I unfortunately missed the first week of University lessons due to a delay in my visa process, but come the second week I had arrived in Paris and was raring to learn. The education system there has many similarities and differences compared to what University of Manchester undergraduates are accustomed too, but generally I found the transition into life at SciencesPo somewhat comfortable and straightforward.
The University offers a combination of lecture and seminar courses. A lecture course is worth 10 ECTS credits, with students needing to complete a minimum of 30 per semester. In this instance, you have a two hour lecture in a large theatre each week, coupled alongside a two hour seminar in a significantly smaller classroom. Very much what we’re used to back at home, though here there are no single hour lessons. These lecture courses usually involve a mid-term and an end of term exam, and I must say returning to an examination hall after a large period of time without a traditional exam was a peculiar experience after so long.
Seminars are only worth half as many credits, but require half of the attendance. There are no lectures, so the courses are composed of a single two-hour seminar with a small group of classmates. These have been by far my favourite, not simply because the workload is less but because I feel far more connected to the class in an enclosed smaller circle.
I’ve had some seminars at peculiar times compared to my ones at the University of Manchester. Ranging from as early as 08:00 all the way until 21:15, there are a broad range of possible class times throughout the day, and can be challenging for those who cherish their sleep as it can get incredibly tiring. Saturday lessons are also a possibility too, but I do not have any of them (thankfully) allowing me to enjoy my weekends off walking around the beautiful Parisian city centre.
For those who enjoy their sports, the university caters to everybody’s interest, whether you’re a fencer or a horse rider. Martial arts, water sports, rock climbing and more are available to all students before the start of each semester, subject to availability on a first come first serve basis. Me? I’m enlisted for the university’s football classes, where we train for a short while either in the northern suburbs or on the gorgeous banks of the River Seine, before diving into a competitive game with students of all different nationalities around Western Europe.
I’m the only English student who plays football here, and fellow English people can be difficult to find here. A vast number of people speak incredibly good English, but the majority of native English speakers appear to be American or Canadian. It’s the exact same in my accommodation, so perhaps Paris is a more attractive educational destination for those in North America compared to England, as only a small fraction of English students go abroad. Despite this, I of course still feel very much welcome in my courses and at football classes, despite my French speaking skills not being up to scratch with my French reading and writing. I find it difficult to articulate proper sentences, but that hasn’t bothered me so far, and I’ve survived here long enough in spite of my dodgy communication skills.
The university does offer French classes too, as well as art and cultural workshops where eager students can embrace French traditions and perhaps develop new skills. Overall, I have to conclude that there is something for everyone at SciencesPo, and settling in for me was not anywhere near as difficult as I imagined. Would I recommend the institution to friends, family, blog readers and other interested parties? Absolutely.