Tag: Internationalisation

A Semester in Paris: An impossible adventure that really happened

In just under a fortnight, our Autumn semester begins and we’ll once again be welcoming a new intake of Year 1 students and welcoming back all our returning students. Among the latter will be our 2018-19 finalists most of whom have just spent a semester on Study Abroad, like Stefano who studies International Politics and French and who has sent us this blog post about his semester in Paris:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘Looking back at the last six months feels already like waking up from an incredible, fast-paced, marvellous dream, recalling all the things that happened, hanging onto each moment, not to forget a single memory of what still seems like an impossible adventure.

Yet it has been possible. And yes, it did really happen!

I remember the excitement of getting accepted into SciencesPo Paris, one of the world’s leading universities for political science and international relations, as well as the thrill of living for one semester in the Ville Lumière. When I left for Paris I could not expect how great this period abroad would be. So, let me now tell you some of the highlights of studying at this institution at the very heart of France.

First things first. Whenever going to a new study destination, collecting as much information as possible represents a vital part of process, especially in terms of housing and living arrangements; luckily for language students at Stirling, the French and Spanish Departments organise an informal get-together each year for all those past-present-and-future cohorts of students involved in the compulsory semester in a French- or Spanish-speaking country with the aim of making new friends and connections with those who are going, or have just been, to the same foreign university; my personal advice to all interested language students out there? Just GO along!

In my experience, that was literally the moment when I first met a nice group of Parisian students who I later befriended. Spoiler alert: as well as new remarkable international friendships, I ended up renting a studio at one of my Parisian friends’ place without whom I would have had a totally different French experience.

Another point which is worth mentioning, I guess, is the money side of the story to be considered well before applying for unis abroad. In case you were wondering… yes, Paris is hugely expensive. It is nonetheless fair to say that going to a renowned, private  Grande Ecole as part of a language Stirling degree can be a once in a lifetime experience not to miss.

All sorted then: we are ready to fly to Paris.

2018 Intropido Pic IIIInternational students like me had the chance to attend a week-long orientation programme of activities, classes and socials to familiarise ourselves with SciencesPo’s environment and, most importantly, methodology. Once again, I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of going to SciencesPo for one semester; leaving aside the scavenger hunt around Paris (where you can have lots of fun and get lost in the capital at the same time), the extra 250€ fee is totally worth it. Among other things, this initial programme allowed me and my international course-mates to enjoy some of most remarkable highlights of Paris, to gain some useful tips and skills for the semester ahead and to deliver our very first diplomatic presentations in French surrounded by the beautiful paintings of the Sorbonne’s lecture theatres.

If you are an art lover, then Paris is the city for you! A part from the fact that most of French museums and galleries are totally free of charge for European students under the age of 25, studying at SciencesPo can make your art-addiction even more irresistible; conveniently located in the heart of Paris, SciencesPo is just 5 minutes walk away from the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries and 10 minutes away from the Jardin de Luxembourg where you can easily go to enjoy the sun, read a book or just take a break with your friends in between classes.

2018 Intropido Pic IV

Needless to say, art and culture are not the only attractions for those who study at SciencesPo Paris. This Grande Ecole offers an incredible and almost overwhelming number of opportunities to foster one’s interests in political sciences, law and economics, both from an academic and social perspective. It might sound commonplace, but studying abroad is really all about challenging yourself to get the most out of this unique experience and SciencesPo does give students the instruments and possibilities to do so. If being immersed in a new culture, as well as language, is not enough for you, then I would strongly advise you to consider taking some (if not all) courses in French to live a first-hand experience of the Parisian style of teaching. Moreover, I found the equivalent of our clubs and societies extremely fascinating and engaging. Let me give you some example; from the very first weeks of uni I managed to get involved in associations like SciencesPo Nations Unies, Junior Diplomatic Initiative France, SciencesPo Refugee Help, etc. Just to give you an idea of why I got so excited about these societies, I had the amazing opportunity to attend workshops and classes on the functioning of the UN to prepare ourselves as delegates to the Model United Nations and, most importantly, to participate into meetings and round-tables on current issues with Diplomats at the Embassies of Norway, Belgium, Greece and Canada.

If diplomacy is not your cup of tea, don’t worry; SciencesPo offers a wide range of other societies and they periodically organise socials and events for all sorts of interests, from the Trial of Lord Voldemort to the Drinking Mate Society.

To conclude, my semester at SciencesPo has been one of the highlights of my degree for so many reasons that it is almost difficult to list them all in a single blog post. The friends I met there from, quite literally, all over the world and the memories I made there will be something I will cherish forever and I am deeply grateful to Stirling for having made this semester abroad possible. It has really been an adventure, from learning how to get your head around the Parisian transportation system to the challenging and yet amazingly fascinating courses at SciencesPo. I have come back from Paris with a better awareness of myself, my academic and research interests and of the world we all inhabit; to all the students out there who might consider whether SciencesPo is the destination for you, trust me, it is all going to be worthy if you feel ready to get the most out of it.’

Many, many thanks to Stefano for the great post and we look forward to hearing Semester Abroad tales from all our returning students in a couple of weeks.

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Erasmus at ESSEC: Food, Travel and… Economics in French

Almost the end of our Spring semester’s teaching (only a week to go…) and time for another account of Erasmus travels. This time from current final year student, Iida Friman, who will be graduating in French and Human Resource Management in June, and who spent her Semester Abroad just outside Paris at the ESSEC business school:

“With the student body organising differently themed fairs in the grand hall nearly every day, enormous student parties in exclusively rented night clubs every week, and varying yet time after time more astonishing monthly events, ESSEC does not fail to impress an Erasmus student.

Situated in the relatively new suburb town of Cergy Pontoise, ESSEC belongs to Parisian transit zone 5 and is thus fairly easy to get to. A one-hour bus drive to the airport of Charles de Gaulle and a 40 minute train ride to the centre of Paris made it super easy to get to places, which made up to the fact that besides the university, Cergy itself does not have a lot to offer. Because of the easiness to catch a flight or a train even with a short notice, I spent evenings exploring Paris and most of my weekends traveling around France. I especially loved the South coast of France, where I spent four weekends visiting my friends and seeing numerous towns from Nice (and Monaco) to Six-Fours-des-Plages and Marseille.

2016 Friman Six-Fours-les-Plages

Having heard about ESSEC’s good reputation well before starting the exchange, I expected the workload to be much heavier than what it is in Stirling. When I started my courses, however, I soon realised that the amount of work itself was not much higher but the nature of teaching varied enormously. All courses consisted of three contact hours per week, which depending on the module were either lectures, more seminar-like classes, or a mixture of both. There was not a lot of homework to be done in between the classes; for some courses it was a few economic calculations, for others a weekly blog post. Nevertheless, the classes themselves were interactive with a lot of group exercises, presentations and guest speakers, and students made a much bigger contribution to the overall teaching than what I’ve experienced in Stirling. The biggest challenge for me was the length of the classes: 3 hours can feel like an eternity, especially if you are not fully understanding the economic functions explained in French. I still wonder how did the French students stay focused for the full duration of the class, I know I struggled.

2016 Friman River Seine by night

On their web page, ESSEC states that they follow a strategy of three I’s; innovation, involvement, internationalisation. Starting from the last, being an exchange student and getting to know students from all around the world and furthermore hearing about the exchange periods and internships that were included in the French students’ degrees made it clear how important internationalisation is for ESSEC. Internationalisation did not only show in the variety of students and their opportunities abroad, but there were always some international guests and lecturers visiting the campus, and even the daily themes of the fairs in the grand hall included things like ‘food of the world’ –buffets, international career conferences and cultural performances. The numerous events also demonstrate what can be done with innovation and involvement, since all of the events we took part in were organised by the students. During the day there were crazy dance offs, bouncy castles or free manicures and haircuts in the grand hall, and during the night the students organised exclusive students parties in privately hired nightclubs nearby, to and from which they had organised bus transportation to ensure everyone got home safe. In addition, about once a month there was a bigger event, which varied from weekend trips to the biggest university sport tournament in Europe and fancy galas with fashion shows. Needless to say, the level of innovation and determination with which the French students organised these events left me amazed.”

2016 Friman ESSEC gala

Thanks to Iida for this blog post and best wishes for the future following graduation!