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Hölökyn Kölökyn to a Very Finnish Freshers

By Amber Musgrove-Benford (Finland, University of Helsinki)

When I arrived in Finland, I had little expectation for Freshers. Made pessimistic due to the pandemic and the restrictions still in force in Helsinki, I expected nothing more than a few quiet drinks with other exchange students I met in my accommodation. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Freshers at the University of Helsinki is a big deal. Fuksit (first year students) – or Phuksit for law students – take over what seems to be the whole city in a week or so of activities and orientation organised, at least for the School of Law, at both Faculty level and through the law society, Pykälä.  

Barely two hours after landing at Vantaa airport, I was already meeting my tutor group for the first time in a café in the city centre. Over the next week, we would watch introductory lectures together, both in person (what a novelty!) and online, as well as attending other events, all whilst managing to walk a massive 20,000 steps each day. 

taking a short break from sightseeing to grab a coffee and korvapuusti, a much better version of the cinnamon bun

In the afternoons, our tutors, both second year bachelor students, often took us sightseeing, around both the campus and city, or we would spend the lunch hour like typical Finns – in a restaurant or at a bar where we enjoyed the final hints of summer, all of us knowing it was likely the last time we would see the temperature reach 15 degrees until next spring. 

Evening events were often the highlights of the day and ranged from a very competitive tournament of the traditional Finnish game, Möllky, to an even bigger Flunkyball tournament (a game involving beer, a bottle, running, and a shoe – much better than it sounds, I promise!). We were even, on one evening, treated to a night-time concert attended by both Finnish and Exchange Law students in Kaivapuisto, a beautiful park right on the coast. 

The best event I had the chance to take part in was Phuksiaiset. Labelled on Pykälä’s website as “the event your mother warned you about,” this mammoth scavenger hunt was set in a handful of Helsinki’s southern parks and included teams of eight taking part in ridiculous and frankly insane games and challenges to earn points. Turning up at the starting point on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral, my friends and I quickly realised, somewhat bemusedly, that Finns take this event very seriously, and we made the decision to do the same. This turned out to be the right decision, and the day ended up being one of the most fun – and memorable – experiences from my first few weeks in Helsinki. 

awaiting our first instructions of phuksiaiset 2021 on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral

Now things have finally calmed down at little here, the temperature has dropped and my courses have begun, it feels like a good time to reflect on my first foray into Finnish student culture. 

As always, though Freshers can be overwhelming, and perhaps even worse when in a new, unfamiliar country, fthanks to the great tutor group system here at UH, I really could not have hoped for a better start to my year studying abroad. 

On that note, I’ll sign off. As the Finns would say, hölökyn kölökyn! Or for us English speakers – cheers!

Here’s to a great first semester x

End of one adventure

When I began this adventure in January, this was not at all how I envisioned it ending. Coronavirus and government recall meant that I had to leave sunny Singapore very quickly. Whilst the government recall, the pain of getting a new plane ticket and, leaving all my new friends behind was not how I envisioned it ending, I can’t say it hasn’t been memorable.

My time abroad has not only allowed me the opportunity to travel and have amazing new adventures, but stretch and challenge myself. I will never forget the amazing views of sunrises in Surabaya, rainforests in Laos, and lanterns in Taiwan. However, for me it was the people who made my experience so amazing. I never thought I would make such important friendships so quickly, and yet we’ve already planned our New Years celebration together! People often joke that you “find yourself in Southeast Asia”, and I definitely found the best group of friends. People who I would quite literally jump off a cliff after, and people who immediately agreed to finish my checklist with me on my very sudden last days in Singapore. I feel extremely lucky to have shared amazing memories with these people, and I know this is the first of many adventures for us!

I also feel that Singapore has made a lasting impact on me. I am more spontaneous and willing to take risks, to plan a trip on Thursday night and leave Friday morning. It has broadened my horizons by allowing me to take risks and grow. I know I can travel alone and live on the other side of the world and it not end in mass disaster. Living abroad has made me more independent and self-sufficient. From organising my own VISA, to navigating boarder crossings at night, it’s safe to say that I definitely learnt a variety of life skills!

Whilst my time in Southeast Asia was cut short, I wouldn’t trade my experience, or the friendships I made! (And don’t worry I’ll be back there next summer for a new adventure!)

How to feel at home in a feeling of dislocation

Written on 6th September 2021

Homesickness is a natural and common thing most people will experience when moving to a new country to study or work. The best way I found to tackle a feeling of dislocation and feel more grounded was rooted in bringing slices of home with me on my adventure. Here are some top tips I found helped: 

  • Bringing home comforts with you – some of my flatmates had a blanket they always slept with, their favourite perfume or their favourite snacks from home. I had my childhood teddy bear. These simple items make you feel more comfortable in a space in which you are not familiar with. 
  • Decorate your room – there are so many ways you can decorate your rooms, I had pictures of my friends and family, politics posters and a tapestry. You can also buy things within your time abroad. My first few weeks in Amsterdam gave me plenty of opportunities to buy decorative items in vintage flea markets (which were really cheap too!) 
  • Download/ buy a VPN system onto your laptop – I paid for NordVPN which allowed me to watch UK netflix and Amazon Prime shows. This allowed me to stay more connected to the things I was watching at home whilst also enjoying streaming shows playing in the Netherlands. 
  • An important ‘top tip’ to tackle any feeling of displacement is to keep the mind distracted – I spent the first few weeks of living in Amsterdam learning origami and visiting museums. I also strongly suggest making plans of things to do and lists of places to visit – making lists gives structure to a situation that may seem chaotic to your body and mind. 
  • Go to welcome events/ make friends with flatmates, I would urge you to make friends with people from different cultures and countries around the world. Not only does it give you companions you can visit in the future, but it brings up interesting conversations of cultural comparisons. Talking about home with a person with a completely different perspective can help to ease feelings of dislocation as it helps to see the world in different ways. 
  • Take lots of photos and pick up mementos of your activities to keep a track of your international experience. I keep a scrapbook of the places I have been to. Within this book I write down my thoughts and feelings about the year as well as sticking in pictures and postcards of places I’ve visited. 

Feelings of dislocation come and go when you’re suddenly immersed in a different culture with new people. But feelings of disarray and disturbance are not all bad. Taking time to relax and reflect on your exciting travels grounds you to your surroundings in encapsulating ways.

You’re in a new place with exciting opportunities to try new things, embrace it!

Toulouse à Grande Vitesse… or not.

By Eva Kristinova, (Sciences Po Toulouse, France)

Hello everyone and welcome to my year-long study exchange journey in Toulouse! We will start off with the good news so far: I’ve arrived.

And I’m afraid that’s where it ends. To be fair I am somewhat to blame for all I’m about to tell you, but I hope that after reading this, you will admit that no amount of extra preparation could have helped. So let’s dive into my voyage from Brussels to Toulouse… oh, did I mention it was all by train? Well, now you know (and those of you familiar with the French TGV probably guessed as much from the title).

Destination: Toulouse train station
Continue reading “Toulouse à Grande Vitesse… or not.”

Ways to make your new room feel like home (on a budget)

By Zoe Watson (University of Bergen, Norway)

Making your new room feel like home is important, especially if you are going to be living there for the best part of a year. My room at the University of Bergen’s student halls seemed bare and clinical, but within a few weeks it felt like home. Here are some ideas for how to decorate your new room, whilst in a foreign country and on a tight budget. 

  1. Print photos of family and friends

Pictures of your family and friends will comfort you when you’re having a down day and missing them, and will also brighten up the bare walls. They also make a nice conversation starter with your new flatmates and friends. Whilst in the UK, I used the Free Prints app to print off a bunch, which then took up minimal space in my luggage. Don’t forget to bring some blu-tac too!

  1. Pack your favourite duvet cover and pillowcase 

I chose to pack my favourite duvet cover and pillowcase from home to add a personal and familiar touch to my room. Once I rolled it up tight, it took up surprisingly little space in my luggage. It also meant I had one less thing to buy at Ikea once I had arrived. I brought a duvet cover and pillowcase with fun colours and patterns to brighten up the room, and remind me of home. Make sure to check beforehand whether you will have a single bed or a double bed!

  1. Seek out free stuff

There are plenty of places to find free or super cheap stuff for your room. At my accommodation, previous tenants had left the stuff they didn’t want to take home in the communal areas. Here, my flat mates found a kettle, vacuum cleaner, and a chest of drawers, amongst other things. Unfortunately, once I arrived (after my mandatory hotel quarantine) the best stuff had gone, so instead I kept an eye on the accommodation’s Facebook group, where people would post what they were giving away or selling. I managed to bag a lamp, coat hangers and a bedside table, all for free. Second hand stores and garage sales are also great places to look, as well as your host country’s most popular advertisements website (in Norway, it’s FINN). 

A typical room at the University of Bergen’s student accommodation.

Quarantining in Bergen

By Nia Thomas, (University of Bergen, Norway).

‘Scandic’ hotels are scattered around the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway. Currently, these lodges are full of international students; all patiently waiting (for at least seven days) to be set free, and to be allowed to start a new chapter of their student experience in unfamiliar surroundings. I arrived at my quarantine hotel three days ago, shifting a massive suitcase through the reception area and up into a room where I will be spending my first ever week as an erasmus+ student. 

The rooms within these hotels are spacious, with ivy green walls and grey curtains that contrast against the bright light which emanates from a large window. There is an ironing board, a hairdryer and seven different types of lighting for me to choose from. However, unlike any British ‘Travelodge’, there is no kettle- my first culture shock so far. 

I’m required to spend every day here; with breakfast, lunch and dinner served straight to my door for the whole week- graciously paid for by my host university. Before arriving, I was told horror stories of what these meals would consist of and taste like. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I was given the breakfast of a peanut-butter jam sandwich with a passionfruit yogurt, and a carton of orange juice. Although consistently packaged in the same brown paper bag with disposable wooden knives and forks (very eco-friendly), the lunch and dinner have been different every day so far. My meals have ranged from cheese tomato wraps, to feta salads, to some sort of onion soup. As a vegetarian, I missed out on the ‘ham and cheese squeezy tube’ given to the other students, and part of me is bitterly disappointed in this fact. 

Of course, quarantining has connotations to boredom and dullness. But I have tried to disassociate myself from this negative conception of isolation, preferring to view this short period of time as a chance to prep myself on understanding what the year ahead of me is going to look like. In other words, I’ve read up on my course modules and installed ‘duolingo’. To add weight to this beneficial use of my time here, I get to take unlimited walks for fresh air! Plus, there is no time cap on these strolls- something I have taken full advantage of. I have only had a glimpse of the city so far, and already I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the area. Gazing at the mismatch of colourful architecture, seen both on the seafront and down cosy lanes, is like looking at a traveller’s mood board on Pinterest. 

Even though I am only really viewing Bergen through the literal lens of a hotel window, I feel like it has now sunk in that I am actually in a foreign country; with no real connections or familiar faces to turn to. There’s no way to sugar coat the feeling of uneasiness that comes with this realisation. The only way for me to feel better about it is to think about the next ten months ahead of me, and all the experiences that ultimately attach themselves to studying in a country that’s not my home. I’m scared but I’m mostly excited, and I’m glad I have this week in quarantine to think about these feelings- before I delve straight into my new life as a student in Norway.

A Guide to Self Quarantine

By Hannah Wheeler, Vrije Universiteit, Netherlands

I feel that my first blog requires an honorary mention to Miss Corona. Since my acceptance to Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam back in February, Corona has always been trying to get in the way. Thankfully, she did not succeed.

I’m now three days into my self-quarantine and every second grateful to be out of the UK and at the start of my year abroad. Self-quarantine has given me the opportunity to write a blog and a great topic to start off with, considering it is relevant for many of us leaving to start our study abroad years. Here are some of the things that are helping me pass the time of quarantine… 

  1. Getting creative:

Do something that’s fun and interactive. Packing a paint-by-numbers was my best decision. Each day you make more and more progress. Plus, the final piece can contribute to decoration. Win win. If painting isn’t your thing they try youtube dance tutorials, baking or othe things more creative. I’ve also started a daily journal to keep going throughout the year. I dont write anything important but its a nice keepsake at the end. 

My Amsterdam journal
  1. Not wasting the time: 

Like most newly moved exchange student i also downloaded duolingo. Surprisingly, thirty minutes of it went in a flash. For once, i actually felt committed to do it. I have a great motivation as I actually live in Amsterdam now. Dutch should be a must. I’d hate to feel like an ignorant Brit abroad, not knowing how to say please and thank you even. Learning the basics is essential and what better time to do it. 

  1. Staying connected: 

Overall, I’m not much of a phone person. Luckily I have a roommate living with me so am not fully alone. However, when she’s out I find that a quick facetime with my folks or a little conversation on a group chat keeps my mood up. I may not be a social media person but I am a social person. I like company. Even if you facetime a friend and just stay on the line but carry on with your day, have little bits of chat but nothing that intense. Or plan to play an online board game with your family. Staying connected definitely helped me. 

  1. Making it more valuable: 

Of course, you are gonna watch a lot of TV. Days are long and you can only fill them with so much of other things. In an effort to make my time in front of the tv screen semi beneficial, i started a docu series called ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. Its an odd one. Its about why the world is like this and how we got there. To be honest though, i can’t quite tell what its arguing yet, i’m only 2/6 episodes in. It is a show that makes me give 110% attention. If you look away for a moment you’re lost. Try a show or podcast that may give a bit more back to your life than killing time maybe. 

  1. Not slacking on self care:
Morning coffee on balcony

Now this one is basic. For me, routine keeps me focused and going. I love a to-do list. Even when I can’t leave the house, a to do list makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. I even tick off that I’ve had breakfast! – a bit sad I know.

Plan in when you want to paint or chat, or to do a quick youtube workout or yoga. Plan in when you are gonna eat a snack or make a nice dinner for yourself. Plan when you are going ot write in your journal or do some duolingo. It means that you can break the day down into smaller sections. For me this makes days not seem so never ending then. 

No matter what you do, stay excited and proactive and look forward to the year ahead.

Eight peculiar (but wonderful) things I have experienced in my first few weeks in Amsterdam

 Written on 5th September 2021 

I have been in Amsterdam a little over two weeks now before the semester starts at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA). This list is a little snapshot of the peculiar places I have been to and experienced in and around the city which I recommend to any city newcomer! 

Thrift shop – T Hartje 

​This quaint shop had really cheap and funky trinkets with a mixture of clothes, jewellery, glasses, books and vinyl records. I bought shot glasses here with my flatmates; which we bedazzled with beads also brought from this shop! It is perfect for the student budget to buy little mementos of your travels! It was only a twenty minute bike ride from my accommodation in Uilenstede in Amsterdam. 

Image 1

Beatrixpark 

Amsterdam is known for being a really green city with beautiful parks. Beatrixpark is one of these large parks with bike lanes passing through it, meaning you can admire the beauty on the bike or on foot. There are also plenty of benches where you can sit and observe the green spaces. It truly is a place oozing with peace and tranquility. There is also a cool sculpture (image two) designed by Rehwinkel-Windenburg and Van Pieck to Beast – it reminded me of the Black Lives Matter movement of power to the people. 

Image Two

Naeckte Brouwers 

This beautiful brewery/restaurant is a converted church with an amazing high rise roof. Not only was the beer a reasonable price of €5 for a pint, but the atmosphere was relaxed and chilled – a vibe that encapsulates a lot of the Dutch people’s lifestyle in the capital! I also highly recommend the food, I had prawns and fries which were delicious. 

Image Three

Amstelpark

This is one of my favourite parks in Amsterdam so far! It is located only a thirty minute walk from Uilenstede in the south of Amsterdam. This huge area is home to a multitude of sculptures by local artists (see one of the sculptures in the image four) which you can explore via an audio trial describing all of the pieces of art within the grounds. Additionally, they offer a fun train ride around the park every weekend! 

Image four

Mini Cars – Canta Cars 

These mini cars are all over Amsterdam, designed originally for disabled people, these mini cars go up to 45 Km per hour – a lot faster than bikes! They’re beyond adorable and amused me to no end as I was biking around the city. If you ever visit Amsterdam, be sure to look out for these minicars, once you spot them they’re very hard to ignore! 

Image Five

SLA – Vegan/Vegetarian restaurant 

My flatmates and I stumbled upon this restaurant randomly whilst perusing the city. It offered the freshest, delicious and reasonably priced vegetarian/vegan food. I had the vegan ice cream and bliss balls which were amazing and gave me much needed energy to keep on cycling for the rest of the afternoon. Even if you are not a veggie, the food is too good to pass up! 

Cobra Museum – Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Exhibition 

This exhibition not only displayed Kahlo and Rivera’s best works, but shed insight into the pair’s interesting relationship as lovers. I was shocked to learn that Kahlo had a sexual relationship with the Russian Bolshevik Leon Trotsky! In image six were shoes I was dying to buy (but weren’t for sale) in the exhibition – a must see in Amsterdam. 

Image Six

IJ-Hallen Flea Market 

This flea market is the largest in Europe! With an entrance fee of €5, you will find a myriad of things for sale. From earrings to clothes to household appliances. You will be sure to get some really cheap deals! I bought two vintage jumpers for €5, a deal unheard of in Manchester! It is definitely worth a visit even if you aren’t a fan of shopping! 

Image Seven

What it’s like being a Global Guidance Ambassador

By Georgia Kennington, Global Guidance Ambassador (2020-2021)

When I found out that my application to be a GGA was successful, I was so excited. I had enjoyed my year abroad so much that I wanted to encourage and help other people to do the same. And that is pretty much what the job is in a nutshell! 

I get to talk to a lot of students, which is my favourite part of the job. I spend a lot of time answering people’s questions via emails and social media, and making sure that everyone has as much information as possible to make the best choices about their study abroad! 

It’s also important that all our information, website, and resources are kept up to date. This year has been a particular challenge in this regard, everything is always changing. From Brexit to the pandemic, keeping on top of things has been a little difficult, but we’ve spent a lot of time updating things as much as we can to keep everyone on the same page. Unfortunately, we do have to deliver some disappointing news from time to time, but we work hard to make sure that there are backup plans in place. 

So far, my favourite thing that we’ve done has been the social events. Adapting them to a virtual audience for the pandemic was challenging (we know everyone’s a bit over Zoom at this point), but in a good way. We had to come up with some inventive ways to get people to know each other, get people chatting, and more importantly have some fun! My fellow GGAs and I did all the preparation, making the presentations and quizzes, and reaching out to previous study abroaders to ask whether they’d be up for giving some of their time to answer the newbies’ questions. Having these volunteers made everything so much more easy and enjoyable, and I think that the attendees really appreciated having their expertise! The actual social events were so much fun – we called them Greet n’ Games with Go Abroad – and that’s exactly what we did! It was great getting to introduce everyone, having people make group chats and meeting the others they’d be sharing their time with when they go out there… and the games weren’t half bad either! The winners got a Lonely Island guide book for their partner destination, which we thought would be a nice touch (and actually encourage people to try their best!). All in all, the events went smoothly, and I had a great time meeting everyone who would be going out in the following year.

I also maintain our social media, making posts for Instagram and collecting as many student photos as we can to share with everyone. I never thought I’d get the chance to try my hand at a bit of graphic design too… But turns out being a GGA involves a little bit of everything! I’ve also been able to write blogs (like this one) and do some data handling (when I say everything, I mean everything). 

Being a GGA is made so much better by the support of the incredible IPO team. I love having my fellow GGAs to work with, and the senior IPO staff are really supportive and encouraging; they listen to any ideas we may have and help us put them into practice. We are also given a good amount of independence and are able to take the lead with projects like the social events. It feels really good having the trust and support of such an amazing team of people, to be able to manage my own time and work how I think is best, it makes working as a GGA a pleasure!

Georgia Kennington, Politics and International Relations, Studied at the University of Amsterdam

What I wish I’d known before I moved to Paris…

By Sophie Todd

I have been so lucky to enjoy my year abroad in Paris, but I remember how nervous I was when I first arrived. I got on the Eurostar in September and realised I was moving into a flat I’d never seen; I couldn’t speak a word of French and I had no idea how lockdown and Brexit regulations were going to change over the coming months. Despite these worries I have muddled my way through and had such an incredible year! But here are the things I wish I’d had more information on before I left. 

Living Options 

Accommodation in Paris can be expensive and hard to find, and when you are new to the city it is difficult to know the best areas to live in.

In terms of location, different arrondissements of Paris can offer different things. I have met people living all over Paris, and it is a well-connected city. Perhaps I am biased, but if I were to recommend an area it would be the 5th arrondissement. It is a great place to live as a student and has great metro links, cheap bars and restaurants, a beautiful library and loads of shops. 

If you are a student, you can get cheap accommodation from Crous. They provide student residence, costing anywhere between 150-600 euros per month depending on size and location – this is probably the cheapest option for student accommodation in Paris. They have residencies all over the city. 

If you are looking for a flat to share with a friend or group there are various agencies you can use, such as Central Paris Rentals or Lodgis. It’s also worth looking at Erasmus Facebook groups if you are looking for roommates or for a spare room! 

Language 

I made the bold (or stupid) decision to move to Paris without speaking French, I don’t even have a GCSE in it. I am not a language student and I have been taking English courses at a French university. The lack of French is certainly what scared me the most in my first few weeks and sometimes it still does 9 months later. My French is definitely not perfect but I am improving every day. I took classes in my first semester and try to practice grammar when I have the time. However, I picked up what I needed to really quickly! I can confidently ask for my bread at the bakery, a pint at a bar, a receipt in a shop and directions if I need them. Also, the trope that Parisians will never speak to you in English is false. As long as you try to say something in French, if you’re struggling, they usually give in and Franglais with you! 

Lockdown 

The Covid situation is ever changing and lockdowns are unpredictable. However, when lockdown was introduced in Paris at the end of October, I was shocked at how different it was to the first lockdown I had spent in England. When lockdown was strict in Paris, we were allowed to leave our flats for one hour per day, within a 5km radius and we had to fill in an attestation form to show we were out for a legitimate reason. Lockdown rules have been fluctuating over the past few months, but mostly my social life has been revolving around coffee breaks at the library and pints in the park. It is strange adjusting to new regulations like attestation forms and curfews, especially given how unpoliced lockdown in England is in comparison. 

Street Harassment

I think street harassment has to be the most significant cultural difference I have experienced in Paris. Sexual harassment on the streets is a universal experience for women, people of marginalised genders and lgbtq+ people everywhere, but I can only comment on how it has felt different as a woman in Paris compared to in Manchester. Catcalling is significantly more frequent in Paris than in the UK. I have also experienced and heard of experiences of sexual harassment that feel much more extreme, this included being followed home, being flashed, and explicit misogynistic and homophobic abuse from strangers. These experiences unfortunately happen to women, people of marginalised genders and lgbtq+ people everywhere, every day, but I wish I had been aware of how frequent and intense it can be in Paris. 

Money

Paris is a super expensive city, especially compared to Manchester. There are small supermarkets like Franprix and Carrefour everywhere but they can be quite pricey. I quickly worked out that it is worth finding markets to buy fresh fruit and veg, Belleville Market is particularly good! Also, it is worth finding specialist shops for specific cuisines, there are loads of great Japanese and Korean supermarkets, Greek delis and much more that have great offers. In terms of eating and drinking out, central Paris is certainly more expensive, I once paid 16 euros for a rum and coke. Student areas like the 5th arrondissement are much cheaper for drinking centrally, or some of the outer arrondissements like the 19th! There are cheaper options if you keep your eye out for them. 

Anyone thinking of studying abroad in Paris, I hope you find some of my experiences and tips helpful!

Buttes Chaumont Park
Friends having dinner in our apartment!

Five spots for drinking and eating like a Parisienne around Sciences Po: Ah bah oui! Les cafés, chocolats chauds, vin chaud, trois plats, et falafel…

By Stephanie Banatvala

1. Arabica coffee @ Beaupassage courtyard.

When you find yourself staring blankly at the library computer screen without coffee, fear not! The Arabica coffee cart is nestled in the courtyard of Beaupassage. Just over the road from Sciences Po, it is easy to miss. Three different entrances take you in to the courtyard. It is calm, bright and full of plants. I was lucky to find this gem in my first few days in Paris. It became ‘my place’. It is where I took my friends, lazed around, and got my emergency caffeine fixes. Once, my friend Ollie actually ran from his flat to buy me a coffee when I was in dire need and didn’t have my card on me! It will meet all your flat white and matcha latte gentrified café needs… But even better, take at least two days before lessons start, to explore random alleyways, so you can find your own Beaupassage equivalent.

2. Angelina’s – the ultimate pick me up.

The famous chocolat chaud chez Angelina’s is more like a cup of melted chocolate. Le maison de Angelina’s has been on Rue de Rivoli since 1903, but they have since opened a boutique on Rue de Bac, near Beaupassage and Sciences Po. From my father to my grandmother, my whole family regards Angelina’s as the simplest formula for sorting anything and everything out. Bad day? Get an Angelina’s. Miss home? Get an Angelina’s. Feel like university work is excruciatingly endless? You guessed it. Angelina’s. End of term? Celebrate with an Angelina’s.

Photo taken from: Chicandgeek.com

3. Cheap meals – €1-3 @ Crous canteens!

You will be very thankful for Crous canteens when you have spent too much money on gentrified coffee and Angelina’s hot chocolate. These are dotted all over Paris. Sciences Po does have a Crous canteen, but it’s not always open and the options are limited. Instead walk 8 minutes from the library to Café Mabillon. For €1 (or €3 euros outside of Covid-19 times), you get an entry, main and desert. You can buy up to two meal sets a day, so you can buy one for dinner too. All you have to do is sign up for an Izly account. Simply bring your student card to the desk at Café Mab, or email assistance-izly@crous-paris.fr .

4. Le Marais: falafel, falafel, and more falafel.

When you think of Paris, you probably think about les croissants and croque-monsieurs. But I promise you, falafel is the new croissant. There are falafel stands all over Paris, but Le Marais is home to the best (historically, Le Marais was the Jewish district in Paris). The queues can easily go around the block. So try to head over on a weekday. Put ‘L’As de Falafel’ into google maps. If it’s not open, the vendors next door will be.

5. Vin chaud.

As early as 8am you will see men standing around drinking beer at their local bistros. It’s part of the Parisian way of life. So jump on that bandwagon. Okay… so maybe 8am is a bit excessive… but a glass of vin chaud awaits you on every Parisian corner at the end of your study day. Until you’re drinking the occasional glass between lessons with friends, you won’t feel like you’re truly living life as a Parisian.

So, you didn’t get in to your first choice…

It’s the day the results come through. You’re sat, refreshing your email to see if MyPlacement has been updated and you can finally find out where you’re going to study abroad. Which university will I be allocated to? Which city will I next call home? Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong?? The anticipation is palpable. 

For me, I had my heart set on Paris. I know you’re supposed to be prepared to go to any of 8 top choices, but naïvely, I’d already fallen in love with the idea of strolling down the Seine during lunch breaks, taking in the cityscape with my morning baguette and visiting galleries on the weekend. In my head, my top choice of partner university, was the only choice I was going to be happy with. 

Then look, it’s an email from the IPO, new activity on MyPlacement. Here we go, Seine, galleries, baguettes…. Oh. Jean Jaures in Toulouse… Well, it’s still France, I told myself. I can still take a train up to the capital, I tried to reassure myself.

I won’t deny the initial disappointment. I was so set on my first choice that I hadn’t properly considered my other chosen destinations. After a couple of hours of moping around because of the allocation and a few encouraging words from my family, I decided to let go of my initial envision of my study abroad and start focusing on my new reality. Once I detached myself from being solely invested in one destination, it all changed.  

My eyes were opened to this new city, this new university, this new adventure. I started exploring Toulouse on Google Street View, investigating the best bars and clubs, looking into the different societies at my partner university and started falling  for the little quirks of my new city. I was excited in a whole new way. Unlike when I was considering going abroad or filling out my application, now, I had a confirmed place. These Google Street tours and university Facebook pages would soon be a reality. I was reassured with the knowledge that every partner university was Manchester approved. Even if it was not where I thought I would end up, I was guaranteed a high standard of teaching and a location, full of opportunities for international students. Realising that adventure lay in all potential destinations, taught me a whole new approach to study abroad. There will always be unpredictability when going away, but this doesn’t need to sour your experience. What actually affects your enjoyment of your time abroad, is how you respond to that change in circumstance. I learnt to make the most of whatever situation I landed in whilst I was away and most of the time, situations that may have seemed initially disappointing, normally worked out for the better.   

To anyone else who may be disappointed or worried about not being allocated their first choice, I would like you to know, what truly makes study abroad great, is universal across all of Manchester’s partner universities. For me, at the heart of study abroad is meeting students from across the world, living in a foreign culture and environment, learning your degree from an international perspective and challenging yourself. Whether you’re going to be studying in one of the campuses across the USA, or you’ll be moving into a high-rise flat in Singapore or your weekends will be spent in the mountains of Norway, you will all experience the fundamental qualities that make study abroad great. So, just know, regardless of if you are allocated your 1st, 3rd or even your 8th choice, there is an incredible adventure waiting for you. 

I ended up having the most amazing time in Toulouse and I’m planning on returning after I’ve graduated. I strolled down the Garonne on my lunch breaks, took in the medieval architecture and always had my morning baguette. I even got in my weekend trip up to Paris, the city I was initially so disappointed to miss out on. However, now, when I look back on my allocation, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.