Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

Academically exchange is very enriching as it allows you to appreciate the perspectives of other countries and cultures and also to experience different teaching and learning styles. While UQ offers an enormous variety of courses, Australia's focus is largely centred around the Asia Pacific region. Studying at Sciences Po Paris allowed me to take courses that were focused more around the Middle East and also courses that went into a lot of depth about the European Union. Unfortunately I missed out on courses specifically related to issues in Africa. But Sciences Po offers many interesting courses concerning this region.

Although Sciences Po offers excellent courses and most of the teachers have extensive experience in their field, be prepared to experience France's extremely slow and complicated bureaucracy. You will be especially frustrated by this when enrolling in your courses for the first time. Enrolment is done on a first come first served basis so make sure you are online and ready the second that enrolment is open. Most courses will fill up in the first couple of minutes so it is very rare that a student gets all the courses that they had hoped for. Also do not be in a rush to receive your results at the end of the semester as this can take several months. Because of this it is best to avoid doing your last semester on exchange as it can delay future plans (such as job hunting or enrolling in masters programs). In terms of the workload, the most important thing is to be organised. If you have oral presentations to give, which every student usually does, nominate yourself for these in the first few weeks of semester. Most other assessment, such as essays and exams, all come at the end of the semester so you will be glad to have the oral presentations out of the way.

Exchange is almost even better on a personal level. There are so many amazing people to meet from all over the world and since everyone is in a new place, with few familiar faces it is extremely easy to make new friends. The French students are a bit less open and harder to bond with as they are surrounded by their friends and already have a routine they are used to. However participating in events organised by Sciences Po, such as bar nights, sports and conferences, is also a great way to meet people. It is really important not to get too tied up in the academic side of things and to enjoy the city and the people you meet as much as possible. Paris is a city that never sleeps so there are an endless amount of interesting and exciting thing to do and see.

In terms of accommodation I would suggest that you organise this before arriving or arrive a month or so before your exchange begins in order to find somewhere to live before semester starts. Many students arrive without lining up their accommodation and find themselves still house hunting several weeks into the semester. This becomes very stressful once assessment starts to pile up. Talking to past exchange students is a good way to find an apartment before arriving as they can give you the contact details of their land lord or give you tips on which areas are best to live in. This is how I found my apartment just around the corner from Sciences Po. Although it was quite expensive, the fact that it was so close to uni meant that I saved a lot of money on transport. Also if you avoid the supermarket and shop at local markets you will save even more. Try the Marché d’Aligre, not far from Gare de Lyon, for the cheapest fruit and veg in Paris. It is open every day except Mondays.

Top Tips:

  1. Take advantage of cheap deals on flights and train tickets to explore Europe and north Africa with friends you meet on exchange. Europe is small so weekend getaways are very manageable.
  2. Don't get caught by tourist traps. Walk as much as possible to discover the hidden secrets of the city.
  3. If you have house parties make sure to notify the neighbours so you avoid getting nasty complaints. Old buildings in Paris are in no way sound proof so you are likely to disturb the whole building.
  4. Try to take courses in French and English. They are taught quite differently so it's interesting to compare. Also courses in English are sometimes a bit easier so this takes the pressure off when assessment gets really intense.
  5. Don't be afraid to approach professors if you are unsure of something. Explanations given at the beginning of semester are usually quite vague so it is important to ask for clarification rather than making a mistake or missing an important date. Most teachers are happy to help.

 

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