From a past exchange student : your stay abroad is not a year in your life but an entire life in a year
Freshly arrived from your home country, you just started a brand new life in the beautiful city of Paris. Probably everything is pretty different from what you were used to. But as adjusting to the jetlag is far behind you, there is a new goal: fitting into your new community as a real “sciencepiste”, as they call Sciences Po Students.
Sciences Po likes to describe itself as a school interested and inspired by the rest of the world: today, a majority of its students comes from abroad. You and your fellow exchange and international students represent 150 different countries as well as 47 percent of students in our school: You are “les internationaux”.
After an intense orientation week, we are all here to give you some good pieces of advice, to make this year as amazing as possible.
Reality might – even should – not match your expectations
I still remember the day four years ago when I started my exchange in the United States. Young and somehow naïve, I pictured the U.S. like what I saw on “High School Musical.” I had this pitch perfect vision of the American way of life: yellow buses, cheerleaders, American football and junk food. Ok, I exaggerate a bit – but still.
When I arrived in Bozeman, Montana, I was not disappointed: a “cliché” – to use a French word – is always somehow based on reality. After my arrival, I felt like I had fulfilled a dream.
Today, I bet that you feel the same: I am sure that you had all a certain picture of France and its citizens. In probably involved coffee, bread, perhaps a croissant. As you are studying in Saint Germain des Prés, in the heart of Paris, you may think, the vision of France you had totally matches reality. But, trust me, there is so much more to see: France is full of diversity and unexpected discoveries, and so was the U.S. for me.
Perhaps sometimes it can be wise to seek a reality in contrast with your expectations.
A unique chance in a life
You will all go to the same school and have common friends, but you will all have your unique experience of your life in France. Your exchange abroad will be 100 percent yours. You may don’t know it yet, but it will radically change your life – to the best.
The paths you will cross, the memories you will make, the people you will meet: all these are numerous and profoundly life-changing. And it is probably why in a such short amount of time you may truly feel like you’ve been someone else, as if you walked in someone else’s shoes.
It may be only a few months in your life, but take it from a former exchange student: you will learn so much more about yourself, that it will feel like another life that you experienced. Therefore make sure that you appreciate this year the fullest, our school administration and students are doing their best so that you can feel like home.
How can we help you to enjoy this experience ?
The fact that Sciences Po truly embraces diversity and promotes richness which results from it, may be the reason why you are here reading these few lines.
Your eagerness enabled you to jump into the unknown. Now, your schedule reflects the various aspects of today’s world, with its sharp contrasts and its never ending challenges. But this curiosity for diversity does not stop at the syllabus, but affects the entire school.
There are many clubs which you can reach out at all time to go out with French people and foreigners. We are here to make you feel like you belong here, not for cosmetics, but because you really do.
You can share, here, on this website, La Péniche, your experience abroad and write about anything you like, or read news about student life at Sciences Po.
So many other clubs are here to help you out: Melting Potes, Ramen Toi, Amigos de America Latina, La Strada, or Namaste Sciences Po. Everyone looks forward to welcoming you!
This is a truly special year where you will discover so many brand new things about yourself and what you want to become. As my senior quote in the United States emphasized: “great moments are born from great opportunity”.
You may not know it yet, but you are about to live the greatest moments of your life. Make sure you enjoy every little bit of your stay abroad!