Francesca - Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Rennes

B Arts
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I was told so many times by French people that Science Po is a prestigious institution and hard to get into, so I felt very lucky to be studying there. It was clear that all the students there were very intelligent and engaged with politics, so it was great talking to the French students and well as the other international students. 

The academic system is extremely different from that at UQ. Grades are not based on tests and numbers but more determine from conversations and how you engaged in the class. For most classes, we were simply asked to demonstrate what we'd learned and what we thought about the subject by having an open conversation with the Professor. One professor literally asked "what do you want to talk about", so it goes without saying that the exams were extremely easy to pass. There was, however, a lot of confusion as they don't give you much academic guidance and the students often have to work it out on their own. 

For the English program, I studied French (2 times a week) and other politics courses which were just for international students. The courses were Modern Political radicalism, French Politics, Global Political Marketing, EU studies, Public Sphere and Media Analysis and a course on the city of Rennes and Globalisation. The classes all interested my in theory, but I found that everyone's enjoyment and learning was completely dependent on the teacher as some teachers just read from their notes for 2 hours- this kind of class was a struggle.

Personal experience

There were lots of great people from all over the world studying the international program. I found that it was very easy to make friends in the first few weeks as everyone is in the same boat- not knowing anyone- and therefore everyone is really friendly and open.  At Sciences Po Rennes the international students stick together mostly and so there wasn't much contact with the French students (for example some of the French students said they didn't even know there were so many international students).  

Rennes is a great place to travel from. There are lots of beautiful places in Brittany, and the connection to Paris opens up the opportunity to visit the rest of France and even Europe.  The timetable was not really set, so It was hard to plan trips, but once you know when class will be it is really easy to take a weekend (or a bit longer) to travel. So plan early and plan with others and you will have a great time.

Accommodation

I was lucky enough to be assigned a room in the university residence Patton, where the rooms are tiny but good enough. I was extremely thankful to get in there as I knew people who spent weeks at first trying to find accommodation in Rennes. 

The rooms at Patton were small but included a private bathroom and fridge so you were able to have some alone/quiet time (this can be hard to find when you are living with all your new friends). 

Rennes is a relatively safe city, but it's always important to be safe and travel with others late at night to avoid run-ins with unsavory characters. The more confident I felt navigating around Rennes, the safer I felt, so as long as you are aware of your surroundings you shouldn't have any issues. Most of my friends and I had unlimited bus passes (a must for Rennes) so it was super easy and safe to get on the bus or metro to avoid being stuck somewhere late at night. Rennes is pretty safe, but as with most cities if you aren't watching out for yourself and your friends you could find yourself in trouble.

Costs

The University residence was government funded so it was relatively cheap- 240 euros a month. 

An important expense was the unlimited bus/metro pass- this definitely saved me money in the long term

Another way to reduce cost is to bring basic items with you for the first night (ie bedsheets/ pillow, then wait until the Zephyr international student organization brings all the old stuff from previous international students (such as cooking utensils and plates), then make a trip to IKEA to get anything you might need. At the end of your stay,  you can donate anything you aren't bringing home to Zephyr and they will give it to the next international students.

The biggest expense for me was traveling. I traveled somewhere almost every other weekend, but most of the time it was day trips or I split accommodation with friends. 

Also, the kitchens at the Residence were extremely minimal so I spent a fair amount of money on eating out *(and at the local Boulangerie).

Another way to fund your croissant habit is to apply for CAF funding from the government. make sure you do this quickly and open a French bank account with Zephyr ASAP as it may take a while to actually receive the money (french bureaucracy takes notoriously long)

Challenge

My biggest challenge was dealing with a new system and a new place where everything was different and often inconveniently so. We didn't get much guidance from the French administration so a lot of things we had to work out on our own. I dealt with this by relying on my friends on exchange. We were all dealing with the same confusion and miscommunication, and so even if it was just to moan to each other about how confusing and frustrating things are, talking to others in the same situation really helped.  

Also don't be afraid to ask questions or get someone to repeat something if you don't understand. Better to be embarrassed or obviously foreign than be completely confused but saying nothing. French people are often very curt and honest, but they will respect you more if you ask for help straight up.

Professional Development

I have learned how to adapt to changes and new experiences so much more than ever. Now when something bad/inconvenient happens, I have the confidence to solve and deal with it by myself.

Highlight

The highlight was the people I met. We had class together, ate dinner together, traveled together and learned so much about France and each other's countries. I am still in touch with some of the amazing people I met and shared experiences with, and will never forget the times I shared with them- good and bad.

Top tips

If you are going to Sciences Po Rennes you need to be prepared to just go with the flow. If you are a serious planner (like me) try not to stress. Take each day as it comes, but don't worry if the administration hasn't told you something, just keep informed and remember that no matter what it will all be fine in the end.