My exchange at Sciences Po Paris

English
Country: 
France

I will categorically go through the different sections of an exchange blog in this one piece. I hope future students going there find it beneficial. I will try to be as clear and concise as possible.

 

Application- The application process is rather simple for us, the IRO handles the bulk of the work. All we are required to do is write a motivational letter and have decent transcripts, and you can expect to get accepted as they admit a large student population. But do begin your application process on time. You will face a slight problem when it comes to course approvals, because Sciences Po is VERY RELAXED in their administrative work. Their course list comes up very late and their course registration is pretty late as well, so make sure you get a list of 8-9 courses approved by your instructor (as areas, cores, frees, etc). Also, remember that Sciences Po works on a first come first serve basis, and so the more interesting courses tend to fill up quite quickly and there isnt a special consideration for exchange students, so be wary of not getting the courses you have your eyes set on.

Orientation- The Orientation is unfortunately not only over priced, but also quite poor as a whole. You are not really inducted into the student body, the parties aren't the best. The ESN and Buddy program does not exist, so expect to find your own friends and mend yourself into the system rather than relying on the orientation for this. Do attend one of the important meetings, as they will tell you how to go about the practical things like prevailing your health insurance, where to go for counselling, etc.

Accomodation- The hardest part about living in Paris invariably, finding a good and affordable place to stay. Affordable, close to Sciences Po (and all the awesome things in Paris) and bigger than a closet. You can at best pick one of these 3 options. I chose to live near Sciences Po, in the smallest confinement I have ever witnessed at a staggering amount of money. But I did live at a 5 minutes walk to the Eifel tower, Champs Elysees, Louvre and Musee D'Orsay. But it was VERY SMALL, with a shower ensuite (didnt even know that was possible). Of course, living alone after having a roommate at Sabanci for 3 years was also hard for me as it gets quiet sometimes. Finding accomodation is also REALLY hard, use websites like leboncoin.fr, pap.fr appartager.com etc to find a place as soon as possible. Anything below the 500 Euro mark is really good, and anything above the 10m2 mark is also quite large for Parisien standards. The best areas are the 6th and 7th, they are chique, very central to all the awesome things, and very close to Sciences Po, but they are the priciest areas and expect to pay thrice the price of fruits as compared to living in the 10th or the 18th. I would suggest living in those two areas as they are cheap, VERY RACIALLY DIVERSE (many immigrants, so don't live their unless you feel safe), and are fun due to large student populations living their. Also, you can find turkish shops in that area and a large turkish community community exists at Strasbourg St. Denis. Don't worry too much about how close the place is to Sciences Po, the public transport system is very extensive and you will be able to reach Sciences Po in a decent amount of time for about a euro each way.

Academic- Registration is quite simple, they will swiftly hand you a student card, you do not have to do much accept buy health insurance before leaving for Paris. A few documents is all you need to register. You will also get the chance to register for sports and art classes. My advice is, take as many as you can. These are a lot of fun, and you will get to socialize the most in these. They are graded, but you can fail them and have them not show up on your transcript. So again, do take a few sports courses and a few arts/dance courses. You will learn a lot.  My next advice is, make sure you don't take too many early morning classes unless you live close to the 7eme. They follow a very strict attendance policy and skipping more than 2 classes DOES MEAN YOU FAIL THAT COURSE. Try to concentrate them on a few days, I only had classes on Tuesday and Wednesday so I had the opportunity of travelling within every week :) Paris is quite the transport hub and has direct flights to almost all major cities and is quite accessible to the rest of Europe. 

The courses are quite difficult, and require you to do a bit of reading, come to all the classes, etc. So my advice is don't look to take as many courses as possible, take one lecture course and 3 elective courses (25 ECTS). It should keep you busy while not keeping you tied up in classes. Most definitely try those courses that are not offered here at home. The course Population Economics was my favorite, so interesting and really opened up my interest in demographics and trends. Courses like Sport's Law and TV series and they Myth of the American Dream were also very interesting and entertaining at the same time. My other courses were rather dry. Expect the teachers to have a slight french accent which might make it a bit harder to follow their lectures. Expect to make presentations (exposé) for every class. Classes will be very competitive, with many kids trying REALLY HARD to be noticed by the teachers. You will be graded harshly, so expect a score of 14 on 20 if you do brilliantly, otherwise be happy with an 11 or so. They are quite miserly with grading. So do not get disheartened. Focus on tests and midterms, they account for usually more of a weight than the final exam.

VISA- The visa process was lengthy for me as I am a Pakistani national and was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, so mine took a staggering 40 days, but usually you can expect your visa back in a week. But once I did get it, I loved being able to travel in Europe. You will need to bring the chest x ray and this health document with you which will be part of the visa process if you apply through VFS (highly recommended). You will need to get an appointment by going to OFII once you get there, try not to delay it too much, there will be an office at Sciences Po on rue saint peres that will help you. 

To Do- Travel as much as you can, speak french with everyone, put on as much weight as you can, expect to be broke. Travelling will happen, Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, Prague, Vienna, Copenhagen, Berlin, nothing is too far way. Most definitely see as much as you can and try to go to places that you haven't been before and act as TOURISTY as possible. Take as many pictures as you can, I think I amassed about 2000 over the past 4 months. Speak french with everyone, do not hesitate to get it wrong, if you do, almost everyone speaks english in Paris contrary to popular belief. They might not speak it too well, but it is actually easier to get by than Istanbul. Go to a patisserrie EVERY DAY. Eat croissants, pain au chocolat, caramel rousel, whatever you like. Do not worry about being fat because you will be wearing a dark colored jacket almost the entire time you are in Paris. The food is in particularly small portions though, so you might naturally lose weight. If that doesn't do it, then living in abject poverty will do it. You can not budget for Paris, it is a very expensive city, try to live without worrying about money for as long as you can, and then beg your parents for some more because there is a lot to do in Paris. Do not regret anything when you are in Paris. Make as many mistakes as you can, you will truly learn so much about yourself. It is a city of true inspiration. And these last 5 months or so have all been the greatest dream I could have fathomed. I hope all of you have just as great an experience as me. Feel free to contact me for further questions. I am not uploading any pictures, just google any monument in Paris and add my face in front of it, thats about it really.