Last week was the first week of classes at Sciences Po. I am taking 5 classes and I decided to work on the European Affairs certificate. In comparison with the American university system, certainly as expected, there are indeed a few differences between the two. First, there is no drop/add week here in France. Although in a few cases they might be flexible with the exchange students, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Also, classes typically just meet once a week and only for a couple of hours and that’s it! Even though it might sound like we would have a lot of free time, we actually don’t because the workload is much heavier than in the United States. The weekly reading amount and the preparation for presentations seem to be intense and time-consuming. But if you’re like me and love what you’re studying, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem 🙂
Here are some pictures I took from around the campus and in the library.
I know guys… I know. I’m not the best photographer. But hey, at least, I tried 😛
Now moving on…
In the first week, we already have to decide when we are doing our exposés. These are the oral presentations that we have to do throughout the semester for each class. Oral presentations seem to a very important part of the French education system. In every single one of my classes, we had to pick the subject and the date for our exposés. Depending on the size of the class, we can present them in groups, but in most of them, we have to work individually.
Class participation is also very important here in France. Whereas in the U.S. it can be easier to go unnoticed given the larger size of classes, at Sciences Po classes are small and participating in discussions is mandatory. It is a great way to break out of your shell if you’re timid. Another thing to bear in mind is that most of the students at Sciences Po (in the Reims campus at least, since there are only undergraduate students here) are much younger. Here in France, the bachelor’s degree typically is finished in 3 years, and at Sciences Po, the third year has to be done abroad. That means that the students who are still on campus are either in their first or second year, generally being 18 or 19 years old while most of the exchange students are usually 20 to 22 years old. That being said, the French seem to mature earlier. When talking to many regular students on campus, I did not feel as if they were a younger than me at all.
Some of the exchange students from last semester organized a little welcoming party for the new exchange students a couple of days ago. It was a great way to mingle and get firsthand assistance with our transition to Sciences Po this semester. They were so helpful and friendly! They told us how everything works at Sciences Po, gave us suggestions on where to eat, places to go, and general insight into everything. It was so nice of them to do that for us. I’m really happy to have met lots of cool people in my very first week of class 🙂