Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year
Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year

Academic experiences

Sciences Po offers a wide array of courses in different fields so it’s not too hard to find something you’re interested in and that will transfer as credit for your degree.
The only problem will be getting a place in your chosen course, so make sure you have a few back-ups.
I was lucky enough to get all the courses and times that I wanted.
I had a really great Monday-Wednesday timetable, which meant I had a four-day weekend!
I completed a chunk of my French major by doing another language course and two other courses about France (French opera and French politics), as well as two other courses that counted as electives.

The grading system is very different to that at UQ.
If you’re usually a high achiever don’t expect to be pulling in 85% at Sciences Po.
In saying that, however, I found it pretty easy to pass.
Expectations for assessment is generally a lot more ambiguous than what you might be used to but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Things that we consider a given, like marking criteria or plagiarism checkers, are usually not implemented or made clear, or so I found.
This makes studying seem a lot more relaxed than at home, but the same workload is expected (i.e. readings, homework, participation in class).

Jardin du Luxembourg

Personal experiences

My seven months overseas was like living in a dream.
I was studying for three days a week, unemployed, living in Paris and surrounded by people who wanted to make friends and travel the world, just like I did.
My weekends were filled with wine-accompanied picnics in the Jardin du Luxembourg, riding a bike along the Seine, being a tour-guide for my friends who would visit, and scouting out cafés that actually made good coffee.
The greatest thing about Sciences Po is the ridiculous amount of exchange students, I think there were 600-700 in the semester I was there.
I made friends with people from the US, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, the UK, Austria, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany and Spain.
There are always endless social and travel opportunities so make sure you take advantage of them!
I ended up travelling to 14 countries throughout my exchange with people I’d met in Paris.

Living overseas, particularly in a country where your first language isn’t spoken, is going to push you out of your comfort zone.
I definitely struggled putting my knowledge of French into everyday practice and felt inhibited by my fear of sounding like an idiot when speaking French, but this was something I had to get past in order to improve my language skills.
Being a foreigner in Paris is intimidating, but you will look back on things you do and think ‘did I really do that in another language?’.
If you don’t know any French don’t be put off coming to Paris for exchange, you definitely can get around without much knowledge of the language as the city is very diverse and most people know English.
Still, be prepared to deal with French bureaucracy at every twist and turn of life, but also know that by the end of your time it will seem so normal that when you return you will be delighted with how easy everything seems.

Pont des Arts

Accommodation

Accommodation in Paris is notoriously expensive and organising beforehand even more so.

I rented a two-bedroom apartment with my friend from UQ.
We organised everything before leaving Australia and paid a significant amount more than most of our friends, but had a stress-free arrival and a really great place in a great location.
I was living in the 5th and it took a 25-minute walk or 15-minute bike ride to get to uni, and was only 15 minutes away from the city centre.
A lot of people I knew lived in home-stays but I definitely preferred having my own place as it came with the freedom to have friends over, come and go as I pleased and not worry about stepping on others’ toes.
You do pay the difference for it for it though.
I would try to find out as much about all your possible living arrangements as soon as possible.
If you want to book a place before you go make sure to only do so through a reliable source – Paris is plagued with a lot of scammers trying to take advantage of exchange students.
An agency will charge you extra fees but is definitely a safer option.
I booked through ParisAttitude, Lodgis is also another good option.

Velib

Budget

Aside from accommodation I found general living costs to be pretty similar to that of Brisbane.

• Food in Paris is more expensive and often a lot less fresh (in the case of produce) than elsewhere in France, but generally on par with what I pay in Brisbane.

• Transport is a bit cheaper and A LOT better than Brisbane.
I would recommend a yearly velib-pass (like a city-cycle that people actually use) instead of a NAVIGO card (Paris go card equivalent).
The best way to see the city is by being outside and riding a bike was my favourite thing to do in Paris.
It’s also a lot cheaper – 30 euro/year vs. around 80 euro/month.
If you’re taking the metro be sure to buy a ‘cachet’ (10 tickets) instead of individual tickets, as it’s a bit cheaper.

• Alcohol is a lot cheaper from the supermarket, but can be pretty expensive when you’re out.
Buy a three-euro bottle of wine and enjoy the scenery of your local park before taking the city by storm.

• Travel can be really cheap if you book ahead!
Make sure to factor in the cost of getting to the airport when you’re taking a flight – both Charles de Gaulle and Orly will cost you 10 euros on RER B, but Bauvais is 15 on a bus on the outskirts of the city, an hour and a half and your sanity (don’t fly out of there unless you HAVE to – it’s a nightmare).
Ryanair will often have really good deals but be prepared to face ridiculous fees if you don’t check in online or have a bag that’s too big.
I much preferred Easy Jet.
If you’re under 26 and want to travel around France by train get a Carte Jeune before your first trip.
It’s 50 euros and saved me more than that with my first trip – and it will last you a year!
Europe is littered with sneaky discounts for students and young people so make sure you keep an eye out when you’re in Paris and travelling.

• CAF – France is pretty socialist and you’ll be glad to realise that in most cases international exchange students can get a nice check from the government each month to help cover housing expenses.
CAF is the French equivalent to our Rent Assistance, but you don’t need to be over 22 to receive it.
I applied for CAF within the first month of arriving in Paris and although I didn’t supply the required documents until two months later (I don’t recommend doing this) I was back paid when everything was processed.
I received just over 100 euros a month from the government and since I had paid all my rent in advance these funds really helped with my budget.
The CAF application is entirely in French (of course) and you do need a French bank account to receive CAF but it’s totally worth the surprise extra cash every month.

• Mobile phone – I waited until I had a French bank account set up to get a French phone number.
I’m a data junkie and wanted a plan that included data in Europe as I’d be doing a lot of travelling.
Initially I went with Bouygues’ sans forfait (no contract) option B&You, which included 5GB for the Eurozone for 29 euros a month.
It was great but I then found out that SOSH (through Orange – the French equivalent to Telstra) offered the same deal for cheaper and had better coverage, so I switched.
B&You was easier to set up than SOSH but I definitely preferred getting better coverage and paying a bit less with SOSH.
For both B&You and SOSH you need a French bank account and postal address as you need to order them online.
Most people go with Free Mobile, which is really cheap and easy to set up in store, but pretty terrible coverage and no Euro roaming option.

The more money you have the less stress you’ll face overseas.
I had around $13,000 to start with and by the end of the trip I was living off my credit card.
My biggest mistake was not to budget.
After living in Paris for a week or two draw up a budget and stick to it like glue.
Make sure you put enough money aside for travelling and going out!

The Seine

Academic development and employability

Learning from a European perspective was definitely advantageous, particularly in the field of international relations.
Classes are very discussion-based so I was able to take on perspectives from all around the world and further my critical thinking skills.
Sciences Po is very prestigious – it’s considered an elite university in France and subsequently attracts staff that are specialists in their fields.
I found that the lecturers and tutors at Sciences Po were involved a lot more practically in their fields than at UQ, where most seem to be involved heavily in academia.
I made useful contacts that I’m sure will help advance my career down the track.

Highlight

The highlight of my trip was definitely living in Paris and all the travel opportunities that came along with being in one of the largest cities in Europe.
I flew to Morocco for mid-semester break for less than 200 AUD return, travelled by high-speed train to the South of France and back for less than 50 euros and went to Turkey for the Easter long weekend.

Eiffel Tower

Top tips

• Go on exchange!
It was the best decision of my life to date.

• Make yourself as knowledgeable as you can before you go, it will make living in another country a whole lot easier.

• Enrol in the welcome programme.
It’s expensive and the methodology classes are a bore but most of the friends I made were from the programme and it gives you a great opportunity to ask all the questions you might have.

• Dive into the deep end and see what happens.
You’ll most likely never have another opportunity to live in a city as fantastic as Paris in the same, wonderful circumstances that come with being on exchange.
Make the most of every opportunity and challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone as much as you can.

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