UQ Program: Masters of International Studies (Advanced)

I’m currently in my final year of a Masters of International Studies (Advanced) at UQ. When I realised there was a possibility to do an exchange semester I jumped at the chance. I chose to do my exchange semester at Sciences Po, Paris.  I took four courses during the semester, or five if you include my ‘Level 0’ French course. Two of which (The Humanitarian Phenomenon, and, National Identity in the Age of Globalisation) I thoroughly enjoyed. The other two unfortunately I had to endure with minimal interest since I had problems with the initial sign-on procedure. They only give you a 9 hour window to sign-on and classes fill up fast! Overall though, I still managed to meet some great classmates in all my courses with whom I shared my pain.

The friendships I made while on exchange were what I expected to be the highlight of my experience and I was certainly right. Luckily I managed to make great local Parisian friends and other foreign exchange student friends. In this regard I was certainly very fortunate as I not only have many friends here in Paris I wish to visit again, but also many friends all around the world.

One of my main goals on exchange was to learn French. I did find however, there were a few obstacles. Firstly, in my opinion, if your main goal on exchange is to learn French, then Paris is possibly the worst place in France to come! The majority of my Parisian friends mocked my efforts at learning their language and insisted we speak in English (since they tended to have a great level of English themselves), and among the other exchange students there was never any question about not speaking English. I have also heard this from other people who recommend that to come to France to learn French it’s better to go to a smaller city. So be warned! The old stereotype about Parisians being particularly snobby and difficult to warm up to has been fairly true in my experience, but of course it’s not fair to over stereotype as there are always exceptions!

Travelling around during my semester to the south of France I definitely found the French to be different depending on where I went. This is true all over the world, but markedly so in France. I also managed to travel to London and Berlin, which were both amazingly vibrant cities and also Sicily where I met some of the most amazingly friendly people! I dare say I almost learnt as much Italian in the two weeks I was there, thanks to the encouragement and patience of the Sicilians as I did in the five months I was in Paris!

Overall the exchange experience is definitely more than just the city and university you attend. For me I find the best experiences come from the people I meet. Everyone’s experience will be different! I knew straight away that an exchange would be beneficial and it certainly has been, both academically and personally. I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest curiosity and adventurous spirit!

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