Larissa - Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Rennes

B International Studies
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

While on exchange in Rennes I did classes about political radicalism, political marketing, the public sphere, the city of Rennes, French politics and EU studies, as well as a French language course and a normal course in French. When I arrived in Rennes, my French level was between B1 and B2, however I chose to study the program in English because I heard that the French program would be very stressful. I would recommend choosing the French program if you are at that level because even though it would be challenging, the English program felt quite disorganised and it wasn't very challenging, as well as being quite separate from normal Sciences Po life. 

One of the challenges of the program was the length of the courses. Some of the courses were quite short, for example political marketing, which we did over 5 two hours sessions between Tuesday and Thursday, with the exam on Friday. It was super stressful but luckily the teachers were pretty understanding for the most part.

Personal experience

The best thing about going on exchange was all the wonderful people I got to meet. I've made so many lifelong friends and I was super lucky to be able to go on so many trips with them within France and to other countries. One of the best things about about Europe is that it's easy to find super cheap flights, and Rennes is great because it has it's own small airport, which meant we could spontaneously book a trip somewhere during class. 

I learned a lot about French culture and the cultures of my friends on exchange. I had friends from Brazil, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United States, and so many other places. It was good to be able to learn about France with them and to go through the many highs and many lows of exchange. I personally gained a lot of resilience when it came to living in a different culture with a different language. I had to do most important things in French, such as getting a public transport card, or a sim card, and by the end of my time I was able to do these things pretty easily.

Accommodation

I lived in a student accommodation building run by an educational sector of the French government called Crous. The accommodation was basic, but included everything I needed. I had a private bathroom, a desk and cupboards and my own fridge, and shared a kitchen with people on my floor. The people who run it were nice but rarely spoke English. It was also somewhat strict, in that the kitchens would close at 11 and you weren't supposed to drink alcohol in the kitchen, but some staff members were a bit nicer. I would recommend staying here if possible because it takes a lot of stress off finding accommodation at the beginning of the semester, and it is only a twenty minute walk or a ten minute bus ride away from Sciences Po. It was also pretty easy to organise as the university had allotted space for exchange students.

Costs

I would say I spent around 10-12 thousand dollars on exchange in total. It was a little more expensive than I expected but I definitely treated myself quite a bit. Rent at the student accommodation was 244 euro per month, and you have to pay one months deposit as well as one months rent when you move in. I also bought a public transport pass, similar to a Go Card, when I arrived and it cost around 120 euro but it lasted until the end of exchange. It made life in Rennes so much easier.

Challenge

The biggest challenge for me was definitely home sickness. I missed a lot of birthdays and important family events which was hard. Also, French culture is so different to Australia that I found myself missing things about Australia I never thought I would. However, homesickness is always easier when shared with other people. On exchange, everyone is in the same boat so everyone was pretty understanding. Before exchange I took a few of my favourite Australian snacks, so those helped a lot, and when I was feeling particularly down I would watch a movie with my friends or go to a nice restaurant and I would remember how amazing it was that I was there.

Professional Development

I improved my french quite a bit, and got much better at understanding French people and understanding the French culture. I think both these things will be helpful when I am looking for a job in the future.I also think that going on exchange helped me in my understanding and empathy towards people from other cultures, which is helpful in both personal and professional life.

Highlight

The highlight of my exchange was definitely getting to do so many cool things with so many great people. I loved the relaxed French lifestyle of sitting in a park or at a cafe and talking for hours, or drinking wine and eating cheese and really just appreciating life. I'm so thankful that I was able to have those experiences and I will never ever forget them!

Top tips

Rennes is a really great city so make sure you make the most of it! Explore all the parks and spend as much time as you can just wandering around the central part of the city. 

Go to the huge Saturday market in Rennes, it has so much fresh fruit and veggies, as well as meat and cheese and baked goods and everything is delicious!

I would also recommend exploring the small cities close to Rennes, particularly Saint Malo. They are all so beautiful and different to anything in Australia!