Bachelor Arts/Laws
Bachelor Arts/Laws

As you'd expect, studying at Sciences Po is a completely different experience to studying at UQ. When dealing with their administration, what should take 3 minutes will probably take 3 days. Despite studying six subjects, I only had one exam. Although, what Sciences Po lacked in exams it more than made up for in other assessment, particularly presentations (which is the most common form of assessment).
The classes were small and if you miss more than two classes per subject you fail. As a result, make sure you plan your timetable ahead so that you don't get stuck with French classes at 8 on Monday and Thursday mornings!
The inefficient administration aside, I really enjoyed studying at Sciences Po. They offer a very wide selection of subjects (I got to study the history of US covert operations, for example) and I learnt a lot. The key was the standard of teaching: I had some incredibly experienced and engaging professors. Another bonus is that students are given very broad discretion over assessment topics which means that you can focus on something you find interesting.

Rightly or wrongly, the French have a reputation for being rude. However, I largely found them to be quite friendly. For me, the key was to be polite, try to speak French and drop in that I was Australian. The French love Australians. Almost everywhere I went I would meet people who went to Australia and had a fantastic time, knew someone who went to Australia and had a fantastic time or wanted to go to Australia themselves to have a fantastic time.

Furthermore, almost everyone speaks a degree of English. Indeed, while I can speak some French (and took a French language class), it became clear that most French people spoke better English than I spoke French. The upside is that a lack of French doesn't necessarily mean you will have any less fun. The downside is that when I left France, my French wasn't as good as I had originally hoped. Admittedly it wasn't helped by the fact that I studied in English and that most of my friends were other exchange students from other English speaking countries. Indeed, the French students and exchange students seemed to largely keep to themselves, so if you want to make French friends it will require a more concerted effort. It's definitely worth it though.

Paris is generally quite expensive although certain things, such as bread, beers and fruit and vegetables from markets, are very cheap. The two most expensive aspects about going on exchange were accommodation and travel. I booked my apartment through Lodgis in advance which was good because it was organised before I arrived, which made settling in easier. It did come at a cost, but given all the time and hassle saved, it was definitely worthwhile.

5 Tips:

  • Coffee: As a general rule, coffee in Paris is awful. If you're not into coffee then that obviously won't be a problem. Thankfully for those who are into coffee, there are a growing number of great coffee shops popping up across the place. My first recommendation is Cafe Coutume (47 rue de Babylone, 75007). A ten minute walk from uni, it's run by an Australian, serves fantastic coffee (and brunch on weekends) and is favourite haunt of Australians studying at Sciences Po. Another favourite coffee shop of mine was Telescope (5 rue Villedo, 75002). This place is tiny. However, the coffee is fantastic and the owners David and Nicholas are super friendly. By the end of my exchange, I was going there daily.
  • Walk everywhere: Contrary to popular belief there is a lot more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Indeed, after living there for 6 months I still felt like I had barely seen anything. The key is to do as much walking as possible and to try and take different routes to familiar places. By doing this I discovered many different churches, restaurants and landmarks that I would otherwise have never seen.
  • Travel: While it goes without saying, try and arrive in Europe as early as possible and leave as late as possible. I left Australian in mid December and arrived back only a couple of days before uni resumed. While it will obviously cost more the longer you are away, it was definitely worth it.
  • The Local: While it won't win an award for the world's cleanest or most up-market pub anytime soon, 'the local' as it was affectionately known (real name La Cordonnerie) is located on the corner of rue St Denis and Rue Greneta in the first. The bar is manned by Slim, the best barman in Paris, who serves up fresh pints of 1664 for four euros each. The ambiance is thick in the air, the tunes are retro and the staff are top notch. A guaranteed good night out.
  • Markets: Every Tuesday morning I would visit my local outdoor fruit and vegetable market. It was much cheaper than going to the supermarket and the produce was much better.

 

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