Emily - Sciences Po

B. Communication/Arts
Semester 1, 2018
Meeting new people who all have something to offer and shape your understanding of the world and your place in it.

Academic experience

Sciences Po is a respected institution and I feel so lucky to have studied there. The professors come from a diverse background and are highly experienced (and active) in their fields. They are so passionate and had the time of day for me outside class when I needed it.
If you do three courses a semester at UQ, I would recommend doing the equivalent at Sciences Po. I found the workload a lot more than UQ – in terms of readings and assessment. Although it was stressful at times, I didn’t necessarily find the workload to be a negative - the challenge meant I could make the most of the academic opportunity.
The assessment is a lot more practical and varied in terms of International Relations studies than at UQ. Instead of essays, Sciences Po requires students to deliver an exposé – a structured speech. In addition to exposés, I wrote a policy brief, worked in a team to represent a country at an EU mock simulation, and did a number of media summaries, as well as essays.
 
I recommend doing the Welcome Programme because I heard people who didn’t attend struggled to make friends after – it was quite cliquey unfortunately.
 
The enrolment process is intense! Have your finger on the buzzer and get in quick.
Courses studied:
  • French B1
(In English):
  • French politics
  • European Integration and it’s challenges - the euro, migration and populism
  • Root causes of conflicts
  • A primer on guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency
In terms of improving my French… My friends were mostly European (but not French), Australian and American. If you really want to improve your French, sadly, Paris probably is not the place. Everyone in the city speaks English and has a sixth sense if you’re a foreigner. If they hear an accent, they’ll speak English. I would recommend Lyon (if you like cities), but even better, a much smaller French town to improve your French. Somewhere you won’t be tempted to mingle with exchange students in English!
 
Walking by the Siene.

Personal experience

To me, exchange and solo travel was pretty extreme – I felt intense highs as well as lows. And my friends and I say we are better for it. I say this because, yes, you are in a foreign country, on your own (at first), there’s a bit of a language barrier, and you’re still going to feel the stresses of uni. But you’re in an exciting new city where there is something to be discovered at every corner and you are meeting new people who all have something to offer and shape your understanding of the world and your place in it.
 
I arrived in Paris on the last day of the year, had a month to find housing and explore Paris, studied for four months, and then traveled for three months around Europe. I would recommend going early and staying back (even a week into Semester 2 as I did – it was fine) to make the most of your time and squeezing in as much travel as possible.
 
As a student, we have free access to many wonders of the city, including the museums and galleries. It was so dreamy to go to the Musée D’Orsay after breakfast and then walk to uni.
 
I did a couple of weekend trips – with a friend on the train to Rennes, and alone to Vienna. I would recommend getting a carte jeune for cheaper train tickets with the SNCF (French national railway). Ultimately, though, try to stay in Paris during the semester as there is so much to explore, and you won’t have time to see it all! Staying in the city will also allow you to spend time with friends and form relationships that will remain for life. There is plenty of time for travel after semester.
 

Accommodation

Looking for housing once I was already in Paris wasn’t fun! If you can, organise housing before you jump on the plane… Eventually I found an Airbnb that was 10 mins walk from Sciences Po. The Airbnb owners offered a discount for long stays – it was half price per month, after the first month. I shared with another UQ student so we split the cost, but rent was still 900 euros a month each (at half price) and that was for a one-bedroom apartment with a sofa bed! But it was so amazing to be so close to uni - friends could come over and study, I could meet up with people whenever.
 
Be careful with ‘Comforts of Home’ - I’ve heard good and bad experiences. At the end of the day, they are a business and they will try and hold onto your deposit for an unnecessarily long amount of time at the end. In saying that, I have a few friends who overall enjoyed their stay with ‘Comforts of Home’ and made friends with their housemates.
 

Costs

As you know, Paris is pricey. You’re going to be looking at the higher end of the cost of living ($15,000 or more depending on your rent and if you travel before/afterwards). U Express or Carrefour will be your best friends in terms of super markets – avoid Monoprix – it’s the David Jones of supermarkets and will set you back.
 
Most of my budget went to rent and travel before and after semester. I religiously ate 1 euro tabbouleh with 15 cent yogurt from Carrefour for lunch, and enjoyed time with friends in the form of picnics and bike rides to keep costs down. When it comes to bars, there are a few places that won’t charge you an arm and a leg – just do your research first!
 
Budget an extra $1000 just for mistakes, accidents, theft or unexpected costs. Obviously, it’s best to avoid these incidents in the first place, but things happen! For example, I had $2,600 taken from my account when my bank (Citibank) was targeted. Citibank was not helpful and I wouldn’t recommend them. Then you have to factor in missing flights, breaking things, sickness… Listen to your mum when she gives you safety messages – she’s right.
 

Challenge

Aside from house-hunting and travel-organisation, the biggest challenge was staying calm when things got overwhelming. In Paris, I didn’t really have time to be homesick because there is so much happening, but when things did get tough, I missed my family and friends. To overcome this, I made sure to contact them often. But, mostly, I completely open with what was on my mind with my friends in Paris, and they were open with me – so we could be there for each other.

Professional Development

Obviously, Sciences Po is a fantastic place to be for pursing an international relations or government-related career. You are surrounded by the very best, and it’s an incredible opportunity to make connections and attend seminars delivered by political figures. For example, Justin Trudeau came to Sciences Po as guest. No matter which university you go to, going on exchange gives you transferable skills that I believe are attractive to employers. Just to throw out a few include organizational, communication and interpersonal skills and the fact you are willing to step out of your comfort zone.

Highlight

There are too many, but I loved riding my bike with friends all around Paris, cooking with friends, and taking a bottle of wine to the Siene on a summer’s evening. Solo travel was really important as well. It’s about being a yes-person and seeing where the day takes you. If you are unsure whether you will like it, just try a weekend trip to get comfortable with it, before organising a longer trip.
 
A little story - France is known for its protests, and Paris is truly at the heart of this. In protest of the education reforms, Sciences Po French students took over our uni buildings. It was pretty funny and crazy, with classes being cancelled left, right and center. One of my classes was held in the garden, and then the afternoon class was cancelled so my friends and I had wine and cheese by the river… Meanwhile with police blocking off streets in Saint Germain.
 

Top tips

Some ideas for your time in Paris:
  • Quartier Juif – the best falafel in the world! Beautiful area.
  • Montmartre tour
  • Montparnasse - best views of Paris
  • Notre dame
  • Arc de Triumph
  • Montemarte
  • Moulin rouge
  • Théâtre Opéra - ballet
  • Explore outskirts of Paris
  • Vintage shops
  • Parc des Buttes Chaumont
  • Place Vosges
  • St Ouen flea market
  • Bastille place
  • French Revolution walking tour
  • Parc de Buttes Chaumont
  • Rue de barres
  • Saint Michel comédie (keep your eye out for cheap comedy tickets and help improve your French!)
  • Go for a big walk around Paris - get lost

 
Day trips:
  • Disney land - book this
  • Giverny
  • Jump on the train or metro and explore!
 
Restaurants:
  • Le bistro des augustins
  • Rue moufetard - drinks and crepes
  • La tour – Reservation needed. Very small.
  • Mamishe bakery
  • Le mosque resto – possibly pricey
  • Hardware société café at Montmartre
  • Le buck area for drinks and good vibes
  • Le train bleu – Gare de Lyon
  • Shakespeare and co cafe
  • The Elysée Palace
  • Moonshiners
 
Apps/ websites:
Hitlist (app), google flights, goeuro.com

 

Emily - Sciences Po