Bachelor of International Studies
Bachelor of International Studies

Bonjour! This is my third and final year of a Bachelor of International Studies, majoring in International Relations and French. I’ve just returned from the most amazing six months of my life, studying at Sciences-Po Rennes, France. This is going to sound very cliché, but I’m afraid there is no other way to say it... This exchange semester has been the most amazing six months of my life. I had the privilege to study at a French university, got to travel around Europe, and most importantly met incredible people from all around the world who made my semester unforgettable and are now lifelong friends.

I enrolled in the English program, as I didn’t feel confident studying only in French. There is still a French component, focusing on French language. I found the English component disappointing as I wasn’t challenged and most of the content wasn’t engaging, however I did improve my French, and the lack of a rigorous schedule allowed me to travel all over Europe! Another interesting, and a times rather frustrating part of studying in France is the administration, and being an non EU citizen doesn’t help. An example of this is the opening hours of both the student and international offices, which are only open for three hours a day, so if you need help at any other time, you have to wait. However, there is so much about France to love that it didn’t detract from the incredible experience. And it wouldn’t be a real experience without encountering l’administration française!

Arriving in Rennes I had no idea what to expect, and the first few days were a bit of a shock, discovering that the only thing my room had was a mattress, everything else from sheets to toilet paper to crockery I had to buy myself. This would have been handy to know before I left Australia! However, as none of the other international students knew this either, it was a bonding experience. I chose to stay in university provided accommodation, which was cheap, clean and most importantly warm (240 euros per month). Although the rooms were very small and the kitchen limited, the residence was located within walking distance to everything in Rennes and there was always something going on. Rennes is a great little city, with a big student population and lots of little bars and cafés. Plus it’s only two hours from Paris by train and close to the airport in Nantes, making traveling easy and cheap.

Over the six months I managed to travel with a group of friends to Poland, Hungary, Austria (and yes you will be asked if you’re from Austria...), Italy, Spain and Finland. Plus exploring the different regions of France. The south, especially the cost near Spain is incredible in June. I never expected to have traveled to so many places in such a short period of time, on a relatively tight budget. The recommendation by UQ Abroad of $12000 is a good estimate that includes traveling as well. Lots of basic items are cheaper in Europe, especially alcohol however in big cities such as Paris and Rome there are a lot of hidden taxes and fees, so be careful. Just sitting down at a table to eat may cost you 3 euros before you’ve even seen the menu.

By far the most incredible part of exchange are the friendships made. As all the exchange students were in the same program, we spent nearly every day together, and now I have friends from North and South America and across Europe. From the first day I felt that I had made lasting friendships, making the final day so much harder. Going on exchange has allowed me to further appreciate the possibilities available to me, and above all has given me a burning desire to travel, as there is so much out there. All you need to do is go.

Top Tips:
1. Buy a Carte Jeune as it allows you to purchase half price fairs on all train tickets in France. (50 euros to buy, and it saved me about 500)
2. Speak French! Make friends with the local students. Whether it be going out on a Thursday or joining a sports team, it’s the best way to learn the language.
3. Be flexible with your travel plans, as some of the best trips were the ones I didn’t plan.
4. If you’re traveling with a group look at renting an apartment, as they are cheaper than a hostel (when split 6 ways it works out at 13 euros per night) with more space and generally a free washing machine!
5. Look down when walking on the pavement, unless you want to decorate your shoes.

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