“Paris is always a good idea” – this iconic phrase could not be more perfect to summarise my exchange experience so far. I am a seasoned traveller and this is certainly not my first time to the city of love and lights, but upon arrival I couldn’t hold in my excitement to finally start my new Parisian life. I arrived in the afternoon at my perfect (yet tiny) Parisian apartment, and almost screamed when I opened my shutters onto a beautiful 17th century street.
After a few days enjoying wandering the streets of Paris under the hot French sun, I realised that it was about time to start the infamous administrative processes that come with moving to France. True to its stereotype, the inefficiency of the French bureaucracy did not disappoint. Considering that I speak French fluently, I made the naïve assumption that settling myself in Paris would be somewhat hassle free. I won’t go into the details of the French bureaucracy, but let’s just say that whenever dealing with French administrative, always be sure to have dozens of copies of all files pertaining to your entire existence and accept that the French are always right, and you will always be wrong.
Once you have accepted this reality, you can start to enjoy Parisian life. On the last Monday of August I started classes at Sciences Po and I have to say an 8am class in French on French politics was a shock to the system! However, after a couple weeks you quickly get used to be spoken at in French and get quicker at being able to respond. The Sciences Po “method” is unique in France and most of your grades come from oral presentations and in class debates. Essentially, as Sciences Po is famous for producing French presidents and prime ministers, the three-year undergraduate program prepares students with the skills they would need as public figures. This could not be more daunting for international students however it has really forced me to take risks in speaking in French.
However, really what is at the heart of Paris (and my experience so far) is the Paris culture (i.e fashion, food and art). With the great friends I have made we have spent our weekends wandering the streets of Paris, stopping at patisseries every few hundred metres, tasting all the delicious sweets the French have to offer. During the summer we often had wine and cheese picnics on the Seine right in front of the Eiffel Tower – the ultimate Paris postcard! The most wonderful thing about Paris is you can never be bored, there is always something going on every day of the week. For example a few weeks ago we had “les journées patrimoines” where all government and cultural sites were open to the public for free to promote French culture. There are fresh food markets in every area of Paris so you will never go without the best produce France has to offer. And the shopping…Paris truly is the fashion capital of the world. The Sciences Po campus is literally surrounded by names such as Karl Lagerfield, Céline, Sonia Rykiel, Prada and Ralph Lauren – so the walk to uni every day is also a window shopping experience.
Of course, Paris is also at the centre of Europe which means it is easy to get to pretty much anywhere on the continent. Already I have been to the London, and looking forward to trips to Dublin, Oxford, Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, Barcelona, Granada, Seville and the regions of France.
Overall my experience so far has been fantastic and has definitely widened my eyes to areas of the French culture that I haven’t had the chance to experience on my previous visits to this beautiful country. Thanks for reading my blog! Au Revoir!