Returning to Adelaide after having spent the past seven months living in Paris was a relatively daunting experience. Prior to and during my exchange, the reality that I would eventually have to pack up and leave never seemed to dawn upon me. Now that my semester abroad has ended, I am able to reflect upon what an incredible experience it truly was.
I undertook an exchange to The University of Political Sciences of Paris (Sciences Po), with studies commencing in early January and ending in mid May. Having completed my Arts major in French the semester before, my exchange allowed me to improve and perfect my understanding of the French language in a manner that simply cannot be taught in a classroom. Thanks to my immersion into the French lifestyle, I feel much more confident with my ability to communicate in French and also with my understanding of their unique culture. This has greatly inspired me to seek employment in France in the future. In relation to this, my semester abroad acted to provide me with an international perspective on education, allowing me to develop awareness of alternative approaches to learning and enhancing my general knowledge of our global society. The exchange program at Sciences Po attracts students from all over the world, allowing me to build lifelong friendships and global connections that will undoubtedly be of benefit in the future.
Whilst Sciences Po specialises in political sciences, it offers a broad spectrum of subjects to exchange students. I undertook courses that will be credited towards my Arts degree, ranging from a literature subject analysing the ever-changing role of women in literature, to a course analysing the role of the military and the state in the Middle East. The classes generally all demanded a relatively high workload, with the university placing a great emphasis on oral presentations and student debates. Sciences Po also offered the ability to join sporting teams and arts classes, allowing further interaction with fellow exchange, and also French, students.
Undoubtedly, however, the highlight of my exchange was the simple fact that I was able to live in Paris for seven months. My semester abroad allowed me to move far away from home and experience life in an incredible city, whilst simultaneously furthering my studies, rather than simply taking a holiday. Life in Paris was at times hectic and stressful, and at others, simply glorious. The city is constantly bustling and there is always something new and exciting to experience. Similarly, being centrally located in Europe allowed me to take several trips during the semester, and following the completion of my exams, I had two and a half months to travel as I pleased.
I would absolutely recommend taking a semester abroad to all students. My exchange enhanced my self-esteem by confronting me with challenges outside of my comfort zone, and thus provided me with an opportunity to mature and grow.