Liam - Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Rennes

Bachelor of Arts/Science
Semester 1, 2018
Exchange is a challenging but incredibly rewarding educational and social experience, and definitely worth it!

Academic experience

At Sciences Po Rennes I studied in the French Language program, which I really enjoyed. I’d recommend the French program, as the English program often seemed less organised and provided fewer opportunities for students to improve their French. Having only studied up to FREN3113, I was worried that my French would be inadequate, but after the first few weeks I could fairly easily follow along in lectures. Having French friends in each class was important, as they sent me their complete notes after each class.

Although challenging, the French program was ultimately very rewarding. Alongside the three compulsory courses, I studied History of Africa, Sociology of the EU and Sociology of Public Policy, all of which I found really interesting. There are no course profiles or clear assessment requirements, which meant writing assignments was often difficult. Fortunately all of my professors were kind and happy to help with any problems or questions. I found it useful to talk to them at the end of every class to stay updated on the latest due dates and to ask for advice. Exchange student assessments were completely different to the French students (they had one 3 hour written exam, we had one assignment and a 15 minute oral exam with the professor), and the professors adjusted their expectations to account for the language challenges, which was an enormous relief. 

During my semester at Sciences Po Rennes there were severe disruptions due to student blockades during the protests over the French government’s proposed education reforms. This, combined with an often disorganised administration, was a serious concern as it took place during our final weeks of semester and during exam block. However, my professors worked closely with us to minimise the disruption, and ultimately all of my exams happened without any major problems. Overall, I found that as long as I turned up to class and spent on average 4-5 hours studying each week during semester, my assessment pieces were very manageable.

Personal experience

Although it sounds cliché, exchange was absolutely one of the best experiences of my life, and I was lucky enough to become close friends with people from all over the world. Although my French didn’t progress quite as much as I’d hoped because English was the default language for the international students, I was still surprised by how easily I could talk to French people by the end of the 6 months. Exchange allowed me to develop my social skills, as I was challenged every single day to talk to new people and pushed to become more independent and self-confident. Most importantly, I loved the regular aspects of daily life in France - going to my neighbourhood bakery, visiting the local markets on Saturday to try cider or galettes (both of which are a specialty in Bretagne), cooking every night with my friends or spending summer afternoons relaxing in the park. 
I also loved being able to travel throughout Europe. During semester I travelled frequently, both individually or with friends. Often we would search for trains/flights during the week, and just book the cheapest option for that weekend. After exchange, before the UQ semester started, I travelled for nearly 2 months all the way from Italy to Poland with some of my closest new friends from exchange, as well as old friends from Australia who were also in Europe.

Accommodation

I lived in the University provided accommodation, which I loved. My room in Université Cité Sévigné was small but sufficient, with its own private bathroom and shower. The Residence was about 7 minutes walk from university, which was very convenient. It was great to live in the same building as most of my friends, and someone was always around to cook with or go out with. 
If you can, make sure to get a room in Sévigné, as Patton (the other residence) was much further away from the town centre and had smaller, older rooms. It’s worth taking a set of sheets and a towel. Blankets were available from the residence, and I bought my cutlery and cooking utensils from a one-euro shop in the Centre-Ville. As soon as I arrived I applied for CAF housing assistance. Although it took 3-4 months to approve my application, my rent which is normally 244 euros per month, was reduced to 159 euros/month, and I was back-payed for the months I’d paid the full amount. It was definitely a nice saving! 
If you’re feeling brave, it’s worth looking into sharing a flat or apartment with a French student, as it’s definitely a faster way to improve your French.

Costs

I spent quite a lot on exchange, as I travelled frequently. Rent was 159 euros a month thanks to CAF, and I spent ~120 euros/week on groceries, drinks and eating out. It’s definitely possible to spend less per week, but I was fortunate enough to have the funds to not stress too much about money. If you’re living in Sévigné or in the Centre Ville, it’s easy to never take a bus, as everything is within walking distance. Travel throughout France by bus is very cheap but slow, whilst the TGV is much faster but more expensive. It’s possible to only spend about $8000 if you budget strictly and don’t travel, but I’d recommend at least $10,000 to allow for some shopping and travel.

Professional Development

Thanks to daily interactions with people I’ve never met, in languages I wasn’t familiar with, exchange allowed me to really develop my networking and communication skills, as well as develop the confidence needed to use those skills. Studying in a different country also exposed me to new global perspectives.

Highlight

My personal highlight was definitely just meeting so many absolutely incredible people. I now have friends all over the world, and I would consider many of them among my closest friends.

Top tips

- Definitely do exchange! It can be challenging at times but it’s absolutely worth it
- Rennes is a beautiful city, a nice balance between a big city and small town
- Definitely take the opportunity to travel as much as you possibly can! 
- Although it’s scary, talk to as many people as you can in French