UQ Program: Bachelor of Economics

Every Australian should spend six months to a year living overseas while they’re young. The question is – in what city? To me, there is no other choice than Paris. Going on exchange to Sciences Po will give you this opportunity. Choosing Sciences Po was one of the most crazy, unexpected, last minute decisions I have ever made. However, cliché as it might sound, it was also one of the best.

Let me start by focusing on the school itself. Sciences Po might not leave you with the best impression right off the bat. If your French is at level 0 (like mine was) then it’ll be tough navigating the website and your online profile. Enrolling in courses is worse. If you get into half the courses you want, consider yourself lucky. However, when you finally land in Paris and go to that first Welcome Program session, the not-so-good memories quickly fade and you’re sucked into one of the most prestigious schools in France.

Let’s not kid around though. The real reason you go on exchange to Sciences Po is to experience the Parisian lifestyle. This city will leave you utterly changed. You’ll meet plenty of different people in Paris, but somehow you always wind up in a park somewhere or by the river, baguette in one hand and glass of wine in the other, talking French politics, trouble with the Eurozone, or how annoying Summer is when all the tourists hit. An average Friday night may well consist of a free trip to the Lourve followed by dinner and then cocktails in Saint-Germain or Odeon. What’s surprising is that you never take any of this for granted. Paris is a city that constantly amazes and delights.

Unfortunately none of this comes cheap. Save as much as possible before you go because if you have to skimp in Paris you’ll miss out. While a cup of coffee at Dôme might set you back €5, it’s well worth it just for the cultural experience.

Some of the stereotypes prove to be true, and Paris will frustrate and excite in equal measure. My key points of advice would be:

•    You have nothing to fear if you speak no French. Although it might not make them happy, plenty of Parisians can talk to you in English if you just can’t concentrate enough in French language class (compulsory at Sciences Po);
•    Go through an agency to find accommodation. You’ll pay an enourmous fee, but chances are you’ll get a better property. You’ll also have a middle-man between yourself and the landlord. There are too many stories of poor foreign students in Paris being ripped off with their accommodation;
•    The Louvre on is open until late on Friday and it’s not very busy, so make sure you go;
•    There are plenty of amazing bars in the Marais (4th arrondissment) which have excellent happy hours; and
•    Don’t work too hard. Getting the most out of Paris is more important than scoring 20/20 on every assignment (especially when you consider that a pass is all UQ cares about!). You shouldn’t need to work too hard anyway. While courses in French are apparently tough as nails, courses taught in English are extremely easy.

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