Being the most visited city in the most visited country on earth and for good reason, I'm not sure anyone needs much encouragement to spend a semester studying in the great city herself but I'll try and add my bit to what others have said about it and about living there. I moved to Paris for my second semester studying in France, the first semester I had spent in Rennes, Brittany. Knowing the price of accommodation in Paris (a reasonable price seems to be about $1000 (700 euros) a month), I endeavoured to try a system known as 'logement contre service' where you can live with locals, often a family, and give a bit of help in return for free or reduced rent. I was exceptionally fortunate and managed to follow on with a family from a Bulgarian exchange student at Sciences Po, living just outside the 13th arrondissement. It's not for everyone, a lot of students like 100% freedom on exchange, although for me it was wonderful. My french improved greatly, I had really a lot of freedom considering my situation, I lived in a big and real house and I felt like it was an authentic experience with locals. As a consequence I don't have much advice to offer those looking for an appartment. I tried to avoid that at all costs! I do have friends from UQ who organised a place by following on from past UQ exchange students.

My university experience at Sciences Po itself was perhaps unremarkable. I did have one very good lecturer I will remember for a long time but the others were quite average. After my time in Rennes I had become accustomed to the very rigid structural requirements of academic work in french universities. It's just something you have to adjust to. It seems to me that they are more preoccupied with structure than content. Sciences Po, Paris has a much bigger student population than Rennes and the general consensus amongst exchange students is that the French students generally stick to themselves and don't mix much. Perhaps this is true but I think that also depends on the efforts made by exchange students to be honest and it is a big ask for them to make a huge effort with us given we're only there for three months. Personally I had a couple of friends at Sciences Po, including my buddy (through the buddy program) but the majority of french friends I had were Parisians I'd met through the couchsurfing website, through my french church or on the street!

Paris itself has so much to offer. I decided not to do much travelling outside of the city since I may only have one chance to live as a local there. Travelling Europe can wait for next time! I really felt, as much as possible, that I lived in the city and was part of it, rather than being a tourist with little connection to the place. Even my sometimes 2 hours a day on the metro was tolerable in that light!

Tips for Paris living:

  • Meet locals. However you do it, make it a priority. I suggest couchsurfing or a local sporting organisation. I am a very big fan of the couchsurfing project. For any keen rollerbladers there are hoards of Parisians who embark on weekly expeditions on wheels. Try as much as possible to connect with your buddy and perhaps you will find french friends through that.
  • Get the CAF. It's like Centrelink and it's for foreigners studying in France as well as french students. It will help take the edge off the awful rent prices. Make sure you apply asap for it too, they don't backpay!
  • Learn French. Even if you're studying in English, if you've got the chance, learn a bit before you leave. It's tough but it will open many doors and make life much easier. Plus it's respectful when living in a foreign country for any amount of time to make an effort.

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