Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts, 4th year
Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts, 4th year

Academic experiences

In order to make up the credits for my French degree I had to do at least two classes in French. Initially, these classes were quite intimidating and I was starting to wonder if I had seriously overestimated my level of French, but by the end of the first class I realised that more than half the students in both of these classes were fellow exchange students, and that the teachers were more than willing to help out with any language difficulties.
Apart from trying not to get too intimidated if you decided to do classes in French, another helpful thing to remember for the first week of classes is that this is the time that the teachers outline the assessment required for the course and ask everyone to nominate a week for any exposés or debates that the class requires.
Make sure you have a calendar ready and write down which dates things are due, as you don’t want to end up with several pieces of assessment in the same week.
Although it’s really tempting during classes to plan your travels or catch up with friends at home who are awake, the course content at Sciences Po is generally quite interesting and thought-provoking, and I found that listening and participating in classes made them much more enjoyable (and seem to take less time).
Finally, Sciences Po generally isn’t very good with communication, so make sure you frequently check your emails to find out if classes have been cancelled or moved, or even if the due date of assessment has been moved.

More picnicking on the Seine

Personal experiences

I'm so lucky to have made some amazing friends on exchange, and even luckier to consider that I'll now have excuses to visit their hometowns all over the world.

Picnics in Luxembourg Gardens

Accommodation

I ended up being really lucky in finding accommodation as I ended up renting a room from a family friend of a friend in a place that was inside Paris.
One piece of advice I would give is to try not to live too far out of the city centre, as I had friends who did that and they were constantly having trouble with RER delays and not being able to easily get home after a night out.

Jardins du Trocadero

Budget

Banking

As soon as you have time, call up the bank to organise an appointment to open a bank account. Make sure you have all of the necessary documents so that you don’t have to return a second time.
I went with Caisse d’Epargne as they offered a deal to students whereby you’d receive 140 euros just by opening an account with them.
I didn’t have any trouble getting this money and there were no hidden fees either.
Once you get your bank account you can start sorting out all of the documents for the CAF, which is the French housing assistance.
Although the application process seems quite difficult, I found that it was really worth it as I got about one fifth of my rent back.
To apply, go onto the website, create an account and follow the instructions.

Public Transport

As I only lived roughly 30 minutes from Sciences Po and generally walked there and back, I opted to not get one of the metro passes.
This worked really well for me as I had an incentive to walk most places, which in my opinion is the best way to see Paris.
When the weather got a bit warmer I was convinced to try the Vélib, which is Paris’ bike sharing system.
Initially I was terrified of Parisian drivers, but they are generally quite considerate of bike riders, and most of the time you cycle in the bus lane or get your own bike path anyway.
The only bad thing about the Vélib system is that there may not be bikes available or places available to dock your bike when you’re done, so get the Vélib app to check just before you leave.

Food & Drinks

This category probably hit my budget hardest, but there are easy ways to save money on food and drinks in Paris without much effort.
For lunches, I generally got a fresh baguette every morning and made my own sandwich to take to uni which saved a few euros every day.
If you’re not much of a cook, I’d really recommend the frozen food supermarket Picard where you can buy 1 kilogram of lasagne for 3 euros (about $4.50) and other ridiculously cheap and quick dinners.
For days off, picnics are a great way to share a meal with friends without breaking the bank, and Paris has a ridiculous amount of locations for you to do them in.
In terms of drinking, it’s also quite common to pre-drink on the Seine or the Canal which is good for bigger groups too.
There are also quite a few bars in Paris that do deals on certain days where if you buy a drink you can get free dinner.
A good one is Café Tribal in the 10th, which offers 4 euro mojitos and free moules frites on Wednesdays.
Finally, if you’re out until after the last metro, uber is a great way to get home cheaply and generally a really good way to practice French too.

Academic development and employability

Doing an exchange in a French speaking country definitely enhanced my language skills, as many of the tasks I had to complete required quite a high level of proficiency.
I now barely question myself talking to native speakers which is definitely a confidence issue I faced before exchange.

Highlight

It's hard to pinpoint a single highlight of the exchange, as it was an overall amazing experience in itself.
I could not recommend doing exchange enough, and could not recommend more to choose Paris as your destination.

Top tips

1. Good coffee: Coutume (Saint-Michel and Babylone), Strada (Latin Quarter and Le Marais), Holybelly (Canal Saint-Martin), Dose (Latin Quarter), Ten Belles (Canal Saint-Martin)
2. Immigration: For the OFII appointment, make sure you arrive early and have all of the correct documents, as this will mean you won't have to go back to the office again to get your Visa.
3. Don't worry about seeing all of the tourist sites, you’ll see them all eventually.
Make time to stroll around Paris instead and you'll likely discover more.
4. Don't hesitate to apply for exchange!
Doing a semester abroad is a decision you will never regret and always remember.

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