous nous intéressons beaucoup aux études car comme tu as pu le voir, en France, les diplômes sont importants; je ne suis pas d'accord avec Elodie qui dit que même avec peu de diplômes, on trouve du travail en France: si on regarde les catégories de personnes qui restent le plus longtemps au chômage, on trouve celles qui ont le moins de diplômes. Est-ce la même chose chez vous?


Luka, je voudrais commenter ta phrase:

"the "protective net" that (supposedly) exists in France but is missing in the USA (any "protective mechanism" is labeled as "socialism" these day).


c'est peut-être une des raisons pour lesquelles vous autres américains pensez tellement au travail, nous avons un système de protection sociale qui, même s'il n'est plus aussi avantageux qu'avant, nous protège, alors que vous... Mais est-ce que cela a changé avec Obama? Est-ce que vous avez une allocation chômage si vous n'êtes pas assurés contre le chômage?



Sam et Kenneth, vous semblez penser que le mot "préoccuper" a un sens différent pour nous; en fait, je ne le pense pas; quand on dit à quelqu'un: "qu'est-ce qui te préoccupe?", cela veut dire "qu'est-ce qui t'inquiète?"; "être préoccupé " veut dire s'inquiéter au sujet de quelque chose; par exemple, la situation économique nous préocuupe, nous inquiète, parce que nous ne savons pas de quoi demain sera fait!

je pense que Sam a raison de mentionner la différence de traduction, car je n'entend pas les mots de la même façon, pour moi être préoccuper par quelque chose c'est dans le moments, ce qui me préoccupe ces jours ci, en revanche "ma plus grande peur" si je traduis de l'anglais veux plutôt dire une peur qui se répercute sur du long terme, d'où l'interêt de faire la différence.

je pense que si on m'avais demandé ma plus grande peur, j'aurais répondu, tout comme nos amis les américains, ne rien faire de ma vie (professionnelle), ou perdre un parent.

Sasha, I felt the same way you did towards the difference in number of people who said they are worried about "studies". As you observed, on the French side, there are far more people who expressed concern about this than on the American side.

However, I don't think that this is quite true... I think that these survey responses just indicate that we Americans and the French understood this question differently and chose to look at two very different time scales. On the American side, we responded with long-term concerns and the French responded with short-term concerns.

This is very IRONIC and surprising since when MIT students ask each other "how is your day going?", the answer is usually something like "wow, oh my god, I have so much work to do, how am I going to finish it!", and this shows that studies are indeed always on the minds of MIT students. We simply chose not to mention this fact too much since we are afraid to admit it. We hate the fact that people in US think that MIT is a 'nerdy' place with too much work and very little play, so we subconsciously try to avoid agreeing with attitude.

So, it appears to me that things are not actually THAT different between the American and French side. I think that both sides are worried about short-term, but we mit kids are simply less inclined to admit it. 

My fellow agree students, do you guys agree with this? Or do you feel that we students are ACTUALLY less worried about studies?