Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

As part of my Arts degree, I was using my credits on exchange purely for electives, however, as the university I attended was directly related to international relations which is my chosen field of study, all the units I undertook I found highly relevant. I studied the following courses: French level B1, Social Media Behind the Scenes, Collective Security from Alliances to Flexible Partnerships, Ethics of War and Strategic Intelligence in Democratic Societies. One of the main differences between UQ and Sciences Po, I found, was the continuity and regularity of assessment. It was strange if a week went by where I did not have a presentation in class or a paper due. I found it was actually very stimulating to constantly be testing my knowledge and refreshing what I had already learned rather than relying on perhaps 1 or 2 culminating assessment pieces towards the end of a 12 week semester. One of the challenges was definitely attendance, as Sciences Po allows students to miss only 2 classes per subject per semester. This may seem like a lot, but illnesses and various other factors put a lot of pressure on students to attend classes even if it was not beneficial to their learning environment (i.e. attending classes whilst very ill because they did not want to "waste" an absence they may "need" later if perhaps a family member were in town for 1 day only etc.).

Sciences Po

I had an incredible time on exchange and count my time spent abroad as the greatest of my life so far. I made several close friends who I easily envisage keeping for life. I also definitely made the most of the long commute from Australia to Europe by visiting 15 countries and taking several short trips around France. I improved my French by leaps and bounds and can now maintain a conversation with family members and members of the public; something that had me physically shaking at the start of my exchange! As for the development of personal skills, I believe the international networking and interpersonal engagement I experienced will be incalculably helpful assets in the future. My confidence and public speaking ability were tested in continuous oral presentations and debates and I found myself thinking on my feet and contributing a lot more in classes than usual. I have improved my ability to write essays, also, forming my own sort of hybrid between the French essay methodology and my own UQ essay style that more easily explains what I am trying to say.

Sam Sciences Po
As it is in the heart of the city, Sciences Po does not offer on-campus housing. I chose to live in a share apartment about 15 minutes away from campus in the 14th arrondisement with another UQ exchangee. What I enjoyed particularly was having someone from Australia to relate to and become better friends with. It was also very helpful having someone else struggle along with the language and cultural differences simultaneously as it made me feel less alone. The definite cons of this arrangement over perhaps living with a French room mate were that I was not able to practice my French quite as much as I had envisaged. Despite this, those I knew that did choose to live with French people had a very hit/miss experience so I would not say I am particularly regretful of my choice.

France sign
Paris is the city of lights and of love, but they leave out the dollar sign part! It's pricey, but if you save up and make smart choices whilst you live there it's manageable. I paid approximately 600 euros a month for my rent and then maybe another 70 euros every 2 months in electricity and internet. Food was tricky, as there were fresh and relatively cheap markets on frequently, however, our apartment did not have a well-supplied kitchen meaning it was difficult to cook and prepare many of the cheaper foods we wanted to. I'd say groceries were in the same ballpark of prices as Australia, perhaps only slightly more expensive. Entertainment, depending on your definition, was a little steep. The cinema was comparable to Brisbane prices, but a drink during a night out on the town could (and did) easily run you more than 10 euros per glass. All in all, subtracting the 7 weeks of travel I did outside of the semester (both start and end), I'd recommend perhaps 1000 euros a month to live on and then add whatever extra you think you'd need for splurging on travel/designer shoes/souvenirs.

France Stadium
I'd say that my academic development was advanced significantly in that the level of diversity offered at Sciences Po was arguably greater than at UQ. With a 50% exchange student population this would be difficult to avoid, I imagine. The lecturers were real professionals teaching only part-time whilst they were busy making the world a more peaceful place with the rest of their day. It wasn't uncommon for a class to be cancelled last minute because the lecturer was in the Congo negotiating on a diplomatic mission. It was incredibly relevant and humbling to learn from such people. There was a certain degree of prestige associated with attending Sciences Po (the locals were very impressed) and I believe that its addition to my resume can and will improve my employment prospects. Electing to go on exchange at all, I believe, exhibits a degree of initiative, courage and tenacity that many employers look for in candidates. Further, the networking and contacts I have made in my field among both other students and my professors can only improve my chances of getting my foot in the door of the competitive field I have chosen.

PO Disney
A single highlight of my experience is hard to isolate, but if I have to choose, it would be perhaps one of the more mundane sounding incidents. I was sitting in my Strategic Intelligence class listening to the lecturer and taking notes when we were interrupted by a knock on the door asking us to please be more quiet. Why? Because the Iranian ambassador was next door in a meeting with one of my other professors. It may seem small, but it was that moment where it really dawned on me where I was, what I was doing, and just what I could one day be capable of. I could list dozens of travel destinations and fun nights spent sipping red wine on the Champ de Mars, but I suppose the "study" part of study abroad will always be the highlight for me and the thing I will remember most from my time in Paris.
Do it. Just, do it. If you've gotten this far, far enough to consider it, then you are just brave enough to do it, trust me. It may seem like there are a lot of variables to consider and things to worry about, but at the end of the day, exchange is the greatest thing I, and so many people, have done with our lives so far and it could be just the same for you. Take your time researching your host university and don't pick anything just because it looks good on paper; do your research, speak to past exchange students that have been to that campus and really make sure you end up where you want to be. 

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