In many ways living in Paris was exactly like what you would think living in Paris would be like. I lived in a tiny cobblestone lane filled with restaurants in the Latin Quarter that was so picturesque it bordered on the absurd. We were a minute's walk from the Pantheon (I know this because whenever I got lost I looked for the giant dome), drank amazingly cheap (but crazily high quality) supermarket wine, befriended our local bakery, found a favourite place to have confit de canard, and bought a lot of our groceries from a market that was, naturally, also a minute's walk away. On weekends, I undertook my mission to see every single room in the Louvre, spent some time in a farm house in the Loire, and ducked out to Barcelona for a week during the mid-semester break (just because you can). We went on a champagne lunch cruise on the Seine, went vintage shopping in the Marais, and stalked the hipsters at French fashion week in le Jardin des Tuilleries. For those worried about not speaking enough French - don't worry. I accomplished all of this with French vocabulary largely consisting of words related to food, backed up by a lot of mime.

Studying at Sciences Po was also an amazing opportunity. Yes, I was taught by a woman who seemed to have no understanding of structure and loved the UN an almost unhealthy amount - but, at the same time, I also got the chance to study US Constitutional Law under a former Legal Adviser to President Obama. The trick is to accept that some of the French approaches to study may seem a bit odd - there are no past exam papers, and every piece of assessment seems to expect you to document a life-and-world-changing epiphany - but it's all part of the wine-drinking, blazer-wearing, Jean-Paul-Sartre-carrying (and scarily accurate) stereotype of French students that we all secretly love.

If all of this is enough for you to decide to come to Paris, then I say - Go for it! You'll have a great time - but here are a few words of warning. Come prepared to wait in long lines in order complete a series of incomprehensible administrative tasks aimed at achieving an unascertainable purpose whilst carrying what appears to be 17 copies of all documents detailing your existence and handing them over to a woman who may or may not confess to speaking English (if she doesn't decide to leave on a smoko). There were moments when, in dealing with academic registration or French immigration, I wondered if I had somehow been transported into a Kafka novel. But, so long as you learn how to laugh about it, and come prepared, it is not so bad. And so, so worth it.

Top tips

  1. Unless you're doing a lot of travelling in Europe before hand (i.e. months), organise your accommodation from Australia. Yes, agencies may be more expensive, but it also means that you definitely won't be stressed and potentially homeless in the middle of Paris - as some people really did find themselves. Paris Attitude are quite good.
  2. For art/history lovers under 25 - get a carte Louvre Jeunes. For the price of one admission, you will get free entry to the Louvre for a year, the ability to cut all the hideous queues, and the ability to bring along one person of any age for free on Wednesday and Friday evenings.
  3. If you find yourself craving decent coffee with milk in it (trust me, you'll be surprised), or just want to find a haven of English speakers and cupcakes, go to Sugarplum (68 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 5th). I also echo all sentiments re L'As du Falafel on rue Rosiers.
  4. For book lovers wanting English-language bookstores - Village Voice on rue Princesse is very close to Sciences Po and owned by a vocal American who will give you many suggestions. Also, Shakespeare & Company is a necessary pilgrimage to arguably the most famous English-language bookstore in continental Europe.
  5. Remember that Sciences Po is pass/fail. The work is voluminous but not particularly difficult -so make sure you make the most of being in Paris!

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