Amy - Science Po Paris

B Arts/ B Laws
Semester 2, 2017

Academic Experience

At Sciences Po I studied five courses: one cours magistral (a lecture course) worth 10 ECTS and four seminar courses worth 5 ECTS each. Four were in French and one was in English, and I completed them in pursuit of a mix of French major and general BA credit. The courses I completed were:

  • La vie politique française contemporaine
  • La Grèce ancienne: pensée, société et représentations
  • Crimes et châtiments
  • L'Union Européenne: est-elle un empire?
  • People and Places: Art and Nation in Great Britain

I found the academic experience to be a mixed bag. Some courses were well-organised with very passionate lecturers, while others felt very improvised and lacking organisation. There were often no instructions on how to submit assignments, for example, so I felt there was less administrative clarity than at UQ. Some of my classes were full of exchange students, and others had very few, but all of the lecturers and tutors paid special consideration to those of us without French as a first language, and would make allowances or be lenient in marking as required, which was appreciated. I found the one course I took in English to be easier than the others, and this experience seemed in line with friends and classmates who were studying in English as well.

At any rate, be prepared for a lot of assessment - this is not a relaxed exchange destination, and there will be plenty of work to do. The focus at Sciences Po is on academic rigour, and from Week 5 until the end of semester I had at least one but often two or three assessment pieces due each week, including things like essays, in-class tests, and group presentations. It is also important to be aware that the Sciences Po absences policy is very strict: if you are absent more than once or twice (depending on the contact hours for that particular subject) without good justification (i.e. illness with a medical certificate), you will automatically fail the course - and there is no census date like at UQ. Overall the semester was often difficult, but I have come out of it a better French communicator – and a better communicator overall (Sciences Po has its own unique essay structure designed to encourage deeper thinking).

Personal Experience

I had an incredible time living in Paris. One of the reasons I chose to go to Paris was because it is so well-connected to the rest of France and the rest of Europe, and this was well worth it - I reconnected with friends from UQ in places like Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, and London, and got to welcome them in turn to Paris. I also met wonderful new friends from around the world as well, and getting crepes or noodles on a very regular basis with them was a definite highlight. My Monday-Friday timetable and busy assessment schedule meant that I wasn't able to fit in as much travel throughout my exchange as I would have liked, but I still had a great time exploring Paris itself. I was very lucky to be able to explore regional France as well, which I very strongly recommend!

One of my main goals in going on exchange, however, was to get my French level as high as possible. Whilst living alone in Paris makes it a little bit difficult to achieve this - sometimes my French speaking practice for the day was just making purchases at the supermarket - I am glad to say that even though it didn't quite feel like it along the way, Sciences Po and the Paris life did help me improve my language levels, whether through trying to keep up in class, socialising with French people or even just those fleeting conversations over shop counters. Every little bit helps! However, it is true that Paris is the most visited city in the world and therefore comes with a lot of English speakers: well-meaning people will often switch to English even if you simply didn’t hear what they said rather than not necessarily understanding. On this front, I did find my visits to regional France to be a more immersive language experience. Paris may not necessarily be the best choice to maximise your French language experience and this is something to weigh up when choosing the right host university for you, but I can say that by the end of my time there I felt quite satisfied with my progress, particularly thanks to the rigour of studying in French at Sciences Po.


There is no on-campus accommodation available at Sciences Po, so I had to look elsewhere. Almost everyone I knew was either living with a host family, in a room leased out in the home of a landlord/landlady, or alone - I was in the latter group. I booked an Airbnb for three weeks for my arrival and waited until getting to France to make more long-term arrangements. I was incredibly lucky in that I found a noticeboard with housing ads on it, picked a number to call first, inspected it an hour later, and had the keys by the end of the day. I know that this was mostly due to a huge amount of luck and others were not so fortunate in getting accommodation so incredibly quickly and smoothly, but if you spot any such ads, they can still be worth a shot – more on this later! There are a number of other places to look as well: the Sciences Po 'logement' group is a primary option and lots of students, including domestic ones, find their apartments this way.

I lived in the 6th arrondissement - this is the same arrondissement that is home to Sciences Po and is a fantastic place to live, but there are many other areas in Paris that each have their own benefits and charm. I would at least advise searching for something within the périphérique - the ring road that separates Paris itself from the surrounding suburbs - to avoid having to spend a lot of time and money commuting. My studio was in an excellent location: about 200m from the famous Jardin du Luxembourg, right on the edge of the hub that is the Montparnasse neighbourhood, and within very easy walking distance of several metro lines. It was about a 20-25 minute walk to Sciences Po, made even faster by a very direct metro trip if needed. The 6ème is one of Paris' more expensive areas to live, but the rent I paid (see below) was still quite in line with a lot of the options around, and the overwhelming convenience and proximity to everything I needed was well worth it. Nonetheless, cheaper rent can be found further out from the centre.

Going into my exchange I intended to find shared accommodation with some roommates, but what changed my mind was that it was much easier to find accommodation when I was the only person I needed to consider. In the end, I very much enjoyed the convenience and flexibility of living in my own studio, and would definitely recommend it. My general advice would be to look once you arrive in Paris for much greater choice, and whilst it can be a very stressful process, keep at it - everybody I know succeeded in their search eventually.


For a semester at Sciences Po, depending on various factors like your lifestyle, the neighbourhood you live in, your transport needs, your travel, and your spending habits, I would recommend about $16-20,000 AUD. It is definitely possible to keep your expenses towards the lower end of that spectrum, but I definitely had to keep trying to rein myself in over the course of the exchange...

A rough breakdown of my expenses is as follows:

  • Rent: 1000€ per month, plus 30€ for internet, also paid each month, and about 200€ in electricity overall across my whole tenancy.
  • Mobile: 20€ per month. I got a sim card with Free Mobile, which gave me about 20GB of data and all the calls and texts I could ever need, but the network could be patchy, and watch out: Free can only be cancelled by physical letter at the end of your time in France, and anecdotally it can be difficult to actually get the service to be cancelled even after this point.
  • Transport: 75€ per month. I elected to get a Navigo pass, which is essentially the Paris equivalent of a Go Card and ensures unlimited travel for that month on all modes of public transport. It resets every calendar month for every Parisian, and whilst my walking distance from Sciences Po meant that I didn't need to pay for the metro to get to class, I am still glad to have invested in it: individual metro or bus tickets tend to add up in cost, and the Navigo meant I didn't have to worry about expensive RER train tickets if I was visiting Versailles or going to the airport, for example. A couple of return trips to the airport (10.90€ each way on the RER) per month plus some regular commuting around Paris meant that I got quite good value out of it. Nonetheless, Paris is very walkable, so the Navigo is by no means a necessity!
  • Overseas travel: It is hard to put a figure on this, but what I can say is that I did not find intra-Europe travel to be as cheap as people often remark. I always found myself paying somewhere above 100€ for flights to the Netherlands or Scandinavia or Scotland, for example. Admittedly I was not able to book these too far in advance due to not knowing my assessment schedule, but doing that is not particularly advisable given the academic nature of Sciences Po. The Eurostar train to London is very expensive, but investigate bus fares - I went to London for about 80€ return, which was much cheaper than flying or getting the train.
  • Food: I initially set myself a food allowance of 10€ a day overall - I maintain that this is quite doable, but I didn't do a particularly good job of sticking to it... A meal at a café would usually cost you about 15-20€, with things like salads or croque monsieurs being closer to 10€. The café Basile, just down the street from Sciences Po, always had mountains of very good baguettes for about 4€, and the cafeteria inside is a very good option for affordable food. Good wine can be found at the supermarket for 3-5€, and a crêpe in the street (of which I ate countless ones) can be anywhere from 2.50-6€ depending on what you choose. I also did a lot of eating out at noodle restaurants: these were 12€ a plate.
  • Museums: Free! With your Sciences Po student card - or in fact a student card from anywhere else in the EU (something to remember if your friends on exchange in other places visit) you have free access to most museums in France, excluding special exhibitions: the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée Picasso, the Musée Rodin, etc. The only museum I can recall paying for is the Musée Jacquemart-André, as it is privately owned. The same goes for many landmarks: the Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, etc. - but it is wise to have a photo of your visa on hand as proof of residency is sometimes a requirement for free entry. This is definitely something to make the most of if you study in Paris.

Professional Development & Employability

Living in such a global and vibrant city as Paris definitely helped me develop professionally in a whole range of ways. Aside from the obvious language skill component, the melting pot that Paris is makes it a very effective place to increase cultural awareness. There were many problem solving opportunities along the way as well, and being such a big city with some dark corners, it taught me to sharpen my senses and be more astute. It allowed me to meet an incredible range of people, and witness a whole spectrum of life that I hadn't previously been able to capture here in Brisbane, which has all combined to make me much richer in knowledge and experience. The whole experience has left me a more effective communicator, a better listener and a more empathetic world citizen, all of which I can use in the professional sphere to make a bigger impact.


One major highlight of my exchange was receiving the Nicolas Baudin Travel Grant from the Embassy of France in Australia. I was extremely lucky to be a Laureate of this competitive program offered to encourage Australian study in France, and the support of the Embassy was a great help in allowing me to make the most of my time in Paris and strengthen my connections with France - ones that I hope will only grow stronger in the future.

Otherwise, the part I enjoyed the most about exchange was simply exploring. I was very fortunate to explore regional France - Saumur, Rouen, Orléans - which is always a fantastic experience, but I also did a lot of just wandering around Paris. It's almost impossible to get lost in Paris, as you will never end up far from a metro station that can easily take you back home, so my favourite thing to do was to walk for a few hours and wander down whichever street took my fancy, seeing what I discovered along the way. Paris can seem a bit overrun by tourism if you only frequent the main attractions, but if you really get exploring, there is so much to discover.

Top Tips


  • Cafés: Other than the typical French café to be found on every street corner (you can’t go wrong in my opinion), some standouts were Holybelly, a café run by French people who once lived in Melbourne that specialises in eggs and pancakes (or eggs on pancakes); Coutume (co-founded by a UQ alumnus!) for coffee; and Eggs & Co for… eggs
  • Crêpes: the stand just next to the Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés or the stand on Boulevard du Montparnasse just outside exit 5 of metro Montparnasse-Bienvenüe were my favourites!
  • Le Relais de l'Entrecôte on Boulevard du Montparnasse exclusively serves steak frites, but they're very famous and very delicious - it's a bit pricey for a student at 26.50€ but so very worth it because they refill your plate halfway!
  • Asian food: My Noodles on Boulevard du Montparnasse and Au Bourgeon d'Or on Avenue de Choisy for fried noodles, Kodawari Ramen near Odéon, and Oi Sushi on rue Mouffetard near the Panthéon for Japanese
  • Monoprix for groceries (and also stationery and linen and homewares) – there’s one near Sciences Po!


  • I didn’t open a French bank account, but I used a Commonwealth Bank travel money card the whole semester to convert AUD to EUR and then either withdraw cash or spend electronically, and it served me well. Otherwise, at the start of the Sciences Po semester there are ambassadors from the major banks on campus to give you all the info you need!


  • A hot tip that was passed on to me from a former UQ Sciences Po exchange student was to check the noticeboard at the American Church on quai d'Orsay, which often has accommodation offers posted to it: this is how I found my accommodation!
  • The Sciences Po logement Facebook group – there are plenty of offers posted here!
  • Websites for furnished rentals like Lodgis can be useful as well

General tips:

  • Do not book other travel before you know both your timetable and have a rough idea of your assessment calendar. You don’t want assignments to ruin your weekends away, and as above, skipping class is not an option.
  • If you’re going somewhere in France or a neighbouring country, see if the bus is cheaper! Certain parts of France – particularly the north and the Centre region, those that aren’t serviced by the high-speed TGV train – are quite cheap to visit by train as well: 20€ or so return. The Oui.SNCF app is a very good one for train bookings.
  • Always be vigilant. I was on very high alert for pickpockets the whole time in Paris, and I never encountered one – except for on Christmas Eve in a secluded part of a country town, population 30,000. It can happen when you least expect it!
  • Explore explore explore! Explore regional France - it is incredible. Explore Paris - it gets even better the deeper you look.